Here’s a story. Some is true and some is pure bullshit, some artistic licence, I’ll let you decide.
I was born in Tamworth, the country capital of NSW however as a young kid my parents moved down to Wollongong on the south coast or should I say more precisely, Austinmer, a northern beach suburb of Wollongong. Seven surfing spots within a 5 minute walk, how lucky was I. For anyone that has travelled down the coast from Sydney to Wollongong we lived opposite the Headlands Hotel which strangely enough is on a headland.
We were considered strange as we were from the country, my dad was from overseas but worst of all we were Catholic, what ever that was. Later in life I learned that Catholics have caused all of the world’s problems but as a kid I neither knew nor cared, as long as we could play cricket.
Strangely enough, in the small row of houses were we lived our neighbours to the north were the Bowlers, to the south were the Bettermen’s which we renamed the Batsmen so we called ourselves the All Rounders. Sadly this is a true lie.
But hey, let me introduce you to my family. My Dad was called Dad, Dad One On which turned out to be very convenient. My Mum was called Mum One On again which turned out to be very convenient. My mum and dad had doctorates from the University of New England which is no where near England at all. Mum majored in Crap whereas Dad majored in bullshit. My big brother’s name was Have, Have One On and my big sister was called Urge, Urge One On, oh and lets not forget our blue heeler, Sandy, who never told me what his last name was but Mum said a priest had given her Sandy as a pup and his name was Sandy O’Way, so I guess mum named him after the priest. Anyway we were considered strange as we were from the country, my dad was from overseas but worst of all we were Catholic.
Anyhoo, this was the mid 1960’s and I had had enough of my big brother giving me a hard time. Throughout the entire year, through scrimping and scraping I had managed to save five bob, can you imagine that, five whole bob, yes, gob smacking. Anyway, a mate of mine called Gerard who came from Holland showed me a trick with tennis balls. Remember how they were always yellow, bounced to much and had the big circular line through them. “Pump the ball half full of water Hung” said Gerard “That way they skim along the ground” Gerard grinned. Gerard didn’t seem to mind that I was from the country, my dad was from overseas and I was a Catholic. I think it mainly because Gerard was from another country, his dad was from overseas and he was a Catholic but I’m not really sure.
Gerard’s Mum and Dad had the best sausage in town. His mum would fry it and the smell was amazing. “Bedunk Mrs Van Camper” I would say, yum. The adults washed it down with beer but we were to young to drink so we had soft drink. . Gerard had five brothers, Hank, Henk, Hink, Honk and Hunk. We all referred to them as the “Vowels” although I never knew why as their last name was Van Camper. Mr Van Camper ran the local shop but it was tough going with all those mouths to feed until one day he got sick of been asked about holiday rents in Austinmer and opened up a business called Hank’s Camper Vans which was a play on his name. He is now a millionaire.
So Gerard gave me the doctored ball, my precious, my time had come. Boxing Day 1966, Mum’s backyard, “Hey Have” I called rather exuberantly “I bet you five bob I can get you out under double figures” I baited knowingly. See my brother Have was a pugilist of the first degree. As when we moved to Austinmer, being strange as we were from the country, my dad was from overseas but worst of all we were Catholic, my big brother belted the crap out of the biggest villain in miles, suddenly he was a hero. “Listen, you little prick, I belt you for a hundred then I’ll belt the shit out of you” replied Have, smirking to himself for the easiest five bob he would ever make.
Anyhoo, I put Sandy in as keeper and Urge at mid on, mum’s flame tree as mid off. The first few deliveries I let him tonk me around the place and while he wasn’t looking I threw the ball over the neighbours fence and replaced it with the doctored ball. I bowled the doctored ball and bowled him middle stump as it slid through along the ground.
Have started to come for me with a stump but Sandy realised what was happening and started to growl and bark at Have. Sandy started to bite Have just as Mum appeared, “ What’s all this noise?” she shrieked “ Have, bugger off and leave Hung alone, who owns this five bob?” Mum’s and questions hey.
Me and Sandy went down to the Halfway Shop with our winnings. I had a whole dollar. Can you imagine that, one whole dollar, ten shillings in the old. My newly found wealth was staggering, I was rich. Mrs Drew, who ran the Halfway Shop, was rapt when I told her the story, I had a pie and a can of soft drink and Sandy had some left over pork sausages that Mrs Drew got out of her fridge and I had 85 cents left over, 8 and a half shillings, can you imagine that. It doesn’t get any better that this.
Funny though, after that things changed. My big brother started his apprenticeship at the steelworks as a fitter and turner. When I asked him what did a fitter and turner does, he replied “they fit and they turn”, wow, what a guy. He never played cricket again, that was for little kids like me, he was a man now.
My sister Urge was very pretty and was a boy magnet however she went to uni and eventually married a rich bloke but she stopped playing cricket. Cricket was a little kids game, not for a beautiful intelligent woman with her life ahead of her.
Sandy got killed by a truck and mum and dad were always too busy arguing about things like thermal currents in the upper atmosphere and their effect on climate so it boiled down to just me.
Luckily Gerard came around. “Hey Hung. Thirroul are looking for players. Wanna come? Train Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at Gibson Park.” “Is the Pope a catholic?” I grinned, you know sometimes when things change it’s okay. Life just got a whole lot better.
First published at The Pigs Arms