How many games of cricket have you played? Two hundred? Five hundred? Lost count?
Eane Whitton’s present record stands at 1100-plus over six decades – and with more to come, he tells DONAL WILSON.
A 19-time premiership player, his experience stretches Australia-wide, to the UK and also to the sub-continent.
“I’m a sports nut,” he says. ‘Cricket, footy, tennis, basketball, you name it.”
Eane started his considerable cricket journey when he was 10 years old, for the All-Saints Church Cricket Club in Melbourne’s west. “One day we were down to ten players and invited a little nine-year-old to play. He hit their opening bowler for four and ended up playing the rest of the season for us,” Eane said. The lad’s name? Les Joslin.
Eane then moved to West Footscray as captain of the Under 16s. His mantra even then was to always make sure everybody felt involved and was having fun.
Eane was also a keen basketballer who won titles in basketball for West Footscray. He also represented Victoria at State under-age level, before becoming a referee. “I estimate I have refereed about 3000 games and played about 1000,” he says. “I used to umpire basketball seven nights a week at Albert Park, I made more money from that then through my day job in customs.”
Eane has also played tennis most weeks with the same three friends for 35 years. “We used to play five sets of singles, then three before switching to doubles”.
Throughout his storied career in cricket, Eane has achieved some outstanding milestones. In the 2001-02 season he averaged 92 and in 2003-04, 100.33.
Last summer with Richmond Union Over 60s, he lost his wicket only once and averaged 120.
“I play to enjoy the game and meet new people; my enjoyment comes from playing with mates,” he said.
Also high among his laurels is 10 wickets in an innings bowling his leggies playing for West Footscray. “Everyone was just getting themselves out. It was good fun,” Eane said.
In India he played against one XI which included Madan Lal, who played 39 Tests for India and was part of their World Cup winning team in 1983. Eane also had the opportunity to meet Virat Kohli’s first coach. “We asked if Kohli could come down and watch one of our games, which was a bit cheeky of us, given his busy schedule.
Representing Australia in the Over 60’s in the UK in 2015, Eane says “I played three test matches in England averaging 129 with the bat and I played nine county games averaging 200-odd.” He received a man of the match award for his 84 not out.
Eane loves meeting new people and recalls a fun interaction with a local legend George Murray of University High coaching fame. “George reckons I was so bad a batsman I should change from left hand to right hand. I met him at a luncheon shortly before his passing and I told him I’m still batting left-handed and was going okay. George just laughed.”
Eane Whitton’s great strength in leadership was ensuring everyone be seen as equal and he would emphasise to the number 9, 10 and 11 batsmen that it’s important to cherish your wicket and aim to score 10 or 20 runs because in a grand final, the premiership is often decided by a narrow margin. ‘It could come down to 10 or 20 runs,” he said. “It’s important that everyone gets a hit and a chance to bowl or else they won’t come back to play if they become just fieldsmen”.
In one grand final that Eane’s team won, the opposition was 3-100 chasing 119 and lost!
If Whitton’s first passion is cricket, then his AFL team, the Western Bulldogs come a very close second. Interviewing him at his Buffalo Sports factory he happily showed me the framed pictures he possesses of the 1954 and 2016 premierships as well as retro Footscray playing jumpers. Whitton remembers the Bulldogs inaugural premiership in 1954 and selling out of all his copies of the old Melbourne Herald outside the Pioneer Hotel in Footscray. “Everybody was giving me a shilling for them, when they were only worth a penny or two. Everybody was pretty happy that night.”
Reminiscing on the 2016 triumph, he said: “I went to the 2016 grand final with my son and daughter. We all got our faces painted and sat amongst the Doggie supporters after the game. We must have sung the song about 20 times.”
Whitton was the instigator for over 60s team at Richmond Union CC over five years ago and is the current captain. “We’re lucky we’re still on the right side of the grass and playing cricket. What more could you ask for?”
* Donal Wilson is our inaugural ACS literary scholar