(Based on a 1988 article by award-winning cricket writer Jack Pollard)
The idea of forming a club for Sydney cricketers was first raised in 1894 when it was suggested that the New South Wales Cricket Association combine with the controlling bodies in cycling, swimming, rugby and athletics to form a sports club. Nothing came of the notion but in 1896 the NSWCA set up a sub-committee to inquire into the possibility of acquiring clubrooms for the Association. This committee’s recommendation that the Association make an arrangement with the Commercial Travellers’ Club in Pitt Street to use their premises was rejected. The Cricketers’ Club idea lapsed until 1927 when it was again discussed at a NSWCA meeting, but it was not until 1936 that the Association decided to build a club in its new building in George Street.
The prominent solicitor Sydney Webb, who had handled the purchase of the six-storey building in George Street for £54,803, drafted a constitution for the Cricketers’ Club in August 1938, and the club was registered as a company on 14 November, 1939, two months after the outbreak of World War II, and opened for business on 1 July 1940.
From the start the Cricketers’ Club membership strongly supported the development of cricket. Two cricket nets were set up on the roof of Cricket House for members to practice during lunch hours and these nets remained in operation until 1953. Discussions among his fellow members made the Randwick batsman Jack Chegwyn aware of big possibilities for country tours by teams of leading players from the State’s representative sides. Chegwyn, who scored 375 runs at an average of 46.87 with one century in his five matches for NSW between 1940 and 1942, became a sporting legend for the pioneering work he did in the bush with teams selected at the Cricketers’ Club.
By 1942 the Cricketers’ Club had made such dramatic progress that most Sydney grade cricketers were members and at the end of that year the Club made a 1000 pound loan to the NSWCA to help the Association continue operating at a time when it had no income from Test or Sheffield Shield cricket.
Annual games at the SCG v the NSWCA commenced in 1965. In 1971, seven club members were in Don Bradman’s nomination for the best eleven Australian cricketers of the past 50 years. The Cricketers’ Club entered a side in the City & Suburban competition in 1971, and since moving to Barrack Street in 1981 has continued to play regularly in that competition. Over the years many Test players have appeared for the Club, including Richie Benaud, Alan Davidson, Keith Miller, Arthur Morris, Bill Watson, Geoff Lawson, Greg Matthews, Allan Turner, Mike Whitney, Richard Collinge, Trevor Chappell, Phil Emery, Dave Gilbert, ‘Mani’ Subramanya (India) and Alex Hales (England). Under the presidency of Ron Holmes the Club introduced a rule automatically granting membership to Australian Test players. The England and Australian teams in the 1988 Bicentenary match in Sydney played for a trophy donated by the Cricketers ‘Club.
Cricketers’ Club teams have been a dominating force in the Sydney City and Suburban competition for more than 40 years. The Club has hosted numerous touring teams from countries such as England, Canada, Malaysia, India, the West Indies, New Zealand and the USA. Overseas tours have become common.
With the liquidation of the registered club and the loss of its Barrack Street premises in 2001, the cricket and golf players retained the name and logo and continued to play, as a new incorporated association, still called “The Cricketers’ Club of New South Wales, Inc”, which was registered on 14 July 2003.
Editor’s note: Jack Pollard (1926-2002) was the author of over 80 sports related books, and numerous outstanding cricket books including an authoritative five volume history of Australian cricket. He also wrote the most popular of all Australian cricket encyclopaedias, entitled “The Game and The Players”.
PART 2 UPDATE
The Scotland and England Tour in 2017 will be the Club’s 31st overseas tour in the past twenty nine years (plus four other separate tours to Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island, Tasmania and Cairns):
|1991||Asia, involving matches in Hong Kong,
Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Johore Bahru & Singapore
|1992||Christchurch, New Zealand||2007||New Zealand (Wellington and environs) – January|
|1993||Christchurch, New Zealand||2007||South Africa September – October|
|1993||North America-Canada and U.S.A.||2008||Hawaii|
|1994||Malaysia and Singapore||2009||India|
|1995||Auckland, New Zealand||2009||Paris-Dublin-England|
|1996||Barbados/Trinidad||2010||Tasmania (not overseas)|
|1998||Norfolk Island (not overseas)||2011||Caribbean|
|1999||Lord Howe (not overseas)||2012||South America|
|2000||Vanuatu||2014||South East Asia|
|2001||Bali||2015||North America – Canada and USA|
|2002||Kenya||2016||Queenstown, New Zealand|
|2003||Sri Lanka||2017||Nelson, New Zealand|
|2004||Cook Islands (Easter)||2017||England and Scotland|
|2004||Cairns (July) (not overseas)||2018||Christchurch, New Zealand (Projected)|
|2018||Sri Lanka (Projected)|
The Cricketers’ Club has approximately 100 active cricketers. The Club also has a golf section. Of those 100 cricketers, approximately 30 play for the Club on Saturdays, and another 70 on Sundays and in mid-week games.
In the City and Suburban competition on Saturday afternoons, the Club plays about 24 matches a season. These are generally about 35 overs a side, although by agreement, they are sometimes extended to 40 overs. The C&S “competition” does not have a formal league table and not all clubs in the competition play each other. Nevertheless cricket is played in a competitive manner, and at its best, would probably equate to the standard of Sydney 3rd-4th Grade Cricket, although considerably shortened. In recent seasons, the Club has lost few C&S games. In addition there is a two part Jack Pace Cup competition; part 1 is a league structure for points; the top eight teams go into a knock out stage; C.C.N.S.W. has won the Cup four times.
On Sundays, the Club plays eleven fixtures in a competitive over 40’s “Masters” league, in which the Club’s position has varied from league winners to bottom. These are 40 over a side games. Six bowlers must be used, and batsmen must retire on scoring 40 runs. The Club also plays an eleven round over 50s “Classics” competition with similar rules and in 2016 won the Premiership.
The Club also plays about 15 other competitive but “friendly” fixtures each year, on grounds varying from major national grounds such as the MCG, SCG, the Gabba, Telstra (Olympic) Stadium and Bradman Oval, Bowral, to small country grounds such as Mandalong, and Mudgee. Opposition includes teams such as the Bradman Foundation, the Melbourne Cricket Club, The Sydney Cricket Club, the Queensland Cricketers’ Club, the Primary Club, Molonglo and usually a couple of overseas touring sides. These are generally full day games of about 45-50 overs a side. In February 2004, the Club was invited by the S.C.G. Trust and Cricket NSW to represent the Civilian population of the State in a match against the Military to celebrate 150 years of cricket at the S.C.G. A special plaque to commemorate this is permanently displayed on the exterior wall of the home dressing room at the SCG and the ball used in the match is on display in the Museum.