Maleny cricket memories

Mar 7, 2019 | Community, Features, Sport

The beer was cold, the pitch was hot and there were yarns aplenty at the 50-year reunion of the Maleny District Cricket Association (MDCA) at the Maleny showgrounds on January 19. In their heyday, the Maleny cricketers were a formidable force, claiming one of Australia’s most notable sportsmen – Otto Nothling – as one of their own.

by Judy Fredriksen

Cricket became an Australian pastime almost as soon as the First Fleet finished unloading at Sydney Cove and was eagerly played by the early settlers of Maleny and surrounds.  

From elite players who’ve been privileged enough to wear the baggy green cap for Australia, down to the backyard novice who scores a six by simply hitting the ball over the fence, cricket reflects many of our national values – sportsmanship, competitiveness, fun and mateship.

And there was plenty of this in evidence at the MDCA reunion which was attended by more than 50 people, many of the team members now aged in their 80s.

Former MDCA president and chief event organiser, Ian Fleiter of Conondale, says Maleny used to have a very strong association.

George Diefenbach, Harry Porter and Bob Hawkins find their names in a 1962 score book and are relieved they didn’t get out for a duck that day

“We had teams from Conondale, Teutoberg (now Witta), Landsborough, three teams from Kenilworth, three teams from Maleny and even a team from Baroon Pocket which is now under water. We would play every weekend for six months during the season and we played against teams from Stanley River and Maroochy.”

Fellow organiser Don (Barney) Houston of Kenilworth produced several news articles dated 1903–4 from the Nambour Chronicle telling how matches were organised 100 years ago.  

“They rode their horses to the cricket match and would have to cross the Obi and the Mary River numerous times to get there. If the team was a man or two short, they would stop at farms and pick up a couple of players on the way,” chuckles Barney.

“It might take them half a day to get there and sometimes they would stay the night.”

The temperature at one Kenilworth game in February in 1904 was “109 degrees in the shade” while the horses “were treated with a good feed of corn and chaff”, according to one news article.

The highlight of the reunion was the anecdotes delivered by Len Lowe, all-round cricketer, of Maleny.

“One day Tom Jobling was playing and the players were all racing around the field and all of a sudden everyone had to stop because Tom lost his glass eye. Someone found it, and he put it in his mouth to wash it then put it back in his eye and away he went,” says Len.

Ian Fleiter, former president of Conondale Cricket Club holds up the 1969 Premiership Trophy

Len describes how he and his brother Bert would train at home on their farm. “We learnt to hit sixes pretty early because the grass and scotchies were about six foot high; we couldn’t hit the ball along the ground. Anyway, we had an old cattle dog that we trained to retrieve the ball. But of course, after a while the dog would get hot and race off down the creek to cool off, and we’d have to chase after him to get the ball back.”

Len recalls playing at Green Park, Conondale where they would have to check the grounds for plover’s nests before they began and shove a stick in the ground to mark the spot. The grounds were never mowed or slashed, so they would find themselves playing in long grass, amongst both wet and dry cow pats and Scotch thistles.

And no reunion is complete without a story about pranks. One night some young blokes came home from a dance in the early hours of a Sunday morning and phoned the coach – a married man – from a phone box to get him out of bed and ask his advice whether they should bat or bowl if they won the toss later in the day. Needless to say, the coach was not happy!

The greatest cricketer to come from Maleny was Otto Nothling, an all-round athlete who also excelled at rugby union, javelin-throwing and shot-putting.

After playing cricket for New South Wales and Queensland, Nothling was selected to play for Australia in 1928, replacing the young (Sir) Donald Bradman, who was dropped to twelfth man, for the Test against England. 

At the end of each cricket season, there was always a great success to celebrate and the presentation balls were a grand affair. Former secretary of the association, Harry Porter (though he confesses his wife did most of the work!) lists a slew of celebrities who would travel from Brisbane to Maleny and surrounds to judge the belle of the ball and present the winning trophies.

“We had Channel 7 personality, Jill Edwards, come up once and Lyn Cope who was Miss Queensland. Then there was Don Tallon – Australian Test Cricketer and Clem Jones, Brisbane Lord Mayor,” says Harry.

Sadly, lifestyles changed and the MDCA folded in 1969, though Maleny still has a cricket club which now plays with the Sunshine Coast Cricket Association. Many of the current Maleny team are descendants of the old MDCA and were there in force to support ‘the oldies’.

Despite their advancing years, all had such a good time they are determined to do it all again next year.

“We don’t want to wait another two or three years,” says Ian Fleiter. “We want to get together again while we still can.”

Sounds like these champs have quite a few more good innings left in them and intend to set a mean pace for the young ‘uns to follow. Howzat!



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