Boxing Day: What does it mean to you?

by Andrew Gigacz

The Boxing Day Test at the MCG is a tradition that seems to have been around forever. In truth, it’s a concept that only really took hold in the 80s. As late as the end of that very decade, the ACB (now Cricket Australia) were still tinkering with it. In 1988, the MCG Test against the West Indies actually began on Christmas Eve, with a Christmas Day being a rest day after just a single day’s play. The following year there was no Test cricket played at all around Boxing Day, and the Melbourne Test of that summer against Pakistan began on the 12th of January.

Regardless, it has become an institution that means many things to many cricket fans. For me, it always brings back 1975 and the West Indies and Australia battling it out, with both teams studded with stars. Boxing Day in that year for me meant waking up early, grabbing the frozen cordial and ham sandwiches that Mum had prepared for us the night before and packing them in a bag, along with a plastic container full of slices of Lion’s Club Christmas cake. The anticipation of a lunch break that promised cold ham sandwiches, ice-cold cordial – always Kia-Ora brand and always the “50-50” flavour (half orange, half lemon) – and a piece of Christmas cake was fantastic.

And if Australia was on top, as they were that day, then the taste was all the better. With Lillee and Thommo at their peak, the West Indies were knocked over not long after tea on that day. There were feelings stirred in me that day that I’d never felt before.

Mind you, not all those feelings were cricket related. A day at the ‘G in the mid-seventies – particularly a Sunday – would not be complete without copies of the Sunday Observer and the Sydney Telegraph on sale as you entered the ground. From memory, these always sold well, but not because fans were keen for the latest news and sport. These papers were littered with topless and/or completely naked young ladies. As a ten-year-old going to my first Test Match, I saw images that day I’ll never forget!

There was an extra ingredient added that day, courtesy of my brother – tension. What would have been an almost perfect day was marred by a small “accident”. The first thing my brother taught me was that the best seat in the house (outside Bay 13) was in the top tier of the Southern Stand right behind the stumps. That area was always crowded and inching your way along the long row to your seat was a tricky experience. For my brother, it became a little too tricky on one occasion. He tripped and his foot went straight through the lid of the brand new foam Esky belonging to our neighbour of the day. It had been a Christmas present from the wife only the day before.

Our neighbour was NOT happy. He demanded payment from my brother to replace his beloved beer holder, money that my brother just didn’t have. The rest of the day was marred by the tension that surrounded that incident.

Fortunately the heroics of Thommo (five wickets) and Lillee (four) served to soothe our neighbour’s savage breast and the day ended with apologies and friendly handshakes all round.

Australia went on the win the Test taking a 2-1 lead in the series, before they went on the win the next three Tests for a big 5-1 series win. Despite the loss, the Windies had shown that they were a side on the rise and they went on to dominate the next 15-20 years of the game.

So those are some of my Boxing Day memories. It would be great to hear those of others.

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?

Comments

  1. The 1994 Test against England, the one in which Warnie took a hat-trick, also started on Christmas Eve.

  2. Peter Flynn says:

    A dozen Boxing Day memories:

    (1) The Pal Superdogs
    (2) Gladstone Small and the bananas
    (3) The Calypso Band
    (4) Greg Dyer’s disputed catch
    (5) Murali and D Hair
    (6) Mooball winning the 2002 Lord Stakes at Caulfield
    (7) Last session of the 98/99 Test
    (8) AB and Thommo partnership
    (9) Viv and DK
    (10) Foam Eskies that break on the way to the ground
    (11) KJ Hughes’ ton v WI
    (12) Sehwag

  3. Tony, you’re right. I believe that was the last one not to start on Boxing Day.

    Flynny – fantastic list. Numbers 1 and 3 perhaps the best. The Pal Superdogs – superb! And number 10 – yep, that’s what my brother put his foot through the lid of!

  4. I’m with Tony, Warnie’s hat trick jumps to mind.

    I was all of 10 years old on my grandparents farm in Central NSW, standing in the back of the ute as we went checking the fences. The radio was blaring out the drivers window as Warnie took the first 2. When Boonie snaffled the catch, I leapt for the skies. The dogs were looking at me, wondering just who this idiot was.

  5. A few years back I took my little boy into the MCG to get his first taste of test cricket. I can’t recall if it was Boxing Day, Day 2 or Day 3, but we went on the spur of the moment sans ticket. It was a big crowd and the Aussies we in the midst of belting the Poms 5 zip in the test series.

    We arrived at the ground in time for the last session. I approached all the kindest looking doormen. “Sorry mate no room” was the usual reply. Then when all hope was lost we were let in and shown to a spare seat. “Have a good day” the bloke said to my then 7 year old as he ruffled his hair.

    We got there just in time to see Andrew Symonds belt a massive six over mid on. Great afternoon.

  6. John Butler says:

    Gigs

    I was a callow youth of 13 that day in ’75 when a mate and I joined the 85,000 throng. The cricket was exciting, but our main adventure came when we tried to get home.

    Rushing to catch what we thought was a Frankston line train at Richmond station, we paid insufficient attention to the train’s progress. It took until we pulled in to a mysterious station called Officer that we realised something was wrong.

    Not being the sharpest tacks in the pack, we alternated denial with inaction until we hit the end of the line at Pakenham. I didn’t even know where Pakenham was at that stage. Plus, we only had the old single ticket; and we’d spent all our dough.

    Fortunately, they had station attendants in those days. A kindly gent decided to ignore our poverty and sent us back up the line to Caulfield, where a train home could be caught. It was a very long day.

    Bring back the station attendants I say.

  7. Richard E. Jones says:

    YEP it’s a recent tradition, Gigs, Test cricket during the Xmas holiday break.
    As a callow youth in the 50s I joined my Dad and a chalkie mate of his to make the trek to the G.
    The 2 adult males and 2 young blokes — the chalkie mate had a son, too — caught the Geelong-Melb. train to get to the G.
    And what did we watch? Victoria versus NSW in Sheffield Shield cricket, naturally.
    And not just for 1 day either. The ritual was repeated each morning for the following three days to give us our four, full days at the G.
    My last Test around the Boxing Day period was 2005. Got a Xmas pressie ticket for the members and witnessed Mr Cricket steer the Baggy Greens to a solid first innings score against the Saffers.
    I seem to remember Huss made a ‘ton’ with the tail sticking around long enough for him to acomplish the feat. Then followed a long afternoon of Saffer batting necessitating some serious snoozing by me and other members of our party.
    It must have been day 2 or day 3 of that summer’s Test series.

  8. Rocket Rod Gillett says:

    Meanwhile up on the Murray, Boxing Day meant a short trip to Echuca to enjoy the Boxing Day sports.
    Pro-running and cycling were the go – with the finals under lights in the evening.
    The highlight being the running of the Echuca Gift.
    Local boy, B.M. O’Neill was a favourite; once a speedy winger for the Murray Bombers, he’s now a newsagent in Hare St.

  9. Richard E. Jones says:

    COVERED the Boxing Day sports at Echuca once or twice Rocket.
    It must have been the early 80s becoz I recall having to ring in stories, and results, to a copy taker from a red public phone box reasonably close to the venue.
    Phoning in results back then could be a nightmare unless you were connected to a really switched-on copytaker. You know, the one who doesn’t ask “Was that Smith. S-M-I-T-H ?” sort of routine.

    Also covered the Boxing Day gallops at Kerang. Not my most favourite assignment, leaving a young family at home on a major Aussie holiday and driving Bendigo-Kerang on a hot summer’s day.
    Nevertheless, the Kerang races were a soda compared with the Maryborough Gift and Highlands Gathering on New Years Day.

    More than once I’ve wandered home at 11 pm on New Year’s Day after a 40 degree stinker at M’boro and sunk into a cold bath just to regain some sort of equilibrium.

Leave a Comment

*