Cricket and the Country Member

Footy’s finished and I’m thinking about cricket. I love cricket stories.

I remember Fonz, from Kimba, telling me how his country carnival team was dismissed in Adelaide for two. Yes, the entire side.

Two.

I also recall Woodsy and Whitey in a grand final at Greenock. As the shadows spread, Kapunda needed a dozen with five wickets in hand. Rolled by four runs.

And, I think of Tarlee.

A farming settlement between the Barossa and Clare Valleys. Its oval is microscopic, utopian for batting, but a bowling Hades. Along one side wanders the Gilbert River, while just beyond, lies the rail line.

Saturday. Distant decades back, my first footy coach, Bruce Dermody, bashed the ball long, very long, and in a rare but happy junction between work and play, it plummeted into a moving train carriage. Bruce was a Station Master!

*

During the ’92 World Cup I remember Dean Jones hitting a six at Adelaide Oval against Sri Lanka. Not square at the Victor Richardson Gates or into the George Giffen Stand, but straight, towards the petty enclave of North Adelaide. The shot rose and journeyed past the seats and the path, and onto the grassy mound.

It landed among the folk under the Moreton Bay Figs. As Geoffrey Boycott might have said, “I don’t go that far for me holiday.”

*

Davo. We all need a mate called Davo. Tarlee had a fella called Jason. Davo was a sportsman; as a dashing centreman he’d won an underage association B & F. Where footy’s forgiving, the glaring nature of cricket can be cruel. He drops Jason on four. Simple catch.

Jason then bludgeons the ball repeatedly into the reeds along the Gilbert River. It drowns, often. He almost gets a triple century. But Davo responds by taking a hat-trick with his Thommo slingers. That’s a diverse afternoon. Like marrying a gorgeous girl. And then at your reception, she whispers, “ I’m pregnant. To your uncle.”

Stumps are drawn. Hours later, ghosts in cream dinner suits are haunting the streets, and pubs. No, look closer, these are not suits, but cricket attire! The same disembodied phantoms are then lured to the disco at the Tarlee Institute (cheaper drinks, but poorer skin care routines than the Ponds Institute).

The DJ is a farmer. The band is called Undercover. Of course, they include “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors. Their cricket whites survive the prickly outfield and muddy river, but the floor-boarded infield of bundy and beer-slop is lethal; it has a Strontium-90 half-life.

*

Simon O’Donnell at the SCG in 1986. Flat-bats one into the top of the Brewongle Stand. Like Mooloolaba and Coonawarra, Brewongle is a comfortingly Australian word, murmuring of open roads, and backyards, and drifting eucalyptus. Now sirens to my equatorial ears, these are calling me home.

Brewongle, as is mostly thought, is not named after an Aboriginal term for camping ground, but rather for the former tea room run by two sisters within the old stand. Ah, myth and reality.

One Australian summer we’ll take our boys to Sydney. The Brewongle beckons.

*

Fifteen, brazen, bearded. Precocious in myriad ways. My teenage cousin Puggy played representative cricket with fellow Barossans Greg Blewett and Darren Lehmann. After mobs of runs against men, he made his A grade début.

Nuriootpa’s opening bowler Horry Moore was broad, fierce, and scary-quick. A walloper from Nuriootpa, he’d sort this punk out. In competition, youthful self-confidence is always insulting. His red torrent began.

Crack! Puggy drove Horry’s third lightning bolt straight back over his head. Two bounces, under the fence, onto the road, with gravel scuffing the ripe Kookaburra. Who was this kid? He got 94 in slick time.

At season’s end he’d win the association batting aggregate. Puggy’s drive was a haughty declaration, an unworldly rebellion, and bluntly instructive of life being a string of little births and, for Horry that innings, little deaths.

*

Eudunda. As you drive across the last hill before descending into town, a bluish plain swims into view. This flat scrubbyness seems, on certain days, as a wintry ocean. As a kid I used to think, instead of this saltbush and mallee, it’d be wonderful if it was the sea. As it was, eons ago.

To the north, and by Burra Creek, is the unironic locality of World’s End. Snaking nearby we find Goyder’s Line,  which shows where rain and soil might allow crops to be grown confidently. Goyder is still right.

A sleety, snowy gale there once forced footballers to scurry under the fence and huddle between the Kingswoods and Chargers. I was ten, and hadn’t seen such apocalyptic storms. World’s End seemed even closer.

Kapunda’s Bull Ant got some brisk runs one January at Eudunda (former club of mine Footy Almanac host, John Harms). He was a stylish left-hander, but, then again, ignoring Kepler Wessels, aren’t they all? Clipping one off his pads, it hurled high over the boundary, and clanged about on the clubroom roof like Glaswegian hail. It sat there.

In protest at the heat, ruthless flogging and distasteful realisation they were supposedly enduring this for fun, the locals all flopped on the grass. No-one moved to retrieve the ball. Mutiny. Finally, the bowler mumbled, “Well, I served up the poop, I better go fetch it.”

And he did.

 

 

About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello

Comments

  1. You had me back on the Yorke Peninsula limestone cow paddocks of my youth. Thanks Mickey.
    I have been really enjoying Callum’s weekly series on the Lower Plenty Thirds because so little has changed from the Australia you describe. I find it reassuring that globalism, marketing and social media have not totally destroyed our national character.

  2. G’day Mickey.
    Lovely images.
    And powerful, too, given your Singapore life.
    This must be your place.
    I was in the audience of Peter Carey last night. Interviewer Michael Williams asked him if he kept an audience in mind when writing. Did he consciously write for an Australian audience, or perhaps an international audience?
    P Carey answered that, no, he writes for friends. But that every story and every person had to be FROM somewhere. He considered himself FROM Melbourne (via Bacchus Marsh & Geelong), despite 20+ years living in New York. And so he wrote FROM those places. (Merri Creek Coburg and Bacchus Marsh are all in his latest book).
    A sense of place shines through your stories there.

  3. Great piece, but I’m going to have to come back to this one Mickey when I have more time. I have stories involving numerous places and characters – esp Horry Moore. When I arrived in Eudunda to work in the silos for Uni hols (we stooked hay at the cricket club paddock on the first training night) I thought “How quaint! A 20-something called Horace.” Soon found out he was not Horace Horry. He was known as Horrible Moore, or Horry for short.

    PS Eudunda had Kapunda’s measure that summer. But not Tanunda’s who beat us in a semi.

  4. Great piece. Bought back memories of playing for Tarlee in the early 70s when in another life I taught there -it was then a one day Comp. I think I drank more schooners than made runs

  5. Thanks everyone.

    Peter- I think I like writing about cricket because there’s profound comfort in its timelessness. I hope my boys play and enjoy the same game, and similar stories.

    David- that must have been an excellent event you attended! I agree with you about place; in many ways it’s more vital than a sense of time. Of course, I’ve had to leave to develop an appreciation of where I came from. but it’s always great to go back.

    John- some countries have compulsory military service, but I reckon we should have compulsory country cricket club service. It’s a great way to develop a sense of who you are, and what your place is!

    Oges- thanks. I’ve convinced myself to go for a drive to Tarlee when we get home. The pub was run by the Hutton boys- Mark and Darren for many years. In my mediocre playing career if over a season I made more runs than I took wickets, it was a lean year!

  6. Forgot to mention the DJ.his name is Tony Clarke – a good mate of mine and top farmer (he has stopped being a DJ now -got the cycling craze)

  7. Nice memories Micky, I think Tarlee is the only wicket I played on that used seagrass matting! The oval was a lush green for the first 15m metres from the pitch….. then…. not much. If you hit the ball along the sheep tracks it travelled quicker to the boundary. All scoring done under the pepper tree!

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Mickey. Country cricket is a wonderful place to play the game and form friendships. Every current and former club must have dozens of great stories. Most clubs are so different yet so alike.
    Eundunda, Kapunda,Tanunda. Great names. Love it.
    Remember that six at the Adelaide Oval by my childhood hero Dean Jones well. Sadly the great man didn’t have the best tournament in that World Cup.

  9. Mark Duffett says

    I have a dim memory of going to Tarlee Oval from Riverton for a colts match against a side featuring the fearsome Craig Kelly, later of Norwood and Collingwood (must have been just before Riverton and Tarlee merged). Jeez he was quick. I was glad I was 12th.

    I’m also pretty sure it was Tony Clarke who DJ’d an underage disco I went to, next to Riverton Swimming Pool (theme: ‘Twisting By The Pool’, of course).

  10. Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood says

    Thanks Mickey ironic isn’t it that the so called slow pace of cricket results in so many of the stories and memories which ropes us tragics in and there is also something magic about the community involvement of country sport
    ( was there that day re Dean Jones certainly one of the biggest I have seen at Adelaide oval ) thanks Mickey

  11. Thanks all.

    Oges, Mark and others- Tony Clarke! Well done. He was part of the Mid-North fabric back then.

    Bob- ah, the pepper tree. How many times did the scorebooks not add up?

    Luke- Grassroots cricket is a goldmine. And the stories never get old.

    Mark- “Twisting by the Pool” is genius, and unmistakably Tony Clarke!

    Malcolm- One of my favourite Adelaide oval memories is being there for Greg Blewett’s debut century against England in 1995. I was on the southern mound, just down from The Duck Pond!

  12. Playing with men in country cricket. Outstanding. They stirred you, gave you hell, but were the first to buy you a beer after the game. Make 94, get caught on the fence the country publican might buy you a beer, make a couple of centuries the pub was yours all night. Does it still happen. Noticed on my last visit that the cricket club was now semi pro. Seems such a shame that a lot is lost now because of the need for success and money. Those days not only gave you a sense of belonging they also helped shape your future. Please never let them disappear.
    Cheers

  13. Poofta Bear says

    Aaaahhhh yes …smirnoff and OJ smuggled onto the hill, Bruce Yardley’s smoking hot good looks, triumph when asked by young local cricket talent Rodney Ellis if I knew why same wasn’t picked in the one dayers (and I knew the answer), and a funny boy in creams and a wide brimmed hat waiting for his lift out the front of Rawady”s deli at 12.30 on a Sat afternoon……….timeless.

  14. saint66- agree with your sentiment in that clubs help to shape people’s lives. Especially youngsters as the club- cricket, football, whatever contributes to the metaphorical village which is needed to raise a child. I worry for the future of grassroots cricket given how it needs to compete with family, work, parenting, other sports etc and does gobble up a big chunk of time on a weekend. But, we’ve feared for these institutions before…

    Poofta Bear- what a lovely pseudonym you have! Ah, Roo Yardley, a fine off-spinner and exceptional gully fielder- but you know all this.

    What a rich contribution Rawady’s Deli has made to Kapunda! The time as an eleven year old when I spent all of my money before cricket on a drink and mistakenly got a quinine bottle and not a lemon squash is among the most miserable episodes in my life!

    Thank you for your comment, you are most kind, for a Robertstown resident.

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