Test Cricketers with German Origins

“The Cricketer”
by Kate Birrell

 

In the latter part of 2019 I spent some time in Europe, ostensibly tracing elements of family history. My focus was Eire and Deutschland. Whilst in Deutschland, I focussed on Rostock where my great grandfather, Ferdinand Paul Larsson, 30/3/1883 – 7/2/1970, was born. He left Deutschland in the opening decade of the last century. As a merchant seaman, he decided to ‘jump deck’ whilst in Melbourne just prior to the outbreak of the ‘Great Trade War’ and remained there the rest of his life.  I still remember him from my early childhood watching World Championship Wrestling on the old black and white TV, whilst he consumed those ghastly, oily, small fish from the tin. He was the last generation of our family eating those horrid things!

 

All of this made me wonder how many Australian cricketers have a German family link?  Anyhow here’s a handy team of Australian cricketers who can claim a German heritage.

 

Ken Meuleman played a sole Test, which was also Australia’s first Test against New Zealand, at Wellington in early 1946. Despite a solid first-class carer, firstly with Victoria and then Western Australia, he never received another chance at Test level. His son Robert, and grandson Scott subsequently turned out for Western Australia.

 

Jack Nitschke was a left-handed batsman who played two Tests, both against South Africa in the 1931-32 season. Despite averaging 42.03 at first-class level, he had to compete with the likes of Sir Donald Bradman, Stan McCabe and Archie Jackson for a spot in the batting order. Sounds like wrong place, wrong time.

 

The South Australian born Test batsmen and former Australian coach Darren Lehmann is another who can trace German heritage. Lehmann would also probably be the last cricketer to work on a factory production line instead of taking up an offer of going to the Australian Cricket Academy. Hmm, was he related to Ernst August Lehmann who was the senior officer on the Hindenburg’s fateful last journey May 6, 1937? When the Zeppelin crashed in a ball of fire, Lehmann was seriously burnt, dying from the injuries.

 

Now who could be the wicketkeeper?  The surname Zoehrer, as in Tim Zoehrer, apparently is of Austrian origin. Tim Zoehrer also played and coached in the Netherlands. Capping off his skill base is that on both his tours of England, 1989 and 1993, he topped the team’s bowling average. Is there a better option as our keeper?

 

Who’d have considered Shane Warne in this team? Warne’s mother Bridgette was born in Deutschland. At one-point, Warne apparently toyed with the idea of German citizenship to avoid the restrictions on oversea players on the English county circuit.

 

Ben Hilfenhaus is the most recent Australian Test cricketer I’m aware of for this team. The ‘Hilf’, a modest bricklayer from Ulverstone in Northern Tasmania, had a 27-Test career where he came tantalisingly close to taking 100 wickets with his right arm fast mediums, finishing on 99 wickets. His final Test was in his home state where he turned out for the opening Test against Sri Lanka in December 2012. In Australia’s 137 run victory he only batted once, scoring a duck. In Sri Lanka’s first innings, he picked up the wicket of Dimuth Karanaratne for 14, the first wicket to fall – his 99th  Test wicket. Due to injury Hilfenhaus didn’t bowl in the Sri Lankan second innings, then subsequently never wore the baggy green again.

 

Hans Ebeling has an interesting history. With a Germanic surname, he was a squadron leader with the Royal Australian Air Force in World War 2 as well as a long-time administrator with the Melbourne Cricket Club,where he played a key role in arranging the 1977 Centenary Test.  He was a right-hand batsman and a right arm fast medium who toured England in 1934, playing his sole Test in the final match at the Oval where Australia were victorious by 562 runs. Ebeling would have seen teammates Sir Donald Bradman and Bill Ponsford score double centuries in their 451 run first innings stand.

 

In German, Hartkpopf means a stubborn person. Albert Hartkopf was a talented individual. He played for University in the VFL, was a handy track and field competitor who held the Victorian record for the 440 yards, as well as a leg spinner who was handy with the bat. In his sole Test, he scored 80 in Australia’s first innings but only picked up a solitary wicket, the English number 11 and wicket keeper, Herbert Strudwick. He left first class cricket not long after, finding his fame and fortune as a doctor.

 

Scott Muller, he of the legendary ‘Joe the Cameraman’ sledge, is another of German heritage. Maybe he couldn’t throw, but seven wickets and two catches in his two Tests stands up well against a fair few others who wore the baggy green.

 

Whilst we’re on fast medium bowlers from the ‘Deep North’, the injury prone and former Bob Katter’s Australia Party candidate, Carl Rackemann is another whose origins are German.  During Carl’s 12-Test career, one of the highlights would be in the 1989 Test against New Zealand in Perth when he bowled 31 overs, including 21 maidens, to finish with figure of 1-23. He didn’t seem to mind playing in Perth as, during the 1983-84 Test against Pakistan, he recorded his best bowling figures with 11-118 for the match. 5-32 in the first innings followed by 6-86 in the second innings helped spear Australia to a victory by an innings and 9 runs. However, his performance on the same ground against the West Indies 12 months later is probably best forgotten.

 

David Renneberg was a fast-medium bowler from New South Wales. He played eight Tests for Australia in the late 1960s, touring South Africa in the 1966-67 season, then appeared at home the following summer against India. He also toured England in 1968 but didn’t play a Test in that series. Batting was not a prowess of David as a first-class average of 7.06 after ninety first class matches would attest. His Test average of 3.66 was barely half of his first-class average.

 

Well, where to next? Do I compile team of Germanic Footballers, such as Wolfgang Dietrich and Carl Ditterich, or do I look at my other family links, such as a team of Irish cricketers? Bill O’Reilly and Kerry O’Keefe would get the ball rolling – literally!

 

Watch this space.

 

Glen!

 

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Comments

  1. Glen! – My distant cousin Andy Bichel also has German background, so he’d make a handy addition to your pace attack. He played 19 Tests and was 12th man a further 19 times! A great team man.

    Coincidentally, I was in Rostock a few years ago helping my wife trace her ancestry to the nearby villages of Kropelin and Detershagen. We loved the seaside area of Warnemunde. Is that where Warney might have had links?

  2. Good research into background information Glen!

  3. Harry Frei is possibly the only German born sportsman to play VFL and play first class cricket.

  4. Sorry, I meant “OTHER German born sportsman”.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Harry Frei and Dennis Schuller both missed Test selection, unfortunately for this team.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Top marks for the research Glen!

    Some further digging might be required to test the qualification or otherwise of Bollinger, Hauritz, Hilditch and Voges. Julien Wiener has Polish/Austrian parents (both having escaped WWII concentration camps)

  7. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Glen ! Terrific team. You’ve set the bar high for 2020. Great work !

  8. Great idea Glen.

    Megan Schutt springs to mind.

    What about a team of all Australian first class cricketers with Germanic names?

  9. Very relieved you didn’t have someone named ADOLPH as the umpire.

  10. Wundebar: Ist Gut.

    Good point Ian, Andy Bichel escaped. Did Warney’s mum come from Warnemunde. I don’t know. Been to the area but that question has me stumped.

    Tony the third game of VFL footy i attended was Harry Frei’s third VFL game. This was at Kardinia Park in 1973. The first three games i attended, Geelong lost all three. I was no talisman for them. Harry Frei’s best game of cricket was when he hit four 6’s for Queensland against the touring English in 1982-83.

    Swish i thought about the two H’s, did some reading on them. Hauritz is apparently Danish, Hilditch ye olde English. Yep Voges i forgot, Bollinger i’m unsure about. I’ve always seen Weiner as Jewish: Austrian Jewish?

    Phil, the Germanic footy side is developing side by side with the Irish-Australian cricketers team. All will be revealed. What project are you working on ?

    JTH i’ve not forgotten, though not called you, re the Cheese’n’Kisses computer. It’s on the Saturday to do list.

    Prost,

    Glen!

  11. Luke Reynolds says

    Late to this Glen, but would nominate Otto Nothling, the only man The Don was ever dropped for.

    I learnt about Nothling for the first time in my early teens, reading “Tangled Up in White”, a collection of Peter Roebuck’s best articles, published in 1990.

    Roebuck goes into great detail into the Otto Nothling story, starting with his German parents who fled to Australia in 1870 after supporting the wrong side in the Franco-Prussian War. An all-rounder, Nothling took 5/78 for Queensland against England in 1928/29, and scored 121 against NSW in 1929/30. Earlier he had played for the Waratahs against South Africa and NZ Maoris as a full-back.

    Bradman made 18 and 1 in his debut in the first Test of 1928/29 and was dropped, his spot taken by Nothling.

    In his only Test, Nothling took 0/60 off 42 overs and made 8 & 44. Bradman came back for the 3rd Test.

    Nothling went on to captain Queensland 3 times before taking his doctors practice to Maryborough in Qld.
    In Maryborough he took up golf, quickly playing off scratch. He served in WWII in Egypt & Greece. Later upon returning to Brisbane he became president of the Queensland Cricket Association.

    Roebuck’s piece is a great read and the only reason I know about Otto Nothling!

  12. Carl Rackemann, Kepler Wessels, and Michael Klinger, even though the latter played twenty twenty cricket for Australia, not Test cricket.

  13. Paul Reiffel

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