A Good Innings
“Look after that shine please!”
John Blomley, Brilliant Swing Bowler
Attribution: Wiki Commons
I have explained earlier, in my personal cricket narrative, that in 1958 I gave up my sporting ambition and returned to teaching. My appointment at a one-teacher school in the outer reaches of the Hunter Valley, with week-day accommodation only, meant that I spent my weekends closer to the city of Newcastle. So how could I not play cricket again?
The 1960 green field I had the good fortune to return to was situated at Stockton, on the north side of the Hunter River. It was a joyous return to the welcoming friendships and support I found there in that club that was a vibrant part of the Newcastle competition. I hope my surviving team mates and all families will forgive me if I focus just on one team-mate. After all these years I realise more strongly that ever what a brilliant human being he was.
My motive therefore is to make this little piece of mine an obituary in effect to a special friend, John Blomley. Off the cricket field when I knew him, John was a doctor serving the Stockton community in particular. On the playing field he was a star. That star shone not only on the cricket field. As a medical student he had been a fine Rugby Union centre-three quarter with Sydney University, New South Wales and Australia.
Here is a little more on the football side of things:
Born 7 March 1927 at Tumbarumba in New South Wales, Blomley attended St Joseph’s College, Sydney where he came under the watchful eye of the famous rugby coach, Brother Henry. Here, the young Blomley learned the rudiments of the game. Brother Henry insisted on a solid foundation for the young footballer. “There is no room in a college fifteen for a boy whose hands are not safe,” he counselled. “All the footballers at the college must learn the rudiments of the game.”
So Brother Henry turned out Jack Blomley as a polished inside back. After leaving St Joseph’s College in 1944, Blomley entered Sydney University to study medicine and naturally played for Sydney University in the metropolitan competition.
… Although he declared himself unavailable for the Australian Universities tour of New Zealand early in the year, Blomley looked forward to the 1949 representative season with the Maori side touring Australia for a Test series to be followed by a Wallaby tour of New Zealand. Blomley won selection in the New South Wales team that met the Maoris in the third match of their tour. The visitors produced a strong forward display to win 19-14, but Blomley did enough to be selected to play for Australia in the first Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
(Source: Loc.cit. the link below)
Here is an image of John at the height of his Football power. He was known as Jack in his Rugby days.
Attribution: Loc. cit. the link below
You can read more on the Rugby career of John here at this Rugby site.
Returning to matters of cricket, I can say with some confidence that wicket keepers tend to judge bowlers’ ability accurately. The bowler has a huge hand in the making of the ‘keeper’s status. Part of my destiny was to keep wickets to the bowling of John Blomley.
Now although I was a mere second class cricketer, I have been lucky enough to keep wickets to a number of Australia’s Test bowlers including Johnny Martin, Pat Crawford, Grahame Corling, John Watkins and (as a Golden Oldie) Robert Holland. I have batted against Gordon Rorke, David Sincock and Peter Philpott, all Test bowlers. You can add to that perspective keeping wickets for countless other bowlers from inter-varsity and the Grades of Sydney and Newcastle, as well as the brilliant Merv Black at Arundel for the Australian Old Collegians. Nowhere in that conglomeration of experience can a find another John Blomley.
I am not saying he was the best in my experience. But he was up there, unrecognised largely, with the stars. He was unforgettable with his wit and boundless energy. How sad for him to die aged 43.
John loved every moment of his cricket. His enthusiasm was catching. He polished that ball, especially at Stockton’s oval, like the finest medieval craftsman at work. If you bounced that ball with a throw, you were doomed to hear a torrent of abuse.
He rode the mystic winds of Stockton Bight with that ball like Pegasus. Perfect control with windy support. Three outswingers and then a sudden inswinger at LBW time. A sudden slow ball for a caught and bowled. A faster one, the wicket broken and a bail harmlessly hitting my jaw.
John was a busy doctor too. More than once play was interrupted by the urgent needs of a patient.
He was patient with me too, amidst all of his quest to overthrow batsmen. Cheerful with mistakes and generous with success. I still replay a missed stumping that would have given him a hat trick. It was a legside inswinger that left the batsman and me stranded and resulted in four byes. I have replayed that moment so many times that I am sure I could catch it now, old as I am.
It is such a long time now since I marvelled at John Blomley. We all fade away eventually don’t we? All that is left of our dreams is a memory in the minds of others. But somehow that is a very important place to be.