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Tangles Walker, affable star who said yes

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Max Walker reckoned he knew why he reached the pinnacles of Australian sport and society.

Because he always said yes.

Bowl into the wind for Australia? Yes.

Play in defence against the big, burly Australian Rules forwards? Yes.

Write some books to share your affable nature and gift for story-telling? Yes.

Help any community organisation that asks? Yes.

Light up any room you enter with an infectious smile? Yes.

Walker has died, aged 68, after a two-year fight against melanoma, a form of skin cancer.

The ever-smiling athlete from Tasmania leaves a massive footprint on Australian sport and society - probably the wrong foot, which was the trademark of his bowling action.

Walker's bowling action created much mirth. He played 34 Tests and 17 one-day internationals but his complex style led to his nickname, Tangles.

Walker, a right-arm swing bowler, landed his right foot on the crease first - everyone else lands their left foot.

"Right arm over your left ear, old legs crossed at the point of delivery ... I was never biomechanically perfect," he said.

But it was effective.

Walker took 138 wickets at an average of 27.47 in Tests. Some context: that average bests feted Australian quicks Jeff Thomson, Mitchell Johnson and Merv Hughes, among others.

Walker took another 28 wickets at 25.43 in seven World Series Cricket Supertests. In 135 first-class matches, he bagged 499 wickets at 26.47.

Walker was no mug with the ball. Any ball.

He came to Melbourne from Hobart and reached the elite level of Australian Rules football - 85 senior VFL games for Melbourne from 1967-72.

Like bowling into the wind for Australia; as a footballer Walker said yes to the hard jobs: a defender who stood star opposition forwards.

Walker played his last VFL game in 1972. Less than four months later, he made his Test cricket debut - he's one of only four men to have played VFL footy and Test cricket in the same year.

After retiring from cricket in 1981, Walker forged a successful career as an author, commentator and public speaker.

Walker wrote 14 books - seven were number one best-sellers, with more than one million copies sold overall.

His universal popularity led to working for a number of charity organisations, mostly revolving around social and youth work.

It also led to being appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2011 for his services to cricket as a player and commentator, and to social organisations.

"Maybe the recognition is a result of saying yes more times than no, which in itself is a nice place to be," Walker told AAP at the time.

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