Almanac Dinners: Rick, Mick and Nick



Rick Darling grew up in Ramco which always struck me as the name of a township in a dystopian sheep fable. Junior sport didn’t exist, so he began playing cricket with and against men. He was very good and quickly ascended the pyramid.


I love Footy Almanac lunches at the North Fitzroy Arms, but the central concept is transferrable, to use some possibly ghastly eduspeak (eduspeak is also ghastly, sorry) and so here we are in Tanunda. As a Kapunda boy a visit to Tanunda represents a homecoming of sorts. Tanunda was always the Magpies with all this evoked and when I was a kid, they were the enemy (along with every other town we played against). Those shallow perceptions are long gone and venturing to the Barossa is now, of course, a treat.


It’s World Shiraz Day and many of us are attacking what some would claim to be the world’s best shiraz. It goes Jagger and Richards with our steaks. I’m at a table with Nick whom I went to school, and Holmsey whom I’ve known for decades. Nick is from the state’s most challenging to correctly spell locality in Shea-Oak Log (the hyphen gets ‘em). No wonder many refer to it as ‘The Log.’ We’ve never had a beer together and not discussed the Rolling Stones. This run continues unbroken. Of course, Mick loves his cricket. Keef doesn’t.


We are at the Tanunda Club in the Presidents’ Room. We had my Dad’s 75th celebration in this very spot. In November we’ll mark his 80th. Mick Jagger turned eighty the other day.


Part way through the evening’s entertainment the first ball is bowled at The Oval, and we can see the action on the TV. Our attention is contested as the curious intertextuality of listening to a Test cricketer is concurrent with live footage of a Test match from Kennington in south London. Holmsey whispers, ‘Gee, Carey’s keeping well.’


When Rick was picked to make his Sheffield Shield debut the SACA put him up at the Tea Tree Gully pub. Eighteen kilometres from Adelaide oval, it was a lengthy bus trip. He was wearing footy shorts and had all his kit in a small bag. The ‘coffin’ was not yet invented.


Making his Test debut in 1978 Darling met his opening batting partner Graeme Wood a mere twenty minutes prior to play commencing. I have had longer professional courtships with Uber drivers.


His Dad was his only coach, and his philosophy was simple. If the ball pitches on the off-side, hit it to the off-side. If the ball pitches on leg, you guessed it, hit it to leg. John Harms then asked Rick what his Dad might have made of Bazball. Cummins gets Crawley.


Is he international cricket’s sole Zak thus far?


World Series Cricket partly allowed Rick to tour the Windies as a twenty-year-old. Those at my table produced audible gasps at the enormity of this, especially as their attack included Garner, Croft, and Roberts. Plus, the exceedingly well-named Alvin Kallicharran.


Is he international cricket’s best Alvin thus far?


The final Test that series was abandoned following a crowd riot. As locals in the outer hurled missiles onto the field, Rick was impressed by the quality of their throwing arms.


Part way through a Langmeil Shiraz and it’s time for me to go. It’s chat-us interruptus. Thanks to JTH, Rick and all those who gathered.



More from Mickey Randall can be read Here.




Bush to Buckingham Palace: Crazy adventures of fun-loving test cricketer
by Rick Darling
2022, Ryan Publishing, Melbourne
RRP $39.95
Also available as an eBook.
Contact the publisher, Ryan Publishing, here.







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About Mickey Randall

No, instead I get out my Volleys, each with the inescapable hole, just by the little toe. What if someone bought a pair of Volleys and they didn’t develop these holes? The absence of holes would itself make a psychological hole.


  1. Ian Hauser says

    Mickey, I know that her name doesn’t rhyme to fit in with your title, but where was Claire? In Clare?

    Langmeil make a few good shiraz drops; what were you on, Valley Floor on the Valley floor?

  2. Claire was five minutes to the south-west at the Tanunda pub, dining with friends. Her interest in cricket peaked with the career of Bruce ‘Roo’ Yardley, and I forgive her for this.

    Langmeil go very nicely. Yes, the Valley Floor. Did the CCTV footage reveal this? They used to offer a cleanskin which was obscenely great value. No wonder it’s now discontinued!

    Thanks Ian.

  3. Daryl Schramm says

    You bought me there, all the way from Tumby Bay Mickey. Thank you. I might find a red tonight to pass the cricket watching away.

  4. Thanks Daryl. Beyond the Langmeil we also shared a Rockfords. Both offered elegant comfort and were instantly relaxing and almost seemed to ask, ‘Right here, right now, is there anywhere else you’d rather be?’

  5. Russel Hansen says

    great write up, Mickey!

    a great night, for me, wonderful to attend my first Almanac dinner!

    here’s to many more!

  6. Thanks Russel. It was an excellent evening. I love hearing the stories of sportsfolk. Having them reveal some of the context surrounding their ascent. The senses of gratitude and wonder at their opportunities.

  7. John Harms says

    It’s always interesting to observe the connectedness – through family, friends, sports clubs, sporting experience. Thanks for your observations. Look out for a footy lunch at the Tanunda Club on Aug 25. Announcement this week.

  8. Thanks JTH. Over one of his home brew ales Friday night I told my brother-in-law about the Tanunda Club dinner. As a handy underage cricketer, he was invited to a series of try-outs. One team was captained by David Hookes and the other, by Rick Darling.

    If he’s not already told you, ask Jeremy Holmes to tell you his Rod Marsh, Richie Benaud and his Dad playing golf in Perth yarn. It’s sensational.

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