By the mid 1970’s I was playing cricket fulltime, whether it was 1st class representing New Zealand or playing as a club pro in the United Kingdom. Hearing problems were starting to arise but I wasn’t too concerned… After all, I was playing sport for a living and the hearing thing was not really a big issue.
In the early days representing NZ, the match payments were shocking. Then Kerry Packer came on the scene and introduced the new game, 50 over cricket. He gave us coloured clothing to wear, we played with a white ball and half the game was played at night under lights. A brilliant change to sell to the public and boy, did they love it! Here in NZ the players soon became household names, especially with the stay at home housewives. They loved the idea they could switch the television on just after lunch and watch this new game. Lots of husbands would arrive home to no tea (dinner) on the table as the wife was too caught up in the game.
The match fees certainly made it worthwhile to be involved. Australia introduced a tri-series which in the early days involved Australia and New Zealand and one of the other test playing nations. This meant for a number of years we had to spend Christmas in Oz. One of our team priorities for this was to hold Christmas lunch where all the team members would receive a little gift. John Wright was always the MC and when your name was called you went up to the front and got your pressie. He would call my name out very softly, then again a little louder and the third time he would scream my name out as loud as he could. Up I go to get my gift and have to unwrap it in front of the guys – two very large plastic ears which of course I had to put on and wear them for the rest of the function. When we finished I had to hand my gift back in and I was given these ears for about 4 Christmases in a row…The boys found this pretty humorous, which I didn’t mind as it was just the boys having a bit of fun.
During this time the Oz and Kiwi boys got pretty close as we were playing against each other so often. Drinks in each other’s change rooms were compulsory after a match and the sessions we had in the Aussie’s room at the S.C.G. were legendary. Doug Walters who started out as a Rothmans representative and later became a Tooheys representative, installed a huge fridge on the back wall of the home dressing room at the S.C.G. which of course, was stocked with Tooheys products the following year and he had installed another huge fridge on the back wall. We always made sure the fridges were empty before we left the ground.
I had an interesting experience one time at the M.C.G. A part of the ground is called Bay 13 and this area attracts the more vocal patrons and maybe a few more ruffians who like to give the fielder near them a pretty torrid time vocally. Because of my hearing, I was always allocated this area to go and field in as they could scream blue murder at me and I wouldn’t take any notice… except once when I heard this female voice calling out “sign please!” I turned around to sign her book, but no book in hand… just her chest. Of course I signed it.