My Greg Chappell Hat

“Why should anyone be frightened by a hat?”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“Some hats can only be worn if you’re willing to be jaunty, to set them at an angle and to walk beneath them with a spring in your stride as if you’re only a step away from dancing. They demand a lot of you.”
Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

“You can never have too many good hats.”
Phil Klingberg, Kimba Cricket Club (1993)

*
On this gusty afternoon I’m on our patio writing. I’m just up the road from where the Chappell brothers attended St Leonards Primary School in the palindromic suburb of Glenelg.

It’s sitting on the table quietly, but has a full and boisterous past. Faded and frayed, on its front an emblem; two golden stalks of wheat embrace the acronym KCC. Kapunda Cricket Club. Down one side; the crowded loops of a celebrated signature.

It’s in its fourth decade. Mothers, wives and girlfriends, please look away now for it’s never been caught within twenty-two yards of a twin-tub.

It’s my Greg Chappell cricket hat.

*
I was at high school when the Kapunda Cricket Club distributed these hats in 1982. Cold Chisel had released Circus Animals, the Violent Femmes erupted with their eponymous debut, and the Eagles presented their second greatest hits album, meaning there were only forty-three such offerings to come (thus far). On average each Australian household now contains six separate versions of “Desperado.”

My hat was there as I featured in four losing grand final sides on the West Coast (South Australia, not California). This doesn’t bother me as cricket was always more social than showdown, and provided a fun, often protracted afternoon and post-afternoon structure to my Saturdays. I enjoyed the temperate rhythms, wit and mateship because if you played cricket with a chap, then bumping into him at Adelaide Oval guaranteed a happily frothy conversation.

How’d you go if you could face your own bowling? Would your eyes light up? Or would you cringe at the crease? Like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn attending their own funerals it’s delicious to ponder, but unattainable. I’d endured a poor season when I made more runs than I took wickets. And my bowling wasn’t fearsome. More Les Paterson, than Lenny Pascoe.

I’d my cricket hat with me when old mate R. Bowden and I flew to New Zealand for that shamefully compulsory rite of passage, the Contiki Tour. On the South Island we visited Fox Glacier, where our tour guide advised us to take a hat. Yes, a fox hat.

It was summer, however in the photo we’re huddled on the bitter, elevated tundra. I’m petrified as I’ve climbed many icy steps to the frozen plateau, but know in that nagging way going up is easy; it’s the coming back down which gets unpleasant. I didn’t want my distorted limbs, innards and freshly bloodied cricket hat sent back across the Tasman in a chilly bin.

*

Like any commendable cap it’s versatile. An enthusiastic but fabulously incoherent golfer, on a par four I can go from Greg Norman to Norman Bates to General Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf (I’m assured he’d a hideous slice) in seven shots. I like to wear my Greg Chappell hat up and down, but more often, across the fairways, and remember a coach telling me, “You’ve got it arse-about. You hit a cricket ball in the air, and a golf ball along the ground.”

It was shielding my boofy face just before the change of millennium when, up the Riverland on the wonderful Waikerie golf course, I lipped out on the last. This would’ve given me a best-ever back nine of 39. The next morning at Renmark, sure I’d the sport sorted, I bludgeoned my way to, and swiftly beyond one hundred, like David Warner in a feisty frame of mind.

At Kimba playing Buckleboo during harvest an unspeakable northerly roared down the desert, blasting sand and flies and primordial horror. While umpiring in the reddish apocalypse a team-mate signed my hat with the names of West Indian cricketers Viv, Joel and Clive. He even spelt most of them adequately. But that was ages ago, and his ink is submerged beneath the yellowing cloth.

While we lived in Singapore my Greg Chappell hat spent three years in friendless and dark storage. How did I do this? Retrieving the hat from its tomb, I felt the antique brim, creased from its slumber, but still sturdy.

*
Now like a retiree forever doomed to two-fruit-and-ice-cream its solitary excursion is accompanying me and my Victa across our lawn. Given its unattractive capacity for making babies cry and dogs growl, my wife’s banished the hat from public appearances.

She’s right.

But on the backyard table it’s looking at me like Wilson the volleyball, from the Tom Hanks’ flick Cast Away. Later tonight with the wife and boys in bed I’ll continue to write and reflect over a Barossa shiraz, and when nobody’s peeking, I’ll stick it on my head.

I might even take a selfie.

 

Mickey Randall has a super piece in our new sports writing journal Long Bombs to Snake:

…Long Bombs to Snake is a collection of stories – some memoir, some fiction – covering surfing, cricket, footy, meaning and connection. Fresh. Original. Some of the writers are starting out, exploring their craft. Others are old hands. Here’s what’s in it:  https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/long-bombs-to-snake/

Printed edition: $19.95

Digital edition: $14.95

longbombscover

https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/

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. While Singapore may seem an ideal location for such a hat, I can assure you keeping it in storage was wise. Just ask my trusty St Louis Blues cap. 3 years of tropical sweat may have finished it off. Hope all is well in Adelaide b

  2. Ahhh, the Greg Chappell hat, Mickey. I have owned two, the second of which is still in existence but even as the largest available size at the time is too small for my freakishly large head. Besides, it is not a patch quality wise on the original which saw me through primary school and early high school cricket in the ’80s. Its greatest asset was the ability to hold large amounts of sun warmed water from a rusty tap on a typical Adelaide stinker. It would be dumped on the noggin with great haste to ensure not too much water escaped from the two eyelets on each side. Even after such regular mistreatment, it still maintained its shape and adequately performed its primary function. Great memories, I can still taste the water from that tap.

  3. I hear you DJ Litsa. Those tropical rays are a killer. Luckily there’s no daylight savings in Singapore or all my hats would be ruined ! All good here and hoping to get to the day/night test.

    Like yours my Greg Chappell hat seems to have mysteriously shrunk Dave. I’d forgotten their facility as a bucket to dump water on a hot head. I need a new one but don’t know if I can do it. It’s a test of loyalty versus common sense.

    Thanks men.

  4. IM Chappell fearlessly and stylishly (as in all things) wore the predecessor to the GS Chappell. It was called the “washing hat” – don’t ask me why – in rural SA in the 60’s. What it lacked was a brim, or more correctly the brim sloped directly downward (a la Gilligan), so there was no protection for the nose or back of the neck. Still any hat was considered a sign of weakness in those macho bravado days – just ask R Benaud who emulated his hatless hero KR Miller to his long term detriment.
    GS Chappell was of a more pastey disposition than his fearless older brother, and so the wider stiffer brimmed GSC hat was born. It must have coincided with the “Slip, Slop, Slap” campaign – because soon every mother had adorned their reluctant sons in a GS Chappell hat and abundant white nose cream.
    We hid the old washing hat in the bottom of our cricket bag and wiped the sun cream off our face as soon as we left home. Didn’t want to look like a sissy.
    Tnanks for the memories Mickey. The GS Chappell hat lasted in the garden somewhere into the 90’s. I think I left it in the garden shed when I beat a hasty retreat after Partner #2 found the bank statements. A fedora is compulsory on the golf course these days for the folically challenged among us.

  5. Terrific Mickey. When I was a kid I wanted to win the Tour De France. One Christmas my stocking contained a cycling cap that had “Le Tour” printed down the side, but the best bit was when you flicked up the front of the cap (the look that Phil Anderson often had in his mighty efforts to win The Tour – the flicked up front), it had the word “Champion” printed. I loved that cap. It became a part of me.

    One long journey up the Newell Highway on our way to QLD one of my brothers bet me that my “Champion” cap would blow off if I stuck my head out of the car window as we belted along at 100 clicks. I was so confident that my cap wouldn’t leave me, that I would forever wear it, that it could cope with the wind, as I stuck my head out of the window. Anyway, cutting a long story short it came to a peaceful rest on the side of the highway somewhere between Moree and Narrabri. My old man wouldn’t go back and get it.

  6. Not only that Dips, I think your old man might have received it from a spark plug rep.

    Did you have a Makita cap as well?

  7. No Makita cap, but did have a “Clifton Idea Bricks” cap. It was a 70s orange and white.

    No idea what a spark plug rep would have been doing in Cramer Street, Preston, where my old man set up office.

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says
  9. “Brian” Jenner and I have no memory of the day.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Mickey. I must admit to straying for a few seasons and wearing the Gray-Nicholls version, but am now back in the GS Chappell, the original and the best.

  11. PB- thanks for that. I reckon Greg’s hat appeared late in his career when, aware of the risks presented by the sun he wore a beard.

    Dips- that is a great yarn. I reckon many of is lost hats like that, and out of school and public bus windows!

    JTH- for a while it seemed to be compulsory for every country servo to be staffed by a teenage male sporting a John Deere cap.

    Swish- thanks for that. Great article from the Telegraph,

    Luke- glad you came back from the dark side. Sorry. The GS Chappell is the original and the best. Might shout myself a new one for Christmas.

    Thanks everyone for your thoughts.

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Mickey I to have,Dave’s memory how fantastic they were for carting water and I didn’t mind fielding waering 1 but never batting n 1 had to be the proper cricket cap.Like PB I can remember the classic washing hat which Ian Chappell and Doug Walters wore which had so much character.
    As always,Mickey you bring memories back ( see you Thursday night ? )

  13. Thanks Malcolm. You and PB have inspired me to find out more about these washing hats. What legacies the Chappells gave us: wonderful batsmen, captains and milliners.

    See you Thursday!

  14. Love it Mickey. Grand story-telling.
    I had one or two of these down the track.
    I’m pretty sure they shrank when wet.

    Playing again two summers ago, invited down to my mates club as a fill-in, I hastily assembled the required garb.
    Shirt, trousers – no bother.
    Bat – like me, a relic from a bygone age, but also present.
    Box – new one purchased (and to this day marvelled upon by the buds)
    Hat…? Hat…?
    Unable to find a GS Chappell, I’ve instead landed myself with an RT Ponting.
    It’s relatively rough around the edges, tends to go hard early, but still does a tremendous job.

  15. Greg Chappell says

    Great story Mickey and some good banter in the comments. You may be pleased to know that, after a number of years of complaining to Albion Hat and Cap about the quality of the GC Hat, the Greg Chappell Cricket Centre has taken over and have returned to the original maker so the latest version is as good as the original…maybe better.

    You guys might have copped some ribbing for wearing the GC Hat, but it will never be as much as I get for wearing a hat with my own name…and signature…on it!

    Have a Merry Christmas all…in your new GC Hat!

  16. Great story Mickey,
    I never had a GC hat, but I wore the Makita hat for years playing junior cricket.
    Kids at school at GC hats.
    One girl called Donna actually had the great man’s signature on it.
    When the signature faded, she traced over it again.
    I remember wishing I had Greg’s signature on anything…

  17. G’day GSC,

    Welcome to the pages of the Almanac. Thanks for commenting on Mickey’s terrific yarn. You will find a fair few sportslovers here at the Almanac who were in short pants as you were making your way in Test cricket. They will be thrilled to see your words.

    While there were Greg Chappell hats in our home, I tended to have the towelling version preferred by IMC or the traditional cap. I did however have an old County bat with your hand-written signature on it. It was given to me by P. C. Martin, a talented, but laid-back, grade cricketer. You signed it for us one day at the Uni of Qld Oval (one of Australia’s finest cricket grounds) back in the days when you enjoyed playing Queensland trial matches there and we enjoyed drinking XXXX cans on the hill in front of Union College.

    We have a spot in the Almanac XI in Adelaide this Thursday if you are free.

    Much appreciated
    JTH

  18. Well played, Mickey. Enjoyed every word of this.
    I, too, had a Greg Chappell hat at one stage, but I’ll be damned if I know what became of it.
    I have always been more traditionalist when it comes to wearing head attire on the
    cricket field.

    JTH, do you reckon Greg Chappell would get a game in the Almanac XI ??

  19. Great stuff Mickey. Terrific yarn. You took me back. And great stuff 53.86 for responding. On the strength of all this, I’m tempted to just to pop into the Greg Chappell Cricket Centre around the corner from my work here in Clayton and purchase the iconic hat…

  20. DB – buy 18 while you’re there. Would love to see the Almanac XVIII lining up in the club strip of Dunlop volleys, black footy shorts and GS Chappell hats on Thursday. The Lutherans would cack themselves.

  21. Susan Bennett says

    Bit of a walk down memory lane is always good for the soul. I enjoyed your stories over the years. Hope you enjoy being back in cold old Adelaide. A journey home I have yet to tackle.

  22. Smoke – I reckon GS Chappell would make the Almanac team of the century – for his bowling!.

  23. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Very entertaining Mickey. Always wore the GC hat in the field, but found it impeded my peripheral vision when batting…or so I like to think. Loved your Bundy piece in Long Bombs. Great stuff.

  24. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Who tipped him off?

    Or do ya reckon that Greg gets up early every morning, fires up Google, puts in “greg chappell”, takes the past 24 hours option and trawls through the results?

    Or is he a closet Almanacker himself? (We never did find out who that Lou bloke was)

  25. Er- thanks for that. With your recent cricket experience in England you’d be an asset to the Almanac XI in tomorrow’s fixture against the Adelaide Lutheran side. No, this isn’t a cheap WW2 joke!

    Greg- thanks for reading and commenting. Good to read that your much loved hats are still going well. Many on this site would love to read your account of how the hat came to be. It’s such an iconic part of our cricketing culture.

    Matt- I remember getting Joel Garner’s signature on my bat when I was about seven. And then tracing over it as required every few years!

    JTH- I reckon Rulebook or whoever you’ve pencilled in to bat at three would happily take a tumble down the order if we could get GS Chappell to come in at first drop.

    Smokie- thanks for that. I’d imagine just about everyone who’s played cricket in this country has owned a GSC hat.

    DBalassone- I’ve talked myself into buying a new one too.

    PB- yes, either cack themselves or get injured falling over, laughing.

    Susan- thanks for that. Good to hear from you. Are you still in Abu Dhabi?

    Dips- agreed. Although in the ten minutes of introductions and team-bonding just prior to the coin toss, I’m sure JTH will meld us into a crack outfit.

    Phillip Dimitriadis- thanks for that. Appreciate the feedback on the LBTS story too.

    Swish- Like most of us I’m sure GSC has googled himself too. Just recently I discovered there’s a dentist in Busted Leg, Kentucky with the same name as me!

    Thanks everyone.

  26. Leave Rulebook at three, GSC always excelled at four.

  27. Doggers- I’m sure GSC is aware of Rulebook’s influence in this town.

  28. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Diggers and Micky I did have a giggle re your comments unfortunately the knees are 2 far gone for even a social game

  29. James Lang says

    Thanks for the heads up Almanackers, picked up my Greg Chappell Hat whilst in town for the Adelaide Test and have been proudly sporting it at local cricket since. I just need a Duncan Fearnley AB 5 Star bat to fully rekindle my cricketing youth!

  30. It would suit your head beautifully.

    Does your club want some Almanacs to use as a fundraiser? $150 a box (12 copies) Easier than selling raffle tickets.

    All clubs (any sport) welcome to this offer.

Leave a Comment

*