by Ken Piesse
These are edited excerpts from ex-president KEN PIESSE’S address at the autumn-time funeral of our greatest backroom boy, Doug Manning.
The passing of our living legend Doug Manning just four days before his 92nd birthday in April ended an unparalleled innings in Australian Cricket Society annals.
He was our greatest backroom boy, motivated, vibrant and dedicated to everything ACS.
He loved his family, their Sunday roasts, the Dees and his books, but most of all he loved cricket – and we loved him.
A foundation member (1967), he edited our quarterly newsletter Scoresheet for 50 consecutive years.
He publicised all our events from dinners with Don Bradman to reviews of Warnie the Musical and even one or two of my own books. Doug was always so generous.
We marveled at his remarkable enthusiasm and resilience and even in his later years with limited mobility, he and the love of his life Val would invariably be among the first arrivals at our annual dinners. Their support was unequivocal.
Armed with his trusty clipboard, he would take notes at every event, always in impeccable long hand and reproduce beautiful précises for Scoresheet.
We upgraded his computer and I still remember his broad smile when Scoresheet doubled in size and went all colour. He filled all seven pages easily and said he’d gladly fill the eighth too, which we reserved for our gold sponsors.
Often he’d come to dinner afterwards. Lily’s Chinese in East Melbourne was always his favorite and depending on the season, Melbourne Footy Club would always be part of the conversation.
In the very early days of ACS, he’d sometimes introduce our guests… and it was a star-studded list. He loved meeting some of his own heroes like Neil Harvey, who came the week a statue was unveiled at the MCG in his honor. Doug had been at the ’G the day 19-year-old Neil reached a century in only his second Test, having run a ‘five’ with Ray Lindwall.
He could still recall exactly where he was sitting that memorable afternoon and the screams from the ladies around him when they realised Harvey was taking on a relaid throw and daring to take the fifth for his ton.
Back then, in the late ‘40s, Doug was a premiership seam-up bowler with Carey’s second XI. When the Society started its Wandering XI, Doug regularly bowled his offies. Later he’d be our umpire.
Throughout his 50-plus years of service, he’d attend seven and eight committee meetings a year, plus all the events. He hardly ever missed.
At a rare meeting where Doug was absent, we were discussing how to best extend our charitable funds, and someone asked if we should cut Doug’s newsletter from four to three issues a year. I knocked that one on its head immediately. As long time president I wouldn’t have been able to explain that one too him.
Just before Christmas 2022, a new book on Wes Hall arrived and I suggested to Val how Doug would love it. Wes was not only a favourite cricketer but he was a man of the church. Doug had had a fall and was in hospital and that book was a constant companion.
He rang during lunch of the Test and in that booming voice of his, thanked me again for sending it. ‘He was quite a man that Wes Hall,’ he said, ‘and not just a cricketer.’
His daughters said that Doug could recite important dates in world history off the top of his head, ‘like a Mr Google’.
He kept a daily journal, filled with football and cricket scores and notes. His library included more cricket books than almost anyone. But there were other books, too: history, travel and exploration. He loved music and had a huge CD collection.
A lecturer, he had a sharp mind and brilliant organisational skills. He was busy, but, as his three kids said, he always had time for a bedtime story.
He and Val went to Sri Lanka with us many moons ago – the heat was tremendous and Doug’s face was florid. One day in Colombo, he went missing, only to return several hours later grateful for the opportunity to have met some of the locals. Like one of the cricketers he most admired Steve Waugh years later, he loved getting off the beaten track.
In 2009, he and Val committed to coming with Susan and I on our official ACS UK adventure taking in two Tests including Lord’s.
Everything was arranged, including the pre-payment of Test tickets to Lord’s. But there was a late complication and they couldn’t go.
The tickets to Lord’s even then cost 120-130 full strength English pounds – approximately $A250 per day – so I told Doug I would do my best to get at least some of his monies back.
In the end thanks to regular visits to the scalpers, I retrieved all his monies, for which he was grateful. The only tickets I held back were two for the Saturday, thinking that they could be handy.
Sure enough, David Basheer, an Adelaide hotelier and a friend of Terry Jenner’s, rang our London hotel and asked if I happened to have a spare ticket or two for Lord’s. He could only go on the Saturday. ‘Actually I do,’ I said. He used Doug’s tickets and had a whale of a time.
Weeks later back in wintery Melbourne, a package arrived from the same gent. A very special bottle of Penfolds Grange from the late ‘90s. A thankyou for Doug’s tickets.
I took it to our next committee meeting and at Lily’s that night over Special Fried Rice and Lemon Chicken, six of us all had one or two inches each. We measured out exact portions of that precious wine like we were conducting a science experiment. Boy was it smooth.
We toasted Doug that night and do again now. In town today (April 14) we have our annual footy season launch… Doug loved it when Ron Barassi attended one year… and at lunchtime a minute’s silence will be conducted in his honor.
As I said to (his children) Anne, Christine and Rohan, what a mentor and inspiration he has been for tens of hundreds his life has touched.
We made him our very first Living Legend going back six or seven years ago now. No one was more deserving of our highest award.
I join with all of you today on behalf of so many of Doug’s old cricket mates from the Australian Cricket Society in thanking him for a lifetime of diligent service, always done with a smile and always with the good of the game at heart. Rest in peace Doug.
- Douglas Jonathan Manning is survived by his wife Val, three children Anne, Christine and Rohan and five grandchildren Daniel, Brenton, Brittany, Levi and Roman.