From Neil ‘Nodder’ Dansie to Andrea McCauley and Barry ‘Nugget’ Rees to Lauren Ebsary, the Town Hall was filled with stars of South Australian cricket’s past, present and future, including the night’s master of ceremonies, Wayne Phillips.
One of the main events was a sit-down chat between Phillips and former Australian captains Ian and Greg Chappell. The discussion touched on the cherished memories of both and provided an open view into the life of a State and international cricketer during the brothers’ tenure beneath both the baggy red and green.
Phillips began by asking Ian and Greg for their early memories of the iconic Adelaide Oval, a cricket ground that is as special to them today as it was when they were growing into young men under its tutelage. Greg recalled Adelaide Oval as the setting for the Chappell family Christmases in the 1950s.
“My early memories of going to Adelaide Oval were to the Christmas Day Shield game between South Australia and Queensland. We would have Christmas lunch at Adelaide Oval and then watch the cricket, which started after lunch.
I can remember having lunch one year and watching Ray Reynolds (Queensland batsman) get 200. I think he usually went either nought, 200, nought, 200 or 200, nought, 200, nought and so you got really pissed off if he got off the mark, because you knew that he wasn’t going to stop for a while.”
Ian also has strong memories of Christmas Day at Adelaide Oval, including his first time representing South Australia in the fixture.
“The first game I played on Christmas Day, there was one supporter in the ground when we started, and I knew him because he was a Glenelg supporter; a bloke called Neville Jack. Now, Neville knew everything about cricketers, and he was out on the eastern gate. In those days it was just the old wooden fence with a gate.
Neil Hawke had a problem with Sam Trimble. Trimble used to try to cover drive him, and it would go past the man at square leg for four and that would set Hawkey off. He’d lose it. So, the first ball hits the square leg boundary for four and Neville calls out from the eastern gate: ‘Sammy Trimble, the dairy farmer from Lismore, you bloody beauty’
This hasn’t improved Hawkey’s sense of humour. The second one he bowls him, Sammy’s probably gone the square cut and it’s hit the handle of the bat and went to square leg and they’ve run two. ‘Sammy Trimble, that’s the way! Milk him like one of your cows, Sammy!’
Hawkey’s first over has cost fourteen, and smoke is coming out of his ears and he snatches his cap from the umpire and he whirls around and yells: ‘Neville, why don’t you piss off home and have Christmas lunch like everyone else?!’ And of course, it reverberated around the ground, and we were all falling around laughing.”
Ian’s first State captain was the great Les Favell, a dashing batsman whose 9656 first-class runs see him sitting comfortably inside the top five for runs scored in South Australia’s history. Ian fondly recalled his time playing with and under Favell, a leader who always wanted the best from his players.
“Les wanted 300 in a day’s play. 330 minutes in a day’s play back then and if we were 7/301, then Les was happy as Larry. If we were 2/280, we got a rocket. He was not happy at all. My best memories of the early days were South Australia vs New South Wales, because you had Les wanting to score 300 in a day and you had Richie Benaud wanting to bowl as many overs as possible. His theory, which is quite sensible, is that the more balls you bowl, the more chance you have of taking wickets.
So, with these two captains going at it, every final day of a Shield game there was a chase on. It was terrific. The other thing that stands out in my mind about Les is the number of times I saw people running down Victor Richardson Drive to get to the game because they had heard South Australia has won the toss and were batting. They didn’t want to miss the first ball because Les might hit it for six!”
Greg also shared the time he received some career-changing, if reluctantly offered, advice from the greatest batsman to ever play the game, Sir Donald Bradman.
“Sir Donald didn’t really talk to us young blokes. He’d talk with Les, or maybe Neil Hawke or Barry Jarman, and I remember I happened to be standing near the exit as Sir Donald was leaving one day. He was walking straight past me, and for some reason I said: ‘Good morning, Sir Donald.’
He stopped, looked at me and said hello. Then he turned to walk away before turning back and saying: ‘By the way, I’d change that grip if I were you.’ I had a top hand grip with the back of the hand towards the bowler which helped me on the leg side but wasn’t much good on the offside. I said: ‘That’s interesting, Sir Donald. What would you suggest?’ He said: ‘Well, the grip that I used worked pretty well.’
He showed me his neutral grip with the two ‘v’s down the back of the bat and said: ‘I’d suggest you adopt this. It won’t feel comfortable because you haven’t done it before, but I suggest you persevere with it because it will definitely improve your offside play.
Then he turned to go and stopped again and said: “By the way, I gave this advice to one other player, and he didn’t take it. He is no longer in the team.” Then he turned and walked out of the room. So, I grabbed a couple of the bowlers and went down to the nets and tried it out. It felt comfortable straight away and I used it for the rest of my career.”
For Ian, the greatest he ever took the field with was West Indian champion Sir Garfield Sobers, the ultimate allrounder who played in a baggy red between the years of 1961 and 1964.
“A champion allrounder and a champion bloke. You get some lucky breaks in life, and as an 18-year-old, to be playing in the South Australian side and to be batting with the best cricketer in the world at the other end…
I had a problem early on with Ian Meckiff (Australian Test quick) and I said to Gary: ‘Sobey, I’ve got a problem, have you got any suggestions?’ And he said: ‘Son, go and get a bottle of beer and we’ll talk about it.’ He was the best cricketer in the world and I’m an 18-year-old nobody from Glenelg, and he treated me as an equal. It was amazing.
Gary Sobers played 23 Shield games for South Australia. He averaged 100 per game, around about. He averaged six wickets per game. And the only reason that he only averaged eight catches a season was that he was bowling all the bloody time! And those eight catches were probably caught and bowled! Some guys can do it, but they don’t know how they do it. Gary knew exactly how he did it.”
In celebration of SACA’s 150th anniversary, an incredibly special book, written by South Australian authors, has been published to coincide with the remarkable achievement. Bursting with endless stories spanning a century and a half of South Australian cricket, the book is available for purchase for all SACA Members by clicking here.
04 June 2021