BY DONAL WILSON
One of our playing elite, Phil O’Meara, hails from Trayning, a small town outside of Perth, and comes to ACS cricket via a distinguished club and state career which saw him play at Sheffield Shield level with Western Australia.
At school, Phil played Australian Rules football and cricket. Trayning was such a small town that they didn’t have any junior teams. He was in a grade of seven students: four boys and three girls. ‘I played a lot of golf and AFL, as well as cricket, throughout my childhood,’ he said.
It was a different story when he went to boarding school at Aquinas College which has a proud reputation for producing good sportsmen. The current Australian cricket coach, Justin Langer, is an alumnus. ‘I was captain of the Firsts cricket team at Aquinas college, playing above my age group’. Phil has always enjoyed the leadership aspect of cricket, often captaining his team.
Phil was 18 years old when he travelled to South Perth to play premier cricket. ‘There were zones back in those days; you had to play in the zones you grew up in’. After four years though, Phil was still in and out of the Firsts team. ‘National Service caused me issues as I was due to enter Puckapunyal in January ‘73 but Gough (Prime Minister Whitlam) won the election in December ‘72. I told the club I wouldn’t play from the end of November and missed a couple of games, only to find out I didn’t have to go. The coach never picked me for First X1 duties after that. Next season, I transferred to Fremantle; it was the best decision I’ve ever made’.
One of Phil’s very good friends, Terry Prindiville, was the captain coach of Fremantle. ‘I used to play hockey with Terry. He invited me and a friend over to play’. During the 1960s, all the cricket was played on AFL grounds. ‘In 1969, in Western Australia, all the cricket clubs joined hockey clubs. Premier cricket in the 1970s was really strong. One of the main reasons was the wickets were never interfered with. The hockey grounds were on either side of the wicket. The wicket was always magnificent. You could confidently play on the back foot’.
Phil played for seven years at Fremantle, winning two A-Grade premierships. Fremantle hired Ross Edwards as captain coach after he’d retired from Test cricket – he played 20 tests for Australia and went to World Series Cricket. ‘I was vice captain so I took over as captain coach for three years’. Phil’s best year at Fremantle was the 1978-79 season in which he set a season record of 834 runs. It included a score of 160 in the final when his side made 9-578 against Subiaco- Floreat. The record still stands even though they play more games throughout the season now. ‘That was the start of the 50 over, one day cricket format. When I first went to Fremantle, they were still playing 8 ball overs. I remember I hit my former club teammate for seven fours in a row: he kept dropping them short, I kept pulling and hooking.’ There were some big-name players in the 1978-79 grand final. Fremantle had Kim Hughes, Graeme Wood and Geoff Marsh. ‘I think out of the eleven players, seven played first-class cricket’. There were also some very good players from Subiaco- Floreat. Terry Alderman, Jim Hubble, Graeme Porter and Paul Nicholls. ‘Back in those days, everybody who played test cricket wanted to come back to play with their mates’ clubs.
Earlier in 1978, before he made the record 834 runs for Fremantle, Phil represented Western Australia against Queensland at the Gabba. ‘I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I feel I played too many sports rather than just focusing on cricket’. He was 12th man on six occasions. ‘The one regret I have is I didn’t get to play for WA at the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) ground’. Just the same, wherever Phil goes to play cricket, success usually follows. ‘I’ve won 17 premierships overall from 21 grand finals.’ Ken Piesse and Phil O’Meara’s cricketing journey together is a joyful one, from playing at Port Melbourne CC and he Kingston Saints through to the Australian Cricket Society. ’Twelve, maybe 13 years back, Ken asked me if he could play for the Kingston Saints so we did, in then thirds for six or so years.’ Teams couldn’t be named after schools so they were called the Kingston Saints: Kingston after the council and Saints after St Bede’s and St John’s. In 2015, the club merged with the Hawthorn Cricket Club and are now known as the Kingston Hawks. The club went from the lowest to the top VTCA grade within five years before Phil applied for the sub-district competition.
Phil has been playing for the ACS since he was 63 and, as he approaches his 70th birthday, is set to join the over 70s Veterans Cricket Victoria team, showing no signs of slowing down. ‘I’m looking forward to it: being one of the younger players, you have that window to play well. That could lead to tours for Australian and Victoria’.
Phil is also in his fourth year as president of the Victorian Sub District Cricket Association.