Cricket Umpires Australia

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It's official! Halls of Fame continue to grow

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The end of the 2014/15 Australian cricket season heralded a turning point in terms of cricket officials receiving recognition and appreciation for more than one hundred years of critical dedication towards the sport. And it all bodes well for the continued growth of the game across the nation.

The end of the 2014/15 Australian cricket season heralded a turning point in terms of cricket officials receiving recognition and appreciation for more than one hundred years of critical dedication towards the sport. And it all bodes well for the continued growth of the game across the nation.

The New South Wales Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association (NSWCUSA) synchronised its centenary celebrations in 2013 with the establishment of a Hall of Fame – a project which saw eleven outstanding umpires from across its century of operations showcased in inaugural inductions to the new institution. The South Australian Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association (SACUSA) followed hot on NSW’s heels in 2014 with a major Adelaide Oval event that saw ten amazing umpires and one superb scorer appreciated via inaugural induction to a Hall of Fame as well.

But 2015 has really cemented the Hall of Fame concept in both organisations by being witness to more inductions to the top echelon of the awards structure. Without consultation with each other, NSWCUSA and SACUSA submitted more candidates to the gentlemen charged with the task of deciding whether more additions would be made – resulting in a twelfth induction to both Halls of Fame.

The very experienced former first grade umpire and current NSWCUSA Board Director, Graham Chudleigh, sat on a sub-committee with NSWCUSA Chairman, Geoff Garland, and former Test umpire, Dick French, to consider nominations. After thorough deliberation, they decided to recommend that former first class scorer, Merilyn Fowler, be inducted into the Hall of Fame ranks. The NSWCUSA Board unanimously voted to endorse the recommendation, and Merilyn – the first scorer and first woman to receive the honour – was inducted at the 2015 NSWCUSA Annual Dinner at Bankstown Sports Club.

Merilyn joined NSWCUSA in 1997 – the first year in which the Association was expanded to welcome scorers as equal and integral members of the cricket officials’ team. She has always been willing to share her expertise and knowledge with others seeking to improve their scoring skills - acting as mentor, coach and selector during her 17 years spent serving on the NSWCUSA committee, including three years as a Board Director - all done while raising a family. Merilyn helped found the Scorers’ Sub-committee and was instrumental in the preparation of training manuals and the designing of scorer training courses when none of these now expected resources were available. In many respects, she became the public face of scoring within NSW and rightly earned an outstanding reputation within the media for the manner in which she carried herself in promoting the cause of scoring and its important place in our sport. Merilyn’s record as a representative level scorer is also impressive. Ten Test matches (including an Ashes Test at Lord’s in 2009), 28 One Day Internationals and 31 First Class matches, are all appointments which appear on her impressive professional resume. Her record has few equals in the history of NSW cricket.

In SA, the desire to continue considering Hall of Fame nominations was strong. The passing of original SACUSA Hall of Fame Selection Panel member and former Test umpire, Ray Isherwood, in 2014, meant that another selector was needed to join the originals, former SA player and cricket administrator, Harvey Jolly, and author, historian and East Torrens Grade cricket scorer, Geoff Sando. Inaugural SACUSA Hall of Fame inductee, Max O’Connell, was approached to fill the position, and after his acceptance, the Panel decided that SACUSA 1950 Life Member, Reg Nelson, would be awarded the honour posthumously.

During research undertaken about Reg, it was discovered that he was one of SACUSA’s most dedicated supporters – serving as President, Vice-President, Umpire Coach, cricket law talkback advisor on Victor Richardson’s 1950s radio program, and Sheffield Shield umpire. His support was crucial in maintaining and running the Umpires’ Winter School, and his career with SACUSA lasted close to thirty years. He is well remembered by current SACUSA Patron and former SA superstar player, Neil Dansie, who played cricket with Reg’s sons at Sir Donald Bradman’s grade club, Kensington. Neil vouches for Reg’s commitment to junior development and his belief that players should know the cricket laws thoroughly in order to plan the best tactical manoeuvres. Reg was announced as the twelfth inductee into the SACUSA Hall of Fame at the Presentation Dinner at the Adelaide Pavilion on May 23.

Australia-wide, there are many cricket officials – past and present – who have driven themselves to be at the top of their game for the good of the sport.  Halls of Fame are a tremendous way to acknowledge the excellence of officials, and it is likely we will see them grow in the near future. SACUSA’s historian, Kristen Thomas, can be contacted if needed on 0414 326 978 for advice on how to begin the establishment of a Hall of Fame in State umpiring and scoring associations. Her foray into the historical cricket officials’ world has shown her the importance of rediscovering the lifelong allegiance that some officials pledge, and the benefits which that has had on the Australian cricket landscape for many, many years.