16 June, 2013

1938/39 Rancorous Return

First Class Season 1938/39

Revolt in NSW

Tiger O'Reilly

Bill ‘Tiger’ O’Reilly

The Test players returned home in early November 1938, and resumed their grade matches, having missed the first few rounds of competition, but in time for selection for the Shield season, which began in early November. Bill O’Reilly made a spectacular return for Sydney’s round five, taking 5/15 and 9/27 including a hat-trick (=14/42m) for St George against Paddington.

There was some concern by the NSWCA when none of Bill O’Reilly, Jack Fingleton nor Arthur Chipperfield were available, for business reasons, for the first Shield fixture for NSW’s fixture in Brisbane. However, all three had just been absent from their employment for a number of months. Jack Fingleton was the police roundsman for the Sydney Morning Herald, Chipperfield worked in sales for an oil company, and O’Reilly was a master at Sydney Grammar, and all needed to resume their duties.

However, controversy broke out in earnest when, at a meeting of the Old Sydneians’ Union in mid-November, O’Reilly made some forthright ‘constructive criticism’ of the tour – he noted the strenuous play, extensive travel, and that there were too few replacements for injured men. He observed – in what seemed a calculated snub at the cricketing establishment – that “As far as cricket was concerned, the tour of England was hardly enjoyable, for people regarded the players more or less as machines. But in Ireland and Scotland they were given wonderful receptions”[1]. Bradman cautiously agreed the next day that the tour had been strenuous, and that he hoped the authorities would review the schedule and consider any measures.

The NSW contingent also played in the MCC Centenary match at the MCG between Australia and the Rest in December, though Stan McCabe was ill and missed the last day of the match. He was diagnosed in mid-December with a nasty gastric problem, and by mid-January 1939 was advised to withdraw from further first class play for the season.

Just before Christmas, NSW played South Australia in Adelaide. Immediately after the match, Fingleton, Chipperfield, O’Reilly and (perhaps) White withdrew from further first class cricket for the season, noting anonymously ‘They are, they say, “fed up” with cricket’[2]. When quizzed by NSWCA Secretary Harold Heydon, Fingleton, Chipperfield and O’Reilly formally responded through the NSW team management that they would not be available for the New Year’s Eve match against Queensland in Sydney, though Ted White was available and was selected. O’Reilly indicated in his usual forthright manner that “I have had enough. I have packed my togs and have put a couple of mothballs in the bag, and I shall not play cricket again until next season”.[3]

After New Year, Mr J D Durham, president of the NSWJCU charged the players returning from tour and unavailable as ‘most disloyal’[4]. Sydney Smith, president of the NSWCA pressed home Durham’s charges at a NSWCA meeting in mid-February: “Players before the tour were breaking their necks to get away for the best trip in the world. … Then they come back and criticise the association. These players forgot they owe a duty not only to the association but also to the public and cricket which made it possible for them to make the trip”[5]. Chairman of the executive committee (and former and future Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board) Aubrey Oxlade noted that Smith’s views were not those of the Association, and moved to gag further public debate. Delegate Les Fingleton of Waverley naturally took the part of the players, questioning whether Smith had asked the players for their reasons (it appeared he had not).

The following day, O’Reilly and McCabe went on the offensive in comments to the Sydney Morning Herald – where, perhaps not coincidentally, Jack Fingleton was currently working. O’Reilly felt he owed no duty to explain his actions as he was not a professional cricketer, calling Smith’s words ‘thoughtless’, and plainly stated that “I do not fear criticism from the cricket public. They have always appeared to understand the game and its conditions. I owe them nothing, nor do they owe me”. McCabe commented that he was ‘disturbed and disgusted’ by the comments, which were ‘untimely and ungracious’. He noted “Surely, Mr. Smith does not expect young men to jeopardise their futures or play against definite medical advice, only to be thrown on the scrap-heap when their cricket careers are ended?” [6]

Sidney Barnes at the Crossroads

Sidney Barnes

Sidney Barnes

Another quiver of uncertainty had been introduced to the NSW team by Sidney Barnes just before Christmas, as the dispute with the senior players was raging.

In September, Barnes was offered the substantial sum of £1,250 per annum by a Blackpool supporter to play in the Lancashire League.

Furniture millionaire and cricket entrepreneur Sir Julien Cahn, who ran his own team, of strong county strength, was also said to be interested in Barnes, and had recently offered £800 annually to an unnamed Australian player. He already had four very good young players from NSW on his team – opening batsman Harold Mudge, fast bowler ‘Ginty’ Lush, and all-rounders Jack Walsh (left arm leg break), and Vic Jackson (medium pace) – who were passing through Sydney in January 1939 on their NZ tour. [*BOX*Cahn’s XI]

Also, Barnes had captained NSW in a minor game in Newcastle in the absence of McCabe and Fingleton, when he scored 77, but to his considerable annoyance he missed out on the captaincy in bigger matches. Ken Gulliver, an all-rounder from the Mosman club with a few State matches under his belt, was called to lead NSW in the SA match. He was certainly seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’, but was not in Barnes’ class as a batsman, even at this early stage in Barnes’ career, and was not even Mosman captain.

Barnes approached the Australian Board of Control to be released from his contract terms to allow him to take up an (unspecified) offer of employment from England. His ACB contract stipulated that there could be no return to England less than two years after return, though this term had not been enforced against NSW all-rounder Alan Fairfax after the 1930 tour. He was unemployed at the time, but said he was not anxious to leave Australia.[7] Whether he was bluffing or genuinely interested remains uncertain.

In early January, the Board refused Barnes’ application. He was then been offered a position in South Africa, and noted he was undecided as to his course of action.[8] However, a couple of weeks later, it was announced that he was to take up a position as a city sales representative for a printing firm in Redfern, which would ensure he would remain in Australia. It seems very likely that this was arranged by friends in the NSWCA.[9] For the course of Australian cricket, it was very fortunate that they did. [*BOX*Ratbag or Master]

Grimmett in India

Another cricketing great, South Australia’s Clarrie Grimmett, having been overlooked for the tour of England, at age 47 – though arguably undiminished in his powers – did take up a lucrative offer of employment overseas.

‘Grum’ or ‘Scarlet’ was one of Australia’s greatest ever bowlers, and held the record for Australian Test wicket aggregate for many years until overtaken by Richie Benaud in the 1960s. His Shield cricket aggregate of 513 wickets for South Australia still stands as the record. Originally a New Zealander, after a season as a fast bowler for Wellington, he moved to Sydney and Melbourne, where he played grade cricket during the Great War, and a few matches for Victoria in the early twenties, before moving to South Australia in 1923/24, where he played most of his career at Kensington, later Don Bradman’s club.

He was a small and wizened man, even in his youth, with a crouching action with a low arm action, and a very short run. He had exceptional length and direction, with astonishing pinpoint accuracy, though limited turn. He is not known to have bowled a single no-ball in his first-class career – though he was rumoured to have bowled one in 1928 on the tour of NZ – in a total of 73,987 deliveries.[10] He made little use of the wrong ‘un, instead attacking with his top-spinner. A perfectionist, and innovative in his art, he perfected his signature ball – the ‘flipper’ – over an extremely prolonged period. Neville Cardus noted he ‘bowled like a miser’ in contrast to the ‘millionaire’ Arthur Mailey. With his tight bowling, subtle variation, and unlimited stamina[11], he was the perfect foil for the tall, aggressive Tiger O’Reilly at the other end, and the two were one of Australian bowling’s great tight bowling combinations – in the distinguished pedigree of Spofforth and Boyle, Turner and Ferris, Gregory and McDonald, and later Miller and Lindwall, to Lillee and Thompson and beyond. [*BOX*Grimmett and O’Reilly]

Grimmett spent three months of late 1938 in India (September – November) as personal cricket coach to the ruler of the Princely State of Jath, the Raja of Jath, and earning the princely fee of £2,000.[12] The Rajah was a model ruler in miniature, who introduced reforms in administration, health and education in his state. He was also a noted cricket player, who played eight first class matches, mostly for Maharashtra, between 1939/40 and 1953/54, and sponsored his own XI, the Raja of Jath’s XI. He was a right hand batsman and fast-medium bowler. One of his protégés, whom Grimmett coached, was a young Jath Royals batsman called Vijay Hazare, aged 23.

Vijay Hazare

Vijay Hazare

Though he had played in a handful of first class fixtures since 1934/35, Hazare came into major prominence in Indian cricket during the course of the succeeding 1939/40 season with a tally of 697 runs @ 139.40, including a score of 316x in 387 minutes for Maharashtra against Baroda at Pune, including a brief fourth wicket stand with the Raja of Jath (28).

In all, Hazare scored over 18,000 first class runs (with 60 centuries) over a career extending to 1966/67. He scored over 2,000 runs in 30 Tests for India, and led the Indian Test team. He scored two centuries at Adelaide on the 1947/48 tour of Australia, with Clarrie in the crowd, and always generously ascribed some credit to Grimmett for his early coaching.[13]

Vacancy at the MCC

A rather inconspicuous advertisement appeared in the major Australian newspapers in “Positions Vacant” on Saturday 26 Nov 1938. It advertised the premier paid position in Australian cricket – perhaps in all of Australian sport – the office of Secretary of the Melbourne Cricket Club. The position not only oversaw the premier cricket club in the country – with its numerous allied sports clubs, its leadership in the cricketing world, and stewardship of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Applications were to close on 15 December 1938, and the salary was noted as a handsome £1,000 per annum.

The vacancy had arisen with the death in August 1938 at the age of 71, of the lanky Hugh Trumble, a Test match great of the period 1890-1904. Blessed with an unusually long face and nose, and extremely long arms and fingers – MCC’s ‘Plum’ Warner unkindly labelled him a ‘camel’ – he was a prodigious off-spinner at almost medium pace, who held the record Test match wicket aggregate (141) for thirteen years, and held the aggregate record of England wickets (also 141) until surpassed by Dennis Lillee in the 1970s. Trumble was a canny and dignified banker, but popular, with a good sense of humour, great knowledge of the game, and was seen as a font of good judgement. These were all properties expected of the office, and would be sought amongst the candidates by the selection committee.

Don Bradman was declared a candidate immediately, and was regarded by the press as the favourite – Argus commented ‘Although there is no certainty Bradman will be appointed, he must be regarded as a highly favoured applicant’.[14] A strong slate of other candidates were also put forward – of over 150 in all – amongst them NSWCA Secretary Harold Heydon, and a number of famous ex-Test men with MCC connections, Vernon Ransford, Hans Ebeling, Keith Rigg and Bill Woodfull. The selection committee met just before Christmas, but adjourned their decision to the New Year.

Vernon Ransford

Vernon Ransford

In mid-January, the MCC announced the appointment of Vern Ransford, after a 3½ hour closed Board meeting.[15]  Ransford, aged 53, a customs agent, was a died-in-the-wool MCC member – he played for the club, served in its Committee, and was appointed a Life Member in 1931. He was a stylish and aggressive left-hand batsman who excelled in 20 Tests between 1907 and 1912, and for Victoria over two decades. He was noted as an ‘extremely popular’ choice, and was regarded by the Committee as exhibiting ‘zeal, dignity and tact’ in his duties. Arguably, the Melbourne establishment had closed their ranks against Bradman: whether for his age and experience (only 30), his background (New South Wales country), or his character, remains uncertain.

Bradman’s extraordinary season

Don Bradman’s cricketing form for the season was phenomenal, even by his own extraordinary standards. A couple of days before the MCC’s decision, he equalled the patrician Englishman C B Fry’s record of six consecutive first class centuries – 118 in the Bradman XI against Rigg XI match at the MCG, 143 against NSW in Adelaide, 225 against Queensland in Adelaide, 107 against Victoria at the MCG, 186 against Queensland in Brisbane, and 135x against NSW at the SCG. He scored 5 in the final match against Victoria in Adelaide, to end with 919 first-class runs @ 153.16. This was his best ever season average, but actually his first season with an aggregate of less than 1,000 runs in ten years (since 1927/28), as he played only those seven innings for the first class season, as SA took the Sheffield Shield.

Sheffield Shield to South Australia

Charlie Macartney’s retrospective of the season summed up the outcome perfectly.[16]

“South Australia will hold the Sheffield Shield for the year, but the honour came in an unexpected manner. Rain and Queensland, who inflicted an outright defeat on Victoria in Brisbane, handed the shield to South Australia. Throughout the summer, one of the outstanding features of the interstate matches was the rise of Queensland, despite the fact that South Australia and Victoria proved their right to fight out the final match. The northern State has shown a marked advance under the influence and leadership of W. A. Brown”. “With a maintenance of form and further improvement, it would not surprise if Queensland secured the shield within a year or two.”

Macartney was clear that Grimmett was still the best spinner in Australia, that Fleetwood-Smith was unreliable, and that fast bowler Barry Scott was promising. For the New Zealand tour planned for 1939/40, he believed Barry Scott, Jack Ellis, Charles ‘Chilla’ Christ, Frank Thorn, Dick Whitington and Don Tallon should merit consideration.

Queensland a rising power in Shield cricket

Queensland showed its best form for many years in a star-studded team – captain Bill Brown, wicket-keeper and batsman Don Tallon and his leg-spinning brother Bill Tallon, and big batsman Rex Rogers were the stars. NSW held out to avoid an innings defeat by the slim margin of one wicket in the first match. Queensland scored 501 against Vic (in a loss) in Melbourne, and in the return match in February, Queensland accomplished its first ever Shield innings win, against Victoria with a record Queensland-Victoria score of 7/575 declared. However, Queensland suffered two losses to South Australia, both times owing to big Bradman innings (225 and 186).

The Courier-Mail proudly proclaimed that Queensland is now a Vital Force in Australian Cricket – though it may have overstated its case, just a little, in suggesting bold bids for Test positions by not only Brown, but also both Tallon brothers, Geoff Cook, Glen Baker, Rex Rogers, Charlie Christ and Jack Ellis…[17]

Bill Brown’s splendid 1,057 first-class runs @ 105.70 with three centuries (including an innings of 225) and five fifties in just 6 matches surpassed Bradman’s aggregate, and threatened his average. It was the record season’s yield for Queensland to that time – though it has since been surpassed seven times.

Don Tallon

Don Tallon

Queensland’s outstanding wicketkeeper Don ‘Deafy’ Tallon set two wicket-keeping world records during the season. Originally from Bundaberg on the central Queensland coast, he was an exceptional wicketkeeper and superb batsman, whose leg-breaks were often devastating in grade and country cricket when he doffed the gloves. Don was the best of three strong cricketers in the family, all sons of Les Tallon, himself a representative cricketer for Bundaberg early in the century, who was curator of the Bundaberg cricket ground. Don’s older brother Bill played Shield, representative and grade cricket, and youngest brother Matt was a good local cricketer and a stalwart administrator in Bundaberg cricket and hockey for over thirty years, and was awarded the Military Cross for valour during the war. Their eldest brother Norman was no cricketer, but all four boys were active hockey players at local and representative levels.

Don first picked up the gloves at age seven, played in local first grade at fourteen, and was noted as an excellent keeper for the Queensland Schoolboys in 1929/30, who ‘gathered in returns and loose balls like a veteran’.[18] He kept for a Queensland Country team against the MCC tourists at 16 years old, in 1932/33 at Toowoomba. England Test great, opener Herbert Sutcliffe, was his first important victim. He played first class cricket for Queensland for twenty years, and was consistently Australia’s Test wicketkeeper between 1945/46 and 1950/51, though he kept in Test cricket as late as the first Test of the 1953 series.

He had an outstanding Shield season in 1938/39, aged only 22, setting a Queensland record of 34 victims, and scored a fine century (115 against SA in Brisbane). In the Shield match against NSW in Sydney at New Year, he equalled a world record with twelve dismissals in the game, passing the previous Australian record of nine and equalling the performance of Surrey’s E (Ted) Pooley against Sussex in 1868.

Two matches, later in the early February Shield match against Victoria, he equalled another record with seven dismissals in an innings (in the second inns). This equalled the record of three Englishmen – Messrs E J Smith, W Farrimond and W F Price – and was matched by NSW keeper Ron Saggers in the 1940/41 season. Don took six wickets in an innings on four occasions – once in 1935/36, and in 1938/39, no fewer than three times.

Prolific scoring

The season was a run-fest. There were no fewer than twenty-five first-class centuries (including four double centuries) and 48 fifties.

Bill Brown (Queensland) and Lindsay Hassett (Victoria) outscored South Australia’s Bradman in run aggregate, and Jack Badcock of South Australia had the top score of the season with 271 not out in the massive 8/600d against New South Wales in Adelaide.

Brown scored 990 runs @ 110.00 (three centuries and five fifties, with top score 215 against Victoria in Melbourne), Hassett scored 967 runs @ 74.38 (four centuries and four fifties, with top score 211 not out, of 499 against South Australia in Melbourne), and Badcock scored 540 runs @ 108.00 (two centuries and a fifty, with top score 271 not out).

No fewer than twelve other batsmen topped an average of forty. Three other batsman topped five hundred first class runs for the season – Test man Sid Barnes of New South Wales with 650 runs @ 46.42, veteran Victorian (and former Test player) Keith Rigg, and stylish but unassuming young Victorian Ross Gregory.

Gregory had been a surprise omission from the 1938 Ashes tour. He had batted successfully in Test cricket in 1936/37 at just 21 years old, and was seen to have established a place in the team. The NSWCA Year Book, a periodical not given to lightly praising Victorians, noted he “gives promise of being one of Australia’s representatives for many years to come”[19]. However, Bradman – a selector – felt he ‘looked uncertain’ in a poor showing for Victoria in 1937/38, and he missed the tour. Many felt that he would be a natural Test selection for the upcoming 1940/41 Ashes series in Australia.

A number of other promising batsmen showed form in the season with good centuries – young South Australian opener Ken Ridings, one of a set of four cricketing brothers from Adelaide’s West Torrens team, and Queenslander Glen Baker, originally from Townsville, now playing for Eastern Suburbs club in Brisbane. Both, sadly, were lost in service in the war.

Amongst more experienced players who scored well were the pale and slender South Australian opener R S (Dick) Whitington of Kensington club who, oddly for a cricketer, suffered severely from hay fever, and later forged a career in cricket writing and journalism, often writing in partnership with Test great Keith Miller. Victoria’s exuberant man of many sports, St Kilda’s Harcourt ‘Hec’ Oakley – amateur footballer, five time State table tennis champion, and excellent player of tennis and golf – in his tenth and final season of first class cricket, scored a quick 162. Finally, another Townsville cricketer, now playing for Essendon and Victoria, the stocky little fireman Frank Sides, a ‘savage hitter’ and ‘fabulous’ fieldsman scored 121 for his adopted State in one of two matches against Western Australia played at the end of the season.

Lacklustre Bowling

Conversely, the bowling during the season was very hard work – there were only fifteen five-wicket innings hauls, and only four bowlers managed to take ten in a match.

Immortal Clarrie Grimmett (SA) topped the first-class aggregate with 27 wickets @ 20.85, including season’s best 7/116. Only three other bowlers topped twenty wickets, and they were all fairly expensive. The Test men South Australian Frank Ward and ‘Chuck’ Fleetwood-Smith (V) took 24 and 23 wickets. Promising young Queensland fast-medium bowler Jack Ellis (Q) took 21 wickets.

Ellis was a tall and wavy-haired young man of slight build but good rhythm, who bowled a fair pace off a short run and got some movement both ways. He had a fairy-tale ascent to his first-class debut during the season. In 1937/38, he had played for West Brisbane Turf A in the Junior Division, taking 66 wickets @ 6.8, whence he was invited to play with the QCA Colts first grade team in 1938/39. He debuted with Colts in round three in late October with a single wicket against University but then took 5/37 to great acclaim against the strong batting side Northern Suburbs in round four in early November. Within a day, the local newspapers were debating whether he might be a chance for Queensland. For Colts that season, he took 25 wickets at QCA top average of 12.24 and was selected for the Shield team for the southern tour early in December. In a fairy-tale ending, he took 5/104 for against Victoria on his first class debut in December 1938 at the MCG, and ended the season as the leading Queensland wicket-taker in 1938/39 Shield season. Bundaberg’s leg-break bowler Bill Tallon (brother of Don), veteran left-armer off-spinner Charlie Christ (pronounced ‘Krisst’)[20] and fast-medium Les Dixon also shared the wickets for Queensland.

A couple of other fast bowlers also did well – veterans Harold Cotton (SA) and Ernie McCormick (V). However, the most promising quick of all was probably the Victorian Robert Barrington ‘Barry’ Scott. On his more pretentious days, he was styled ‘Robert Barry-Scott’ in the scorebooks. He undertook a remarkable club cricket odyssey, in which he played for eight first-grade clubs in Melbourne and Sydney over sixteen seasons. He was an all-rounder sportsman from Wesley College in Melbourne, which was a remarkable nursery of Victorian cricketing talent in the 1930s.

Scott was tall and powerfully built (183 cm and 83 kg) by early 1939, following a false start around three years earlier as a more slender bowler with a fast and whippy action and tearaway speed, but limited control. He had developed a more powerful and natural style with greater stamina and better direction – “He looks a fearsome chap as he runs. More so in the last few strides, as he hurls himself ferociously into the delivery of the ball. Arms, hands and a flowing lock of hair all attract attention as out of the maze comes the ball at pretty fair speed”.[21] Charlie Macartney judged him to have Test potential, especially if he could be kept away from coaches.[22] He took an excellent haul of 7/33 and 5/46 (= 12/69m) against NSW in Sydney, but got little other bowling in the season, topping the Shield averages with 15 wickets @ 19.26.

First Class Tasmanians and West Australians

During 1938/39, the Victorian team played four first class matches with the two non-Shield States – against Tasmania in Tasmania (Launceston, then Hobart) at Christmas and New Year, then against WA in Perth in March.

The Victorian team touring Tasmania was a ‘second’ team, as the Victorian Sheffield Shield team was hosting New South Wales (NSW) and South Australia in Melbourne at the same time. However, the team was a strong one, led by veteran ‘Hec’ Oakley of St Kilda. It included the very young batsman Keith Miller of South Melbourne, and batsmen Percy Beames of Melbourne Cricket Club and Des Fothergill of Northcote, the South Melbourne all-rounder Ian Johnson (son of State and Test selector W J (Bill) Johnson), and the Northcote off-spinner Frank Thorn. All of these men played Shield cricket in later years, and Miller and Johnson rose to Test prominence.

Percy Beames

Percy Beames

In Launceston, the match resulted in a draw, but Percy Beames’ 226 not out of Victoria’s 9/437 declared at the end of the first day, in less than five hours’ play, was a most impressive innings. It was his maiden first class century, and included 103 scored between lunch and tea and 104 between tea and stumps with 28 boundaries and a six. He followed that with 169 not out in Victoria’s 4/491 declared in Hobart early in January 1939. He had scored 395 first class runs without being dismissed in less than two weeks.

In the Launceston match, fast bowler Barry Scott took 5/62, and the Tasmanian wicketkeeper Jack Gardiner, captain of North West Hobart in the Tasmanian Cricket Association (TCA) first grade competition, was top scorer with 64 in Tasmania’s disappointing total of 258.

Tasmania batted better in the two innings of the Hobart fixture. Tasmanian opener Ron Morrisby scored 70, and his opening partner Ron Thomas scored 67 and 42, and little Clint Jeffery scored 80 not out and 54.

For Victoria in Hobart, the bowling of unconventional off-spinner Frank Thorn was a highlight. He took 5/111 and 5/74 in the match. Thorn’s off-spin was substantial, and his accuracy and subtle changes of flight and pace were impressive. Argus columnist Percy Taylor noted he “relies on off spin, with an occasional faster ball with body swing”, and noted that around two years before, former Test and Victorian bowler Blackie had slowed him from medium pace, to great effect.[23] “He is able to spin the ball from the off to a greater extent than any other bowler of his type, and, strangely enough, prefers a fast wicket for the reason that on a slow wicket he turns too much. He varies this spin with a well-concealed fast in-swinger, which is nearly of express speed”.

In early March, the Victorian team, at close to full-strength, travelled to Perth to play two two-day matches against Western Australia. The Victorians may have been relaxed and a little complacent, but the Western Australians played extremely well, and obtained first innings leads in both matches, though they both ended in draws.

In the first match, WA veteran fast bowler Ron Halcombe took 5/40 as Victoria was all out for 226. Only a timely even century from new man Gordon Tamblyn, and some resistance by fast man Barry Scott (49) rendered the Victorian total respectable.

The Westerners then scored an impressive 9/396 declared. Top scorers for WA were Alec Barras with 113, wicketkeeper Ossie Lovelock from North Perth club 71 not out, the tall Scotsman A D (Dave) Watt 54 and Charlie MacGill 48 opening.  For Victoria, a new State player, the florid and chubby-cheeked Doug Ring took an impressive 6/97. Victoria scored a more sound 310 in their second innings as the match moved to a draw, with Hassett scoring a century and Miller and Rigg fifties. Charlie MacGill took 3/77 in the second innings, and leg-spinner Tony Zimbulis took 4/121 and 4/108, to take eight wickets in the match for WA.

In the second match, MacGill was bowled by the first ball of the match by Ernie McCormick, but took 4/45 in reply, though he retired hurt on 6 in the second innings when McCormick broke his hand. Nonetheless, WA took a first innings lead as Barras (54) and Lovelock (51) again scored well, and veteran Merv Inverarity scored 68 not out. Ernie McCormick took four wickets, and Frank Thorn and Doug Ring took three each. For Victoria, Frank Sides scored a fine century, but the side conceded a 31 run deficit. For the West, stylish fast bowler Gordon Eyres took an impressive 5/47. In WA’s second innings, they quickly ratted up 5/255 declared, with Barras scoring 95, before putting Victoria in for a quick 3/78 before the curtain came down.

New South Wales Cricket 1938/39

Grade Cricket

Sydney’s Mosman club, from the leafy peninsula between Sydney Harbour and Middle Harbour, were premiers in 1938/39, taking the club’s fourth premiership, ahead of Balmain. Captain Stan McCabe, returned from the Ashes tour, was ill for much of the season, and played only intermittently, though he topped the bowling average for the club. All-rounder Ken Gulliver, promising opener Keith Carmody and young left-hand batsman Geoff Schaffer, fresh from University, provided the runs, though none of them stood out in the season statistics. Gulliver – third in the first-grade wicket aggregate – with his leg-breaks, and fast-medium bowler George Bennett took the wickets, along with McCabe. The premiership was a solid team effort rather than a drama.

Cast aside as fill-in Mosman captain with the return of McCabe, Gulliver led NSW briefly during 1938/39 in McCabe’s absence – much to Sid Barnes’ chagrin. He scored 504 runs, took 49 wickets and pouched eighteen catches for the season, in a solid, consistent and low-key fashion, a pattern repeated over his unprecedentedly long career for his club. Born in East Maitland in the Hunter Valley, he was a scrupulously fair man with strong values. With medium stature and a slight frame (167 cm and 65 kg), he was a bounding leg-spinner, handy middle order batsman, and an exceptional fieldsman with a deadly arm – he was a long-time NSW State baseballer. Ray Robinson noted of his bowling action that: “His arm comes right over the top, and he clears a passage for it by tucking his head over, like a fowl going to roost”. He was a core of the Mosman team for decades between 1930 and 1963, and all up, spent an astonishing 57 years playing with the club. His is the greatest – and unapproachable – all-round record ever in Sydney grade cricket. He scored 9,309 first grade runs took and 1,029 wickets. In all grades, he scored 14,275 runs and took 1,533 wickets in the period 1927-1989. He retired from first grade at 49 years old, but played well in lower grades well into his seventies in 1989/90.


Jack ‘Cheggy’ Chegwyn, right-hand batsman from the Randwick club, scored 726 f/g runs for the season @ 51.86 to top the NSWCA aggregate. A top-flight district cricketer, he played for Randwick for thirty years and, is one of around a dozen batsmen to have scored over 10,000 first-grade runs, but he had only limited opportunities in first-class cricket. His massive influence on cricket came more from his activities as an organiser, coach, enthusiast and talent spotter, who tirelessly led metropolitan teams to country centres for decades, and brought an amazing array of country talent to the light. He also served as a NSW selector for a quarter century. His cricket was fearless and aggressive, but off the field, he was a hospitable and expansive character.

For the 1938/39 season Chegwyn scored three centuries – including 169 in 156 minutes (25×4), adding a sixth-wicket 209 in 90 minutes with hard-hitting teammate Alec Marks (94), at one stage adding a hundred runs in 36 minutes, against St George in round three in mid-Oct 1938.

Ern Crossan

Ern Crossan

Ernie Crossan of Western Suburbs club also stood out, with a tally of 648 runs for the season. A right-hander who often opened, he was an engineer by trade, and spent the war years mostly in Newcastle, where he was outstanding. He was on the fringes of State selection at this stage, and played four times in all for NSW, though he was disappointing at the first-class level.

During the season, he played an outstanding innings of 217 in 215 minutes as Wests reached 5/467 in just 240 minutes against Waverley in round seven in mid-December 1938. On an uncomfortably hot day with a ‘howling wind’ and dust, his innings was described as a ‘hurricane knock’, as ‘driving with tremendous power’, he demoralised the bowlers hitting four sixes and 36 boundaries in a fierce wind with air full of dust.[24]

The slightly build dasher E J (Jim) Minter of Balmain scored 597 runs @ 37.31 for the season, including another notable double century. One of fourteen children, and born in Kempsey on the far north coast of New South Wales, he was a new inclusion in Shield practice squad of 34 early in the season and played his only match for NSW during the season. In the second round, he scored 207 in just 140 minutes against Glebe – coming to the wicket with Balmain in some trouble at 4/85 chasing 241, he scored his first fifty runs in 43 minutes, the century in 73 minutes, and the second century in 57 minutes. A somewhat unlikely candidate as a fast scorer, the Referee newspaper noted: “If he lacks anything in weight it is made up for in timing, wrist-work and placement … In his punishing batsmanship, there is no note of the wild or hot-headed”. He had a ‘rare eye’ and ‘natural quickness of foot’.[25]

All-rounder Jack Cheetham, big hitter Bruce Cook and Ron James and Cyril Solomon all also topped 600 runs in a prolific run-scoring season.

The artistic Ray Robinson of Gordon, a fringe Test batsman, scored 597 f/g runs @ 45.92 for the season, with two centuries. Robinson is not to be confused with his contemporary of the same name, who was a fine journalist and writer on cricket. His best innings of the season was 154 in 132 minutes (2×6, 24×4) against St George in round ten, adding 118 for the second wicket with Bert Oldfield (61). Macartney noted of the innings that it is “proving that for brilliant execution and powerful stroking he has few equals in Australia. Some of his innings, however, are too often tinged with recklessness after he has achieved the century distinction, to the disregard of his side’s position”.[26] His artistry was acknowledged by judges of the highest calibre: Sir Donald Bradman told Newville Cardus “Neville, if you see Robinson make a hundred, you’ll never want to see me (bat) again”[27], and Australian writer Johnny Moyes labelled him a ‘stylist and fast scorer with a touch of genius’.[28] His misbehaviour off-field, his desire to thrash attacks into the ground, and perhaps nerves on the big occasion, all conspired to keep his Test and even first-class opportunities somewhat limited. Originally from Newcastle, he stood out in local and visiting fixtures, and moved to Sydney to advance his game. His Army service during the war was challenging – with various kinds of physical and mental ailments after some combat experience in the desert – and he faded into roles as a groundsman and coach after the war.

In a most impressive second season, sixteen year old schoolboy and left-hand bat Arthur Morris of the St George club scored 433 runs, with four fifties and a century. His 115 was scored ‘in splendid style’, as he ‘showed style as well as aggression’, adding 202 for the sixth wicket with blonde Harold Stapleton (146) against University in round seven. He also scored around 500 runs with two centuries in under-age Poidevin-Grey Shield cricket, including an innings of 158 not out in 125 minutes (29×4) against Petersham in round three. He had made his first-grade debut the previous season, as a bowler. His cricket future, which took him to a long Test and NSW career, soon saw him promoted to open the batting, and his left-arm bowling relegated to part-time.

An aggressive and elegant opener, Morris was composed and unhurried at the wicket, ‘pleasingly erect’ at the crease according to Ray Robinson. With a gentle-looking blonde face, he had great powers of concentration, and was a gentleman off the field. A true left-hander, not only with the bat, but also bowling and throwing, he was also an exceptional slip fieldsman. He played a wide variety of strokes, with a streak of artistry, and is regarded as one of the great Australian left-handers, in the line of Clem Hill, Neil Harvey and Allan Border.

Ashes tourist Sid Barnes showed a run of poor form after this return from England with 7, 6 and 5 in grade matches, then improved with a score of 45 against Manly in round ten, and then an innings of 160 against Gordon in round twelve in mid-March 1939. Macartney noted of the match against Gordon that he was ‘in delightful form’ and showed ‘excellent judgement’.[29]

Promising left-hander Lloyd Maundrell, just turned twenty, had a good run of form in under-age Poidevin-Gray cricket for his Petersham club. He scored three centuries on end, including 150 against Paddington, to surpass Sid Barnes’ record in that competition in 1934/35. Maundrell’s cricket opportunities were curtailed by his RAAF service in the war, and his subsequent career as a civil pilot.


Veteran Mort Cohen of Paddington – where he spent 25 years in first grade in all – took 66 wickets with his medium-pacers to top the NSWCA aggregate. Off-spinner Charlie Richardson of Glebe toiled almost single-handed to take 51 wickets @ 14.55 for the club – bowling 188.4 overs, he bowled more than the next two busiest bowlers combined, and the next best aggregate was only 18 wickets.


H ‘Jerry’ Lawrence debuted in first grade during the season for Marrickville – he ended his career in 1948 with the club’s leading wicket aggregate (of 278 wickets). George Niblett of Glebe, a left-arm medium-paced spinner, with a two-pace run-up also debuted during the season – he played for three Sydney clubs and Valley in Brisbane to the early fifties in various grades.

Another prolific first grade wicket-taker, Reg ‘Oigle’ Pearce,[30] played his debut season for the Balmain club. After good form in first two rounds he was named in State practice squad of 34, but his first class debut for NSW did not come for almost fifteen years, until 1951/52, but which time he had taken over 700 first grade wickets. Blessed with a ‘fizzing’ leg-break, he peaked during the war years – notably in 1941/42.

Another debutant from the St George club, seventeen year old Ray Lindwall, advanced from third grade to his first-grade debut during the season, and stood out in Poidevin-Gray, as an all-rounder. He was predominantly a batsman at this stage in his career, and was a promising Rugby League player. Inverting what later became the normal order of things, Test fast bowler Lindwall played as a batsman, and Test batsman Arthur Morris played as a bowler! Also a member of the St George first grade and Poidevin-Gray teams was sixteen-year-old right-hand batsman Ron Moss. He had an outstanding debut season with 838 runs @ 59.86 in second grade, and was promoted into the first grade side later in the season.  He was another whose chance at first class cricket was crimped by the war, though he played for the State three times in the 1948/49 season.

Finally, young Mosman batsman Alan ‘Justa’ Barnes rocketed from Shires cricket through colts, third- and second-grade teams into the first grade premiership side by the end of the season. He was to be an outstanding administrator for the NSW Cricket Association and at the Australian Cricket Board as secretary from 1960-1980. Whilst there, he had to deal with two of the most challenging issues of the 1970s – the South African crisis of 1971/72 and the advent of the Kerry Packer-backed ‘rebel’ World Series Cricket competition in 1977. There is an interesting recollection by Ian Chappell of him manhandling Barnes in a corridor during a particularly fraught period of the WSC crisis.


Slow left-arm orthodox spinner Bill Hunt, who played for the Balmain club, for NSW and once for Australia, and for Rishton in the Lancashire League in 1934, retired from cricket during the season. An enigmatic man, he drifted off to play tennis in 1938, having begun in first grade at Balmain in 1923/24 aged just fifteen, along with his close school friend Archie Jackson. During the war, he returned to Balmain from 1943/44 at thirty-five for a further five very successful seasons.

Former State players Vic Jackson, Harold Mudge and Ginty Lush did not play in first grade, as they were absent in England with Sir Julien Cahn’s XI. Jack Walsh, who also played for Cahn’s XI found time while on his way to New Zealand early in December 1938 to play briefly for Glebe – he took 3/35 against Cumberland in round seven and 6/44 against North Sydney in round eight before all four men sailed from Sydney immediately after New Year.

Jack Walsh

Jack Walsh

Walsh was a prodigiously talented left-arm wrist spinner at slow-medium pace, with a rugged face and tight curly hair. He was one of the best bowlers in the world at the time – he took 218 wickets in the 1938 season for Cahn’s XI at around ten runs each[31] – with high accuracy, but substantial spin. Frith notes that “Walsh spun the ball about as widely as any bowler in history, and used this lavish turn to mesmerise newcomers” with ‘prodigious variety’.[32] Fairly tall and well-built, bowled the ‘Chinaman’ – the left-armer’s ball which behaves like a right-armer’s off-break, and was reported by Wisden[33] to have two different googlies, just so that batsmen did not get too complacent. He also scored runs without ever taking batting seriously – he liked to hit long and hard rather than sticking around. He played a few matches for Leicestershire before the war, and returned for ten seasons post-war. He was a major loss to Australian cricket, taking over 1,100 first class wickets for the county, but never played for his State or country.

Promising left-arm medium pacer J R ‘Rusty’ Fielder of Paddington took 36 first grade wickets @ 15.94 for the 1938/39 season. He had previously played a successful season with North Sydney, and played for the King’s School in Parramatta in 1935 and 1936. He had a serious car accident on the Hume Highway in mid-1939 which kept him out of cricket in 1939/40, then spent the whole of the war in the Army in the Middle East and New Guinea (as Lieutenant, 2/5 Field Regiment) and only returned briefly in 1945/46 before departing the game. He was felt by many observers to have first class or even Test potential.

Odds and Ends

There were some last-wicket heroics for Randwick against Glebe in round six. At 9/169, chasing 247, Randwick’s last man, fast-medium bowler Ray Frost came in to bat with a sprained ankle and a runner, to join short and stocky veteran Keith Lee. Frost scored 35 not out, and the pair added 79 for the last wicket in 69 minutes before Lee (43) was dismissed, to trigger a tie against Glebe.[34]

Fast bowler Lubeti Finau from the Pacific nation of Tonga – more renowned for its Rugby players – performed well in second and third grade cricket for Western Suburbs. He had been educated at Newington College, and played well for the school in Great Public Schools (GPS) cricket competition in 1933-1935, and was a top GPS hurdler and shot putter. In a match against the NSW Cricket Association (NSWCA) coaching team of promising youngsters in 1938/39, he took the last five wickets in seven balls, for one run, with an all-bowled hat-trick after two wickets in two balls off a long and no doubt intimidating run-up. His innings figures improved from 1/52 to 6/53.[35] He later managed Tongan touring Rugby teams to Australia and Britain.

Country Cricket


Big Harry Edwards of the Waratah-Mayfield first grade team in the Newcastle competition (NDCA) took 9/59 off sixteen consecutive eight-ball overs against Newcastle during the season, and played for Newcastle’s winning side in NSW Country Week. A tall, grinning man with a boxer’s face and centre part, he had boxed in troupes, and ‘done a lot of wrestling’. He was a spin bowler and powerful batsman, at least until he lost half of his right foot in an accident in the mid-thirties. He was a major force in Newcastle cricket for twenty seasons into the early 1950s, and took another ‘nine-fer’ in 1945/46. He was also a famously tough and combative prop, and later coach, for the strong Waratah-Mayfield Rugby League side. In 1938, after winning the minor premiership, Waratah-Mayfield played a ‘friendly’ against Sydney premiers Canterbury-Bankstown at the end of the season, which turned into a spiteful brawl. Harry was the only man sent off, though several others should have been, and a police sergeant went onto the turf to calm things down.

Two small cricket oddities relating to speed are both tied to the colourful bookmaker Clarrie ‘Firpo’ Walters, a fast bowler and occasionally brutal batsman, who briefly led the Hamilton team in the Newcastle first grade competition. Both incidents may no longer seem as outlandish to us – raised on a diet of one-day cricket – as they did to contemporaries.

First, in a match against Newcastle he ordered representative wicketkeeper J Walton, who was one of his opening batsmen, to retire, with the score at 0/110, and Walton’s score on 52. Walters said that ‘he was dissatisfied with the rate of scoring. His side had been batting for 118 minutes at the time’.[36]

Secondly, in an incident that seems to have occurred in 1938/39, but was recollected some years later, Walters was bowling against top local batsman Jack Sharpe and Reg Beatty, the Wickham club’s opening pair, who had compiled around 150 without loss. As a fast bowler, Walters took a particularly long run. “In one over Walters began his long run, and Sharpe called. Beattie, not knowing what it was all about, obeyed with alacrity. The batsmen completed a run before Walters, also surprised, reached the bowling crease. The run was credited since the ball was in play from the moment Walters took his first step”.[37]


Star all-rounder Hughie Williams of Gilgandra took 9/21 in an innings for his Railway club against Lodge in the local first grade competition. Gilgandra is in the hot, dry and flat central west of NSW, and was the starting point of the famous ‘Coo-ee March’ of men joining the first AIF for the Great War, in 1915. Williams was a behemoth in the local competition – he took all ten wickets in an innings in 1932/33, another nine-fer in 1935/36, and scored a monster score of 268 in local cricket in 1937/38. He played local first-grade and Country Week cricket and an enormous numbers of representative matches in the West in a quarter-century career. He was a member of a strong local cricket family – his sister Jean was perhaps the most successful of all, playing for the NSW women’s team on a number of occasions.

The Savages of Barker College

barkerKenneth Pringle (Pringle) Savage of Binda was an outstanding all-rounder in Sydney’s Associated Schools (CAS) cricket competition for Barker College in 1938 and 1939. Tiny Binda is in the grazing country of southern NSW between Sydney and Canberra. Savage took 78 wickets @ 7.09 in the competition in  1938, including a remarkable match tally of 117 runs and 7/20 and 9/40 (= 16/60m) against St Aloysius in March 1938, and he was again a stand-out in 1939. He led Barker to its fifth CAS premiership in ten years in 1938/39 – in each such year one of the four Savage boys was a stand-out, and they were captains of three of the teams. After the last Savage left the school, Barker did not win another CAS championship until 1991/92. His elder brother Bob Savage of Binda contributed 184 to Binda’s mammoth score of 801 against Jerrawa in a semi-final of the Crookwell CA competition in 1936/37. Not surprisingly, Binda defeated Blanket Flat to take the premiership in that season.

Something in the water in Lithgow

There were two noteworthy bowling feats for the same club in Lithgow first grade cricket during 1938/39 – evidence that extraordinary deeds create a desire to achieve further extraordinary deeds. Lithgow, on the western slopes of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, was a long-established coal mining and railway centre, and the local cricket competition mostly drew on the collieries and associated businesses for its teams. Clay had been found in Lithgow in mid nineteenth century, and the Lithgow Pottery was a major pipe and brick works in the thirties. The Pottery team was the premier local side in both 1937/38 and 1938/39.

Early in December, Jim Gibbons, fast bowler for Pottery, took 10/11 for the innings against the High School Old Boys (all out 22). Seven of his victims were bowled, and at one stage he took four wickets in six balls.[38] Then, in late February, Alf Reynolds, a slow left-arm bowler for Pottery, took a hat-trick in each innings and nine wickets in the second innings (with the opposition batting one short) – in all 4/13 and 9/48 – against Lithgow Valley Colliery. He had been a member of the NSW Railways Institute team that visited Queensland that season.[39]

‘Bradman of the Bush’

Reg Miles, a batsman from Springdale, in New South Wales’ Riverina region, brought his country career to a close, when he moved to Sydney at the end of the 1938/39 season, aged just 23 years. He was said to have scored more than 20,000 runs locally in around ten seasons since his early teens – he had averaged over one hundred every season since 1933/34. He topped 2,000 runs for the 1938/39 season by February 1939, with his last four innings 306 not out, 172 not out, 99 and 227. At some stage, he scored on 50 runs off an over, when he hit each of the eight balls for six, and added the other two runs off a no-ball.[40] Springdale not surprisingly captured five consecutive premierships from 1933/34 to 1937/38.

Gerry Emery Tees Off

Another bush cricketer of renown was Edgar (Gerry) Emery of Gerringong, situated on the south coast of New South Wales between Wollongong and Nowra, on the beautiful rolling hills beside the blue sea. He was a local dairy farmer, with the family’s farm Riversleigh overlooking the famous Seven Mille Beach, and was a member of an active local cricketing family. When interviewed in late 1938, he said he had never seen a Test match in his life, nor had he seen even a Sydney first grade game. “Cricket comes natural to me,” he added, “and I am naturally a hard hitter, so I have never bothered to change my style”.[41] He was a right-handed batsman of athletic proportions – 6’ 1” (185 cm) and thirteen stone (83 kg) – and had a hard-hitting style, but the ability and stamina to stay and bat for long periods. In his early twenties, he had a heart problem, and was advised not to play any strenuous sports – fortunately for local cricket, he ignored that advice, and compiled 62 local centuries over his career of around thirty years.

He began the 1938/39 local season for Gerringong in the Kiama Cricket Association with a bang – he scored innings of 61, 107, 314 and 218. His triple century is still the largest innings recorded in local competition. He scored 314 in 190 minutes for Gerringong against Shellharbour at Shellharbour in a single day in mid-November 1938 in a ‘remarkable feat of endurance and concentration’.[42] He scored 24 boundaries and a remarkable 27 sixes. Off one over from S Hazleton, he scored 42 runs – 66664464. For the season, he scored 1,019 runs @ 101.90, and his brother Ivor also contributed 461 runs.

After the war, the Kiama DCA disbanded, and Gerringong joined the South Coast District Cricket Association, and won the inaugural premiership in 1946/47. Gerry remained active – and dominant – until 1964 at least, when he won the Association’s run aggregate for the fifth time. The Gerringong Cricket Club’s oval is named the Gerry Emery Oval, and the South Coast DCA awards the Emery Shield for their club championship.

Duck and Chicken

Duck and Chicken

Duck and Chicken

Duck and Chicken played Country Week cricket for Junee in November 1938 (batting in the middle order at 6 and 7). Laurie Duck was a bowler from the St Joseph’s club in Junee, and Peter Chicken was a batsman with Junee’s Colts club.

Victorian Cricket 1938/39

District Cricket

Fitzroy Premiership

The Fitzroy club, from Melbourne’s inner north, won the premiership in first of three consecutive premierships (in 1939/40 and 1940/41). This followed Melbourne’s four premierships on end from 1934/35 to 1937/38. Fitzroy’s captain was Joe Plant, was a veteran all-rounder in the midst of a twenty-year and almost 200-game first-grade career, though by 1938/39, he was mainly a bowler. He was also Victoria’s State baseball captain. The premiership was a team win, with few stars – the leading batsmen were a pair of exciting local brothers, Mervyn Harvey and C E ‘Mick’ Harvey.

Merv had debuted in first grade in 1933/34, and in 1938/39 scored 737 runs @ 36.85, the second highest aggregate in the Victorian Cricket Association (VCA), aged just at 21 years old. He scored two fine first grade centuries in the season: 166x against Essendon in round five and a ‘brilliant’ 145 in 186 minutes (18×4) against University in round nine early in 1939, following a comparative failure earlier in the week in the Second Eleven match against NSW. His younger brother Mick had debuted in first grade during the season aged seventeen. He scored 50 not out in his debut match, and ‘showed considerable talent’… as he ‘batted neatly and coolly and helped pull Fitzroy out of a difficult position’.[43] He was apparently named “Mick” as he was born on St Patrick’s Day. His younger brothers Harold and Ray were already playing fir Fitzroy in the lower grades, and the youngest boy Neil was a very promising schoolboy cricketer. This extraordinary family produced two Test players and two others who played in Sheffield Shield competition.

Eddie Williams was the other key batsman for Fitzroy in 1938/39. He scored 558 runs @ 34.88 for the season, including an innings of 174 against Collingwood in the semi-final late in March. Williams was a fast-medium bowler with “good nip off the pitch and excellent control” according to the Argus, and a right-hand batsman. He had been an outstanding schoolboy cricketer at Wesley College in Melbourne, leading the extraordinary Wesley 1934 team in Public Schools cricket – the side included future Test players Ross Gregory and Ian Johnson and Sheffield Shield bowler Barry Scott. Williams and Ross Gregory played senior cricket, tennis and football together for the school, against such foes as Lindsay Hassett at Geelong College and Roger Kimpton at Melbourne Grammar. [*BOX*Williams of Wesley]

Veteran leg-break bowler Jack Frederick was playing for Fitzroy as his fifth (and final) senior team by 1938/39. He had played three matches for Victoria in the mid-thirties with reasonable success, but had had no further opportunities since 1936/37. He was ‘amongst the shortest of short bowlers. A patient batsman himself, Jack tested the skill of opponents with his guileful spinners’.[44] He was a little bespectacled fellow who mixed up his deliveries and had an effective straight ball. An excellent bowler, his batting form was sufficiently strong to put him well into the bowling all-rounder category. It was said that he “hides a great fighting spirit under his retiring nature”.[45] He had taken a fair number of wickets, and showed good form in the final series.

Easter Island Moai by Arian Zwegers

Easter Island Moai by Arian Zwegers

Former Test player Morris ‘Morrie’ Sievers was the other bowling star for the premiers in 1938/39. Born in the pretty seaside town of Wonthaggi in Victoria’s South Gippsland region, he was a telephone linesman. He was a gigantic man for his time, at 6’ 4” (193 cm) and almost eighteen stone in weight (around 113 kg), and powerfully built, with a face and jaw rather reminiscent of an Easter Island statue. He was a right-arm fast-medium bowler who swung the ball each way and cut the ball to the off, though he lacked real pace and bounce – he was a steady rather than spectacular bowler. His batting was sound, with considerable reach for the drive. The colourful columnist Hugh Buggy noted he ‘has the physique of an axe-man and the batting technique of a robot’.[46] He played for the VCA Colts and Carlton before moving to Fitzroy in 1934/35 owing to residential boundary changes between the clubs – and was disputed between the teams. That season, he topped the VCA bowling averages with an impressive 41 wickets @ 7.60. He played for Victoria from 1934/35, and toured South Africa with the Australian team in 1935/36, mostly on his potential, after some promising all-round performances, and in the absence of the front-runner, Victorian fast-medium bowler Hans Ebeling. His performances on tour were disappointing, and he played in none of the major matches. He made his Test debut in 1936/37, but was dropped, then re-selected on an injury to fast man Ernie McCormick, and his best Test bowling was at New Year 1937 on the MCG gluepot, when he took 5/21 v England. However, he was dropped from the Test team thereafter.

Fitzroy also had a fine wicketkeeper in Bill Jacobs, who played 265 first grade matches for the club over twenty seasons, but never achieved first class status, though he appeared continually on the verge. Jack Pollard noted: “Before World War II he was long regarded as the second best wicketkeeper in Victoria and played for the State seconds while Ben Barnett held the top job”.

Elsternwick in Trouble

In the sub-district competition, the Elsternwick club – one of the founders of the Victorian Sub-District Cricket Association (VSDCA) – was threatened with financial oblivion, and was obliged to negotiate with the local council to reduce the hefty £100 rental on their Elsternwick Park ground to survive the season. The club also stuttered at the beginning of the next (1939/40) season, but scraped through, and remains a vital and active club in the VSDCA today. The Wickas nurtured the careers of two Test players of the wartime era in Ross Gregory and Keith Miller.


Jack Ledward of the Richmond club topped the first grade batting with 834 runs @ 59.57 with five fifties, and two centuries for the season, including an innings of 186 in 4½ hours against Carlton in the final round. An upright and determined right-hand batsman, with free-flowing strokes, he went to the brink of selection for Australia, and played 22 first class matches for Victoria through the mid-thirties. He spent 24 years with the National Bank before a move to full-time cricket administration as Secretary of the Victorian Cricket Association (VCA) between 1951 and 1973, and simultaneously as Secretary of the Australian Board of Control (1954-1960).

Gordon Tamblyn of the St Kilda club scored 695 runs @ 69.50 to top the VCA averages, with four centuries and two fifties. His largest innings in 1938/39 was 152 against VCA Colts in 195 minutes (16×4) in round eight in mid-Jan 1939. The four centuries he scored in the season were each progressively faster, with the Argus correspondent warming to him over the season, from his original view that he scored ‘too slowly … steady’ to showing ‘enterprise’ to ‘confident’ and ‘heading for the Victorian eleven’.[47] He was indeed, and debuted for Victoria in 1938/39. Tamblyn made his Victorian and Shield debut in Feb 1939 as a large crowd came to Adelaide to see a possible Bradman century, as he had made six in succession – but did not make the seventh. Tamblyn, aged just twenty-one scored a duck. However, he made a century in his next State game, holding the innings together against Western Australia, and kept wicket in Ben Barnett’s absence. He became a fixture in the Victorian team and played 21 first-class matches until 1946/47.

Born at remote Wallaroo Mines in South Australia, at the northern end of the Yorke Peninsula, he was the son of Perry Tamblyn, one of the top country cricketers in South Australia.[48] He was a steady if sometimes slow batsman, who drove well, and could pull and glance. Sturdily built, he was a teetotaller. He grew up in Port Augusta, where he also played Australian Rules football for South Augusta FC, possibly alongside his father, in the mid 1930s – he represented Port Augusta at football in 1934. He was selected for the Country Week zonal competition in 1934/35 representing Upper North, and scoring a century (102 not out) in the first round against Murray Districts. He and his father Perry played for the Railways club in local cricket, and were very competitive with one another. Gordon worked for the Commonwealth Railways, who transferred him to Melbourne in 1936 aged 17, where he lived with his aunt, and joined St Kilda.

He was active in the St Kilda Cricket Club administration, and was a State baseballer who played baseball for the Prahran club. His son Geoff was also a cricketer for St Kilda and once for Victoria, though not to Gordon’s standard, but he excelled as a cricket administrator, both at the Victorian Cricket Association (VCA) and the Australian Cricket Board (ACB)

Percy Beames (Melbourne) scored 661 runs @ 60.09 with four fifties and a gargantuan innings of 231x in 181 minutes (2×6, 31×4), with the second century in just 40 minutes, adding 157 in 67 minutes with Ken Teasdale (29) against University in round twelve in early March 1939

Veterans Hec Oakley of St Kilda and George Newstead of Richmond exceeded 600 runs for the season. Fireman Frank Sides of Essendon scored 591 runs @ 53.73, scoring centuries in each of the first three matches – 104 in 102 minutes (2×6, 12×4) against University in round one, then 140 (1×6, 15×4) against Prahran in round two, and 122 in 132 minutes (1×6, 16×4) against South Melbourne in round three.

Dashing right-hand batsman Des Fothergill of Northcote scored 522 runs @ 52.20 for the season, with two fifties and two centuries, including an innings of 153 in 139 minutes – the century in 101 minutes – against University in round eleven. Fothergill played 27 first class matches for Victoria over eleven seasons to 1948/49, scoring ten fifties at a good average, but only one first class century. A local Northcote boy, he played for the club for almost twenty years, to the early fifties, scoring nearly 6,000 first grade runs. He was also an outstanding Australian Rules footballer, as a rover or flanker who was dangerous around the goals. He played 111 senior games and kicked 325 goals for Collingwood in eight seasons between 1937 and 1947 (interrupted by war). He won two club best and fairest awards (Copeland Trophy), and tied for the Victorian Football League’s (VFL) Brownlow Medal in 1940. Sensationally, he left Collingwood without a clearance for the Williamstown club in the rival Victorian Football Association in 1941, where uniquely he won the VFA’s top honour, the Recorder Cup, but returned to the VFL after the war on an ‘amnesty’.

Keith Miller of South Melbourne also stood out as a batsman, scoring 440 runs @ 44.00 including three fifties and a ‘brilliant’ 153 not out in 182 minutes (19×4) against University in round seven. He was a small young man when he first came to cricket prominence – he had considered becoming a jockey. The Argus in 1935/36 ran the headline Midget Player Defies St Kilda in describing his innings of 70 minutes unbeaten for 12 not out in a ‘plucky and intelligent hand’ with ‘clever footwork’.[49]  He attended Melbourne High School, where former Test captain Bill Woodfull was Principal, and he led the school’s 1936 first XI. Ross Gregory of Wesley and South Melbourne was a boyhood friend.

Keith Miller plays for the Saints, 1946

Keith Miller plays for the Saints, 1946

Miller underwent a major growth spurt in around 1937-38, and grew to an athletic 5’ 11½” (182 cm) and 154 lb (70 kg), with fairish hair and blue eyes and dashing good looks. He was an impressive and hard-hitting right-hand batsman, and an excellent slip fieldsman. He had played fourteen first class matches as a batsman before the war, but had only bowled seven overs for one wicket in that time. He first bowled seriously in the 1940/41 first-class season as an emergency fill-in.

Keith was also a good Australian Rules footballer, moving to the St Kilda team in the VFL from Brighton in the VFA in 1940, when he won the best first year player award, and played in a winning lightning premiership side (over Richmond) in August 1940.

North Melbourne’s all-rounder Bob Dempster scored 521 runs and took 26 wickets for the season. Tall and dark with an athletic build; Dempster was an opening batsman and medium-pace change bowler. He was on the fringes of first-class selection for almost a decade, but did not break through to consistent play with the Victorian team until the 1940/41 season. He played almost 250 first grade matches for North Melbourne (and VCA Colts), and still holds North’s run aggregate record with 7,599 runs over nineteen seasons.


Lisle Nagel of Melbourne Cricket Club took 71 wickets for the season to take the wicket aggregate in first grade for 1938/39. Bendigo-born twin brothers Vern and Lisle Nagel had very similar capabilities, though Lisle had the more distinguished record of the two – Lisle was bigger (6′ 6″ or 198 cm) with greater lift, Vern (6′ 5″ or 195 cm) was a little faster. Both were right arm fast medium bowlers. Lisle played one Test in 1932/33, and played 26 first class matches over the decade 1927/28 to 1937/38. He began his senior cricket with the Brighton sub-district club between 1922/23 and 1926/27, with prodigious results, as he took a wicket every 29 balls. He then moved to Melbourne nineteen first grade seasons and 139 matches 1927/28 to 1946/47 taking 468 wickets. His greatest moment came in the Australian XI match against the MCC tourists in 1932/33, when he took 8/32 as the Englishmen were dismissed for just 60. That led directly to his single Test appearance, in the first Bodyline Test. He was selected again that season, but had to withdraw with an arm injury, and was not available for f/c selection subsequently.  [*BOX*Cricketing Gemini]

Veteran Tom Carlton of Essendon (aged 47 years old) took an impressive 60 wickets @ 15.13 with his left-arm medium deliveries to set a club season aggregate record for the Essendon club. Carlton at various times (1909/10 to 1931/32) played first class cricket for Canterbury (NZ), New Zealanders, Victoria, Otago (NZ), South Island (NZ), and for South Australia. He still holds fourth position in the VCA first grade cricket wicket aggregate with 632 wickets for Essendon and North Melbourne. The family was originally from Bacchus Marsh just north of Melbourne, and several members of the extended family played first class cricket. Tom’s son Gordon played for Essendon in 2/g in 1938/39. At the other end, fast-medium bowler Bill ‘Weary’ Wilson of Essendon took a further 47 cheap wickets, to provide the club with a formidable bowling attack.

Tall left-arm Chinaman bowler R T (Tommy) Tuttle of VCA Colts took 45 wickets for the season, and pace man Fred Freer of Carlton took 43 wickets to break Tom Trembath’s 1932/33 Carlton season aggregate record of 42. Frank Thorn of Northcote also took 43 wickets for the season, including a haul of 9/126 – including three wickets in four balls – at the end of the same week as the State second eleven match in which he took 12 wickets against NSW Seconds – in the match against Carlton in round nine.

Tall (183 cm), burly (88 kg) and rosy-cheeked Doug Ring of Richmond took 41 wickets @ 15.83 in his first season at new club Richmond.  Ring was a philosophical leg-spinner and a big hitter with a good sense of humour. The Cricketer noted he was prone to full-tosses but has “greater possibilities than some who never – or hardly ever – bowl full-tosses … he turns the ball either way and attempts more in the way of pace changes and flighting than most youthful bowlers”.[50] The Referee also noted “He bowls a little faster than the usual slow bowler, somewhat after the style of W. J. O’Reilly. … While no one has been his coach, Ring has found the advice and assistance of Les Keating, the former interstate all-rounder, of great value”. “[He] believes that while big-cricket wickets in Australia are not helpful to the bowler, the batsman is. ‘For,’ says Douglas, ‘we bowlers can rely on the batsman getting himself out most of the time’.”[51] A Tasmanian, born in Hobart, he moved to Melbourne while young, and attended Melbourne HS at the same time as future Test great Keith Miller. He played 129 first class matches to 1952/53, and took 451 first class wickets, and notched up thirteen Tests for Australia. He took almost 400 first grade wickets for Richmond in 127 matches.

Bill Newton channels Errol Flynn

Bill Newton channels Errol Flynn

Promising fast bowler W E (Bill) Newton of St Kilda was tall and muscular at 6′ 2″ (188 cm) and fourteen stone (89 kg). He was fast paced, and had good swerve on the ball. Astute observer Bill Jacobs called him as one of the fastest of the era, a shade slower than Ernie McCormick and Bull Alexander.[52] He was educated at Melbourne Grammar – at the junior sports at Wadhurst Preparatory School in October 1930 he was second in the long kick event to Harcourt Dowsley, and the winner of the kicking for goal event, at around ten years old.  He attended Melbourne Grammar senior school between 1934 and 1937, where he was a prefect and one of the school’s star sportsmen. He played in the highly competitive first XI for three seasons 1935 to 1937, including 37 wickets as an opening bowler in 1937 as the team won the Public Schools competition,  and in the first XVIII Australian Rules side in 1936 and 1937, when he vice-captain of the undefeated team in incomplete season. He also represented the school at swimming and was a cadet sergeant. He interviewed to join the RAAF in 1937, but his parental consent was not obtained,[53] and he went to work in a silk warehouse. At the beginning of the 1937/38 season, he was selected for the VCA Colts’ side as St Kilda’s nominee and took 22 wickets @ 22.13, to win the club bowling average, noted as ‘fast without being an express bowler, and has a good action’.[54] His friends John Buckland and Noel Austin of Melbourne Grammar were also in the Colts team, as were Keith Miller and Colin Loxton. Buckland also commenced with Newton at St Kilda Football Club in early 1938, where they impressed at the first training, though they were not selected for the senior side, and Newton played for Old Melburnians in the Victorian Amateur Football League (VAFA) and gained State selection for VAFA in the interstate amateur football carnival in Hobart. He took another 29 first-grade wickets for the Colts in 1938/39, and played cricket for the Victorian Second XI against the NSW Second XI in late January 1939, opening the bowling with Northcote medium-pacer Frank Thorn, taking 1/39 and 2/74 as Thorn took 6/55 and 6/66. He played on with Old Melburnians FC in 1939 when he was vice-captain. That season, they won the A grade premiership over Coburg, captained by State cricketer Ian Johnson. Newton returned to his host club St Kilda in 1939/40, and took 18 wickets at a tight average before he was called up for the RAAF in early February 1940 – which made him unavailable for the last few rounds. As we shall see, his RAAF service was brilliant, and tragic.

In the sub-district competition, veteran left-arm slow-medium bowler Bob Epple of the Kew club in Melbourne’s leafy inner east, took an impressive haul of 7/9 off 10.5 overs – the last five wickets for no runs – on a pitch where ‘on various occasions the ball kept low’ against Caulfield (all out 64) in round eight.[55]


E K (Keith) Kildey of the South Melbourne club grew up in Devonport in Tasmania, and moved to Melbourne to progress his cricket. Tall (6′ or 183 cm) and strongly built (82 kg), Kildey was a medium-fast bowler with a sound and rhythmic fifteen-pace run-up and high delivery action, and hit the bat hard with his standard inswinger and some occasional outswing. He debuted in first grade in the first match of 1938/39 and took 24 wickets @ 18.54 to take the club’s bowling championship. He opened the first match of the season with a wicket with his first ball – he clean bowled former Test opener Keith Rigg of  Melbourne – followed by Percy Beames (clean bowled) in his next over, finishing with 6/36 off 15 overs in what the Argus labelled as a ‘remarkable debut’.[56]

Cheery little leg-break bowler Gus Barker transferred from Elsternwick, where he had been a force since 1932/33, and played seven seasons at St Kilda beginning in 1938/39, where he took over 200 wickets.

Left-hand batsman Bob Black debuted in first grade for Fitzroy, from the Coburg team in sub-district cricket. After his AIF service, he returned to Fitzroy, then Coburg and finally to Brighton in the sub-district competition, and he played baseball for Victoria in wartime.

Other debuts included Hawthorn footballer Wally Culpitt at Hawthorn-East Melbourne, vigorous left-hand batsman and Melbourne footballer Len Dockett (at Richmond and VCA Colts), ‘Mick’ Harvey of Fitzroy and tall left-arm fast bowler Jack Kennedy at Prahran.

Laurie Nash in action

Laurie Nash in action

The 1938/39 season also saw a notable debut for the Camberwell team in the Melbourne sub-district competition. Two-time Test fast bowler and legendary Australian Rules footballer Laurie Nash played a smashing debut season. He took 88 wickets at the miserly average of 9.5 and scored 511 runs for the season including a century against Preston. He began the season with 8/35 against Malvern in round two, and in all took five wickets in an innings on ten occasions – three times taking eight wickets in an innings. Again in 1939/40 he took 66 wickets @ 11.25 for the season. He was clearly playing several levels below his potential: a giant amongst pygmies.

In fact Nash had decided in late 1937 that “the time had arrived when he felt he should commercialise his cricket and football ability”. He had been out of work for eight months and the football club had been unable to find anything for him.[57] As his Victorian Football League (VFL) football club, South Melbourne, would not release him to St Kilda, who had a job available, he switched codes to the Victorian Football Association (VFA), to play for Camberwell. As part of the package, he accepted a paying post as captain-coach of Camberwell cricket club, and a job at the Camberwell council.

Nash was a vainglorious and prodigiously talented sportsman. Stocky and of moderate height, he had a handsome face and a bunch of blonde curls over his forehead. As a footballer, he has many supporters – including ruck great Jack Dyer, and Vic Richardson – as one of the greatest in the history of the Australian game. As a cricketer, his ten wickets @ 12.60 in just two Tests, and 22 first class matches for Tasmania and Victoria, are an indication both of his talent, and of the selectors’ unwillingness to put him into senior teams. He was an outspoken man with a high opinion of himself, an abrasive tongue, and rebellious of authority. Many believe these factors told against him when selection decisions were made. Keith Miller – who had his own axe to grind against the selectors, and was a team-mate – believed that his omission was “the greatest waste of talent in Australian cricket history”.[58]

After excellent bowling in the last Test of 1936/37 against England, and good form in grade cricket in 1937/38, he was regarded as an almost certain selection for the 1937/38 Shield season, and then for the 1938 Ashes tour. During the 1937/38 grade season, he once took 10/35 in an innings against Prahran, but declined to play for Victoria when selected once, as his wife was ill in Tasmania. The selectors never called on him again. When the 1938 touring side was selected they went instead with Ernie McCormick as their fast man.

Son of a sporting policeman, and part of a sporting family, with cricket and football representatives at senior level, he grew up in Melbourne’s Fitzroy then moved with the family to northern Tasmania in 1929. He played both football and cricket in Launceston, and in cricket almost immediately represented North against South, and Tasmania against Victoria in the 1929/30 season. He also starred for the City club in local Launceston football, under legendary Roy Cazaly. He excelled against visiting touring cricket teams, including the West Indians in 1930/31, and took two wickets in two balls against the South Africans in 1931/32 and broke a batsman’s jaw with the hat-trick ball. On that form, he was selected to play for Australia against South Africa in his first Test appearance, at the MCG in February 1932, where he acquitted himself well.

There was much talk in the next season of inducting Nash into the Test team to combat the Bodyline attack deployed by England in the 1932/33 series. However, Australia largely resisted fighting fire with fire, and he played only one match against the tourists, for an ‘Australian’ side in a selection match.

Laurie Nash in uniform, 1943

Laurie Nash in uniform, 1943

He returned to Victoria in 1933, and joined the South Melbourne clubs in both VFL and cricket. He excelled for South in football, playing in their 1933 football premiership, and rising to be captain in 1937. He kicked 246 goals in 99 senior games for South. At Camberwell after his move, he kicked a remarkable 418 goals in just 74 games over four seasons 1938 to 1941.

One final anecdote sums up both his extraordinary talent, and the overweening self-regard, that makes Nash such an enigma. In a notable performance in 1934, Nash kicked 18 goals in a match for Victoria against South Australia – traditionally the toughest representative football match of all. Rather than soak up the praise, he had the bad grace to suggest we would have kicked 27 goals if the rovers had not refused to pass the ball to him.[59]


Another fast bowler, enlisted to fight fire with fire in the Bodyline series of 1932/33, H H ‘Bull’ Alexander of Essendon, Victoria and very briefly, Australia, played his final season.

Charles Manning Clark, wicket-keeper for the University club in Melbourne, ended his grade cricket career, having left for study at Oxford. He became one of Australia’s greatest historians and public intellectuals, so perhaps the loss to cricket was bearable.

Fast-medium bowler Hans Ebeling, captain of Melbourne, former captain of Victoria, and one-time Test player in 1934, played his final f/g season for Melbourne in 1938/39. He played 149 matches for Melbourne from 1922/23 taking 447 wickets. Though his bowling efforts were no longer as impressive as in the early thirties, he had led Melbourne to five premierships, and Victoria to two Sheffield Shields. He later became a key administrator at the Melbourne Cricket Club, a Board member for 45 years.

Another veteran, all-rounder Les ‘Larry’ Keating of Richmond and Collingwood, retired at the end of the season aged 47, having played first grade cricket since 1910/11. In all that time with two of Melbourne’s most famous teams, he played in only one premiership – in his second year of 1911/12 for Collingwood. Keating was the first player to reach 300 first grade games in the VCA, playing 309 in all, and is still third on the list of total wickets taken, with 636 wickets. He topped his clubs’ batting or bowling no fewer than eleven times. He also played 16 first class matches for Victoria in the early 1920s.

Other retirees during 1938/39 included Len “Dinny” Kemp of Prahran, and Victoria, who was Victorian hockey captain and an Australian hockey player; Frank Morton, who played his final season of eighteen at South Melbourne; and Len Murphy of Collingwood, who played his final season of ten.  Murphy was also a football ruckman at the Collingwood, Williamstown and Footscray clubs, who played in premiership seasons in each of his first three years at Collingwood, but never played in a Grand Final – he missed the 1935 and 1936 premierships with injury and suspension, and then sat on the bench as a reserve through the 1937 Grand Final.

Jack Rush of Prahran, earlier University and Victoria also played his final season in 1938/39. Related to several key figures in Victorian cricket at the turn of the century, Rush was a teacher and cricket coach at Wesley for forty years, and was a formative influence on Test players Sam Loxton and Ian Johnson amongst others.

Finally, leg-break bowler C William ‘Bill’ Welch of St Kilda and Prahran clubs and Victoria played the last of his fourteen grade seasons, most for St Kilda, for whom he took 385 wickets all-grades, with the majority in second grade, as chances were so few in a club team that included Test spinners Don Blackie, Bert Ironmonger and Chuck Fleetwood-Smith.

Odds and Ends

Ian Leembruggen, Essendon opener, had his jaw badly broken by Ernie McCormick in the 1938/39 grade semi-final against Richmond – following another injury inflicted by McCormick in the previous week – and Leembruggen was hospitalised for seven weeks. A pre-season review of 1939/40 noted he was ‘still feeling the effects’ of the injury, and he was thought to have lost some confidence in his batting for some time thereafter.[60]

Slender right-hand opening batsman Roy Gardner played for Fitzroy in the mid-thirties with considerable success, and he played three first class matches for Victoria in 1935/36. In 1938/39, he transferred to the nearby Brunswick club in the sub-district competition, to be their captain-coach. He led the fine Brunswick side to an unprecedented run of success during the war – the team won six VSDCA premierships in seven years, including four on end from 1939/40 under Gardner. He scored two fine centuries in the season, including  a score of 122 opening in 174 minutes in a ‘brilliant hitting display’ on his wedding day, adding a 179-run opening partnership with Eddie Gunston (82) – setting the club’s equal highest first wicket partnership – against Kew in round nine.

Slow leg break bowler Clive Braybrook of the Newport team in the Victorian Junior Cricket Association (VJCA) A grade Turf competition set a VJCA Turf wicket aggregate record with 103 wickets @ 9 for the season. He had at least eight five-wicket-in-an-innings performances in the season, including bags of 8/62 against Old Xavierians, 8/35 against Alphington, and 7/14 against Alphington. In his first season for the team, he appeared to have come from nowhere. He played on at Newport in 1939/40, with some further startling performances including 3/4 and 9/60 against Alphington (again), 8/52 and 3/40 against Seddon and 9/57 against Spotswood.

In fact, aged in his late thirties (born in 1901), he had chosen the peripatetic life of a relieving bank manager, and was obliged to uproot himself and move every few years. He had played for first grade team Sturt in Adelaide (under legendary Victor Richardson), for South Australia in one Shield match in 1921/22, and for the SA Colts representative side just after the Great War. He was in Mount Gambier in the early thirties where he played for the Standards team, and bowled well for Mt Gambier in representative cricket for the Whitty Trophy, taking 30 wickets @ 7.6, and standing out in the 1932/33 match when he took 11/43m. He also helped to start up baseball in the town, as a former State catcher.

Batsman Stan Pike of Preston in the sub-district competition scored 203 against Brighton in round five of 1938/39. His score of 203 was (and is) the third highest ever recorded in the VSDCA. The Argus noted: “He batted in brilliant fashion, scoring freely to all parts of the field, and he hit 20 boundaries and one 6”. The innings lasted less than 200 minutes. Stan – who splendidly appeared in the scorebooks as ‘S Pike’ – played for Preston for around twenty years from the mid-thirties, was captain in his later years, and played two seasons at Northcote in 1936/37 and 1937/38.

Final Odds and Ends

There were two remarkable performances in second grade finals in Melbourne at the end of 1938/39.

In the sub-district competition, leg-spinner Melville ‘Merv’ Sykes of Port Melbourne took 9/59 and 8/65 (=17/124) and scored top score 54 in second grade against Yarraville in the semi-final late in March. Sykes went on to play grade cricket for South Melbourne and Fitzroy.

In the district second grade final, Ron Baggott of Northcote, a medium-pace right-arm bowler, took the remarkable haul of 8/38 and 7/30 (=15/68m) in the final against St Kilda in early April. Ron was a champion Australian Rules footballer, a high marking centre half-forward who combined beautifully with legendary full-forward Norm Smith in Melbourne’s triple premiership side of 1939-1941. He played 133 games, and scored 308 goals over the period 1935-1942 and 1945, while his childhood friend Smith kicked 546 goals over a similar period. Baggott was a Victorian representative in 1939, and was Melbourne’s Best & Fairest trophy winner in 1940.

Ron’s elder brother Jack Baggott, eleven years his senior, was captain of Northcote’s first grade cricket side through the second half of the thirties. A sound batsman, he played 127 games for Northcote between 1924/25 and 1943/44 – ending his time there as captain-coach, where he recruited the eleven-year old Bill Lawry – later a Test great, and television commentary legend – to the fourth-grade team from Preston Technical School.

Jack too, was a very fine Australian Rules footballer. He began his football as a forward, and ended as a defender. He played 128 games, with 140 goals, for Richmond over the period 1927-1935, then a further 19 games for Essendon 1936-1939 as captain-coach. He resigned from Essendon early in 1939, claiming he lacked the confidence of the club. He coached South Melbourne in 1940, but the very limited success he enjoyed there – with seven wins for the season – sealed his footballing fate.

Country Cricket


Fast-medium swing bowler Harold Wales had some sensational bowling spells for the Goomalibee team in the Benalla cricket competition during 1938/39. The pretty town of Benalla sits on the floodplain of the Broken River around 150 km north-east of Melbourne on the Hume Highway. In late November 1938, Wales took 7/0 against Railways off thirty balls, as they collapsed to be all out for 13, of which five runs were byes, and included eight ducks. The local newspaper recorded that “He was swinging the ball in fine style and with a perfect length”.[61] Against the same team just six weeks later in mid-February 1939, he took 2/0 off his first over and 3/4 off his next three overs to attain the enviable figures of 5/4, but finished with 6/24 off his six overs for the innings. Finally in early April 1939, he took 10/5 off five in the Benalla B grade final for Goomalibee against Violet Town as they were dismissed for just 31. He took 4/1 in his first over and 4/1 in his fourth over, including a hat-trick. Remarkably, Wales’ heroics were insufficient – Violet Town’s Joe Block took 8/13 including five wickets in seven balls as Goomalibee also fell for 31, and Violet Town went on to win the match and the premiership. Wales played on in local cricket, with an interruption owing to his war service, to the mid-fifties at least.


Another itinerant banker stood out in cricket at Shepparton in 1938/39. Shepparton is a major rural town on the Goulburn River in northern Victoria around 180 km north of Melbourne. Jack Piper scored over 1,000 runs in a season (@ 92) in 1938/39, for the first time in the history of the Shepparton Cricket Association – including three big centuries and a double century. He twice reset the local cricket association innings record during his two years in the region, first to 173 against Tatura in 1937/38,[63] then to 208 in the 1938/39 semi-final.

Playing cricket and Australian Rules football briefly in Shepparton while working for Bank of Australasia at nearby Mooroopna, he topped the goalkicking aggregate in the Goulburn Valley Football League in 1938, and then had his remarkable 1938/39 cricket season for the Shepparton team, including the record score of 208 against Toolamba in the semi-final, then 184x against Shepparton High School Old Students in the (seven-week-long) final as his team took the premiership. He moved to Castlemaine in 1939, and joined the Castlemaine cricket club.


The grand old river port of Echuca sits on the Murray River about 70 km west of Shepparton, and about 225 km directly north of Melbourne. All-rounder Clive Frazer, around 44 years old, who had been a Great War fighter pilot in France, led his Bamawm Extension team to an Echuca Cricket Association premiership in 1938/39, taking 4/9 to clean up their opponents, the Nondescripts club.

Bamawm were perennial runners-up in the local competition – in five seasons of nine in this period to the usually all-conquering Womboota team, who were premiers in six of those nine seasons. So it must have been a sweet victory for Frazer. In the previous season (1937/38), he scored the only double century in local cricket in this era, adding 206 not out of 9/331 against the United club in late January 1938, and that season, he scored 698 runs at a very respectable average of 49.85.  Frazer played until the 1939/40 season in local cricket until local cricket was cancelled for the duration in 1940/41. He once more served in the RAAF in Melbourne during the Second World War, losing his cricketing son Jack (they played together in 1937/38 – 1939/40) to a RAAF bomber accident in England in 1943.

Possibly Australia’s greatest naval cricketer – not a large or illustrious group in Australia – was young Vic Funnell who hailed from Echuca. He had an outstanding season in naval cricket matches in 1938/39, representing HMAS Hobart. Hobart was a new Leander class light cruiser with 6” guns that had been purchased by the Royal Australian Navy in late 1938, and she gave sterling service all over the world during the war. Naval personnel got only limited opportunities for cricket, typically when visiting ports or when docked for maintenance, and practice opportunities on shipboard were limited. During the 1938/39 season, Funnell scored 1,185 runs @ 107.7 and secured 52 wickets @ 17.9. In the final match of the navy competition at Jervis Bay, he scored 217 and 129 not out and took 5/101 and 4/79.

This remarkable performance was dwarfed by his prodigious 1936/37 season, when he scored 4,174 runs @ 154.59, and took 216 wickets @ 5.16 for HMAS Swan, including some eye-popping performances such as an innings of 403 and 7/49 against Army, 331 and 10/18 against Combined Fleet, 8/0 including a hat-trick against Gisborne in New Zealand, and 209 and 7/59 and 5/57 against an almost full-strength Tasmanian team. For that season he scored eighteen centuries including the quadruple, triple and three doubles.[64]

Funnell had been a good schoolboy and local cricketer in Echuca, but did not blossom until he enlisted at 17 years of age in 1936. He had little opportunity to play in wartime, though he served in the Pacific on HMAS Hobart, and was in Plymouth in England at war’s end on the cruiser HMAS Australia. He lived in Melbourne after the war, but there is no evidence of any cricket there.


Portland is an attractive rural city in the far south-west of Victoria, and was the first European settlement in Victoria, founded in 1834. In the Portland B grade final of the 1938/39 season, nineteen-year-old left-arm fast-medium bowler Alan Hamilton of the Cashmore side took the remarkable figures of 9/23 and 8/7 – he took the last six wickets from six consecutive balls, one caught at slip and the last five all bowled, middle-stump.[65]

Queensland Cricket 1938/39

Grade Cricket

Brisbane’s grade competition in 1938/39 consisted of four grades (A, Reserve, B and C grade). Eight clubs contested A grade, including the QCA Colts side which consisted of players less than 23 years of age nominated by their clubs who had played no more than three Shield matches, plus a professional coach. Cricket in Brisbane was very popular, with thirty grade teams, eight teams in the Junior Division and no fewer than one hundred in Warehouse cricket.

The Eastern Suburbs club led for most of the 1938/39 season, and were premiers by two points from South Brisbane (32 to 30). This was Easts’ first A grade premiership, though their predecessor club Woolloongabba had had four premiership wins before the Great War. Easts had three of the top five batsmen in the QCA grade aggregate, in State batsmen Rex Rogers, Glen Baker and Maurice (‘Morrie’ or ‘Mossie’) Guttormsen, and relied upon the reliable slow left-arm off-spinner Arthur Muhl to take the wickets, along with fast bowler Jim Fawcett and State leg-spinner Bill Tallon.

Rex Rogers, at his 1937 weight

Rex Rogers, at his 1937 weight

Rex Rogers was a burly and forceful left-handed batsman who once broke a boundary fence paling, and was a capable outfielder pre-war with a good pair of hands. He was short and powerfully built with strong forearms and shoulders, and like many left-handers, the hook was his favourite shot. His State captain Bill Brown noted he “… hit the ball as hard as any player I’ve seen”. He was regarded as a “good man in a pinch”.[66] His aggression made him a man after Charlie Macartney’s heart, who described him as “one of the hardest hitting left handers Australia has had, and although he may not be considered graceful in stroke execution, he is a difficult man to dismiss, and makes no apologies for dealing harshly with any bowler”.[67] Before the war, he was an all-round sportsman –swimming, Rugby League with the Postal Institute in warehouse competition, and tennis in Warwick.[68] Born in Cairns, he moved to Brisbane as a seven year old, after a cyclone destroyed the family home. After transferring from the Warehouse competition, and several seasons of development with the QCA Colts, and his Shield debut in 1936/37, he returned to Easts for the 1938/39 season, as an established member of the Queensland side. In the 1938/39 season he scored 595 first grade runs @ 45.76 for the season to top the QCA batting aggregate, with six fifties. He also put together an innings of 129 opening in just 77 minutes – including a burst of 50 runs off two overs – adding 170 for the first wicket in 70 minutes with Jim Coats (86x) for Metropolis against Combined Country late in October 1938 in the final match of Country Week. It was hailed in Brisbane newspapers as “the most spectacular innings ever seen on the ground”.[69]

His teammate Mossie Guttormsen – the surname is Norwegian – was educated at Brisbane Grammar, where he spent four years in the first XI. Guttormsen’s cover drive was his best shot, and he cut hard and well. He was a batsman who would go for his shots right away – showing aggression with a fluid technique. Some contemporaries called him ‘Arsie’ as he was perceived to be lucky. However, despite his promise, he failed at a high level. Cricket writer Laurie Kearney noted he “is something of an enigma, Often he has aroused great expectations by his club performances, yet when the chance was given him he failed badly … Guttormsen is a fluent and cultured batsman. I doubt whether there is a more polished stroke player in Queensland, yet in the higher sphere he seems to lose his punishing powers”.[70] This assessment was sadly accurate: despite scintillating performances at grade level, his handful of first class appearances were all disappointing.  Nonetheless, in 1938/39 he contributed solidly to Easts’ premiership with 513 runs including five fifties.

Glen Baker was an attacking right-hand batsman, who also bowled some medium pace with a little extra zip. Born in Townsville, he excelled there for the Past Grammars team and was selected as a representative and Country Week cricketer, all the way up to his selection for the Queensland Colts side to play in Sydney during 1935/36. He moved to Brisbane for the 1936/37 season to join Eastern Suburbs and develop his cricket, and moved into the State side that season, where he became a fixture. Brisbane cricket columnist Laurie Kearney noted of him “Baker is good to look at when he decides to hit. Then he displays perfect footwork and perfect body positioning”.[71] He came to wider notice as a young batman in the representative match for Townsville against Brisbane at Easter 1933 (1932/33 season), when he scored a brilliant 90 off Aboriginal speedster Eddie Gilbert at his fastest.

Baker had a good season in 1938/39. He played for Metropolis against Combined Country at Country Week, scoring 109 retired in a Brisbane run-fest. He followed that with an excellent firsts grade innings of 154 for Eastern Suburbs against the Valley club in his next A grade outing in round five, then scored his maiden first class century of 157 with 18 boundaries for Queensland against NSW in Brisbane in the first match of the Shield season, adding a then-Queensland-record partnership of 210 runs in 194 minutes with Geoff Cook (82) for the fifth wicket.


Solid all-rounder Geoff Cook of Western Suburbs topped the QCA batting averages in 1938/39 with 453 runs @ 64.71 and took 25 wickets for his club. Notably, he scored 161 not out (20×4), against Toombul in round five. Cook was a pugnacious batsman who could also bowl. His State captain Bill Brown noted he ‘never took a backward step’. He had a limited repertoire of strokes and was not graceful, but possessed grit, concentration and patience aplenty. Once tagged as ‘Queensland’s slow-motion opening batsman’,[72] his defence was strong, and at times he got into a rut of pure pig-headed defence. He was an effective swing bowler, with late out-swing. Expert Shield swing practitioner Phil Ridings commented that he ‘swung the ball a mile, but slowly. He was very, very medium pace’. Cook was a core member of the Queensland Shield team for almost twenty years, playing 68 first class matches between 1931/32 and 1947/48. In 26 seasons for Wests, he scored 6,392 runs and took 626 wickets for the club – the club’s highest wicket aggregate and second highest run aggregate. His father Bernard William ‘Barney’ Cook played 7 first class games for Queensland in 1909/10 as a slow-medium pace bowler.

Former Victorian Ted Laurie of the Valley club scored 583 runs @ 53.00 for the season, to be second in the QCA batting aggregate. He scored two centuries and four fifties, including a ‘fine’ 121 not out opening, with 13 boundaries, in a ‘bid for State honours’ against Eastern Suburbs in round five in mid-Nov 1938.

Veteran State left-hander Des Hansen of South Brisbane club scored 540 runs @ 60.00 for the season with seven fifties.

Test opener Bill Brown, leading the QCA Colts scored 381 runs @ 54.42 for the season. He was only present for one match before round eight, owing to the 1938 Test tour, then his Shield commitments. On return from the Ashes tour, he was a ‘personification of grace and ease’ as he scored a ‘masterly’ 118 opening against South Brisbane in round five in mid-November 1938.

Schoolmaster Vic Honour, the opening batting mainstay of the University club, scored 370 runs for the season, including a ‘delightful’ 178 (5×6, 16×4) with the first fifty in an ‘amazing’ 14 minutes against Toombul in round four. He led the University club for a number of years while he was completing a part-time degree, and was their foundation throughout that time. He played a handful of first class matches in 1934/35, but did not get any further opportunities for first class play. Many middle-aged Australians may recall his name – along with that of fellow cricketer, friend and colleague George Lockie – on many geography textbooks distributed to Australian students of the sixties and seventies. He was also a key contributor to the Australian Jacaranda Atlas, established in 1968.


Tall and athletic leg-break bowler Jack Govan of University club topped the QCA wicket aggregate in 1938/39 with 49 wickets @ 18.18 for the season and received a University Blue for cricket. He took 65 wickets in 1937/38 and 50 in 1939/40 – for a tally of 164 wickets in three seasons.

Educated at Brisbane Grammar School, Jack Govan was an outstanding leg-break bowler, with the capacity to take startling bags of wickets. In 1931 he became known as ‘the terror’ of Brisbane secondary school batsmen, taking over 80 wickets @ around 8, and continued in devastating form in the 1932 season for Brisbane Grammar. In 1932/33, he graduated to first grade for Eastern Suburbs with immediate impact, then quickly to State cricket after playing only two grade matches, followed by an extraordinary performance for Metropolis of 8/20 (off 7.6 overs) and 8/30 (8.6 overs) (= 16/50m) as Combined Country crashed to 66 and 82 all out, and then impressive bowling in a selection match. It was said of his performance against Combined Country that “If the term “unplayable” can be applied to bowlers it is the only way to describe the effort of the … J. Govan, who signalled his entry into bigger cricket yesterday with one of the most sensational bowling performances on record. … while he combines the control of flight and break so well, he will always be a dangerous bowler”.[73] His second first class game came against the MCC ‘Bodyline’ tourists, in which he took a seemingly respectable 3/59. However, the newspapers opined that he “was most erratic, and free tosses were freely supplied to the Englishmen”, though he did dismiss Bob Wyatt and ‘Gubby’ Allen.[74] He moved to New South Wales in mid-decade, and took a startling 10/71 in an innings for NSW Colts against Queensland Colts in 1934/35. After his return from NSW, he again played for Queensland in five Shield matches in 1937/38, though his returns were modest. His grade form continued strongly however.

South Brisbane leg-break bowler George Gooma took 42 wickets (second in the aggregate) for the season, despite missing several rounds over Christmas holidays. A small man, he was agile and fast in the field, had a round-arm bowling action and was handy with a bat. An all-rounder sportsman, he played first grade Rugby League with Brothers, was a fine practitioner of snooker and billiards, played tennis, and was a pitcher with the Giants baseball team and for Queensland.

Shield player Bill Tallon of Easts took 25 wickets from the first seven rounds – including 8/50 off 14.1 overs against Northern Suburbs in round two on a batsman’s pitch – ‘one of the most meritorious witnessed in club cricket for many seasons’ – but then headed home to Bundaberg after his return from fairly unsuccessful southern tour with the Shield side, partly owing to lack of a job.

Jack Ellis of QCA Colts was the QCA average winner in his debut season with 24 wickets @ 12.75 (and two fifties). “His real hostility rested in his pace and a late swing-in from outside the off stump. He was very fiery off the pitch at times, hitting several batsmen with sharply rising balls”.[75]


State wicketkeeper Don Tallon of South Brisbane scored 372 runs @ 41.33 and took 20 wickets @ 17.10 for the season. He took up the ball initially when he injured a finger while keeping wicket, and then filled in for usual spinner George Gooma, who was at the beach. He twice took five wickets in an innings for his club.


Slow spin bowler Arthur Brierley of Northern Suburbs was promoted to A grade from Reserve grade during the season, and took a promising 7/93 off 13.2 overs against Eastern Suburbs in round eleven in February 1939. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RANVR) immediately after the outbreak of war, on 9 Sept 1939, and served in the Navy throughout the war. He resurfaced briefly for Norths in 1944/45, but got limited opportunity to show his undoubted talents.

Eddie Broad

Eddie Broad in Rugby kit

Law student Eddie Broad of University appeared in first grade cricket from January 1939, immediately after leaving the Southport School as Dux and winner of seven prizes. While there, he had stood out in Great Public Schools cricket, and was captain of the 1938 first XI. He was top scorer for All Schools against Combined Country in late 1937, and joined veteran Roger Hartigan’s XI touring the Central West of Queensland at Easter 1938. He made a great impression in his first season, though arguably his results were good rather than stellar – his style and polish were evident immediately. He was a left-hand batsman, a splendid fieldsman who had kept for his school and a useful slow bowler on occasions.  He was also an outstanding Rugby Union player, for his school and the GPS representative side, and later (after the war) for Queensland and Australia.

Warehouse batsman Thurston Catton, the first of an increasing number of transfers between the cricket associations as player numbers dwindled in wartime debuted for the QCA Colts mid-season. A Brisbane Grammar boy who played GPS cricket in 1937, he had compiled a large number of Warehouse runs – perhaps a thousand – in the preceding 1937/38 season.

H J (Bert) Haskings of the Valley club debuted in first grade after scoring 172 not out in B grade against Western Suburbs early in the season.  His older brother (by two years) George Haskings was already in the first grade side. The brothers played for the club as stalwarts throughout the war and beyond. Both had played for the Queensland Schoolboys representative team, and – unusually for Queenslanders – were good senior Australian Rules footballers for the Windsor club.

W G ‘Monty’ Howard of Northern Suburbs (Norths) scored 461 runs in second grade @ 153.66 for the 1938/39 season in eight innings, with five not outs. This still remains the best season average in second grade in the QCA competition. That season, he also took part in two Norths club second grade partnership records that still stand – a fifth wicket partnership of 211 unbroken, and a sixth wicket partnership of 247. Though he was promoted to A grade mid-season, and played on for a couple more seasons, he never again attained the good form of 1938/39


Stylish batsman Tom Allen did not play in Brisbane during 1938/39, as he had returned to farming in the Darling Downs, Queensland’s splendidly fertile rolling hills near Toowoomba, a couple of hours drive inland from Brisbane. Allen was a member of a pioneering family in the Downs, with lots of sporting talent – his father Thomas W Allen senior represented Queensland in polo in the 1920s, and two of Tom’s younger brothers, Doug and Gordon also represented Queensland Country in representative cricket. The family farmed the Allendale property near Greenmount, about 30 km south of Toowoomba. Tom was educated at Toowoomba Grammar, and played in Toowoomba for most of career, though he had a few seasons in Brisbane to 1938. He was a batting all-rounder, often opening the batting, and bowling some leg breaks, and was a good cover field. A quiet and unassuming man, his best shots were the classic duo of cover drive and on-drive, and he could hook well. Bill Brown summed him up as a ‘first-class batsman’. He played 43 first-class matches over eight seasons from 1933/34, having represented Queensland Country and the Queensland Colts, and been selected for the State while living in the country. He developed his cricket in Brisbane with the South Brisbane and Toombul clubs, and worked as a curator at the ‘Gabba (Brisbane Cricket Ground) with fellow country men Bundaberg’s Don Tallon, and speedster Eddie Gilbert.


Ranji from Vanity Fair 1897

Former State player Eric Bensted of Northern Suburbs became an umpire, retiring at the end of 1937/38 season. Tall, slender and handsome, he was a right-hand batsman who played over fifty first class matches for Queensland from the mid-twenties, and was a member of the State’s first Shield team in 1926/27. He is now best remembered for a 335-run seventh wicket stand for Queensland in 1934/35 against NSW with W C ‘Cassie’ Andrews who scored 235. Bensted scored 155 at number eight, providing the only real support to Andrews as they took the score from 113 to 448 – at the time, only nine runs short of the world record of 344 set by the legendary Indian batsman Ranji (the Maharajah of Nawanagar)[76] and Test batsman Billy Newnham for Sussex against Essex in 1902.

The peripatetic Keith Hele, originally from Melbourne, then South Brisbane, later Toombul then Northern Suburbs – four clubs in four seasons – played a season of Warehouse cricket as captain of Healy Bros, and starred. Hele was a nephew of the famous Australian Test match umpire George Hele, who stood in all five Tests of the Bodyline series of 1932/33, and remarkably was praised by both England captain Jardine and by the Australian public. Keith was also a fine Australian Rules footballer for South Brisbane club and for Queensland, and a top squash player in Brisbane.

The much-travelled and patrician Col Loxton of the University club, returning from work in Townsville, New Zealand and Mackay, moved to Melbourne in 1938/39, where he played for Melbourne University. Tall (185 cm) and athletic, he was a hurdler and cricketer while at Melbourne Grammar, then again at Cambridge University while studying for an MA in the mid-thirties. He played cricket at Cambridge for Crusaders XI and once for the University, and he won an athletics Blue. While in England, he was also a member of the Cambridge Air Squadron of the RAF Reserve for four years, so moved immediately into the RAAF at the outbreak of war in 1939. While in Brisbane pre-war, he played for Queensland University, and led the Combined Universities side against the 1936/37 MCC tourists in a match in Sydney at the end of their Ashes tour. In 1937/38, he played four Shield matches for Queensland, with no impact.

The enigmatic, and at times ponderous, batsman Berrowes ‘Berry’ Webb of the Valley club had a sensational 1937/38 season, in which he scored 682 runs @ 75.77 – he had scored 527 runs @ 131.75 late in January, but faded a little. Between seasons, he moved out of Brisbane to Loganlea (about 20 km south-west, on the fringe of the city) but remained qualified for Valley. In 1938/39, he began very poorly, then dropped out for a few weeks, resumed briefly, then left for Sydney in mid-January.

Oliver Bell of Northern Suburbs, former University and Brisbane Grammar School captain, and English and mathematics teacher at Brisbane Grammar, retired to concentrate upon his task as coach of Grammar first XI. He held the post from 1939 to 1970 – coaching hundreds of boys, including two Test players (Ross Duncan and David Ogilvie) and half a dozen Shield men.

Country Cricket

The remarkable Aboriginal speedster Eddie Gilbert looked set to come back for Queensland during 1938/39. He was in good form in the country and eager to bowl again for the State but the recall did not occur. “He told a Brisbane newspaper that be hoped he would get a chance to play, as he wanted to meet Mr. Bradman again and bowl him out for a “duck” as he did when they first met some years ago. The shoulder trouble that resulted in Gilbert’s disappearance from big cricket is stated to have entirely disappeared”.[77]

An indigenous man, he lived at the Barambah Mission at Cherbourg about 250 km north-west of Brisbane, not far from Kingaroy. He had a shy, quiet, funny and well-spoken manner. He was a slight and wiry man, only 5’ 7” tall (170 cm), but with very long arms, who generated startling pace and bounce from a short run. At his best, in short bursts, he was extremely effective, and famously bowled Don Bradman for a duck in a Shield match in Brisbane in 1931/32 – Bradman recalled (dismissively) “The fastest bowling I ever faced for a few overs was by the Queensland aboriginal Eddie Gilbert, though one would not dream of classing him amongst the great. Moreover, his action was decidedly suspect. … At the start of my brief innings one ball knocked the bat completely out of my hands, the only time I ever had such an experience”.[78]

But in 1938/39, for once, the Queensland selectors had a wealth of fast bowling talent, in Les Dixon, Jack Ellis and Jack Stackpoole. They needed to take no chances with Gilbert’s sometimes streaky form, his injury worries, his supposedly suspicious bowling action and perhaps most of all, the poor behaviour of teammates that was generated by Gilbert’s inclusion in the team.

Sadly, his team-mates often did not speak to him, did not socialise with him and even vindictively ran him out. In his initial first-class season 1930/31, Frank Gough, his own captain, initially refused to tour with Gilbert.[79] Gilbert noted mildly “It’s all right to be a hero on the field, but a black man can be lonely when he is not accepted after the game”.[80]

Colin Stibe[81], the Bundaberg butcher – he actually was a butcher, the name was not a reflection of his size or his manner – had a series of spectacular Country Week performances and made his Shield debut before Christmas. He was a dogged and watchful batsman with a narrow range of strokes, but an impregnable defence, who was nonetheless able to score briskly. He was a regular Country Week representative for Bundaberg, where he played for the local Colts team, from 1935/36. He stood out in the 1938/39 series, with 508 runs @ 84.66 for the carnival for the winning Wide Bay-Burnett zone, including two fifties and two centuries (retired) in four matches, then scored 80 for Country Colts against Metro Colts, and 72 and 69 in a losing cause for Combined Country against Metropolis. He scored a fifty on his first class debut for Queensland in January 1939, but contributed little in his other two first class matches.

Brothers Jack Walker and Don Walker stood out in country cricket in the beautiful hilly hinterland of what is now labelled the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. Don, an erratic fast bowler who could bat, took all ten wickets in the innings for 34 for Obi Obi in mid-February 1939 against Kenilworth No 2 (100 all out), after taking 7/15 the previous week – this was the first ever ten-fer in Kenilworth Cricket Association cricket. “Bowling with a breeze, he made exceptional pace off the pitch, swinging the ball from leg side to the off, and was practically unplayable”.[82] Brother Jack starred with the bat for Obi Obi in 1938/39, when he scored over 1,000 runs locally including a double century, with a batting average well over the century mark.[83] In 1939/40, he scored 254 in just 200 minutes for Obi Obi against Elaman Creek, including 33 boundaries and six sixes. Both of the Walkers played Country Week cricket for the Maroochy zone: not bad for a village in the hills with a population of about 300.

Talented all-rounder Jim Cockburn was a star in the local Maryborough competition, with occasional chances to show his talents in the wider sphere, including two Shield matches in 1936/37. Maryborough is a pretty port town around 250 km north of Brisbane on the Fraser Coast, and Cockburn bestrode the local cricket competition like a colossus for a decade and a half. Over 6’ tall (185 cm), he opened the batting and often the bowling, for Brothers club in the local competition, and amassed some really big scores, and some remarkable bowling feats. He was also a representative Rugby League player for Rovers club and Maryborough. In 1938/39, he captained the Wide Bay-Burnett team in Country Week as it took the championship, largely on the fine batting form of Colin Stibe. In local cricket and representative cricket that season, he scored at least three centuries, and took some notable bags of wickets, but left his best for last. In the Maryborough premiership final in late March 1939, he took a remarkable tally of nineteen wickets for 101 runs (9/66 and 10/35) as captain of the Brothers team against Tinana, and scored 55 of Brothers’ 116 in the second innings, but was still unable to avert a five-run loss as Tinana won the flag.[84]

Amazing Schoolboys

The 1937/38 and 1938/39 seasons of schoolboy cricket in Brisbane were notable for some breathtaking batting performances. The Virginia State School team was undefeated in three seasons, with two young men named Ken Mackay and Reg Bratchford standing out.

In early 1938 (late in the 1937/38 season), Bratchford (215x) and Mackay (200x) added an unfinished 406 runs for the second wicket for Virginia (1/435 declared) against Windsor State School, setting highest innings and highest partnerships for Schools cricket.[85] In 1938/39 the team struck six declarations with only one wicket down, including twice over 400. In all, the team scored 2,450 runs @ 70.00 for the season against their opponents’ 1,557 runs @ 12.10.[86] In the semi-final, Ken Mackay scored a mind-boggling 376 not out, and averaged 723.00 for the season. Bratchford averaged a comparatively paltry 251.50 for the season.  What their opponents thought of this is unknown, and likely unprintable.

Ken ‘Slasher’ Mackay’s nickname was entirely ironic, reflecting his dour unwillingness ever to concede his wicket. Many of his opponents had equally unprintable opinions of his staying power as he amassed over 10,000 first class runs for Queensland and Australia as a left-hander in the lower middle order, over almost twenty seasons in 201 first-class matches. With his perennial squint, chewing gum and buzz haircut, and his two indescribable scoring shots – a squirt through covers and a ‘shovel’ to midwicket – he was a wonderful character, beloved around Australia, but especially in Brisbane. He served as a Queensland selector between 1964 and 1979, and was awarded an MBE. More likely to have delighted him was the contribution by the Brisbane public of some £20,000 to a “bob in for Slasher” campaign on his retirement.[87]

South Australian Cricket 1938/39

Grade Cricket

Ten teams contested the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) first-grade competition. The West Torrens club began a run of three consecutive premierships (and were robbed of a fourth in 1941/42 when the season was abandoned), having secured three premierships in the six preceding seasons. They led throughout the season, though they were upset by the bottom-placed SACA Colts in round nine.


Twenty-one year old Vince Brogan of the Port Adelaide club topped the SACA run aggregate with a consistent 617 runs @ 47.46 for the season. He was already a veteran of six seasons, having begun in first grade at sixteen in 1933/34. His highest score of the season was recorded in the scorebook as 91 ‘retired, out’ against East Torrens, when he walked, thinking he had been bowled, with the ball coming off the keeper’s pads, and the opposition did not recall him.[88]

Wicketkeeper Roland ‘Roly’ Vaughton of the Adelaide club scored 577 runs @ 48.08 for the season with three centuries, including an innings of 141 not out against Prospect in round ten. He played a few State matches after the war, when South Australia had a profusion of capable wicketkeeper-batsmen. After his time in cricket, he became a hospitable hotelier.

Bruce Schultz

Bruce Schultz

All-rounder and outstanding Australian Rules footballer Bruce Schultz of the East Torrens club scored 560 runs for the season. A right handed batsman and fast-medium bowler, he hailed from Murray Bridge in the State’s south-east. He stood out for Murray Bridge in Adelaide Country Week in 1931/32 and was selected for Country to play SACA. He moved to Adelaide and East Torrens in 1934/35. He played twice for South Australia in the 1936/37 season with reasonable results, but was overlooked thereafter. His father Julius Schultz played four matches for South Australia just after the Great War.

Schultz was one of the great Australian Rules full-forwards of South Australian Football League (SAFL) history. He played for the Norwood club and for South Australia six times in interstate football, but was cut down cruelly with a knee injury mid-way through the 1941 season, just a week after his best tally of 19 goals in one match. He kicked 669 goals in 124 games, or around seventy goals per season – a phenomenal level of scoring, matched only by a handful of greats in the sport. He is Norwood’s top scorer, and was overshadowed only by his exceptional contemporary Ken Farmer of North Adelaide.

Curly-haired left-handed opener Allan Sampson of the West Torrens club scored 555 runs for the season with two centuries including an innings of 152 ‘brilliantly’ in 188 minutes against Port Adelaide in round eight. He had been close to State selection in the preceding season.

E J R (Ross) Moyle of the Kensington club scored 550 runs @ 55.00 for the season. He was Kensington’s top batsman in 1934/35, before the arrival of Donald Bradman at his club the next season put him firmly in the shade. Nonetheless, he set a then-record score for the club late in 1935/36 with an innings of 222 against Sturt. He scored 38 boundaries, and added 199 runs for the fourth wicket at a cracking pace with Donald Bradman (188) at the other end. Moyle was an outstanding fieldsman, winning the SACA fielding trophy on three occasions, and was a Kensington and State baseball player, and played Australian Rules for Norwood in the SA Football Association competition. Kensington’s captain Fred Inglis also topped 500 runs with a fine century during the 1938/39 season.

Kensington’s most famous player, Don Bradman scored 409 runs @ 58.43 to top the SACA averages for the season, including two centuries. His innings of 146 in 112 minutes was notable, including one run of six consecutive fours, as he added 204 runs with Ross Moyle (68) for the third wicket against University in round five, soon after his return from England.

Jack Badcock of Adelaide also had a relatively quiet season after his return from England, but scored two good centuries – a ‘dashing’ 142 against Prospect in round four immediately after his return to England, and the and season’s top score of 164, adding a club record opening partnership of 279 runs in just under 3½ hours with Roly Vaughton (121 not out) against West Torrens in round eleven.

The clean-stroking right handed opener Ken Ridings of West Torrens scored 513 runs @ 51.30 for the season, and was added to State practice squad in mid-November. He scored two good centuries for the season in round eleven and twelve. He scored 132 – his crisp driving pronounced ‘delightful’ – against Adelaide, and then scored a ‘classic’ 148 against Prospect in the final late in March 1939. He made his Shield debut during the 1938/39 season.

Elegant little batsman P J (Jim) Whittard of the Prospect club scored 449 runs for the season including a ‘polished’ innings of 148 against Sturt. He grew up in the remote town of Port Pirie in the Spencer Gulf, site of a massive lead, zinc, silver and gold smelter at the end of the railway line to the massive deposits at Broken Hill. Whittard was a local champion as a boy, and was inevitably tagged as the ‘Don Bradman of Pirie because of his exceptional success as a youthful cricketer’.[89] After gaining Country Week prominence, he moved to Adelaide’s Prospect club early in 1938.

Punishing right-hander Ray Gunner of Prospect showed the benefit of a good kick up the back-side. He had a roller-coaster ride during 1938/39, in which he topped both the first- and second-grade batting averages for Prospect for the season. After two disappointing first grade matches, he was dropped to second grade for round three, to play his first game in B grade for five years. Suitably fired-up, he scored a strong succession of second-grade scores, ending with two centuries in rounds and seven and eight. Restored to first-grade, he then scored an innings of 143 just over two hours against East Torrens – with the century up in 85 minutes, the fastest of the season. His record was surpassed by the ever-competitive Bradman in the next round. Wicketkeeper Bob Christie of Glenelg later trumped them all to score Adelaide’s fastest century of the season with a score of 138 in just 80 minutes against Port Adelaide.

West Torrens wicketkeeper H V (Bert) Heairfield, not renowned for his batting, scored his career top score of 47 not out at number nine, adding 88 in an unbroken eighth wicket stand over almost two hours with legspin bowler Norm King (45x), to hold off a Sturt victory in a match between the leaders in round ten, helping to secure the club’s premiership.


Young left-arm spinner Reg Ellis of the SACA Colts team took 48 wickets @ 15.89 to top the SACA wicket aggregate, and come second in the bowling averages to Harold Cotton – his best bowling was 7/65 against Port Adelaide in round four. A slow left-armer with an almost round-arm action, he bowled with his knuckles upward, changing his grip to change spin.[90] Vic Richardson noted ‘This young player bowls with control and consistency rarely displayed by bowlers many years his senior in age and experience. It will be difficult to keep him out of higher ranks much longer’.[91] Robbed by the advent of war of a likely Shield place in 1939/40, he was given the extraordinary opportunity of playing in England and India with the RAAF and Services XIs at the end the war, but played only one Shield match and two first grade seasons after his return to Australia.

Fast-medium schoolteacher Gordon Morrison of University took 43 wickets for the season to be second in the aggregates, with returns of 6/38 and 4/49 against East Torrens in round twelve. Another fast bowler, N H (Harvey) Hutton of Sturt took 40 wickets, including a bag of 7/19 against University in round nine.

Lanky (6’ 4” or 193 cm) and bespectacled fast bowler Mel McInnes of Prospect took 26 wickets @ 21.4 for the season and was added to State practice squad in mid-November, but he never made leap to first-class cricket as a player. He was also an Australian Rules ruckman for North Adelaide for three seasons before the war. For a decade from the end of the 1940s, McInnes became a leading cricket umpire, presiding in four home Test series during the fifties, and served as treasurer of the SACA for a decade.

Fast bowler Harold Cotton of Prospect took the SACA bowling average with 25 wickets @ 15.76 for the season, and took 17 Shield wickets as well. He had recurring problems through his career with his bowling action, which saw him no-balled twice for throwing in first class cricket – once each in 1936/37 and 1940/41. During 1938, he had worked with former Shield fast bowler (and Test umpire) Jack Scott, who ‘smoothed out his run, and … developed a more natural follow through after the manner of the best fast trundlers’.[92]

All Round

Three all-rounders stood out in Adelaide in 1938/39.

Geff Noblet

Geff Noblet

Geff Noblet[93] of SACA Colts scored 432 runs and took 27 wickets. A very tall and thin medium-pace off-spinner and swinger, he had an odd ‘flicking’ action and could move the ball both ways. He was a mainstay of the South Australian teams of the late forties and early fifties, and played three single Tests for Australia, but never got a foothold in the team, which was replete with bowling talent like Bill Johnston, Ian Johnson, Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller and Colin McCool. His first-class tally was an excellent 282 wickets at the outstanding average of 19.26 over 71 matches, and his deeds in grade cricket were at times prodigious – he took 74 wickets @ 8.06 for Glenelg in the 1953/54 season, and his SACA first grade aggregate was 367 wickets at the niggardly average of 12.24. He retired from Shield cricket when he missed selection for the 1953 tour to England, and then played two seasons for Nelson in the Lancashire League in England in 1955 and 1956 – topping the League averages in both seasons. On his return to South Australia, he held many senior posts in administration, as a State selector and President of the SACA 1973-1986.

Port Adelaide slow off-spinner spinner Maurie Roberts scored 431 runs and took 30 wickets. He was on the fringe of State selection for many seasons, playing three matches for the State.

Test and Shield all-rounder Merv Waite of Glenelg scored 407 runs @ 50.88 and took 29 wickets for the season.

Sturt legend Vic Richardson, at 45 years of age, and still one of the greatest slipsmen of his (or any) era, took 22 catches for the season, which was the top SACA catch aggregate, including the wicketkeepers.


Young right-hander Bruce Bowley of SACA Colts made his first-grade debut aged 16 during the season, scoring three fifties. His father E L (Len) Bowley, former South Australian batsman, was still playing as second grade captain for his club Kensington, aged fifty.

Recruited from King’s College aged eighteen, Ken Bagshaw of East Torrens debuted in second grade in 1938/39, scoring 141 not out in two hours in his first match, and was quickly promoted to first grade, where he played a successful season. A short (5′ 6″ or 168 cm) and stocky right-hand batsman, Bagshaw was a natural hitter with a good array of strokes, and a lively medium-pace bowler.

He played three Shield matches in 1946/47, and then in the first SA team to play WA in the Shield competition in 1947/48, but his employer was not willing to release him for cricket, so his senior opportunities were limited. Originally from Kadina in the Eyre Peninsula, 150 km north-west of Adelaide, he moved north to Alice Springs, then Darwin with the Attorney General’s Department in the early fifties, where he played a formative role in Territory cricket, into the early sixties, while he worked as a senior court official in the Northern Territory Supreme Court.

All-rounder Reg Craig of Prospect was promoted from the Prospect Oval team in Adelaide Turf Association to prospect’s second-grade team, where he starred with bat and ball, and was briefly trialled in first grade, to which he returned in 1939/40 and played and coached continuously in first grade for over thirty years. A dour opener, he was ungraceful, but effective and stubborn. He was also an effective leg break bowler early in his career, though he played to State level as a wicket-keeper after the war. He was associated with the Prospect club as a player, captain, coach and secretary from 1933 until 1976. He played 31 first class matches for South Australia in the late forties, and coached first grade teams into the early seventies.

Leg-break bowler John Mann debuted in first grade for Sturt during 1938/39, playing twelve seasons in all to 1952/53. He played seven times for the State immediately after the war, but with relatively little effect.

All-round sportsman Bob Richmond of Glenelg was promoted to first grade late in the season from second grade, and he scored 99 in 80 minutes (one six, one five and fifteen boundaries) on debut against East Torrens in round eleven. He added 133 runs with Merv Waite (47) in a ‘spectacular’ eighth wicket partnership, and was stumped just one run short of the century. In all, he scored 179 runs @ 59.67 in his two matches, and won the club’s most improved player award.

Richmond was educated at Adelaide’s famed St. Peter’s College, and represented the school as captain or vice-captain in inter-collegiate cricket, Australian Rules football, and tennis. Bob was captain of the St. Peter’s Old Collegians football team in the Amateur League. His wealthy father J W (Jack) Richmond was a millinery and hat manufacturer and owner of racehorses. Bob played on in first grade for Glenelg in 1939/40 then enlisted in the AIF, where he was killed in the fighting on Ambon in early 1942.


"Nip" Pellew

“Nip” Pellew

The great C E ‘Nip’ Pellew, playing coach of the SACA Colts played his last grade season. He had been a first class player as far back as 1913/14, a Great War veteran and member of the famous First AIF team at the end of the war, then a Shield and Test player. A slight figure with a military moustache, he played ten Tests for Australia in the period immediately after the war, and 91 first class matches to the late 1920s. Wisden noted “Flaxen-haired and seldom wearing a cap, he was an attacking batsman … a fine straight-driver and a great exponent of the off-drive played slightly late to send the ball between cover and third-man: he was also a competent player off his legs and a splendid runner between the wickets. … In any discussion of the world’s greatest outfields, he must be a candidate for a place”.[94] Extremely fast over the ground, he had a deadly accurate arm and striking speed to get rid of the ball. He would have been very well suited to the short forms of the game that are popular today. In his final grade season in 1938/39, he still managed at age 46 to score 82 not out in just 66 minutes (1×6, 11×4) against East Torrens in round two. Pellew was coach to the South Australian team for twenty-seven years over three periods 1929-1939, 1949-1951 and 1958-1970. He died in 1981.

There were a number of Pellews involved at a high level in South Australian cricket, football and baseball in the first half of the twentieth century. Many of them attended St Peter’s College in Adelaide. Nip’s brother Lance played first class cricket for South Australia after the Great War, and his son Bob was a promising player for Kensington at the outbreak of war, but was killed in RAAF service over France in 1944.

Burly batsman Dinny Conroy of West Torrens played his sixteenth and final grade season in 1938/39 (136 games). He was also an Australian Rules footballer for the West Torrens Eagles, playing over one hundred senior games.

Fast bowler Keith Butler of the Adelaide club returned to his home town of Perth. He had played eight seasons at Adelaide, and was regarded as one of the best of his kind in Adelaide, taking 33 cheap wickets in 1937/38 with accurate fast bowling with late swerve. After a season and a half with West Perth, he returned to Adelaide in early 1940 to enlist. He became a noted sports journalist on the Adelaide Advertiser for 30 years after the war (1948-1978).

Tall and broad shouldered Jack Davey, a medium pace bowler and State Rugby representative, originally from Broken Hill, began the 1938/39 season with his new club Sturt, after playing at the University club since 1931/32, and having topped the SACA bowling average in 1937/38. He had played nine first class cricket matches for South Australia in that time, represented the University and State in Rugby and cricket, and was a track and field athlete at the University.

Late in 1938, he contracted an eye ailment which curtailed his cricket, and he rapidly went completely blind. He was obliged to retire from his sports before the end of the season. Undaunted, he continued to follow his favourite sports, and as a well-known solicitor, he became a key figure in South Australian Rugby administration during and after the war.[95]

Left-hand batsman Eric Haddrick did not turn for Glenelg in 1938/39, having played there since 1919/20, and scored almost 7,000 first- and second-grade runs for the club. Fortunately, his youngest brother (of four) Ray played on, until 1944/45, continuing an unbroken sequence of Haddricks playing for Glenelg that had begun in 1911. Middle brother Norm’s son Ron continued the tradition to the middle of 1953/54, when he moved to England to further his dramatic career.[96]

Small Eric Johnson of the Kensington club played his final of seventeen seasons in first grade, since 1922/23. He played fourteen of those seasons with Kensington, for whom he scored around 5,000 runs – his first-grade career in all resulted in 5,664 runs @ 32.17 with ten centuries. He played six first-class matches for South Australia in the mid-twenties without standing out, and played a few times for SA Colts before that. He was also a premiership footballer and captain for the Norwood Redlegs, who played football once for South Australia. An accountant by trade, he was treasurer of Norwood Football Club for almost forty years to his death in 1976.

Left-handed bat Tom ‘Taffy’ O’Connell of Sturt began the season strongly, scoring a first round century, continuing his splendid form of the previous year, when he had scored a century in the last match, and had scored 531 runs @ 53.10 in all. Unfortunately, after just three rounds of 1938/39, he was transferred to the country with his employment to Hamley Bridge – a tiny town and railway junction 70 km north of Adelaide. He had played six matches for the State in 1935/36 at nineteen years of age, when South Australia won the Sheffield Shield. His cricket career was continually interrupted after this – by transfers, illness then war service – and he never got the opportunity to follow up his initial promise.

Little Lancashire-born batsman Jack Scaife, of the Adelaide club, returned to Melbourne, and a few more seasons at Fitzroy, at the end of the season. Just 5’ 3” (160 cm) in height, he was a splendid cover fieldsman and a busy and effective batsman.[97] He had played two seasons in South Australia from 1937/38, after beginning at Fitzroy in 1925/26. He played 46 first class matches for Victoria over a decade from the mid-twenties, scoring over two thousand runs at a respectable average. He twice played for representative selection teams near national level – for an Australian XI in 1928/29 and for Vic Richardson’s XI in 1934/35, and had been selected for a national tour to New Zealand in 1934/35 that was cancelled. He and Ernie Bromley were contracted by the Rajah of Patiala in 1936 as coaches for three months. In 1936/37, he played twice for Europeans in the 1936/37 Bombay Quadrangular Tournament, along with Harold Larwood and Ernie Bromley.

Odds and Ends

Port Adelaide footballer Bobby Meers scored two strong centuries for the season for Port Adelaide cricket club, for whom he played as an all-rounder. He is said to have played a vital part in Port’s grand final win over Sturt in the 1936 football season by sledging famous forward Bo Morton (who was a fine Sturt cricketer) while he was kicking for an easy goal late in the last quarter. He said “Bo, there’s something hanging out of your shorts!”, and Morton cracked, to the extent of kicking the ball out on the full.

Veteran fast bowler A E (Ted) Cole of Prospect was elected captain of both the A grade and B grade sides before the first round – and played for neither, as he was best man at a wedding.

A fast bowler for Port Adelaide and South Australia (briefly) early in the thirties, Charlie Deverson, stepped down from Port Adelaide after taking over 250 wickets, to become the highly successful captain-coach of Woodville in the Adelaide Turf Cricket Association (ATCA) in their inaugural season of 1937/38. He took many cheap wickets for his strong side (32 wickets @ 6.31 for the 1938/39 season) which he led to a premiership in 1938/39. He was drawn in to play occasional games for Port Adelaide over the next three seasons when they got into a pinch. The Woodville team prospered under his leadership, and the team graduated into SACA first grade in 1946/47. Charlie was appointed vice-captain of the Port Adelaide side in 1941/42 when the war stripped the first grade club of many of their players. Sadly, he died suddenly early in 1945, aged only 40.

Tall and graceful leg-break bowler Bruce Dooland played for Adelaide High School in Students’ Grade – in a notable performance, he took 7/8 against Scotch College in early October 1938 – and he appeared in second grade for West Torrens during the season.

Right hander, L G ‘Jack’ Giles, aged 18, scored 434 runs @ 62.00 for St Peter’s College to top the batting averages in Adelaide Turf Cricket Association. He achieved this despite leaving the school at the end of the year to return to his small home town of Yorketown on the southern end of the Eyre Peninsula, about 40 km west of Adelaide across the Gulf of St Vincent. There he played in the local Southern Yorke Peninsula Cricket Association. He topped the averages there in the second part of the season with 329 runs @ 54.43. He also played for Yorke Peninsula in the Country Week zonal competition and for Yorketown in the CCCA carnival in early 1939, scoring a further 400 runs. All up for the season, he scored 1,223 runs @ 43.67. He appeared at Sturt’s nets in early 1939, and appeared for the club in second grade during 1938/39. He went on to a long career for Sturt, eventually as captain. He was also a fine Australian Rules footballer, who played 138 senior games for Sturt.

Classy opening batsman Ron Parker, a prolific run-scorer at Sturt in the mid-thirties, was living and playing cricket at Streaky Bay, a remote fishing and agricultural town over 700 km west of Adelaide on the Eyre Peninsula where it joins the Great Australian Bight. In 1938/39, he played for the local premier club Imperials, scoring 201 runs in 110 minutes (5×6, 22×4) in the final against Seasiders in early February 1939.[98]

He had played for Prince Alfred College in 1931-1932, and played in first grade for Sturt from 1932/33 to 1935/36, amassing almost 2,000 runs at an average over fifty – topping 600 runs in the season twice, in 1934/35 and 1935/36 – before his move to the West. He played thirteen first-class matches for South Australia in the mid-thirties with acceptable returns. He returned briefly to Adelaide while on AIF service in wartime, and moved to Melbourne after the war, where he played five good seasons for the inner-city Richmond club from 1946/47.

The Ridings brothers – Ken, Phil, Sid and Rowley – all played in first grade cricket for West Torrens during the season, but unfortunately never all appeared in the same match – Rowley played in round six, to cover Phil’s absence. All four brothers served in the forces during the war, and the family bore more than its fair share of adversity: Ken was killed in the RAAF, Rowley was captured in Timor, one of the few survivors of his artillery battery, and Sid was wounded.

West Australian Cricket in 1938/39

Grade Cricket

Eight teams contested the first grade competition. Uniquely, in Perth the University club played in second grade, whence they had been relegated in 1937/38. The North Perth club, under the captaincy of State wicketkeeper Ossie Lovelock, were first grade premiers in 1938/39, though the team was frequently criticised for negative tactics through the year, noting slow dull cricket, stonewalling batting and (modified) leg theory bowling, with a packed leg side field and bowling on batsmen’s legs.

The ability of the North-East Fremantle team to continue seemed in doubt just before the season began. One of two teams drawing on Perth’s port of Fremantle, the side drew on a catchment area that brought it many waterside workers and permanent naval and military personnel, who were increasingly being mobilised as the war loomed. The side struggled on through 1939/40, but did not continue, and could not reappear after the war.


Veteran all-rounder Merv Inverarity of Fremantle scored 659 first grade runs @ 50.68 for the season to top the WACA batting aggregate, with six fifties and his first ever grade century (100 not out) since commencing in 1923. He brought up the century just before the game and the season ended, against West Perth in (final) round fourteen late in March 1939 – and it was his only ever century in first grade play. Nonetheless, he amassed the club’s aggregate run record of 6,133 runs, took 512 first grade wickets (including the club record match aggregate of 13/94m against Midland-Guildford, at Fremantle Oval in 1925/26 including a hat-trick) and took 134 catches. He was a competent rather than spectacular cricketer, a good fieldsman and good runner between wickets – his bowling was stronger early in his career, then his batting came to the fore. Meticulously dressed, he possessed depth of character and resilience. Educated at Perth’s Scotch College in the early twenties, he moved into first grade cricket quickly, and became a backbone for the rather weak WA sides of the late twenties and mid-thirties, and providing steel as the side improved to a high standard into the late thirties. He became captain of the State side in 1940, having led Fremantle through much of the decade. His pedestrian averages belie his importance in WA’s first class cricket through the era.

His son John Inverarity was also a fine cricketer, who played six Tests for Australia in the period 1968-1972, and played 223 first class matches for WA, South Australia and Australia, scoring almost 12,000 first class runs at a respectable average, and playing until he was almost forty, into the early 1980s. He led WA to four Sheffield Shield victories in his five seasons as captain, and is regarded by many as a master tactician and thinker. He was appointed Australia’s first full-time national selector in 2011. His daughter, and Merv’s grand-daughter, Alison Inverarity has ably continued the family’s sporting prominence, as an Olympic and Commonwealth high jumper.

Right hand batsman George Evans of North-East Fremantle did his level best to keep the ailing club viable, as he scored 628 runs @ 48.30 for the season, with five fifties. Evans came from Boulder in the south-west gold country of Western Australia. He was an artilleryman in the Fremantle coastal artillery before the war, and served around Australia, until the end of the 1950s. He was a sound and hard-hitting batsman, and played twice for the State team against Victoria in Melbourne in 1937/38. Unfortunately, he scored a disappointing return of 26 runs @ 6.50 with three ducks. He also played Association football (Australian Rules) for North-East Fremantle and East Fremantle, and played baseball as pitcher and captain of Nedlands in 1936-39, and for a West Australian team against a US Army team in 1942.

Other good returns of more than 400 runs came from the consistent Dave Watt and the stylish Keith Jeffreys both of Subiaco, from Fremantle’s opener Frank Alexander (who played a dozen first-class matches for WA during the thirties), and from the big, hard-hitting H R ‘Tubby’ Bickford of Claremont, who was State hockey captain – leading the team to undefeated victory in the interstate carnival of 1938 – and an Australian representative in 1937.

North Perth’s captain Oswald Ifould ‘Ossie’ Lovelock did his part in the team’s premiership win with 452 runs @ 37.66 for the 1938/49 season, with five fifties. He was a good wicketkeeper, especially when standing up to the spinners, and a useful left-hand batsman. He stood once as captain of WA, though he was usually vice-captain to W T (Trevor) Rowlands through the 1930s. He holds the North Perth/Joondalup club dismissal record – with 278 career dismissals (140 caught and 138 stumped). He had three impressive batting seasons in a row for North Perth before the war from 1937/38 to 1939/40 – he topped the WACA A grade average in 1937/38, and topped four hundred runs in all three seasons. In first class cricket, he figured in a last wicket stand of 30 with Rowland Mills for WA against Victoria in Melbourne in 1937/38 while Lovelock reached a tantalising 94 not out.

During the war, he was transferred by his firm to Melbourne – where he played for Essendon – then to Hobart – where he played three seasons for New Town, then back to Melbourne (and the Essendon club). He returned to Perth in the late forties, and briefly resumed at North Perth in 1948/49. Lovelock was also an Australian Rules footballer for the West Perth Falcons (as they were styled at the time) in the early thirties, and became active in club administration in the fifties.

West Perth’s Jack Shea scored 462 runs for the season at a disappointing average, but included a superb innings of 147 opening in 151 minutes (21×4) with ‘beautiful batting’, adding a 116 run opening partnership in 85 minutes with Jack Macnamara (49) as West Perth amassed 7/404 in 240 minutes against Fremantle in round seven in October 1938.

Shea was right-hand batsman and leg-break bowler from a prolific sporting family from Geraldton. The port city of Geraldton is almost the only large centre in the mid-West coast of Western Australia, over 400 km north of Perth, and 800 km south of the next centre of Exmouth. Shea’s father Jack senior was the licensee of the Club Hotel in Geraldton from 1933, and was a well-known and enthusiastic sportsman – cricket, football and running and more recently the turf – along with his brothers. “Running, football, cricket, and rowing records all fell to the Shea family at some time or other”. Jack senior was “more versatile than any other member of the family, as he was a first grade cricketer, footballer and runner, playing all his sport in West Australia”. Billy ran the Stawell Gift and amateur sprints in the 1890s, and was unfortunate not to attend the Paris Olympics of 1900. Mark was a runner, and a footballer for Fitzroy and Essendon, as was Paddy, who played football on the wing for Victoria in 1908, and played cricket for Victoria. Tom was a runner, and played football for North Melbourne.[99]

Jack Shea junior first came to attention in the Darlot Cup competition competed for between Perth’s leading private schools, in which he scored 1,011 Darlot Cup runs for Christian Brothers’ College (CBC) – one of only a handful of players to have ever accomplished the feat. After his return to Geraldton, he amassed stunning run aggregates in local and representative cricket, and in Country Week competition in Perth. He compiled the top aggregate in 1933/34 Country Week, where newspapers noted ‘no one will feel inclined to dispute the assertion that Shea was the best all-round player of the carnival’.[100] In the local 1933/34 season, for the C.Y.M.S. club, he scored an outstanding 926 runs @ 51.42, and took the excellent tally of 61 wickets @ 9.4. At the end of 1934 he went to Sydney to work for his uncle Paddy and participate in local cricket under Paddy’s tutelage, joining the North Sydney club. In 1934/35 in Geraldton local competition, playing for CYMS team, he scored an innings of 283 not out opening (in 230 minutes) against Mercantile in the semi-final late in Mar 1935 (2×6, 43×4), said to be a local record score.[101] That season, he scored 797 runs @ 113.86 and took 39 wickets @ 11.10 for premiers C.Y.M.S. In the 1935/36 Country Week carnival, he scored 682 runs for Geraldton with three centuries – including a remarkable 151 not out of the team’s total 201 in the final (the next best score was 20, then 9) and took 5/62.

By mid 1936, he had moved to Perth, where he played for Fremantle, West Perth and Claremont. In all, he played five first-class games for Western Australia in the period between 1937/38 and 1945/46 with 110 against Victoria in Melbourne in 1937/38 his only notable score. In Perth grade cricket, he had an extremely prolific record as an all-rounder through the war years, especially in the three one-day seasons 1942/43 to 1944/45 when he played for the composite Claremont-Fremantle side, and amassed well over two thousand first grade runs.

University’s all-rounder Bill Byass topped the WACA second grade aggregate (and was second in the averages) with 571 runs @ 47.57 – including three successive centuries – and also took 39 second grade wickets @ 12.77 for the season. Second grade was the highest grade available to University cricketers in the West at this time, so there is no doubt Byass was of a much higher standard. Unfortunately, this turned out to be his final WACA cricket season, as he moved to Geraldton in 1939 to practise as a lawyer, and served in the military. Post-war, he became a prominent criminal and civil barrister in Perth.

L D ‘Mick’ Farrell of the Mount Lawley third grade scored 686 third grade runs for the 1938/39 season at an average over sixty, including a notable innings of 205 not out in (final) round fourteen against Subiaco in April 1939. He was thus one of only seven cricketers to score a double century in WACA grade cricket in all of the period since 1912/13 to that date. Farrell also played for Australian Rules football for the East Perth Royals.

In 1941, he played cricket for his Army unit stationed in the Middle East against an English team which included Test players Wally Hammond and fast bowler Bill Bowes – “An A.I.F. regiment in the Middle East was recently completely “routed” in a game of cricket against members of an English unit.  Former East Perth footballer and Mt. Lawley cricketer Mick Farrell, in a letter home, thought that the presence of Hammond and Bowes in the English side may have had some bearing on the result! In fact, he wrote, Hammond had the dashed bad form to go in and stay in and when the Australian side went in to try and rival the Englishmen’s mammoth total, blow it if Bowes didn’t take the whole 10 wickets in quick time. ‘Personally,’ wrote Mick to his mother, ‘I reckon jokers like that ought to be barred from cricket. What do you think?’.”[102]


A G (Tony) Zimbulis of North Perth topped the WACA wicket aggregate with 73 wickets @ 14.80 for the season with eight five-wicket hauls, including 7/41 off 13.1 overs against East Perth in round eight and, 8/52 off ten overs against Mt Lawley in round eleven.

Zimbulis was a handy leg-break bowler who took 43 first class wickets in fifteen matches for WA through the thirties. He began in first grade cricket in Perth in 1932/33 with the North Perth club at just fifteen years old, taking 103 wickets in first- and second-grade for the season. The next year, at just sixteen, how was one of Australia’s youngest ever first class cricketers when he played for WA against the 1934 Ashes tourists on their way to England in 1933/34. He was a prodigious spinner of the ball, who was often rather expensive. He was tireless in his bowling, cheerful and energetic. He may have been too obliging in accepting advice from more experienced cricketers, who ‘coached’ his talent away, as his good performances came and went.[103] At first grade level, he consistently took many wickets, usually fifty and sometimes nearly a hundred in the season – 93 in 1933/34 and again 93 in 1935/36, and took a total of 663 first grade wickets in all. He batted very well at times, with fast footwork but seldom got the chance to show his skills, though he experimented with opening the batting in first grade in 1938/39, and acquitted himself well.

Right arm fast bowler R L (Les) Mills of Subiaco took an impressive 55 wickets @ 16.44 for the season. Observers noted he had had pace and strength early in his career with a ‘decidedly awkward action but little control’, but had achieved ‘better command of length and direction’ by the mid- to late thirties.[104] He took at least 367 first grade wickets at a splendid average of around fourteen over the period from 1934/35 until 1947/48,[105] when he retired in mid-season with a groin strain. Unfortunately, he missed four seasons mid-career with his bowling at its peak, during his military service in the infantry. Mills was also a Subiaco senior Australian Rules footballer. He was well supported by his teammate – in both cricket and football for Subiaco – slender medium-pacer Ken Cumming, who took 28 wickets @ 16.8 for the season.

Veteran fast bowler Ron Halcombe of Claremont took 46 wickets @ a miserly 9.52 for the season to top the WACA averages. Halcombe had played first class matches for South Australia in the late twenties, then for West Australia. The big Claremont quick had an unfortunate bowling action that had seen him no-balled by umpires for throwing on eighteen occasions in two matches in 1929/30. He continued to bowl until the war, and was not called in first class cricket again, but he was not a contender for Test cricket. He also bowled a form of ‘bodyline’ in a West Australian provincial game – during the short trial of inter-province cricket in the ‘Bodyline’ season of 1932/33 – in January 1933. He played for Central Province against Port Province, who were dismissed for 61 and 69 as Halcombe took twelve wickets (12/39m). Merv Inverarity, the Port Province captain, complained to umpire Buttsworth and the WACA, but no action was taken.[106] As seems plain, he was a very combative character – he was once censured for dissent with an umpire. Neville Cardus noted that “there is not a better fast bowler in England than Halcombe: it is a pity his action is not beyond suspicion for he is a great-hearted cricketer and a sportsman”.[107]

Silky Gordon Eyres of Claremont, WA took 40 wickets @ 10.55 for the season, second in the WACA averages, including a bag of 7/19 against West Perth in round one, and was selected late in November to play for The Rest against Australia at the MCG in early December 1938.

Eyres was a tall slim opening bowler (6′ 2″ or 188 cm) who delivered inswingers with sometimes deceptive lift that moved late, for long spells. The West Australian noted his “action is smooth and even and he swings the ball awkwardly, sending down an occasional out-swinger among his in-swingers”.[108] Born in the goldfields town of Kalgoorlie, he was educated at Christ Church Grammar School and Hale School and played in the Darlot Cup inter-school competition, then moved to the Claremont club, where he came under coaching by State bowler Ron Halcombe. He was a stock and station agent by trade.[109]

Keith Butler, whom we noted earlier as a transfer from Adelaide, fared well for his new club West Perth after a shaky start, and took 37 wickets for the season. Tall and slender Arthur Cambridge was the leading bowler for Mount Lawley, and took 36 wickets @ 17.91 for the season.  Fred Newman led the North-East Fremantle club bowling with 30 wickets @ 19.3 for the season – in a possibly unique feat, he and his two brothers took all ten wickets against East Perth in round four – Harry took 5/59, Len took 3/45 and Fred took 2/64.

Left-arm spinner Austin Gardiner of East Perth took 27 wickets for the season – of which he took twenty in the first two rounds. He took 7/39 – his first three wickets in one over, all six of the first six to fall – against North Perth in round one, then ‘keeping a good length and turning and flighting the ball cleverly’ he took 7/54 against Subiaco in round two in early November 1938.

His brother, and team captain, George Gardiner won the East Perth first grade all-round performance award – he scored 304 runs and took 21 wickets for the season – but this was a disappointing fall from the heights of his earlier seasons. The West Australian noted: “A brilliant batsman at school and early in his University career, Gardiner looked likely to develop into one of the State’s best cricketers. Then he seemed to lose much of his freedom and his technique became less sound. Last season [1938/39] was about his worst to date.”[110] He played six first class matches for West Australia over the period 1934/35 to 1937/38, but frustrated the selectors as he did not show the form they had expected.

Tall and lanky railwayman R L (Lance) Roberts of East Perth topped the WACA second grade bowling average with 42 wickets @ 8.9 for the season, including an impressive 9/41 in an innings in the second grade final.[111] This promising player lost five seasons to military service, though he did resume briefly in first grade in 1945/46.

W P (Peter) Dunn of the Cottesloe club took 59 second grade wickets @ 11.39 for the season to top the WACA second grade bowling wicket aggregate. He played two more seasons in second grade, though with University, taking 83 wickets for that club in 1939/40. Despite being blocked from first grade play, he was seen as the ‘most promising young bowler in the State’ – “Left-handed, he has a smooth and rhythmic run to the wicket, and a fine delivery and follow through. Possessing real life and fire, he swings the ball both away and very dangerously into the batsman”.[112] He played in services cricket in Northern Territory during the war and in grade cricket in Sydney (for Central Cumberland) before returning to first grade cricket for Claremont throughout the period to 1959/60, and first-class cricket for West Australia after the war. His 541 career first grade wickets for Claremont are the club’s record wicket aggregate. He also played tennis, golf and hockey (at State level) Professionally, Dunn was a banker and economist with the Commonwealth and later Reserve Banks (1937-1982), and was an expert commentator on radio and TV in the sixties.

All Round

All-rounder Charlie MacGill of North Perth took 43 wickets @ 16.27 for the season and scored two fifties and a ‘match-winning innings’ of 118 (1×6, 14×4) – his first first grade century – against West Perth in round six. MacGill was a tough, competitive and robust all-rounder for North Perth and West Australia. He was an aggressive opening batsman and first-change fast-medium swing and seam bowler.[113] He was Test leg-spinner Stuart MacGill’s grand-father.

A E O (Alec or Alex) Barras of Subiaco topped the batting and bowling average for his club with 556 runs @ 37.06 (one century and four fifties) and 45 wickets @ 12.4 for the season. Barras was a classical left-hand batsman who always scored rapidly, and was willing and able to punish loose balls. A good driver, he could hook and pull, and had the control and placement to take short singles. He was also a useful left-armed spinner and a fine slipper, regarded as one of the best fieldsmen in the game, said to sport ‘a perpetual smile’.[114]

Born in Melbourne, he was the son of a missionary to the Maoris for fifteen years. Owing to the war, he unfortunately played only nine first-class innings over a nine-year career for an impressive first-class batting average of 44. He played for Melbourne’s Fitzroy and VCA Colts teams, and played baseball for Victoria in the 1937 interstate Claxton Shield in Adelaide, where he was spotted by Mr C P Smith, who was chief of the West Australian newspaper. Smith offered him a job and a place on the Press baseball team in Perth as a first baseman, and he moved to Perth in 1937, and played baseball for Press in their premiership side of 1940. He played baseball for WA in 1938 and 1939, and was selected to the honorary ‘All-Australian’ team in 1939. He also became a perceptive and balanced weekly cricket correspondent in the Western Mail initially under the nom de plume of Mid-Off, but unveiling himself at the end of the 1938/39 season. In Perth, he played cricket for the Mount Lawley club in 1937/38 then moved to the Subiaco club from 1938/39, and moved to his first-class debut in the matches against Victoria that season, along with his team-mate Charlie MacGill.

Moustachioed all-rounder W T (Trevor) Rowlands, captain of West Perth and of the WA team during 1938/39, scored 300 runs and took 24 wickets for the season. Originally born in Echuca in Victoria, he had played for Melbourne’s University club through the twenties. He came to Western Australia in around 1930, but did not come into good form until the 1936/37 season, when he excelled as a middle order batsman and medium-pacer for East Perth, before transferring to West Perth. A competent captain, his batting and bowling form for WA were quite ordinary, and he was perhaps fortunate to be retained for his six first-class matches in 1937/38 and 1938/39.


Polished right-hander George Robinson, the star of the Wesley College team, debuted for Mount Lawley first-grade in mid-season after good form in second grade early in the season.

Fast bowler, and useful left-hand batsman, Jack Rowe of Claremont returned to Perth and the Claremont club after two years in the country at Northam. He was previously the captain of Hale School, where he scored the school’s (still) record innings of 187 in 1931. Despite his light build, he was able to work up good pace with the ball, and showed surprising stamina.[115] Rowe was the son of Harold Rowe, a former WA player and chairman of the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA). Jack played for Claremont and Nedlands in first grade throughout the war and into the early fifties, and was later a State selector and WACA committeeman.

Tall and fearless opening batsman Ross Zimbulis of North Perth, Tony Zimbulis’ brother, debuted in first grade. He died in an aircraft accident at Bairnsdale RAAF in 1944.


Big Jim Ditchburn, a medium pace bowler and right-hand batsman for Fremantle and Western Australia, did not appear for the 1938/39 season. He had played nine first-class matches for Western Australia in the mid-thirties, mainly as a bowler, though he was also an extremely effective batsman at grade level, hitting a double century in the final for Mount Lawley against Claremont in 1934/35. Ditchburn was also an outstanding Australian Rules footballer for South Fremantle who represented WA in ten interstate games in the period 1934-37. In 1937, he moved to coach the Swan Districts side. He thus became one of the few sportsmen to have played for the State both at cricket and football.[116]

Energetic forty-year old all-rounder Leo McComish of East Perth played his final A grade match in 1938/39, though he played on in second grade for three more seasons, to 1941/42. He was the last remaining Great War Digger playing in WACA A grade cricket. Remarkably, Wally Crain of Nedlands came back to first grade in 1942/43 – 1944/45 to snatch that distinction away. McComish was a top footballer (and coach) for Perth, and had played football for WA.

Odds and Ends

Vigorous hitter Norman Kilminster, batting for his club East Albany in the local Albany competition, hit 42 off an over (5×6, 3×4) in scoring 153 in 95 minutes against North Albany in mid-January 1939.[117] The club won the local premiership, with Norm hitting up the winning runs in the final.

In 1938/39 Country Week in February 1939, Kilminster scored 156 not out against Bunbury in an unfinished 211 run partnership in two hours with Albany’s Frank Bryant (82 not out) in the fifth round, and  then 121 against Eastern Goldfields in the sixth round, adding 207 runs in 190 minutes for the second wicket with Bryant (95 not out). All up, he scored 357 runs @ 89.25 for the Week, and Frank Bryant scored 388 runs @ 388.00 including two not out centuries and two not out fifties.

Wheatfields at Merredin, WA

Wheatfields at Merredin, WA

Kilminster was a country cricket star, as a left-hand batsman and left-arm bowler, legendary in the Albany district for his fast scoring and big hitting. His initial cricketing prominence came with a series of Country Week appearances in at least eight seasons from 1927/28 to 1935/36 – six of those were with the Merredin team, for whom he scored 1,106 runs and took 105 wickets. Merredin is in the Eastern wheat belt of Western Australia around 200 km inland from Perth.

He was also a good country Australian Rules footballer (and rifle shooter), and in 1937, he was cleared from a country team at Baandee to the North-East Fremantle club in the State’s premier competition, the Western Australian Football League (WAFL). He played for the football club in 1937 and 1938, and also joined the North-East Fremantle cricket club for a couple of seasons, with limited results. In 1938, he was transferred to Albany, on the south-western coast of the State, 420 km from Perth, and joined the local football league, and the East Albany cricket club.

Fremantle customs officer and wicketkeeper Harry Matison of the North-East Fremantle club played two lusty innings in the season – he scored 84 ‘bravely’, adding 142 for the fourth wicket with George Evans (63) against Subiaco in round six, then scored 91 (2×6, 6×4) against Fremantle in round ten. Of his Christmas innings, the local newspaper noted “Possessing a good eye, Matison hit lustily. The old adage, ‘Fortune favours the brave,’ certainly applied in this instance. Nevertheless, Matison definitely saved his side”.[118] Matison was also a WAFL footballer for South Fremantle, recruited from the Geraldton Rovers club, and was vice-captain of the 2/16 Battalion team while training at Northam in 1940. He died in combat in Syria, apparently in the seizure of El Atiqa Ridge, as part of the battle of Damour, on 6 July 1942.

The ‘iron man’ Charlie Puckett, at the time a famed baseballer, but only a minor cricketer, starred in the WA Matting Association competition with his right-arm fast-medium bowling. He took a wicket every two overs, taking in all 66 wickets at the ridiculous average of 6.56, and managed a batting average of 26.5. Cricketer Alec Barras (writing as cricket columnist Mid-Off) noted “Probably Puckett is the most discussed bowler in junior cricket today, and many contend that he would be a success in turf cricket. Just as many other critics are of the opinion that his type of bowling would not worry senior players”.[119] As we shall see, the latter were very, very wrong.

Tasmanian Cricket in 1938/39

Grade Cricket


The Tasmanian Cricket Association (TCA) premiership in Hobart was contested by eight district clubs, and was won by the Kingborough club, centred on the Kingston area around 12 km south of Hobart  on the sea near the mouth of the Derwent River. At the time, Kingborough was a country area on the fringe of Hobart.

Kingborough also won the State premiership playoff in 1938/39, defeating Northern Tasmania Cricket Association premiers South Launceston.

For the premiers, elegant and fast-scoring batsman Max Combes topped the Kingborough club averages for the first time, with 493 runs @ 44.82 including two centuries with a ‘bright’ 131 not out in 169 minutes (2×6, 14×4) against Glenorchy in round three his best. His younger brother G A (Artie) Combes, a left arm orthodox spinner with extreme accuracy, and occasional hard-hitting batsman, topped the grade bowling averages with 48 wickets @ 13.3 for the season. The family lived at Longley, and legend has it they rarely attended practice (supposedly three times between 1931 and 1949), but had a concrete pitch at their apple orchard where Max, Artie and brother Les practised. Both Max and Artie debuted for Tasmania in 1932/33 against Victoria, and played around ten first class matches for the State. Despite their rather ordinary statistics, no less a judge than England Test man C B Fry[120] observed of Artie Combes’ play against MCC in 1936/37 that “he had been most impressed with A Combes …, who was a very accomplished bowler, and reminded him, in some respects, of Hedley Verity, the English left-hander. … Combes was a bowler who, with mainland experience, would develop considerably. He, more than any of the other bowlers, kept the English batsmen quiet in the match at Hobart”.[121]

Also for the premiers, off-break bowler Jim Tringrove topped the TCA bowling average (including representative matches) with 54 wickets @ 12.46 including two remarkable bags. He took 9/34 against South Hobart (all out 73) – taking all but the first wicket to fall, in round two, and then took 10/53 (off 25 overs with five maidens), with six batsman bowled, including 5/1 in his last three overs – against South Hobart in the final round late in March 1939. Over sixteen seasons and 194 games (1931/32 to 1948/49), he took a remarkable 626 wickets, including five wickets in an innings thirty times, and four times ten in a match. He had played nine first grade seasons for the old Kingston club before the Kingborough club was formed, and played on in second grade to the mid fifties, so probably took as many as a thousand career wickets.


South Launceston won the Northern Tasmania Cricket Association (NTCA) premiership for the third season on end, edging out East Launceston by smallest of margins on percentage. The NTCA competition was conducted in the northern city of Launceston, between four district clubs.

For the premiers, big Ron ‘Slim’ Thomas scored 904 NTCA first grade runs @ 75.33 for the season and topped the NTCA averages,  and was club bowling champion and second in NTCA bowling with 36 wickets @ 13.27. Ron was an all-rounder – a hard-hitting opener and useful left arm medium bowler. Rotund and solidly built, he was aggressive opener with a desire to dominate and hit the ball hard.[122]

He took two hat-tricks in a fortnight in October 1938 – He took 6/22 including a hat-trick against East Launceston in round one, and took 5/4 including four wickets in four balls as he ‘flighted the ball cleverly and swung it appreciably’ against West Launceston (all out 16) in round two.

He scored five centuries for the season, notably a ‘brilliant’ 159 against West Launceston in round five, an innings of 135 not out in 132 minutes (3×6, 19×4) against North Launceston in round nine and finally a score of 185 despite illness – passing his 1,000 club and State runs for the season, for the second successive season – against North Launceston in (final) round twelve. Including his State and intrastate matches, he scored 1,028 runs for the season.

The Thomas Brothers - Max at left, Ron at right

The Thomas Brothers – Max at left, Ron at right

Ron was the fourth of five boys in the family. Both Ron and the youngest, Max played cricket for Tasmania, and older brothers Trevor and Charlie played in first grade cricket. Max Thomas was tall, skinny and toothy, making quite a contrast to his rotund brother Ron. He had endless patience, with a fine batting technique, again quite unlike his brother. He bore the ironic nickname ‘Whacker’, for his decided tendency not to whack anything – he was first given the name in 1938/39, when he took 125 minutes to score 7 runs. Max wore attacks down while Ron flayed them.

Also for the premiers, accurate young leg-spinner Doug Thollar took 34 wickets @ 17.59 for the season, though that was probably a disappointment following the sensational form he showed in the two previous seasons, where he took 86 and 66 wickets respectively. The 86 wickets of 1936/37 (77 in grade and 9 in rep matches) were a season record for the NTCA. In fact, over the four seasons 1936/37 to 1939/40, he took a remarkable 207 wickets from 42 games (and scored only 309 runs), with twelve instances of six or more wickets in an innings for South Launceston, plus a further 24 wickets in five intra-State matches. He also played in three matches for Tasmania in this period, in all of which the batting was mercilessly flogged – his best bowling was in the match Tasmania against the Australian XI at Launceston in February 1938, when he took 5/116 off 13 overs of leg-breaks at almost 9 an over. He worked much of the war in the Merchant Navy, and then moved to become a radio operator in aircraft, with 22 years at Qantas, which prevented further cricket after the war.


Ron Morrisby of South Hobart scored 750 runs @ 53.57 for the season with four centuries to top the TCA batting aggregate. For the season in all games, he scored 845 runs @ 52.81.

Morrisby, the South Hobart opening batsman, was the closest thing Tasmania came to a Tasmanian-based Australian representative during this period. Laurie Nash and Jack Badcock were obliged to move to the mainland to get their Test places. Morrisby was his State’s most consistent scorer for two decades in the thirties and forties. He was a neat and compact opener, with good footwork, who played his shots all round the wicket, though he was most comfortable on the back foot. With an assured and calm bearing, his off-side shots were majestic. He played in Tasmanian Country Week cricket from the age of fourteen, and moved into first grade competition in 1930/31 – to remain there for thirty-two years. He debuted for Tasmania before turning seventeen, and he toured India with Jack Ryder’s unofficial team in 1935/36 at twenty, scoring over 800 runs in seventeen first class matches and four unofficial ‘Tests’ against strong Indian teams. He was given a twenty-first birthday party during the tour by the Bishop of Lahore.[123] He was appointed State captain at 23 years old in the match against the Australian 1938 tourists on their way to England, and he captained Tasmanian 21 times between 1938 and his retirement in 1952.

Cliff ‘Mutt’ Jeffrey of North West Hobart scored 638 runs @ 39.94 for the season, including a century and three fifties. A punishing batsman and accurate medium-pace bowler, he represented Tasmania in both cricket and football. In all, he played 15 first class matches for Tasmania over fifteen seasons with limited returns.

Right hand batsman and fast-medium bowler Gerald ‘Skitchy’ James of Glenorchy scored 629 runs @ 37.00 in the TCA competition – including the season’s two best centuries in round two and three – he scored 142 and took 6/48 against North-West Hobart in round two, then scored an ‘extremely brilliant’ 166 not out against Kingborough in round three.

Only 5′ 7″ (170 cm) in height, he had an odd hunched action as a bowler. He had an ‘unorthodox, almost overhead action’ that enabled him to ‘hoop’ the ball, to use Bradman’s phrase. ‘Sometimes the ball would veer from outside off stump to outside the batsman’s legs’.[124] He was a hitter of enormous power but agile footwork and a good eye – he reputedly never batted long, but hit hard –  and he was an exceptional cover point fieldsman, with ‘sticky hands and a lightning throw’ and ‘considerable powers as a scientific hitter’.[125] He entered grade cricket for the New Town club while very young, then on to Glenorchy for most of his career (1933/34 to 1949/50), where he scored 6,813 runs (eleven centuries) and took 639 wickets @ 15.57 over seventeen seasons. He took 82 first-class wickets over a career of 35 matches for Tasmania between 1928/29 and 1945/46.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Eddie Selden of South Hobart scored at least 400 runs for the season including two centuries and three fifties, as he reverted to his expected form, as previously displayed for North Sydney. His form in the previous season had caused a huge anticlimax in the previous season (57 runs @ 4.28). He later played for the AIF in the Middle East in wartime.


Left-arm pace bowler Alan Brownell of the Sandy Bay club took 50 wickets for the season, including an innings performance of 9/39 against premiers Kingborough (39 all out) bowling with ‘fine length and direction’ in round two, in his final A grade season (of sixteen). A centre man for New Town Australian Rules football club, he was the son of a former local cricketer and footballer, and later became an alderman on the Hobart City Council.

Left-armed paceman Col Richardson of New Town took the club’s bowling aggregate and average – the TCA averages show 40 wickets @ 17.3 for the season, including 7/68 – bowling the first four batsmen with yorkers – against Kingborough in round eleven. He was a leading member of a remarkable Tasmanian cricketing family, of whom seven played for Tasmania, and at least eleven played in first grade cricket during the era covered by this account. [*BOX*Richardsons of Sandford]

Colin was a fast-medium left-arm bowler with vicious late swing, who moved ball both ways off the wicket. It was believed he ‘probably swings the ball more than any other bowler in the association’.[126] A schoolteacher who was transferred around the State, he played for Sandford and Clarence in Country Week cricket, for Sandy Bay and North Hobart in club competition, for South and for Tasmania. Colin took the TCA bowling aggregate five times, and the average five times, in a career that extended to the end of the fifties.

Medium-pacer Cec Oakes of New Town took 39 wickets for the season, and fast bowler E W “Mick” Dwyer of South Hobart (and formerly East Launceston and Tasmania) took 35 wickets @ 15.8 for the season including a haul of 7/33 ‘in deadly form … with great pace’ against New Town in round ten. Also a top footballer, Dwyer served in the Middle East and New Guinea during the war. He was court-martialled in Queensland in 1944 for swearing at a higher-ranking officer, but does not seem to have suffered for it, as he was Mentioned in Dispatches and underwent a ‘meteoric rise’ in the Commonwealth Public Service post-war, in the Ministry of Reconstruction, then as Public Service Inspector for Tasmania and the State Chief Electoral Officer, and ended up as Deputy Secretary in the Department of Defence and OBE.

In Launceston, three East Launceston bowlers were very productive. W Pitt took 42 wickets – the top aggregate in NTCA, lively fast bowler J I ‘Jules’ Murfett took 38 wickets, and fast-medium bowler H R (Ray) Adams of East Launceston took the NTCA bowling average with 32 NTCA first grade wickets @ 11.50 in his first NTCA season, after playing the first few rounds in the Reserve grade.  A newspaper review late in 1939 noted the success of Adams and Murfett as a bowling pair. Between them they took 70 wickets @ 13 for the season. Murfett (the captain) bowls downwind, and Adams into the wind – Murfett is the more hostile, and Adams, the stronger man, is a ‘stock’ bowler.”[127]

Adams was a Victorian, who had played a number of seasons for Hawthorn-East Melbourne’s sub-district side (and a few matches for the first grade side) after leaving Melbourne’s Scotch College. He was born in Sea Lake, around 60 km west of Swan Hill in the far north, near the desert salt lake Lake Tyrrell in the Mallee. Tough country indeed – and ideal training for an upwind fast bowler.

All Round

Stylish blonde bowler and orchardist Allan Pearsall of TCA premiers Kingborough posted some impressive all-round performances, including a bag of 7/22 with accurate medium-pace that ‘frequently rose awkwardly’ against Glenorchy in round three, a score of 119 against Sandy Bay in round four, and 7/10 – 4/3 after four overs, then 3/7 off the next seven balls – against South Hobart (all out 33) in round seven. He was a useful right-hand batsman in the middle order or opening, and a right-arm medium bowler. He appeared in seven first class cricket matches for Tasmania. He was also a fine Australian Rules wingman for the Lefroy club in the Tasmanian Football League (TFL), who played in two interstate Australian Rules competition for Southern Tasmania, and eight-times in intra-State representative games for Southern Tasmania. During his RAAF training in Melbourne in 1941, he played a couple of football matches for South Melbourne in the VFL.

Allan was the eldest son of an orchardist, Ben Pearsall, who played cricket for Kingston and Kingborough from 1899 for an amazing 47 years – he was still captain of the second grade team until 1932/33, and took at least 33 wickets in third grade in 1939/40. Ben was Chairman, President and TCA delegate of the club on many occasions between 1931 and 1951, dying in the latter year. Ben was an exceptional country bowler. He took ten wickets in an innings no fewer than four times – in 1910, 1913 and 1922 for Kingston, and in 1937 for Kingborough second grade – and took at least seven hat-tricks and four times four in four. Ben could also bat, scoring 15 senior club centuries.[128]

Allan’s brothers B J R (Roy) Pearsall (eldest) and Tom Pearsall (youngest) played for the Kingborough club too – Roy played for 47 years, playing as a very young boy with his father in 1922/23, and retiring from third grade in 1969, and was either President or Chairman for twenty years in the 1960s and 1970s.

"Snowy" Atkinson led Tasmania in 1931/32

“Snowy” Atkinson led Tasmania in 1931/32

In the NTCA, legendary blonde sportsman Jim ‘Snowy’ Atkinson of North Launceston took 33 wickets @ 19.57 for the 1938/39 season, and scored a ‘brilliant’ 123 not out, adding 226 runs in an unbroken sixth wicket partnership with Bob Ingamells (128 not out ) against West Launceston in round seven.

As a cricketer for Fitzroy, South Hobart, West Launceston and North Launceston, and for Victoria and Tasmania, Atkinson was a true all-rounder with massive scores – he was the first man to top 1,000 runs in a season three times in TCA – and big bags of wickets. Atkinson played 26 first-class matches for both Victoria and Tasmania from 1921/22 to the 1933/34 season, and led the team nineteen times. Wisden declared he was ‘probably Tasmania’s greatest cricket captain’.[129] Only of moderate size, he was an exceedingly courageous sportsman.

He was also a top footballer for Fitzroy in the VFL and for Lefroy in the TCA, who was said to have broken almost every bone in his body[130] in fourteen seasons of top football (1914-1930) including as captain of Fitzroy and captain-coach at Lefroy. A glamorous and dashing player, he was credited as a formative influence on three Tasmanian greats – Ron Morrisby, Laurie Nash and Jack Badcock.

Slow bowler and right-hand batsman Ted Smith of North Launceston was the NTCA batting average runner-up with 498 runs @ 41.50, and took the club bowling average with 35 wickets @ 16.22 – including a ‘faultless’ innings of 236 opening in 216 minutes during 1938/39 ‘using his feet to all the bowlers, and picking the ball off his toes with great accuracy’ (35×4). This was his eleventh and highest NTCA first grade century – while his team-mates managed only a further 88 between them, as North accumulated 324 against East Launceston in round eight in mid-Jan 1939.

Originally from the village of Nook near Devonport, he was lured from Devonport cricket to the ‘bigger smoke’ of Launceston in the late twenties, where he played for five different clubs, as he was obliged to travel from Devonport each week, and was not in any club’s permanent catchment area. He scored over 1,000 runs in the 1933/34 season (but was second to Jack Badcock), and topped the NTCA batting in 1934/35, amassing around 5,000 first grade runs in his NTCA career, with at least fourteen centuries. He played twelve matches for Tasmania between 1930/31 and 1938/39, and fifteen times played in North against South matches.


Medium-pacer Noel Diprose of Glenorchy debuted in TCA first grade in the first of twenty-five seasons to 1962/63, in which he took 751 TCA first grade wickets (and scored a useful 3,449 runs including eight fifties). He played twelve times for Tasmania.

Dentist Cliff Hurburgh of Glenorchy returned to Hobart from his dental training in Melbourne to play in TCA first grade in 1938/39. He was also a top TFL footballer, playing for Lefroy in 1940-1941, then in North Hobart’s 1945 premiership, and leading the club to another premiership in 1947, and played 8 representative matches for the TFL. He also won two State tennis doubles championships – and played until he was at least 90 years old (in 2007).

Medium-pace swing bowler Eric Morse from Devonport debuted in TCA first grade for North West Hobart while attending the Teachers’ College in Hobart and was immediately recognised as a talent.

Tom Pearsall of Kingborough, brother of Allan and Roy, scored 116 in B grade against Glenorchy in round eight, then on A grade debut, at 18 years of age, he scored 101 in 71 minutes (with 16×4) against Sandy Bay in round nine. He enlisted in the AIF in mid-1941, and was captured in Malaya with 2/29 Battalion. He returned from captivity just before the 1945/46 season began.

Aggressive right-hand batsman Emerson ‘Roddy’ Rodwell of Glenorchy debuted in TCA first grade while still attending Hutchins’ School, where he was a standout schoolboy cricketer. He played TCA first grade into the early 1960s, and played eighteen matches for Tasmania. He was awarded the Military Medal for an extraordinary feat of bravery in early 1945 in Borneo.

In the NTCA, a seventeen year old lad from Durham in England’s East Midlands, Bill Hird of West Launceston, did well in Reserve grade, and was promoted to A grade late in the season. He played NTCA first grade into the early sixties for West Launceston, Railway and Mowbray, and played for Tasmania eighteen times 1952/53 to 1960/61 as a big-hearted fast bowler who bowled fast into his early forties.[131] He was also a top Australian Rules footballer in the Northern Tasmania Football Association (NTFA), fittingly as a half-back man, in no fewer than 181 games for North Launceston.

Insurance man Bruce Kekwick played for West Launceston as opener and slow-medium bowler, reaching his modest cricketing apogee with a few A grade matches. After war service in the RAN and some games for South Hobart, he entered Federal Parliament as member for Bass in 1949, displacing Labour man Claude Barnard. In Canberra, he joined two other Tasmanian Liberals in Bill Falkinder and Athol Townley who were also serious cricketers. He was defeated at the 1954 Federal election by Claude’s son Lance Barnard, who was later Labour Deputy Prime Minister.


Veteran Douglas Green of North West Hobart did not play for the season, planning to stand aside for younger players. He became honorary coach of the TCA and was voted a life member of North West Hobart.

He commenced in TCA first grade in 1917/18, and was said to have a ‘rock-like defence’ and to be a ‘veritable nightmare to the bowlers’.[132] He was probably the most effective batsman for Tasmania in the 25 first class matches he played for Tasmania in the period between 1924/25 and 1936/37, scoring 1,265 runs @ 30.11 with two big centuries – 147 against Victoria at Launceston in 1930/31 (adding 197 for the second wicket with Laurie Nash 110) and 150 not out against Victoria at Launceston in the second innings in 1932/33, remaining at the wicket while 317 runs were scored, to hold off defeat (8/326).

Fast bowler George Rudolph of North West Hobart played his final cricket season, aged in his late thirties. He was an unstoppable Australian Rules football player for three VFA sides (Hawthorn, Oakleigh, and Coburg), for VFL side Richmond and TFL side New Town, and represented Victoria and was selected for Tasmania in representative football matches. As a cricketer in Victoria, he played a little for Malvern in the sub-district competition and for Fitzroy, and played for North West Hobart in the TCA. He lied egregiously about his age to secure entrance to the Second AIF when war broke out, and served in the Middle East.

All-rounder Dr Tom Freeman of Sandy Bay, was absent from the field of play for the first time in the thirty years since he began in C grade cricket in 1909/10 for North Hobart. He played his final season in 1937/38, aged 44, and taking 23 wickets. He served in the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) in both the Great War and the Second World War, played first class cricket for Tasmania in 1912/13, and played first grade cricket in both Victoria and Tasmania.

40 year old batsman Alf Rushworth of South Launceston retired after 25 years in A grade – since 1913/14 at six clubs in both North and South Tasmania, and 24 matches for Tasmania over the period 1922/23 to 1936/37. He also played in a twenty North against South matches between 1917/18 and 1936/37. He ended the regular 1938/39 season with his first ever ‘pair of specs’ – both first ball – in the match against West Launceston. His most notable innings was probably ten years earlier in 1928/29, when he scored 205 for Southern Tasmania against North, adding a partnership of 348 runs with S L ‘Lou’ Wellington (192) for the third wicket.

C R (Bob) Ingamells the champion batsman of Westbury, aged 24, tried again to establish himself in the NTCA after a false start (of just one match) in 1936/37 had been curtailed by his mother’s illness. He was an extremely prolific batsman for Westbury – 35 km west of Launceston – in the Westmorland Cricket Association, where by 1939 he had already scored seventeen centuries, and twice topped a thousand runs in a season. He began the 1938/39 season in the local competition, and topped the Westmorland Association batting with 663 runs @ 94.71 for the (half) season. He began with North Launceston in round seven and scored 128 not out on debut, adding 226 runs in an unbroken sixth wicket partnership with Snowy Atkinson (123 not out) against West Launceston. He decided to play the rest of the season with North Launceston, and played there on and off for the next few seasons, though always playing in his local competition as well.

Westbury joined the NTCA in 1949/50, and Ingamells became their batting mainstay, as they enjoyed considerable success throughout the 1950s. Ingamells was ‘perhaps Westbury’s most famous citizen’, as Liberal member of the lower house for Wilmot for eighteen years and a local councillor for quarter of a century.[133] He was later a distinguished cricket administrator. He was a State selector for over 20 years and the first non-Hobart Chairman of the Tasmanian Cricket Council, and a Tasmanian representative on the Australian Cricket Board (ACB). He was President of NTCA for three seasons, and a Life Member.

Odds and Ends

All-rounder Keith Schmidt (later 7,000 runs and almost 500 wickets for Kingborough to the mid-sixties, and 16 matches for Tasmania) came to notice as a teenager in country cricket aged seventeen. “Compiling a chanceless double century in less than even time, K. Schmidt, of the Mountain River team, completed a season of phenomenal scoring in Huon “B” grade cricket when he made 254 on Saturday. …  Schmidt, who is still in his teens, promises to develop into a brilliant all-rounder. An aggressive batsman, he has scored 625 runs in nine innings at an average of nearly 70, and has taken 30 wickets at an average of 15. Mountain River made 449 and dismissed Judbury for 235. It has gone through the season undefeated and has won the 1939 premiership”.[134]

All-rounder Vince Stanfield[135] of the New Town C grade team took the TCA C grade bowling average for the season, including a remarkable bag of 5/0, including four wickets in four balls, in a C grade match against Kingborough in round six.

Ken Davis, a son of NTCA batting champion Neil Davis, playing in his 24th season, was included in West Launceston’s B grade team to make up the numbers. Ken was aged just 10½, and was included in the team along with his unidentified 12 year old brother, in round ten in mid-February 1939. Father Neil was one of four brothers who played cricket for Tasmania. Ken later played for North Launceston and West Launceston late in the war as a slow bowler.

In Closing…

Timeless Tests had their time…

After a brief period of interest after the 1938 Ashes series, ‘timeless Tests’ – to be played to a finish regardless of time – became unpopular once again both in England and Australia, following the endless fifth Test match at Durban in March 1939.

On an absolutely lifeless pitch, both sides batted with elaborate care and at often glacial pace over nine playing days but could not complete the match before the MCC side was obliged to leave. In the first innings in particular, the scoring rates were appallingly slow, at two runs per over, and a number of batsmen on both sides averaged 14-17 runs per hour, even when well set. It rained heavily at tea on the final day, when England were obliged to leave to make the 8.05 pm train from Durban to connect with the Athlone Castle. The duration of the match, and the match run aggregate of 1,981 runs (for 35 wickets) were both first-class records, as was England’s unfinished fourth innings of 5/654. Remarkably, England was only 41 runs short, with four wickets in hand, and a nail-biting finish was a faint possibility had the rain held off.

“Hammond in a farewell message, said he hoped this would be the last Anglo-African time-limitless test, which was against the best interests of the game.”[136] “Members of the MCC team arriving home from South Africa ‘unanimously declared themselves against Test matches being played to a finish’. Manager A J Holmes said the authorities should decide, but he was personally opposed to timeless matches”.[137] Don Bradman, writing in Wisden noted that “Cricket should be so governed that time limitless Test matches would he unnecessary”.[138]

During the Test series, Wally Hammond and Eddy Paynter topped 600 runs in the Tests – Paynter 653 runs @ 81.62 and Hammond 609 runs @ 87.00 – while Dudley Nourse, Bruce Mitchell and Pieter van der Bijl topped 400 runs @ over fifty for South Africa. The Test bowling averages were horrible – the lowest was over 30, with fast bowler Norman Gordon (South Africa) the top wicket taker with 19 wickets @ 33.31 and Hedley Verity for England with 18 wickets @ 30.66.


A minor controversy arose amongst Australian cricket followers in early 1939 with the revelation of payments to South Australian cricketers by the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA).

The SACA was particularly wealthy relative to the other State Cricket Associations owing to its ownership of the Adelaide Oval, the rental payments for football, a large subscription base and lower expenses than those of the other States. It emerged that four South Australians were in receipt of payments from the SACA – Don Bradman (no less than £750 per annum) and presumably Clarrie Grimmett, Frank Ward and Jack Badcock, all of whom had come from other States. The foursome was often tagged the ‘Foreign Legion’.

In fact, Frank Ward had extracted improved terms from the SACA from 1936/37. In April 1936, he indicated to the SACA that he had received an offer to return to Queensland on double his salary, and in November he also indicated he had an offer to go to England – he demanded and got a five-year-£5-per-week contract.[139] It seems he had accepted a position with Sir Julien Cahn’s XI – Cahn’s Australian agent Alan Fairfax had been asked to recruit a left-armer and a slow bowler, and had recruited Jack Walsh and Frank Ward. Instead, Harold Mudge of New South Wales joined the team, and Frank stayed home.[140]

Charges of hypocrisy were levelled at this time against the SACA when it objected to approaches made to Clarrie Grimmett to secure him for Queensland, and South Australian feelers in turn went out to Queenslander Charles Christ.

Bill Ives’ team set to tour the North, but cancelled

In early 1939, veteran cricketer Bill Ives of Sydney’s St George club was arranging a tour of northern New South Wales centres and central and northern Queensland for Easter 1939.

There was much initial speculation in North Queensland newspapers – much of it probably wishful thinking – about the inclusion of luminaries such as Jack Badcock, Clarrie Grimmett, Barry Scott, Frank Ward, Chuck Fleetwood-Smith, Bill Ponsford, Bill O’Reilly, Don Tallon and Bill Brown[141] By late February, it emerged that Ives had lined up a good mixture of NSW talent, both established and fresh: Stan McCabe, Sidney Barnes, Ray Robinson, Stan Sismey, Ron James, Bruce Cook, Cecil Pepper, Ern Crossan and Jim Minter were likely to proceed.[142]

The itinerary was also established, and the various centres involved had begun preparations – Cessnock, Taree and Lismore in northern NSW, and Murwillumbah, Beaudesert, Rockhampton, Emerald, Mackay, Ingham, Townsville, Tully, Cairns, Mareeba, Malanda, and Innisfail in Queensland.

The tour was cancelled in mid-March 1939 with the withdrawal of Stan McCabe and Sidney Barnes, who both withdrew for business reasons. Ives rather bitterly reflected that ‘I feel impelled to point out that the day of cricket as a sport seems an ideal only’ and that professionalism has ‘seemed to make headway’.[143] His allusions appear to suggest that the disagreements related to allowances to be paid to the players. Certainly, the tours were money-spinners for the country centres if all went well.

Cricket correspondent Short Slip in Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin noted “Unfortunately, finance plays an important part in these tours … the country centres of Queensland look to visits of teams from Southern States to provide funds for the development of the game. Originally the tours were arranged with the object of fostering cricket, but it has been most apparent for some years that praiseworthy aim has become secondary to the desire to make money. In this respect both parties to the contract must take their share of the blame. So far as the tourists were concerned, there seems to have be hypocrisy and humbug on the question of expenses; and on the other hand, there is a strong suspicion that some of the country centres have attempted to make money not only at the expense of the tourists but also by outmanoeuvring other towns negotiating for a match. So long as these conditions prevail, private tours appear to be doomed.”[144]

Harbingers of war

Militia Recruitment

There was a concerted recruitment drive for the members of the part-time militia in January and February of 1939, heavily targeting the sporting community. Universal military training had been abolished in 1929, but voluntary enlistment in the militia forces was fairly widespread, with total strength at around 35,000. A further 35,000 men were to be sought by April 1939. The Director-General of the Militia Recruiting Secretariat (Major-General Sir Thomas Blamey), felt the target would be ‘attained with ease’, and in fact it was.[145]

Each of the State sporting organisations were assigned targets for recruitment based on the size of their membership, with a program of meetings and rallies, and considerable newspaper publicity coverage of the various sportsmen who committed to enlist. Former tennis champion and president of the Lawn Tennis Association Norman Brookes chaired the Victorian effort, indicating “We estimate that Victorian sporting organisations have an aggregate membership of 150,000 men between the ages of 18 and 40 years,” said Mr. Brookes. “We feel that we could enlist five or six times our quota. Our aim is to get the leaders in the respective sports – our Davis Cup players, our Test and interstate cricketers, our outstanding League footballers, and our Olympic and Empire Games athletes – to set the example by enlisting.”[146] The surf clubs and volunteer fire brigades and winter sports clubs were also targeted.

The first high-profile cricket enlistee was Ben Barnett of Victoria, in mid-January 1939, and late in February, other ‘leading district cricketers’ were also listed, including Leo O’Brien of Richmond, Ian Johnson of South Melbourne, W E (Bill) Newton and J C (Jack) Buckland of the Colts, and George Milne, Ken Teasdale, Sid Blair, O Balloch, and R Sinclair, of MCC.[147]

Objections that militia service would interfere with weekend sports were brushed aside. “It would still be possible for young men to carry on their Saturday afternoon sporting activities and yet perform all military duties required of them satisfactorily … The Department was most desirous that the excellent type of man interested in the various sports would join militia units and carry out military training.”[148] Former Prime Minister Billy Hughes agreed “‘If a cricketer finds that his unit is going into camp in the summer months, he will be able to arrange to attend a camp in the winter’ Mr. Hughes said. ‘There is none of the old Saturday afternoon drill, which the senior cadets and Citizen Forces had to attend. This militia campaign is being arranged to suit the convenience of Australians, and thereby make them more eager to defend their country against any possible aggressor’.”[149] Though individual absences owing to militia camps became more frequent during the second part of the 1938/39 season, the experience in Canberra, when the ACT grade cricket round in mid-February 1939 was cancelled ‘owing to the absence of many players at militia camp’,[150] seems more like propaganda than reality.

Darwin Mobile Force

Early in 1939, the first troops of the Darwin Mobile Force arrived in the town of Darwin (population 5,000), and helped to prepare Vestey’s abandoned meat works to accommodate the rest of the unit.[151] The unit, a mostly infantry unit of almost 250 officers and men, was set up as part of the Royal Australian Artillery, as remarkably, the Defence Act of 1903 forbade the establishment of permanent infantry forces.

Australian-Made Bren Guns

The same day, it was noted that the manufacture of the Bren light machine-gun – a mainstay of British and Australian infantry units – would not be affected by the recent German takeover of Czechoslovakia. A new factory line was being set up at the Lithgow small arms factory to manufacture the armament.

Death of Ron Oxenham

Ron Oxenham

Ron Oxenham

Ron Oxenham was a fine bowling all-rounder from the Toombul club for Queensland, who bowled accurate and well-flighted medium pace, with a dangerous slower dipping ball. He debuted for Queensland as early as 1911/12, but was not selected for Australia until the 1928/29 Ashes series, a couple of seasons after Queensland’s entry into Sheffield Shield cricket. In all, he played 97 first-class matches, taking 369 first class wickets and scoring over 3,600 first class runs. For Toombul, he had scored over 5,500 runs, and took 485 wickets.[152]

On the day of the first round of 1937/38 in September 1937, Oxenham was being picked up from his home by teammate Gil Hardcastle, when another car crashed into them, overturning Hardcastle’s car, and gravely injuring Oxenham, who suffered multiple skull fractures, and was comatose for twenty-five days.[153] The cricket world rallied around, and messages of support poured in. He was released from hospital after seven weeks, but even a year after the accident, his hearing and concentration were poor, and he got dizzy from even mild exertion. Late in July 1939, almost two years after the accident, Oxenham became critically ill and died in mid-August 1939, just a fortnight before the outbreak of war.

Raffles the cricketing cracksman?

Jim Sinclair of the Malvern cricket club was convicted of housebreaking and stealing in March 1939. He played in first and second grade cricket for Malvern between 1935/36 and 1938/39 after leaving Malvern Grammar. The loss of his father and his business difficulties apparently caused his downfall. The Argus noted that the ‘split personality’ defence adduced by his counsel – who tagged him ‘as a kind of Jekyll and Hyde’ – did not sway Mr Justice Gavan Duffy, who gave him 2½ years imprisonment.[154]

[1] Sydney Morning Herald Fri 11 Nov 1938

[2] Sydney Morning Herald Thu 22 Dec 1938

[3] Sydney Morning Herald Wed 28 Dec 1938

[4] Sydney Morning Herald Tue 3 Jan 1939

[5] Sydney Morning Herald Tue 21 Feb 1939

[6] Sydney Morning Herald Wed 22 Feb 1939

[7] Sydney Morning Herald Fri 23 Dec and Sat 24 Dec 1938

[8] Sydney Morning Herald Fri 6 Jan 1939

[9] Canberra Times and Sydney Morning Herald Tue 24 Jan 1939

[10] See Ashley Mallett, Scarlet: Clarrie Grimmett – Test Cricketer (Sydney: Cricket Publishing Company 2008) p 245

[11] Six times he bowled more than 600 balls in a first-class innings, four times in Tests.

[12] To give his full title, Lieutenant-Commander The Hon Raja Shrimant Vijaysinhrao Ramrao Raje Sahib Dafle, Raja of Jath (1909-1998, reigned 1936-1947). The state of Jath, in existence since 1686, was unceremoniously folded into independent India in 1947. The Raja then became an outspoken member of parliament for his constituency. See Mallett, Scarlet pp 224-225

[13] Mallett, Scarlet p 227. In an interview in the 1990s, he tagged Clarrie as ‘my mentor’, and noted “An ideal coach, Grimmett did not change my rather unorthodox grip or my unusual stance but bowling with a tennis ball from a shorter distance helped me tighten my defence and execute all strokes”.

[14] Argus Wed 21 Dec 1938

[15] Argus Thu 19 Jan 1939. Also refer Robert Coleman, Seasons in the Sun – The Story of the Victorian Cricket Association (North Melbourne: Hargreen Publishing, 1993) pp 420 and 425-427

[16] Sydney Morning Herald Fri 3 Mar 1939

[17] Courier-Mail Thu 9 Feb 1939

[18] Courier Tue 1 Apr 1930

[19] NSWCA Year Book 1936/37 p 35

[20] The Cricketer Spring Annual March 1939 and Advertiser Fri 16 Dec 1938

[21] Referee Thu 2 Feb 1939

[22] Sydney Morning Herald Tue 31 Jan 1939

[23] Argus Mon 30 Jan 1939 and Sat 4 Feb 1939. See also Cricketer Spring Annual (March 1939)

[24] Fifty Years p 70

[25] Referee Thu 20 Oct 1938

[26] Sydney Morning Herald Sat 25 Feb 1939

[27] Bradman interview with Ray Martin, Nine Network Australia telecast 29 May 1996 – transcript at http://www.users.on.net/~tm77/Bradman/interview.htm

[28] Sun Sun 29 Oct 1939

[29] Sydney Morning Herald Mon 13 Mar 1939

[30] The nickname is enigmatic, though a Sydney race-horse of the time has that name.

[31] Sydney Morning Herald Wed 23 Nov 1938

[32] David Frith, The Slow Men (paperback) p 153

[33] Wisden 1981, obituary

[34] Sydney Morning Herald Mon 5 Dec 1938

[35] Sydney Morning Herald Thu 20 Oct 1938

[36] Sydney Morning Herald Tue 31 Jan 1939

[37] Newcastle Morning Herald Wed 27 Sept 1944

[38] Sydney Morning Herald Wed 7 Dec 1938

[39] Sydney Morning Herald Thu 2 Mar 1939

[40] Sydney Morning Herald Thu 23 Feb 1939 and (Hobart) Mercury Fri 7 April 1939

[41] Referee Thu 24 Nov 1938

[42] Kiama Reporter and Illawarra Journal Wed 16 Nov 1938. See more generally the Illawarra Mercury article by Michael Cox ‘Emery claims highest cricket score’ of 25 Mar 2009.

[43] Argus Mon 31 Oct 1938

[44] Fitzroy Cricket Club Centenary Report

[45] Argus Mon 4 Apr 1938

[46] (Sydney) Sun Sun 28 Jan 1940

[47] Argus Mon 28 Nov 1938, Mon 16 Jan 1939 and Tue 31 Jan 1939.

[48] Ken Piesse Down at the Junction There’s a Cricket Ground – St Kilda Cricket Club: The First 150 Years (St Kilda West: St Kilda Cricket Club, 2005) p 74

[49] Argus Mon 28 Oct 1935

[50] The Cricketer Spring Annual (March 1939)

[51] Referee Thu 16 Feb 1939

[52] Piesse Junction p 82

[53] His RAAF service record at the National Archives (www.naa.gov.au) series A9300, control symbol NEWTON W E and his Army (militia) service record at series B4747, control symbol NEWTON/WILLIAM ELLIS are both digitised. Page 50 of the digitised RAAF record is a summary record of service, which includes this remark.

[54] Argus Fri 15 Oct 1937

[55] Argus Mon 23 Jan 1939

[56] Argus Mon 3 Oct 1938

[57] Argus Tue 7 Dec 1937

[58] Ned Wallish, The Great Laurie Nash, (Melbourne: Ryan Publishing, 1998) foreword p iv

[59] Ken Piesse The Complete Guide to Australian Football (Sydney: Ironbark, 1993) p 197

[60] Argus Mon 2 Oct 1939 and Thu 18 Jan 1940

[61] Benalla Ensign Fri 2 Dec 1938

[63] Albury Banner and Wodonga Express Fri 25 Feb 1938

[64] Sydney Morning Herald Mon 5 Apr 1937 and Riverine Herald Tue 27 Apr 1937 and Thu 4 May 1939

[65] Portland Guardian Mon 17 and Thu 20 April 1939 and Thu 8 Jun 1939

[66] ABC Cricket Book 1946/47

[67] Sydney Morning Herald Wed 25 Dec 1940

[68] Courier-Mail Wed 1 May 1940

[69] Courier-Mail Sat 29 Oct 1938

[70] Courier-Mail Mon 31 Jan 1938

[71] Courier-Mail Mon 20 Feb 1939

[72] Sun Sun 6 Jan 1946

[73] Courier Sat 22 Oct 1932

[74] Sydney Morning Herald Tue 7 Feb 1933

[75] Courier-Mail Mon 7 Nov 1938

[76] His full title was Colonel His Highness Shri Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji, Jam Sahib of Nawanagar, GCSI, GBE

[77] Advertiser Fri 23 Dec 1938

[78] Donald Bradman, Farewell to Cricket, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1950) p 288

[79] K D Edwards, Black Man in a White Man’s World: Aboriginal Cricketer Eddie Gilbert, PhD Thesis, University of Queensland (Sept 1992) p                 101

[80] Edwards, Black Man p 433

[81] Actually he was given the wonderfully operatic name Colin George Reinzi Stibe by his parents.

[82] Sunday Mail Sun 19 Feb 1939

[83] Sunday Mail Sun 19 Feb 1939 and Sun 22 Oct 1939

[84] Sunday Mail Sun 2 Apr 1939 and Courier-Mail Mon 3 Apr 1939

[85] Courier-Mail Sat 19 Mar 1938

[86] Advertiser Fri 16 Dec 1938

[87] Wisden (1983) obituary

[88] Geoff Sando, Grass Roots: 100 Years of Adelaide District Cricket 1897-1997 (North Adelaide, SA: South Australian Cricket Association, 1997) p 160

[89] Port Pirie Recorder Thu 9 Nov 1933

[90] Wisden 1945

[91] Advertiser Mon 9 Jan 1939

[92] Referee Thu 1 Dec 1938

[93] His name is very often incorrectly written as ‘Geoff’. His full name was Geffery.

[94] Wisden 1982 obituary

[95] Advertiser Fri 17 Oct 1952 (Harry Kneebone)

[96] Advertiser Fri 13 Nov 1953

[97] He was depicted in a wonderful ‘David and Goliath’ photo in the Argus Sat 28 Oct 1939 with his Fitzroy teammate Morrie Sievers (6’ 4” and 17 stone 10 lb)

[98] Advertiser Fri 10 Feb 1939

[99] Geraldton Guardian Thu 11 Oct 1934

[100] West Australian Fri 23 Jan 1934

[101] Geraldton Guardian Tue 2 Apr 1935

[102] Sunday Times Sun 28 Dec 1941

[103] Barker, WACA p 105

[104] West Australian 22 Nov 1940

[105] I calculate 349 wickets @ 14.83 excluding the 1941/42 season, in which he took at least 18 wickets.

[106] Anthony J Barker, The WACA – An Australian Cricket Success Story, p 101

[107] Barker, WACA p 103

[108] West Australian Wed 16 Mar 1938

[109] Also refer to WACA Obituary in Western Cricketer 2004-05

[110] West Australian Fri 20 Oct 1939

[111] West Australian Mon 4 Sept 1939

[112] Sunday Times Sun 4 Feb 1940

[113] ‘Medium-pace with swing and off-spin’ according to West Australian Fri 17 Dec 1937

[114] Sporting Globe Wed 9 Sept 1942

[115] West Australian Tue 25 Oct 1938

[116] West Australian Tue 5 Mar 1935

[117] Western Mail Thu 19 Jan 1939

[118] Western Mail Thu 22 Dec 1938

[119] Western Mail Thu 29 Dec 1938

[120] Fry was not only a remarkable cricketer, but played football (soccer) for England, and played in an FA Cup final, was an Olympic long jumper, and was once offered the kingship of Albania. Not making this up.

[121] Burnie Advocate Wed 20 Jan 1937

[122] Rick Smith, Prominent Tasmanian Cricketers (1985) p 200

[123] Smith, Tasmanian Cricketers p 195

[124] Roger Page, A History of Tasmanian Cricket (Hobart, Tasmania: L.G. Shea Government Printer, 1957) p 100

[125] Rick Smith, Prominent Tasmanian Cricketers (Launceston, Tasmania: Foot and Playstead, 1985) p 159

[126] Mercury Fri 2 Nov 1945

[127] Mercury Fri 3 Nov 1939

[128] Brian Mitchell, Knights on the Run – A Playing History of the Kingborough Cricket Club (2001) p 30

[129] Wisden 1957 obituary

[130] John Devaney, Full Points Footy’s Tasmanian Football Companion originally published at fullpointsfooty, and quoted at Australian Football http://australianfootball.com/players/player/Jim%2BAtkinson/3492

[131] Williams Century of Northern Tasmanian Cricket p 77

[132] Mercury 19 Dec 1930

[133] Williams Century of Northern Tasmanian Cricket p 67

[134] Mercury Mon 20 Feb 1939

[135] He was certainly V Stanfield, and there is fair reason to believe his first name was Vince, but I cannot be entirely certain.

[136] Canberra Times Thu 16 March 1939 (Durban Tuesday)

[137] Sydney Morning Herald Sat 1 April 1939

[138] Wisden 1939

[139] Chris Harte, SACA – the History of the South Australian Cricket Association (Adelaide: Sports Marketing Australia, 1990) p 279

[140] Mercury Thu 1 Oct 1936

[141] Rockhampton Morning Bulletin Sat 11 Feb 1939 and Cairns Post Fri 17 Feb 1939

[142] The line-up was rather fluid, but Sydney Morning Herald Tue 21 Feb 1939 looks fairly definitive

[143] Sydney Morning Herald Mon 13 Mar 1939

[144] Rockhampton Morning Bulletin Thu 16 Mar 1939

[145] Argus Thu 22 Dec 1938

[146] Argus Sat 7 Jan 1939

[147] Argus Fri 24 Feb 1939

[148] West Australian Fri 3 Feb 1939

[149] Sydney Morning Herald Sat 18 Feb 1939

[150] Canberra Times Mon 13 Feb 1939

[151] Argus 20 Mar 1939

[152] Courier-Mail Fri 28 Jul 1939

[153] Courier-Mail Tue 11 and Wed 12 Oct 1938

[154] Argus Sat 25 Mar 1939