Almanac Cricket – Speeches given on the occasion of Betty Wilson being inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame

On Monday, at the Allan Border Medal night, Betty Wilson was inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame. This follows her induction to the ICC Hall of Fame in 2016. Betty died in 2010. Her award was accepted by her nephew Ken – my Dad.

 

Following is the text of two speeches given for Betty. Former player Mel Jones was followed on the night by Ken Wilson.

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Betty Wilson

Betty Wilson

The speeches

Mel Jones (Australian Test cricketer 1998-2003)

 

Firstly, Betty will be looking down on us from somewhere, listening. To Betty: I know you’re going to love this and hate this at exactly the same time, so please just bear with me.

 

I’m up here tonight on behalf of Betty’s extended cricket family; from her former players all the way through to the current members of the Southern Stars team, and everyone in between. Everyone who has been touched by either her playing career, by her humour, or by her legacy.

 

For me, I’m not a big one on playing comparisons, but I think sometimes it does give some good context. For Betty, her on-field feats often had her being reminded that she was the Bradman of our game. Our 25th Test player, she was exceptionally talented, she was fiercely competitive, and she had an unwavering desire to be the very best.

 

Sir Alec Bedser said to her on meeting her: “Betty, it’s lovely to meet you. Do you know that your statistics are better than mine?” And he was right. In just eleven Tests, she amassed 862 runs at a wonderful average of 57.47 and in that time she took 68 wickets at a ridiculous 11.81.

 

If she was Bradman on the field, she was definitely Keith Miller off the field. In 1951 she went on a tour of England and she put her engagement on hold and she was over there for two years. And in that time she became a household name. When she returned, she picked up a few other loves in her life until her passing in 2010. She loved her lawn bowls, she loved a flutter, and she definitely loved a chardy – and it probably wasn’t in that order, either.

 

She also loved coming down when she could, in Melbourne, to watch the Vic Spirit or the Australians play. She would sit in the stands and she would hold court. All the people of different eras would sit down and just hang on every word.

 

Stories like her historic Test match where she became the first ever player; male or female; to take 10 wickets in a match, including a hat-trick (the first time a female had done it), and also score a century as well. Other stories she would tell us were of her father, who was a boot maker, who would hand-make her cricket spikes. And in between all these stories she would keep a little watchful eye on players out in the middle.

 

No one was immune to a cheeky Betty technique spray. One day sitting there, watching the cricket, we had this little debate about playing spinners. And Betty was all about footwork. And she turned to me and she said: “Mel, I would have got you out in six balls.”

 

I said: “Oh, six balls, Betty?”

 

And she said: “Well, even I have my off days.”

 

Betty was our link to the pioneers, she was our very own personal historian and story-teller. But I think the best part about Betty, her best delivery, was her character. And she always did remind us and I think she always will remind us to uphold the values and tradition and spirit of our great game.

 

Betty’s induction to the Hall of Fame tonight, for me, cements her truly as one of our greatest ever. It is my great pleasure now to introduce Ken Wilson, Betty’s nephew, to speak on behalf of her family.

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Ken Wilson at the lectern. Mel Jones to the left of picture. Photo: Jeanette Wilson.

Ken Wilson at the lectern. Mel Jones to the left of picture. Photo: Jeanette Wilson. Click to enlarge.

Ken Wilson (nephew of Betty Wilson)

 

Firstly, thank you Mel for that very evocative presentation. I could certainly “see” Betty as I was listening to your words.

 

I’d like to thank Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association for recognising Betty’s achievements through her induction into the Hall of Fame, and also to congratulate Matthew (Hayden) and David (Boon) for their induction also tonight.

 

If Betty had been here I’m sure she would have been incredibly humbled and certainly greatly honoured with her induction into the Hall of Fame. Betty saw no greater honour than playing cricket for Australia. And she set the whole probably first 30, 40 years of her life towards that goal; to playing cricket for Australia.

 

To be recognised by her peers and by the governing body for that sport in Australia would have been the icing on her cake.

 

Betty couldn’t have achieved all this, of course, without her family’s support. Betty grew up in the 1920s and 30s in inner suburban Collingwood, in Melbourne, which was a fairly rough area; not much money around. And cricket in those days was purely an expense.

 

And when Betty started to play cricket and started to go on representative teams, then the family had to find a way to afford that. And so the family became fund-raisers. And they also took to making things; as Mel referred to Betty’s Dad making her boots, and her aunts and mother made her clothes, and so on. So it was a team effort to get her over the line, and to allow her to play cricket for Australia for as long as she could.

 

Betty retired from Test cricket 58 years ago, now. And she’s the second woman into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame, after Belinda Clarke. I guess Betty would have been absolutely delighted to see the increase in support for and opportunity given to women in cricket in Australia now. And I’m sure she’s looking forward to more female company in the Cricket Hall of Fame over time.

 

It’s sort of interesting that we’re here tonight at the Allan Border medal presentation, or A.B., I guess, as Allan is known. Because A.B. was also the nickname we gave to Betty in our family. And our kids call her G.A.B. for “Great Aunty Betty.” And I guess any of those of you who actually had a chance to talk to Betty about cricket and analyse cricket would probably agree that G.A.B. or ‘gab’, was another skill she might have had.

 

Betty made some major decisions quite early in her life, that had the effect of giving herself to cricket. Basically, forsaking all others and giving herself to cricket, and to play for as long as she could at as a high a level as she could. And those decisions had ramifications right through her life. I guess this induction perhaps is a recognition that the decisions she made in those times have had an impact on Australia and on cricket; and I would really like to thank, on behalf of Betty and the family, the Australian cricket community for recognising her achievements. Thank you.

 

David Boon (Hall of Fame inductee), Ken Wilson, Matthew Hayden (Hall of Fame inductee) and David Warner (AB Medallist).

David Boon (Hall of Fame inductee), Ken Wilson, Matthew Hayden (Hall of Fame inductee) and David Warner (AB Medallist). Photo: Jeanette Wilson. Click to enlarge.

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Video of Mel Jones’s speech

A Cricket Australia media release surrounding the Hall of Fame inductions of 2017

About David Wilson

@e_regnans muddling along.

Comments

  1. Just wonderful, David.
    And obviously thoroughly deserved.
    The Wilson clan must be extremely proud.

  2. I knew of Betty Wilson and learned a little more about her when researching a piece on Fay Uebergang who played for Australia. But I recall hearing a lot more from ER not long after I met him. I reckon there’s a book in Betty Wilson. She sounds like a character. AB! GAB!

  3. jan courtin says:

    We need to hear more about the wonderful achievements of women, especially those who succeeded in an era when a woman’s place was definitely in the home!

    Betty’s story, in several ways, brought back memories of my mother – the first woman to gain a double degree in Australia in the early 30s. Both women were certainly pioneers who paved the way for women of today.

    A wonderful achievement.

  4. Dave Brown says:

    Great stuff GAB and Wilsons all

  5. Jan Robbins says:

    Congratulations to Betty Wilson on her induction into the Hall of Fame. My mum toured England with her in 1951-52 and I have many photos of her and the team on tour in my mums scrapbooks so I feel I almost know her

  6. Congratulations to your family David. Great stuff. The Hall of Fame induction speeches were all terrific and very much the evening’s highlight. If not a book, as JTH suggests, then a documentary!

  7. Classic bowling action a la Ray Lindwall. Side on; left arm high; back coiled and perfect balance to swing the ball either way.
    Would love to know the deeper story of the sacrifices she made to commit to cricket in those days, and how it impacted her personal life.
    Onya Bet and the Wilson clan.

  8. Luke Reynolds says:

    Wonderful Dave. Well done K.Wilson, great speech.
    I’m with Harmsy, reckon there’s a book in Betty’s story. Published by Malarkey??
    And of course, well played ER Wilson. Amazing career stats, overdue Hall of Famer.

  9. bring back the torp says:

    Congratulations to Betty and her family.

    It is interesting that female cricket was well supported and encouraged -especially from the 1920’s – by the male cricket authorities -and in the 30’s was thriving.

    Yet, for females who wished to play Australian Football, there was virtually no official support until recent times.
    Was AF considered too rough, and the fear of injury too high?
    Was AF considered too “unladylike”for previous eras?

  10. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Long overdue but thoroughly deserved.

    I’ll buy that book.

  11. Yvette Wroby says:

    Excellent story and all for the book. Congrats to Wilson family.

  12. E.regnans says:

    G’day and thanks all.
    Smokie- yep, proud. Very happy that GAB is receiving this acknowledgement. Mel Jones painted an accurate picture of GAB’s persona, too. Much more than stats, facts & figures at play here.

    JTH- there’s a pretty rich history that survives in the form of verbal stories, tales. And some old scrapbook, journal around. A book would be terrific.

    Jan C – pioneers should be celebrated, indeed. We who come after have an immeasurably easier road.

    D Brown- cheers.

    Jan R – thanks for posting. Dot and Betty are together in many photos that I’ve seen, too. What an amazing life they must have shared.

    Mickey – documentary! Love it.

    PB – really interesting personal journey for a sports woman commiting to her sport in the 1950s. Keeping one door open meant that many, many others closed before her. There’s a bigger story to tell here.

    L Reynolds – thanks very much.

    bbtt – interesting questions. Women’s cricket was popular in Betty’s time of playing. I’m not sure regarding footy.

    Swish, Yvette – thanks. Very kind.

    Good on you, all. Go well.

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