Six sixes

Nuriootpa High School 1981- Jock McGregor

 

Saturday morning, underage cricket. Barossa Valley. Fruit-heavy vines enclose the ground, vintage approaches. Teenage conversations.

 

“Do you think REO Speedwagon are better than Adam and the Ants?”

“Pass me that Blankety Blanks lemonade.”

“EH Holdens beat XP Fords? Get real!”

 

Most of us were boys. But Jock was a fully formed man. His batting power was laughably brutal, and as a mate’s dad used to say, “He had an eye like a stinkin’ fish.”

 

Back then, footy goal posts were permanent fixtures. We watched as Jock punished the looping ball. We watched, slack-jawed. It sped straight through the goals at three-quarter-post height. Six runs and six points! We kept watching. Zooming above the gnarled rows of Shiraz vines, the ball was still climbing.

 

Gabba 2005- Brett Lee

 

Weet-bix devourer, and Australia’s Funniest Home Videos devotee, Brett Lee, was a better batsman than guitarist. He belted West Indian Daren Powell’s delivery above and beyond the Northern Stand, and with near tragicomedy. It exploded on impact close to another blonde Australian paceman. And his wife and young daughter.

 

“I felt like the mayor of Hiroshima. Six inches either way and the ball would have caused some real damage,” a relieved Carl Rackemann said of the bombardment.

 

Kapunda High School 1979 until 1983- Paul McCarthy

 

In my youth of Skyhooks and sausage rolls, there were teachers versus students matches. We loved them. These were played in wholesome spirit, although, as ridiculous, rash lads, some competed like fuming dogs.

 

Once in the footy my friend Crackshot perfectly tackled a staff member, trapping the Lyrebird to him. The teacher finally loosened an arm, and to his eternal shuddering horror, and our eternal amusement, promptly jabbed Crackshot on the chin. Did we just see that? I don’t think he bit off part of his ear though.

 

In every cricket match History teacher, and champion golfer, Paul McCarthy provided the highpoint. Batting at the Gundry’s Hill end, the occasion would arrive, and he’d flick it off middle stump, over the spotty fielders, over the boundary, over the school fence, over West Terrace, over the dusty footpath, over a neighbour’s front yard, and onto the roof of her white-washed cottage. Thud. A depth charge in a submarine movie. Everyone waited for it. Macca always delivered.

 

WACA 2006- Adam Gilchrist

 

We were at Adelaide’s Highway Inn for Gilly’s pyrotechnics.

 

It had been among the last workingman’s pubs. On Fridays a misshapen gent haunted the front bar, peddling greasy handfuls of cubed cheese and sliced mettwurst. As such I suspect it was often a real gastro pub. It sold butcher glasses (200ml) of port, but no craft ales. Around six they’d pay a woman to dance through the smoky fug, to wrong music. She would forget to wear her shirt.

 

Then the Highway was gentrified. The cheese and metty man was gone. Now you could buy:

Spring garden riccioli (v) $22 w Brussels sprouts, radicchio, peas and rye crumbs.

 

Gilchrist launched four sixes in that Ashes knock. Was it so few? Bludgeoning 24 off a Monty over, each shot crackled with sharp raucousness. Aural affects often characterise sport. Gilly sounded like he was right in your lounge room, cracking a whip.

 

During that beer garden afternoon, I’m sure there was a distant whiff of crumbly cheddar and Linke’s mettwurst.

 

Wudinna 1990- Gary Fitzgerald

 

When bowling, my approach to the wicket was utterly unlike Michael Holding. Less whispering death, more three-legged race. Kyancutta’s batsmen could hit it hard, but Fitzy could hit it hardest. He went after me one February afternoon.

 

Instantly, the ball was one hundred feet high. With the perpetual hopefulness of all bowlers, I thought he’d skied it. Catch, I thought. In a split second I knew. I was wrong.

 

Fitzy clubbed it like an Adam Scott 9 iron, but unbearably long. It somehow evaded the Commodores cowering in the shade of the distant gym. That Kookaburra travelled further than Yorkshire men go on holiday.

 

After bouncing ferociously on the rubble the ball returned, but needing cranio-facial surgery. Every batsman tries to smack me. With the last delivery of the innings, I take my seventh wicket. For 74! And win a slab of Southwark! We lose.

 

WACA 1997- Mark Waugh

 

“Along with golf, it’s probably my favourite pastime and cricket gets in the way a bit,” Mark Waugh once said. Our most elegant punter is not Punter, but Junior.

 

His celebrated strike, off Daniel Vittori, is uncomplicated grace. There is no hyperbole: no running, no leaping, and no punching the air (or Joe Root’s chin). Plainly, the younger Waugh found more delight in Super Impose winning the 1992 Cox Plate at 25/1.

 

Of course he was batting with older brother and captain Stephen. After Mark’s soaring stroke their demeanour remains uninterested. It suggests an unhurried single to extra cover.

 

Four stories up on the Lillee-Marsh grandstand roof, the ball clatters like hail on a shed, and, without a yak, is irretrievable. Our coda to that shot is the mid-pitch exchange:

Stephen: Fair swipe.

Mark: Yep.

Stephen: Now pull your head in.

Mark: Are you kidding? You jealous?

Stephen: Nup. Who held the Bankstown Pizzeria Space Invaders record?

Mark: Yeah, yeah.

Stephen: Randwick quaddie?

Mark: Nup.

Stephen: Salad or veg with tonight’s steak?

Mark: Veg.

 

 

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. Loved it Mickey. Got me trying to remember if I ever hit a six in competitive cricket. None were memorable, but there may have been a top edge hook shot.
    Some are born to flower……
    I remember the Mark Waugh one at the WACA. I was at the Adelaide Oval for his debut century. I thought this bloke’s better than Greg Chappell. Maybe it all came a bit too easy so he never valued it enough.
    Country cricket always had a butcher with forearms like Gary Cosier who bludgeoned everything with a short arm jab.
    Thanks for the memories. My late mother was an Oswald from Wudinna. Small world.

  2. mickey randall says

    Thanks Peter. I was hit for plenty of sixes, but didn’t hit one myself! I knew I’d had a poor season if I made more runs than I took wickets!
    I was also at Adelaide oval for Junior’s debut ton. I was in the new Bradman stand, and remember noting how easy he made it look. I’m sure he loved batting, but he gave the impression that apart from being at the TAB, there were a dozen things he could have been doing instead.
    I remember some Oswalds at the school; there was a girl- Mel and I reckon she had a brother too. Their dad was a good fella too, and we used to have a beer and a chat in the club! His name escapes me though.
    Thanks for your kind encouragement.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Loved it Mickey some other notable sixes 1 Joel Garner the day , Hooksey made his ton off , 34 balls from the river torrens end hit it over the corner with the vine down towards the practice nets in the members 2 Geoff Marsh yep bet that surprises you a pull shot off Simon Tait yes they are related one bounce on, Vic Richardson drive on to , King William Rd . 3 A De Silve with the best shot I have ever seen a square drive off , Dennis Hickey on , Ad Num 2 which kept going up and some how missed cars driving down ,
    Montefoir Hill and landed on the golf course behind 4 I hit v few zacs but played , 1 season for , Rocs and playing on the v small ground next to , McNallys hit a pull shot which hit this statue I punched the air with the glove kept batting when dismissed not that much later got blasted by several of the , Rocs guys as the statue had huge religious significance and should not have been celebrating despite the fact I had no idea I guy in particular said I should have and carried on like a pork chop
    I loved how you engaged international and grass roots cricket thanks , Mickey

  4. mickey randall says

    Thanks Malcolm. Some great memories there too. I remember Hookesy’s record-breaking hundred, and how, I think, channel 9 interrupted the usual programming and went live to Adelaide oval. Apparently, there were only a few hundred there when he started batting- typical for a Sheffield Shield game, but when word got out about his innings, people streamed into to the oval. Would love to see this again on DVD.
    Loved the story of you and the religious statue! People are probably still praying for you!

  5. Great read Mickey. I never played (proper) cricket myself but when I was about 20 I had an attempt for a few games. I remember one day when one of my school mates opened the batting and the opening partnership went on to clobber a quick 100 of about 15 overs. The game was at the CBC oval in Warrnambool and many balls went over the road and into the botanical gardens. It was always riveting to watch the ball sail through the air and watch as passing traffic came along to see if any of the cars would get hit.

    On another note, when we were younger my parents built a 21-room motel in Traralgon that had two, 2-storey wings and a great courtyard in the middle for playing cricket. At the start of each summer Dad would get someone to walk along to roof of each wing and retrieve the previous summers tennis balls – typically 20 odd. We would have a whole stack of balls that would inevitably end up back in the gutters again by the end of summer. Some really great memories of playing cricket there.

  6. mickey randall says

    djlitsa- thanks for that. How great is backyard cricket? Such a rich part of growing up. There’s certainly a book in that topic. If tennis balls didn’t exist, they’d have to have been invented just for backyard cricket! I’m really looking forward to backyard cricket with my young fellas when they’re older; it’s surely compulsory for kids! Thanks again.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Gawd, my mother-in-law was a Hebberman from Wudinna

  8. mickey randall says

    Former West Coast Eagle and Fremantle Docker David Hynes is a Wudinna boy too!

  9. “Swish” do you have an ancestor who was a sheaf tosser? (That is not an insult for non-aficionados of the gentle sport of tossing wheatbags over a pole vault bar using a long pitchfork). I remember a Mr Schwerdt who used to wholesale canteen supplies for our primary school (mum ran the p&c). We got taken to the Royal Show to watch Mr Schwerdt in action.

  10. mickey randall says

    “Sheaf tosser” does sound like a metaphor. Might use it next time I watch Glenelg play Port!
    Of course Schwerdt is a respected footy name with Stephen (Crows and Centrals) and Eddie being handy players.

  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Peter – the sheaf tossers were my grandfather Charlie’s brothers and his father.

    They managed to put on a demonstration at Schwerdt reunion in 1986 at the Hamley Bridge Oval.

    Mickey – the Schwerdt football reputation has nothing to do with my feeble efforts for Central Juniors (71-75), Ingle Farm (81) or the Blacks (82-89).

    Stephen and Eddie had a brother Pat who went alright too

  12. mickey randall says

    The Hamlet Bridge Ova has long been a global centre of excellence, as has the Schwerdt family.

  13. Mark Duffett says

    Beautiful stuff. I can’t have missed you by much, playing for Riverton-Tarlee colts 1982-1985. You might remember the galah-denuded tips of the huge gum trees at the eastern edge of Riverton Oval. Bloke named, I think, McArdle, hit them with one of the biggest hits I’ve ever seen, took us ages to find the ball. Amazing hit for colts (U15) cricket.

  14. mickey randall says

    Thanks Mark. Playing footy and cricket at Riverton I remember how huge the oval was. That makes it an even bigger six. I recollect playing A3’s there and we, Kapunda, were bowled out for about 34. But then Riverton were nine down when they passed our score. All within a couple hours on the first Saturday of a two day game!

  15. Peter Schumacher says

    I have memories of a “Sergeant Schwerdt” who was the local police officer in Tailem Bend, in the early fifties. He was one of my dad’s parishioners and more to the point perhaps, a top if not the top sheaf tosser of his day. And by the way it is a very skillful activity, I had a few practice goes myself, can’t remember the exact details now but the sheaf weighed I think twenty lbs, but it might have been as little as eight lbs (wild guess)? but the idea was to heave this thing over a bar, say akin to the bar set up used for pole vault. I seem to remember that the bar seemed to be set sky high, perhaps, say thirty feet. The skill was to know how to get the trajectory of the heave going exactly at the right time as shoulders and forearms were heaving the sheaf off the pitchfork, well that it what it looked like, at exactly the right time so that maximum upward momentum could be achieved.

    To get back to Sergeant Schwerdt. He was a really decent humane bloke, Dad thought extremely well of him.

  16. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    That would have been John Schwerdt, my grandpa’s eldest brother.

    There is a chapter on sheaf tossing in the family history book, which I’ll post separately, but sheaves were 8lb. There is a great photo of John Schwerdt making a new world record toss of 50ft in Melbourne in 1936

  17. Mickey Randall says

    As a young boy I remember going with Dad when he was stooking. Such a wonderfully evocative word! The word and stooking itself are now largely forgotten.
    Elsewhere on this site, much energy has been invested in the issue of dairy farmers who were footballers. What about sheaf-tossers and stookers? Not much modern representation, but probably a handy team pre- 1970.

  18. Nice work again Mickey. Always enjoy your pieces. Mark and Steve appeared to have a very strange relationship. You could sense they’d put sibling rivalry etc etc behind them and had settled into a pragmatic acceptance of being stuck with each others company. Like have you ever seen two people who, though seemingly at ease with each other, would have much rather been somewhere else? (and have you ever seen two people who’d run more dry of conversation?) A very strange set up with those two, I always thought.

  19. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks T Bone. Agree with you about the Waughs. Steve seemed more worldy, and humanitarian than his twin, as the one who’d head out with his camera when on tour in India, whereas Mark seemed to prefer Warney’s company with all the attendant associations that suggests!
    I remember seeing Mark and Warney out in Adelaide, late one evening and mid-Test, looking ready for some nightclub action. I bet Steve was asleep.

  20. Luke Reynolds says

    Great read Mickey. A few I might add:

    Simon O’Donnell playing in a Shield match in around 1991/92. Hit Greg Matthews into the top deck of the newly constructed Great Southern Stand. I wasn’t there to see it but there is a plaque at the the seat. Massive hit when you are standing at the seat looking on to the arena.

    Dean Jones at the Gabba 1993/94 v South Africa. A comeback game for Deano, he made 98. A straight six off South African offie Dave Rundle went somewhere near the Channel 9 Commentary Box. Richie Benaud said, “I’ll get it”.

    Pomborneit’s David Murphy hooking Mortlake’s Clinton Baker, the South West Cricket Association’s premier fast bowler, onto the Princes Highway at the Pomborneit Recreation Reserve in 2012/13. Baker just looked at Murphy, smiled and said ‘Wow’.

  21. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks Luke. I was sure you’d have some suggestions to add.
    The SOD hit sounds enormous; I’ll make a point of checking out the plaque when I’m next at the MCG. I saw Dean Jones hit a few sixes at Adelaide oval too; he was great to watch when confident and aggressive.
    Of course some of the most memorable ones occur in country and suburban cricket, and the nature of the ground and the surroundings often makes these spectacular.

  22. These are great Mickey. Top stories everyone.
    Here’s mine: Mike Gatting vs. a Banyule CC President’s XI, Beverley Road Oval, Heidelberg, 24 December 2002.
    The Poms were touring that summer.
    One of the Banyule CC crew organised for a pommy touring group to play a match at our club on Christmas Eve. The touring group was Gulliver’s Travellers. Their team included Mike Gatting.
    I played for the Banyule XI and thought that being dismissed by a former Test bowler would be the highlight of my day, when Norman Cowans had me caught at mid wicket.
    But I was later thrown the ball, when Mike Gatting was at the crease. Brilliant.
    Of course I threw away my regular medium pace outswing, in favour of a leg-spin assault. Who could resist it?
    I signalled to Gatt that I would be bowling right arm prodigious Australian leg spin. A great moment. We all had a great laugh as I marked out Warnie’s lackadaisical approach.
    I stood at the top of the mark, a la Warne, ball fizzing and popping. I strolled to the crease, rolled it out the back of the wrist, and lovingly watched the ball loop well to middle and leg, on a pretty good length, spinning like crazy. I had done it.
    WHACK.
    Gatt shuffled rapidly forward and CRUNCHED the kookaburra in an interstellar trajectory towards Rosanna, bouncing only once before the faraway Beverley Road.
    No one had ever seen a bigger hit on or ground.
    We all in the field clapped heartily. I said: “Gee, there wasn’t much wrong with that ball.”
    Gatt, gesturing to impossible areas on the pitch, said: “Not bad mate, but you need it to drift to about here and then to snap back to about here.”
    It was huge.

  23. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Mickey I played in a , 6 a side tournament at , Rostrevor College where each team had a celebrity player . Tom Moody hit a six which went over two sets of houses and side streets to be found in some ones front yard . I remember , Hooksey interviewing , Tom at lunch and he was chuffed about it and to the bowlers credit he was telling every one ,
    Moody had hit him for a , 12 , it truly went a mile

  24. Mickey Randall says

    e. regnans- that is a ripping story, and emphasised for me that at that point the Gatt was very much a former Test cricketer, but nonetheless, was obviously still extremely handy with the willow. His hand/eye remained pretty fair! Your yarn is the polar opposite of the Ball of the Century, but both featuring Gatting, and you’ve both got a story to share, for life!
    Malcolm- That’s a ripper too. If you’re to be belted a country mile, it best be done by a big, international all-rounder!

  25. Great writing once again Mickey. Give up your day job! I remember seeing sheaf tossing, along with the wood chopping at the Royal Adelaide Show when I was a kid. Can’t remember when it disappeared from the program. Some time in the 60’s? Of course the Show was originally all about agricutural skills. I was told that the sheaf tossing had its origins in the task of getting the grain up to a high window in the barn for storage. Is that true?

  26. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks Kevmak! I see your future- The History of Sheaf Tossing Volumes 1-8. I expect your first draft this weekend!

  27. Kevmak, – My grandfather was a wheat inspector at the old SA Farmers Union at the end of his working life. I remember going on country trips with him to the wheat stacks full of bagged wheat in the days before ‘bulk handling’ in the form of the giant grain siloes that dot the rural landscape today. I can still remember going to one at Mount Rat on Yorke Peninsula (the name fascinated a young boy).
    My guess is that sheaf tossing arose at least in part as a way of getting wheat and barley bags to the top of the stack. The grain stacks were huge open sided sheds with corrugated iron rooves, and were as prevalent as siloes are today in the rural landscape of the 50’s.
    Cheers.

  28. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says
  29. Mickey Randall says

    Mark- Brilliant! Thanks for that. Next time I’m at the Show I’ll be sure to have a look at the sheaf tossing. Yet another South Australian world champion!
    I imagine sheaf tossing, at its best, to be somewhat hypnotic for the audience, just like the other rural art- wood chopping.

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