Former Proserpine cricketer Nev Lewis still enjoys to watcht he game on television.
Former Proserpine cricketer Nev Lewis still enjoys to watcht he game on television.

Local cricket has a long, rich history

THE current Proserpine cricket competition has a rich history which can be traced back more than 80 years.

Nev Lewis has vivid memories of playing cricket in the local competition from the age of 15 back in 1936.

According to the 86-year-old there were three country teams and three town teams.

From the country, there was Gregory Cricket Club, Cannonvalley (Captained by Arthur Pepper) and Banana Pocket (Lethebrook). From Proserpine there were the Rumpers, Veterans and Aussies.

Today there are four teams, Valleys, Warriors, Canecutters and Souths that battle it out each weekend with Valleys (Cannonvalley) the only one retaining one of the original names.

Nev isn't sure exactly when the competition first started in the district, but estimated it would have been in the early 1920s, as he can remember the game being played when he was five years old.

Each of the country teams even had their own concrete cricket pitch. Cannonvalley had a ground at Brandy Creek, Gregory were near the Gregory River and in town there was one pitch on Phaff's paddock near the river.

Nev's cricket career started when he turned up to a meeting, as a 15-year-old, to resurect the Gregory Cricket Club team, which had lapsed in previous years.

It was decided to reform the team and in 1936, it proceeded to lose every game. Nev said the following year they were runners up, then in the third year won the competition.

There was a good friendly rivalry between the sides.

"We played in a very good spirit in those days," Nev said.

Teams played one dayers on a Sunday. There would be three or four rounds in the comp, then there would be a premiership round. If the minor premiers won the premiership round, they would be premiers. However, if another team won the round, it would play off against the minor premiers in a game to the finish to decide the premiership.

Nev said he was a genuine allrounder, a left hand at bat and a slow leg spin bowler.

Nev gained a record in his playing days for being the first bowler to take ten wickets in an innings, in a match against Cannonvalley.

He thinks the record may even be standing now.

Nev said back in the 30s a batsman made his first century playing against Banana Pocket. On their way back into town, the team stopped in at the milk bar and the batsman shouted the entire team milkshakes.

Nev made three centuries in his time playing.

The first was against Cannonvalley, which he said was one of the highlights of his playing career. At one point Nev also got five wickets in one over, though didn't manage a hat trick.

Nev was still playing cricket 30 years after he started and when he retired he became patron for a few years.

Representing Proserpine

Back in the 30s, Jack Barry, a Proserpine solicitor sponsored the Barry Shield, which was played between Proserpine, Collinsville and Bowen. Later, that competition lapsed and another started between Proserpine, Ayr and Bowen.

Nev said he represented Proserpine in b-grade when he was 17 and eventually moved up to the a-grade team.

"I represented Proserpine in all those matches at one time or another," Nev said.

Representative teams would travel north to Ayr and Bowen on the rail motor. The service was out for charter and a number of different sporting clubs would organise to compete in the northern towns on the same weekend, making the trip affordable.

Nev said Proserpine often had a pretty good side and enjoyed some close tussles with Bowen. However, it was a rarity to beat Ayr.

World War II

There was a break from cricket for Nev when he went to war. He trekked the Kokoda Trail in 1942 and 1943.

He was in Borneo when peace was declared.

Nev said being on Kokoda was hard to describe.

The lack of food, amenities, malaria, weather and a diet of hard army biscuits and "bully beef" amounted of a hard existence.

Nev said if the soldiers were lucky they would even get a cup of tea.

"We all suffered from diahorea and dysentry and still had to carry on ... it was a very, very miserable experience," he said.

He went to New Guinea in August in 1942 weighing 11 stone and came back to Australia on leave in 1943 weighing in at seven stone and six pounds.

Internationals play Proserpine

In the pre war days, Bill Ives, who Nev said was a great supporter of cricket, put together a side of some of the country's best international and state cricketers to travel and take on local sides.

According to Nev, when the team was in Mackay it was convinced to travel to Proserpine to take on the local team at the showgrounds.

"I never realised until that game what a great gulf there was between village and international players," Nev said.

The local boys made a total of around 60 runs; though Nev said Proserpine had the proud achievement of being the only team to bowl the touring side out on their tour.

He faced a spin bowler by the name of Walsh.

He said he faced the first delivery, which didn't look too threatening, and advanced down the pitch to drive the ball down the ground.

But the ball disapeared and he turned around to see wicket keeper Ron Saggers (one of "The Invincibles") holding the ball above the stumps.

He threw the ball back to Walsh.

The second delivery was similar and Nev advanced once more, but the ball again disapeared and Saggers was holding the ball above the stumps.

"If you do that again I'm going to have to stump you," he told Nev.

The next ball came down the wicket and this time Nev stayed in his crease, but before he had a chance to bring his bat down for a shot the ball fizzed past his bat past off stump.

Nev said he thought he might have figured Walsh out and was ready to cut the next ball.

However, this time, the ball landed in the same spot, but fizzed down the leg side.

Nev said, at that point he was glad the over was finished. Another Proserpine batsman, Charlie Ecker faced an over from Stan McCabe at the other end.

McCabe bowled a few balls and Ecker blocked them all.

According to Nev, McCabe said to Ecker, "A big bloke like you should be able to hit those for six".

Ecker replied that if he bowled them where he wanted them he might have a go.

McCabe told him to point to the spot where he wanted it, then bowled three balls in a row at that exact spot and Ecker hit them all for six.

Nev said McCabe decided that was enough and knocked out Ecker's off stump the next ball.

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