January 15, 1985
BIG time cricket – in a manner of speaking – came to Taree back in the 1980s.
They were the days of Tooheys Cup fixtures between Taree and Port Macquarie, where local players mixed with the elite.
The visiting players, usually NSW Sheffield Shield representatives or past test greats, spent a couple of days in town before the game attending promotions and running coaching clinics.
On Tuesday, January 15, 1985, State skipper Dirk Wellham led Taree while opening batsman John Dyson and all-rounder Greg Matthews were other guests. Steve Smith, an opening batsman for NSW, was Port’s captain while Doug Walters and State squad member Rod Bower were in the Port side.
As the French say, plus ca change, plus cest la mem chose (the more things change the more they remain the same). Organiser, ex-test captain Bob Simpson was concerned that Taree lacked a suitable venue where a gate could be charged, so chose the Group Three Leagues Ground (now the Jack Neal Oval) to host the match. The fact that the field-proper was in pretty ordinary shape and small boundaries didn’t seem to matter.
An estimated crowd of around 2000 flocked into the ground and witnessed the closest game in the cup’s then four year history.
Taree batted first and made 231. Dyson smashed 105, slamming seven sixes and eight boundaries in 105 minutes. Of the locals Doug Twentyman scored 25 and Ron Crippin made a quickfire 27.
In reply Walters smashed 83, his half century coming up in just 37 minutes for Port.
Dyson took some punishment when it was his turn to bowl, finishing with 1/65 from six overs, with Walters being particularly harsh.
Port looked gone for all money at 8/139 before Bruce Parker and former Taree boy Cliff Toms joined forces. They took the score to 8/226 on the last ball of the day. However, Wayne Smoothy had to bowl the final over and he held his nerve, with Parker swishing and missing, giving Taree victory.
Matthews took 4/53 while Smoothy finished with 1/23 and Bruce Butler 1/26.
Tooheys Cup games were popular throughout country NSW throughout the 1980s before the brewery finally withdrew sponsorship.
Check Ron Badger’s shots from 1985 tomorrow at www.manningrivertimes.com.au