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In search of the bush Bradman

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IT’S a long way from bush cricket in the heart of Gippsland to the Test team but IAN CALLEN made it all the way, and has now returned to revisit childhood memories:

 “Reminiscing”, by Little River Band, was from their “Sleeper Catcher” Album. It was written by guitarist Graeham Goble and sung by Glenn Shorrock, rising to No 3 on the US charts in 1978.

I don’t know why it is, but I often find myself doing the same. Perhaps a romantic side of me or maybe it’s just what you do in twilight years?

In my case I seem to reminisce about all things cricket, reminding myself of cricketing friendships or the places the game has taken me. This is of course a natural occurrence, a faculty by which the mind stores and remembers the information it receives.

This seems ever so important these days, don’t you think? Especially when we’re being told the past is to be forgotten. Sadly, this is exactly what has been happening to country cricket all over regional Australia.

For decades now rural cricket competitions have been lost, along with statistics, historic photos, memories, the names of champion regional players, characters of the game and much worse… the stories or yarns once told over a few cold beers.

This really hit home to me the other day while visiting a friend who’d moved to the picturesque township of Yea situated north of Melbourne between the Great Divide and the Strathbogie Ranges. I had spent time in Yea when Dad had worked in the town. They once had a very strong cricket competition known as the Yea and District Cricket Association, so before I left the area I decided to take a walk around the cricket ground. I passed an abandoned roller that I remembered; a huge iron contraption of a thing, very similar to one known as the “Bossers Pet” once used to flatten the deck at Lords.

I couldn’t believe it was still there and it was in reasonable condition given the last time I laid eyes on it was 60 years ago.

That was a time when I could be found dragging my father’s cricket bat around the grounds at which he played. It was something I did when I didn’t want Dad to get out or in hope that he might take another wicket. He was a handy bat and a bloody good leggie. He’d reached a pretty good standard in his day too, playing second XI at Carlton under well known “Carltonian” Leo Finch in the 50’s, before moving to his father’s farm at Gobur. Turn left at the Yarck Pub and keep driving; you’ll find the place up the very end of Frees Lane.

The closest cricket team was Yarck and so that’s where he played. It was a time when it was considered an honour to be selected to represent your local community club and its association at Melbourne Country Week. Dad did this taking 39 wickets in a single country week for the Alexandra and District Cricket Association, which I’m told is a competition record. Anyway, this big piece of iron was pulled up and down the wicket by a team of horses in its day, rolling the Yea wicket until it was as unfriendly s possible to all opposition attacks. Further on and positioned behind the wicket area is the old Grandstand.

I remembered sitting in the stand with Mum while she scored so I climbed the stairs to look over the ground. Immediately I had images of my father with his rhythmic flowing action and follow through. He had the ability to draw the batsman towards him in the false hope of lifting him high over long on, only to find the ball fizzing past the bat having dropped unerringly, leaving them stranded well out of their crease.

That is, all but one person! A cricketer from the Yea club called Harry Docking.

His team made up the YDCA along with Molesworth, Homewood, Boundary Creek, Glenburn, Flowerdale and for one year, Yarck who mostly played in the ADCA except for one year when it’s best player was working in Yea.

So I began to wonder about Harry; was he still alive? Perhaps I could have a chat with him, get his views on cricket today. It would be a good “Sportshounds” piece.

I know, I’ll try the Yea Chronicle. It might be the best place to start; it’s been serving the community as long as …? Well, for as long as I can remember, and they might have archives. Unfortunately not!

So I tried the library where I learned Harry had passed on some years back but was given the phone number of Gary Pollard, a local veteran. I phoned him and left a message.

It didn’t take long for Gary to return my call and I learned that he had also played against my father and had actually opened the batting with Harry. He told me Harry was also a handy opening bowler who could move the ball both ways. He said he was also a real chain smoker and after each wicket he took he would light up, stomping it out just before he turned to bowl to the new batsmen. He looked like the old goods train that chugged the Seymour to Mansfield line in those days.

He told me that one season having played every game up until the Christmas break only three members of the Yea team had batted and Harry hadn’t been dismissed.

I learned that Harry played until he was 60 and that there had been a book written about the YDCA history but no one can find a copy of it.

As of today it still hasn’t been found and that’s not to say it won’t be; things move slowly up the country you know. So let’s assume Docking (HD) began his cricket at 18. We’ll give him a few years to find his feet in the game and by my reckoning he made seven centuries a season at a minimum, from the age of 28 to 45 (17 year period). I know this because the Yea Chronicle arrived in the post at our house every week all through my primary and secondary years. Our family moved to Croydon in 1963 where I religiously turned to the sports section to find HD had scored another ton.

I have no doubt he would have amassed more than a 100 hundreds and must have been pushing for the title of “Bradman of the Bush”.

If we could only find the records.

mm

Author: Ian Callen

IAN CALLEN is a former Victorian and Australian fast bowler, Test cap No 291.

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