by Literary Scholar Sam Coulson
It was a day to celebrate the often-unsung heroes of a cricket team – the wicketkeepers. On Friday, July 15th , members and guests of the Australian Cricket Society [ACS] gathered at the Kelvin Club to listen to past wicket keepers tell unforgettable stories, tuck into some cheese and wine and enjoy the afternoon.
A crowd began to gather downstairs at the Kelvin Club in the city of Melbourne, catching up and sharing a beer before making their way upstairs to listen to our guests of honour. ACS president, Ken Piesse, opened the proceedings before welcoming Geoff Poulter up to spread some laughs. Poulter quickly had the room filled with laughter with his political jokes and even shared a story about playing football for The Herald against Ken who represented the Age and, according to Poulter, “dominated the ruck that day”. Poulter also played well kicking three goals in the first quarter.
Geoff left us with a story involving the great Sir Donald Bradman where Bradman found himself in the West Indies changeroom after the day’s play when the charismatic Merv Hughes was 72 not out. Sir Vivian Richards introduced Bradman to the team, including fast bowler Patrick Patterson. Patterson said to Bradman, “Very pleased to meet you Sir Donald Bradman, but I would be thinking if you were playing today, then I could bowl you out.” Bradman, who had never been heard to publicly swear before, chuckled and said to Patterson, “I don’t know about that, you can’t even get effing Merv Hughes out.” Patterson was stunned and everyone shared a laugh.
We had the pleasure of being joined by some fine wicket keepers such as, Norm Carlyon, Richie Robinson, David Cowper, Peter Roach, and Darren Berry, all filled with great cricketing stories. One was the time Robinson came out as sub fielder to keep and another guest of honour, in umpire Darryl Holt, gave him an almighty stare causing Robinson to take the gloves off and walk off exclaiming, “Darryl keeps looking at me, I don’t think I’m wanted.” Robinson went on to talk about his five wickets in five balls as well as the time he stumped six batsmen off the one bowler. A truly great achievement.
The Cowper name is synonymous with sport with Bob Cowper representing Australia across 27 tests, famously scoring the first test match triple century on Australian soil, and father, Denis Cowper, a former captain of the Wallabies. David Cowper touched on his brother’s triple century stating he was on his way to watch him at the ‘G and, as he got 50 yards down the road, he heard, “He’s out,” come screaming through the radio, so David turned back around and went home. David represented the Vics in two matches, only getting out once and ending with a healthy average of 94. He reflects on Robinson as being the greatest keeper he saw.
Norman Carlyon reflected on how he became a keeper stating that he, “sort of fell into it”, a sentiment that seemed to be quite consistent with other keepers present. He rated Alan ‘Froggy’ Thompson as one of the best bowlers he had ever seen, taking 60-70 wickets across eight matches.
We were fortunate enough to also have Head of Cricket Operations, Peter Roach, speak to us. Peter spoke about his cricket career and how it has led him to working for Cricket Australia. He is in charge of scheduling and mentioned that the biggest challenge is the amount of content to fit into the Aussie summer. Roach spoke about the honour of keeping to Shane Warne for a short period of time and the impact Warne had on his family with his own daughter now bowling leg spin. He was left in awe of the technical ability of Shane Warne, reminiscing about as time when Queenslander, Matthew Hayden, was destroying bowlers for a while. Warne stated, “Don’t worry about Hayden, I’ll work him out”. Only a few balls later, Warnie had Hayden walking back to the pavilion.
Nearing the end of the function, the ever-charismatic Darren Berry started to reminisce and share some stories. He described wicket keepers as, ‘drummers in the band.’ Reflecting on his time, Chuck, as he’s commonly known, spoke about life growing up in Doveton, the ‘classy part of Dandenong’, before moving to Wonthaggi. A champion Victorian wicketkeeper, Chuck was playing for Fitzroy Doncaster seconds when his coach at the time, Doug Rumble, identified his talent and told Darren he wanted him to go play Firsts. Unfortunately, Rumble was involved in a terrible ski accident and sadly lost his life. On Rumble’s word though, Chuck was to play firsts and then go on to captain his state to the Mercantile cup in 1998-1999 and notch up 153 first class matches. Like Roach, one of Chuck’s proudest reflections is keeping to his great mate Shane Warne, someone who was very close to him and, as Chuck mentioned, ‘believed in him’. If you did not already understand how close Warne and Chuck where, you did after hearing him tell countless stories about Warne, including one involving Hollywood A-lister, Russell Crowe, when staying in a lavish Melbourne hotel. Chuck spoke sadly about the future endeavours he and Warne had planned, including as coaches together in the newly established competition in England, The Hundred. “I’ll still go in honour of my mate”, he said. Chuck flew to London on the 25th of this month and put out a post on his social media with a heartfelt line, “I was always his co-pilot”. It was a friendship that lasted over three decades.