Taking Stance in the Clem Jones Stand

The First Cricket Test of the season at the Gabba is one of my favourite times of the year. It not only announces the arrival of summer but it allows me to dust some old memories from an oft forgotten era.

Growing up in Brisbane and attending school over the east side, I would manage to navigate my way to the Gabba on the first day of the first test. With a schoolboy’s pass from QCA I would join some mates in our own ‘test’, on the concrete apron of the Clem Jones Stand, we would play with a beaten up County Cricket Bat, a new tennis ball (greater pace and bounce) and a school bag for wickets. There was Cam, Tuffers, Fitzy and myself trying desperately not to hit one onto the ground. Fortunately power was not part of the cricket vernacular in those days, a deft touch and timed drive more important than a slog or cross bat. We would only get as far “placing one” on the old greyhound track. Fitzy was delegated the job of retrieval, probably because he brought the ball, however the mad dash was always frantic; trying to beat the stewards before they confiscated our ball.

In our favour was that by the time we were into the game, usually after the tea break, most of the officials had had a hard day in the heat and were cooling themselves under the Moreton Bay Fig Trees near the nets (at the bar having a quiet XXXX not giving a XXXX).

I remember when Jeff Thomson moved from NSW to Qld, I was a regular at Sam Trimble and Brian Gaskell’s coaching clinic during school holidays. I was fortunate to watch Thommo send a few express deliveries down to Sammy in his initiation to the Gabba nets. After a few warm ups, Sam stepped aside and yelled to Thommo, “Let her rip” to which the ball broke the speed of sound and split the stump in half. A legend was born.

I remember the build up to the First Ashes Test in 1974, Brisbane experienced relentless rain. I understand then Lord Mayor Clem Jones sacked the curator of the Gabba and decided to prepare the pitch himself. That’s how things got done in those days.

A week before the first day of the Test, the wicket resembled a mud patch and by week’s end, after a torrid and typical Brisbane baking, the pitch turned out cherry ripe.

To say Queenslanders are a parochial bunch is like calling the Pope Catholic, we loved our maroon players with a biased passion. Granted we imported a few good characters to keep up our national representation quota but there have been many outstanding Qld Test cricketers challenging the NSW rite of passage into Test selection. Before the First Test Team was announced there was another Queenslander Geoff Dymock who was due selection. He could seethe, snarl and swing with typical parochial fervour at all things south of the Tweed.

This was a Test in which Dymock was expected to play; particularly with the humidity sitting at unbearable on the comfort scales, but a potential wrecking ball with a slinging action was more tantalising for selectors and for the first time, I was happy to see one Queenslander make way for another (I know he was adopted).

The selectors picked a young Jeff Thomson and with a sudden “ear infection” I was able to attend all of the first three days.

Australia batted first, but it was the bowling that I wanted to see.

I wanted to witness Thommo in full stride with intimidating menace knock the blocks off the Poms, I was also partial to seeing him take a few wickets also but it was the intimidation of ball over bat that truly enthralled me and still does.

I think the first casualty in Thommo’s opening barrage was Rod Marsh, who upon impact with ball in glove is alleged to have quipped to Ian Chappell, “Christ that hurt”.

Thommo went on to remove the top three English batsmen in the first innings, rattled a few bones with the occasional broken one thrown in for good measure. His second innings was even more intimidating taking his career best figures of 6/46.

In partnership with DK Lillee, the pace attack would go on to rip the hearts out of many batting attacks, can the Mitch’s Starc and Johnson please take note.

There have been many other memorable moments at the Gabba, unfortunately the charm has diminished with progress. The greyhound track long gone with the Moreton Bay Figs, the Cricketers Club more formal than casual and my old friend the Gabba now a Stadium and not an Oval.

Having moved to Melbourne almost forty years ago, my Queensland attachments have weakened, I cheer for the Sydney Swans (South Melbourne FC) support Melbourne Storm, watch both Victory and City and celebrate when the Vics win the Shield (full admission, I did a fist pump in 1995 when Qld finally won). I love the Cathedral of Sport and have spent many divine hours at the G (and a few nightmares in 1996, 2006 and 2014).

However when it comes to the First Test at the Gabba, my blood begins to circulate at a faster pace, the beers primed and with Friday morning schedule cleared, I assume the couch position and remember a time when four young friends took stance in the Clem Jones stand and Thommo unleashed the beast.

 

About David Parker

A keen observer of all things sport and a Swans tragic, David likes to dabble in sporting documentaries including the Max Bailey doco for Fox Footy. David is currently filming a documentary on the Australian Cycling Men's Team Pursuit squad as they prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Tremendous memories David.

    That 74/75 tour of the Poms was notable for the emergency recall of Colin Cowdrey, the only one who got in behind the ball.

  2. I watched that test on the black and White TV set.
    I will never forget the famous “sandshoe crusher” that Jeff Thomson got Tony Greig out with.

Leave a Comment

*