Death Of Sir Donald Bradman



About this Item
SpeakersCarr Mr Bob; Chikarovski Mrs Kerry; Refshauge Dr Andrew; Souris Mr George
BusinessCondolence


    DEATH OF SIR DONALD BRADMAN
Page: 11928

    Mr CARR (Maroubra—Premier, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Citizenship) [5.23 p.m.]: I move:

        That this House places on record its sense of loss on the death of Sir Donald Bradman, the best cricketer to have ever played the game and a hero to millions of people in Australia and around the world.
    Don Bradman was the ordinary Australian writ large, who came from an ordinary house in a small provincial town, with a certain gift for music and salesmanship, golf and tennis; who, had he missed his calling, might have gone unremarked, in the way of many ordinary country town men and women who live and work, and pass on into local respect and slowly out of memory. But he found his calling and practised it, and with it he electrified a nation and startled an empire. He became a hero when heroes were sorely needed, when World Depression had splintered the hope of innocent lives and put through pointless torment families and communities deserving of better.

    Don Bradman showed what persistence, courage, concentration and a certain focused cleverness can do, however hard the situation and however great the forces massed against you. He showed that valour, dignity, grace under pressure and the poetry of personal effort are qualities that all of us can reach for, whatever our street of origin or family advantage. His life had suffering in it—the terrible sickness of a child, and furious discontents in his years as a sports administrator—but the love that was always at his back, of the woman he had loved from his boyhood and swore he would not survive very long, sustained, nourished and cheered him in the darkest of his years.

    A new medium, radio, made him famous. An international scandal, bodyline, nearly broke him. A world war took from his batting eight irreplaceable years. His final test deprived him of the 100 average that seemed his birthright. He fought off with vigour those who would offend his privacy or exploit his name, but with every year of silence his legend grew. Yet in the end, and at his end, he was an ordinary man, suspicious of his worshippers, deprecatory of the talent that raised and burdened him, certain of his heritage, his nation, his duty and his dignity. An ordinary man in whom the extraordinary lurked, as it does, I suspect, in us all.

    His extraordinary talent, unsoiled by ego or self-delusion, or hunger for personal wealth, brought joy to the lives of millions. He will be sorely missed by millions. He is the symbol of Australia in a simpler time, a poorer Australia but a very decent Australia; an Australia of community, an Australia of people doing well in adversity, in inner cities and suburbs, country towns and hamlets and on farms. He will be sorely missed, as I said, by millions. There is none like him. We shall not see his like again. We will never forget him.

    Mrs CHIKAROVSKI (Lane Cove—Leader of the Opposition) [5.24 p.m.]: It is with great sadness that I speak in this condolence debate tonight to pay tribute to Sir Donald Bradman. Although I am not old enough to have ever seen the Don play, I, like many other Australians of my generation, have looked at the photos and read the contemporary reports that described his masterly control of the bat. I suspect I am the only member of this House who can claim to be a collector of Bradman memorabilia—to the extent that one of the walls of my office is covered with artefacts and mementos I have bought over the last few years because I believe that this was a man who was not only a great sportsman but a great Australian. My way of paying tribute to him has been to collect that memorabilia.

    Sir Donald Bradman died at his Adelaide home aged 92 on 25 February 2001. He died peacefully after a short illness with pneumonia, but after a number of years of failing health. He is survived by his son, John, and daughter, Shirley. Without a doubt Sir Donald Bradman was a great Australian. He was a great cricketer but he was more than just someone who could wield a cricket bat. He was someone who lifted the very spirit of our nation. He was Australia's greatest sportsperson in any field and his prowess was known and celebrated around the world. In 52 test matches from 1928 to 1948 he scored 6,996 runs at an average of 99.94. But Don Bradman was also very successful off the cricketing field. He was a devoted husband, a successful businessman and a keen supporter of charity. He also had a great love of music and, I understand, was a very entertaining public speaker. The Don was a man of enormous modesty, talent, humility and integrity.

    Don Bradman was born in Cootamundra in August 1908. Two years later the Bradman family moved to Bowral. From an early age Don Bradman was a sporting and active youngster. In his backyard he developed a game involving throwing a golf ball at the round brick base of a water tank and then hitting the ball with a cricket stump. In this way he developed his precise co-ordination and skill which carried him through so many years of cricket. At the age of 12 he was invited to play for the senior school cricket team and in his second game he scored 115 not out from a team total of 150. On weekends Don acted as scorer for the Bowral team, which included his father. But as a teenager he continued to be busy with all sport. He played rugby, tennis and cricket as well as competition athletics. In February 1921 Don watched his first test match with his father, a clash between England and Australia at the very revered Sydney Cricket Ground. He vowed, like so many teenagers before him and so many after him, that he would never be satisfied until he played cricket on that ground.

    At the end of 1922, aged 14, Don left school and took a position with Mr Percy Westbrook as a clerk in a Bowral real estate agency. For eight years his employer was very considerate, giving Don time off to pursue his cricketing career. In 1926 after a successful period with Bowral, Don agreed to play for the St George Cricket Club if they paid his train fare from Bowral. Each Saturday Don had to get out of bed before 5.00 a.m. to catch the train from Bowral to Sydney, often not getting home until midnight. Now, that is what I call commitment! At only 19 years of age Don was selected to play for the New South Wales cricket team in the Sheffield Shield competition. In his first match, against South Australia, he became only the twentieth Australian to score a century in his first first-class match. In New South Wales Don was referred to as "the boy from Bowral" but to the Bowral community he became known affectionately as our Don.

    In the summer of 1928 he was selected to play for Australia in the first test match. However, he did not bat well. For this reason he was selected as twelfth man for the second test. That was the only time during the next 20 years that Bradman was not included in the Australian cricket team. Don returned in the third test, scoring a test century with 112 in the second innings and becoming the youngest player to do so. During this time, and despite his enormous work commitments and cricket engagements, he still found time to coach hundreds of young school boys from all over New South Wales.

    In 1930 Don broke the world's batting record for the highest score in first-class cricket; he scored 452 not out. Who knows how much more he could have scored if the innings had not been declared! In Bradman's first-ever match in England he scored 236, making him the youngest overseas player to score a double century in England. In this series he scored an average of 139.14—and he was just 21 years old. On 30 April 1932 Don Bradman married Jessie Menzies. The two met many years earlier when Jessie came to stay with the Bradman family while they both attended the Bowral school. She was to be the love of his life. [Extension of time agreed to.]

    If one asks about cricket in the 1930s the two things one is most likely to hear are the feats of our Don and the infamous bodyline series. The bodyline series of 1932 in which English bowlers targeted the bodies of the Australian batsmen was to prove a very challenging time for the Australian team, indeed for the entire Australian public. It was the mark of the man that the challenge was met and he kept at the task. It is important to note that at this time Australia was facing one of its great social and economic challenges—the Great Depression. Donald Bradman provided some much-needed hope and inspiration for thousands of Australians across our nation.

    In 1936 he became captain of the Australian team. In cricketing grounds across Australia, at train stations and in living rooms listening to the wireless, Don's exploits were celebrated by a grateful public. To his enduring credit the Don never let his success get ahead of him. If one looks at early newsreels one will notice that when he was dismissed, which was quite rare, he would always immediately turn on his heel and return to the dressing room. He did not tarry: when he was out, he was out. He was, after all, still the boy from Bowral. For a nation that has a well-earned reputation for cutting down the tall poppy, Don remained ever modest. When the famous song Our Don Bradman was sung over and over again at the cricket ground Don's constant reaction was one of incredulous embarrassment.

    The Second World War interrupted Don's cricketing careers. While he volunteered for service, his physical state precluded him from active service. Despite not having played cricket for five years he accepted the Australian captaincy in 1946 against an English team in an effort to help post-war recovery. In 1948 Don Bradman captained his last test tour to England. Throughout an eight-month tour the team did not lose a single match. The team was dubbed the Invincibles—the greatest Australian side in history to leave our shores. When he retired in 1948 his test average was 99.94, missing out on 100 by being bowled out for zero—out for a duck—on the second ball by Eric Hollies at The Oval in his final test match. He needed only four runs in his last test at The Oval in England to average 100, but the English spinner Eric Hollies bowled our Don out for a duck. In his own style and reflecting his modesty Sir Donald said:
        I knew it would be my last test match after a career spanning 20-years but to suggest I got out as some people did because I had tears in my eyes is to belittle the bowler and is quite untrue. Eric Hollies deceived me and deserves full credit.
    Sir Donald retired from first-class cricket in 1949—but he would continue to make a wonderful contribution. He served as chairman, administrator and selector for more than 35 years for Australia and South Australia and was earnestly applauded for his administrative skills. In 1949 he was deservedly knighted and remains the only Australian ever knighted for services to the game of cricket. And did he love the game! But he was also ever conscious of his obligations to the spectators—those who loved and supported the game, for without them there would be no game. In the Bradman Albums he wrote:
        In a long career there are many outstanding memories but I suppose the opening day of the Third Test at Leeds must rank as the greatest in my cricketing life.

        To break the world's record Test score was exciting. To do so against Australia's oldest and strongest rival was satisfying. More than anything else, however, was the knowledge that I had scored the runs at such a fast rate and therefore provided entertainment for the spectators.
    In his later years Sir Don earned a formidable reputation as an avid correspondent. For several hours each day he replied to everyone who wrote to him. When one considers the many thousands of letters that were sent to him, that was an impressive accomplishment. Letters poured in, and not just from Australia but from right around the world. I was intrigued to discover that many Indian teenagers wrote to the Don, and were delighted to receive a response. In 1988 he was voted by the Australian Confederation of Sport as the greatest male athlete of the past 200 years. The love of his life, Lady Bradman, died in September 1997 after 65 years of loving marriage—a record which not many will ever be able to emulate, certainly not me. In Don's words the "best partnership of my life" was over. There are many tributes to Don Bradman: The Prime Minister, John Howard, said:
        Don Bradman is the world's greatest cricketer and according to many people who compare these things perhaps the greatest sportsman in 100 years.
    Alan Jones said:
        The Bradman story is above all else the ultimate Australian dream where a young boy from the bush makes it against the odds; and with every execution of his skill rewrites history.
    Richie Benaud, a former great Australian cricketer, said:
        I saw quite a bit of him but never actually played against him, which was a pity from my point of view. He was the best batsman there has ever been. I don't think there is any doubt about that. You don't just take statistics in that sort of thing. You talk to people who have played with him and against him.
    Umpire Dickie Bird said:
        No-one will get near that average. The Bodyline series will always be remembered but you also have to say that he skippered the Australian side in 1948 and that was possibly the best Test side which has ever played the game. He was a wonderful player who seemed to caress the ball. He was a genius.
    Sir Donald's biographer, Roland Perry, wrote:
        He transformed cricket. For most I think until the late 20s it was equivalent to watching the grass grow. He turned it into a mass entertainment."
    Bill O'Reilly said:
        I am quite certain he was the best cricketer ever to walk onto a cricket ground in any part of the whole wide world.
    Undoubtedly, Sir Don's magnificent career as a cricketer left an indelible mark on the nation, and his memory will live on in future generations. He was kind, charitable and above all else a modest gentleman. And perhaps a final word from the man himself: in his advice for budding sportsmen or women, which could be applied in so many fields as a way to live one's life, he said:
        They don't need wealth. They don't need power. They don’t need anything else except the love of their friends and some natural ability.

    Vale Sir Donald Bradman.

    Dr REFSHAUGE (Marrickville—Deputy Premier, Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Minister for Housing) [5.37 p.m.]: With the death of Sir Donald Bradman on Sunday we lost an Australian icon, without doubt the greatest batsmen of all time. His achievements made him an international figure and he will never be forgotten. No other cricketer has come close to, or is ever likely to threaten, his test average of 99.94. Sir Donald's cricketing genius was evident early in his life: he made his first 100 at the tender age of 12.

    In January 1930 in the second innings of a Sheffield Shield match between Queensland and New South Wales Bradman scored 452 not out—71 years later that remains the third-highest score in first-class cricket. He achieved that when still aged only 21. For the rest of his career it was a case of when Bradman batted cricket ovals were filled to capacity. Just after that innings Bradman was selected for his first tour of England. During that tour he scored 334 in the third test, then a world record. So at just 21 he had already shattered the record books: the highest score in test cricket, the youngest batsmen to make 2,000 runs in an English season, the highest number of runs in a day's play in a test match, the fastest first 100 in a test match and double-centuries in consecutive tests. The 1932-33 season was the time of the infamous bodyline series. Despite the cramping of his style Bradman was still able to score 396 runs in four tests, at an average of 56.57.

    As we reflect on the life of Sir Donald Bradman, it is difficult to comprehend the true extent of his fame and celebrity in the 1930s. He was Australia's national hero. He found the constant attention and demands on him so overwhelming that his health suffered. There can be no doubt, however, that the emergence of Bradman and his great feats against England were the good news Australians desperately needed in the 1930s. The rise of Bradman as the greatest cricketer the world had seen coincided with the Great Depression, a time in our history of immense suffering with over 30 per cent of the Australian work force unemployed and no proper system of support other than rations. One of the best biographies of Sir Donald Bradman is by Charles Williams, Lord Williams of Elvel, a Labour life peer in the British House of Lords. Referring to the years of the Depression, he says:
        Bradman was without doubt the brightest star—almost the only bright star—in what was a particularly gloomy firmament.

        In the period when day after day went by without hope for a large section of Australia's manhood and in unremitting drudgery for Australian women, Bradman was the one hero with whom it was possible to identify and who stood for the pride of a young nation.

        "Susso" might be degrading, but as long as "Our Don" was savaging the English bowling attack, whether in Melbourne or Leeds, there was at least something to cheer.

        Those who lived through the period say, with the ring of absolute truth, that they will never forget the sense of hope and confidence that Bradman symbolised.
    Things slowly improved and it was with great anticipation that Australians looked forward to the 1938 tour of England. But this tour was played at a time when the relationship between England and Australia was about to change and at a time of dramatically rising tensions in Europe. Again, Bradman symbolised hope, optimism and great batting form. In the opening match he made 258 against Worcestershire. It was the third time Bradman had opened an English tour with a double century. After the 1938 tour of England Bradman enjoyed a magnificent season of domestic competition in 1938-1939. His average was 160.2. During World War II Bradman hardly picked up a cricket bat, and experienced considerable ill health. The Ashes contest resumed after the war and Bradman made an astonishing comeback to the game to lead his country in the post-war era. As Charles Williams states:
        It was a courageous decision. Now aged 38 he could easily have decided to rest on the laurels of the 1930s, he could have made himself a great deal of money by writing instead of playing and … it was most unlikely he would be able to sustain his career average of 95.82.

    Despite the complete lack of cricket during the war years, Bradman scored 421 runs in his first two post-war test innings. We all know about the 1948 tour of England. Australia, under Bradman's leadership, did not lose a match. The Headingley test match resulted in Australia chasing 404 on the last day to win by seven wickets. Bradman and Arthur Morris shared a partnership of 301 runs, with Bradman scoring 173 not out. He showed his generosity in this match when he allowed Neil Harvey, the 19-year-old baby of the team, to hit the winning run. The only thing that seemed to change about Bradman's batting after the war was that he scored fewer double centuries. Bradman ended his career with an average in first-class cricket of 95.14. He remains in the record books as the scorer of the most triple hundreds—six—and the most double hundreds—37—in first-class cricket.

    In the 1950s cricket went into the doldrums without the great Sir Donald Bradman. Test matches were slow and unexciting and teams played defensively. Attendances at first-class matches slumped. Many of us saw the recent ABC documentary about the West Indies tour of Australia in 1960-61. At this time Bradman was Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board and desperate to see the Australian side play exciting cricket. At the start of the tour Bradman spoke to the Australian team, which was captained by Richie Benaud. He told them they were there to play attractive cricket which would bring back the spectators. He made it clear to the side that the selectors would favour those who took this simple piece of advice.

    As we know, Bradman's words were heeded and this was one of the all-time great test series—a tied test, a world record crowd of 90,000 at the Melbourne test and Frank Worrell and his West Indies team feted in a way Bradman had once been. When we look back over Bradman's illustrious career as a player and administrator it allows us to put cricket's present problems into context. The game survived the bodyline series, it survived World War II and it survived the 1950s. This great sport will survive the current scandals, and the legacy of Sir Donald will ensure this happens.

    Last April during Heritage Week, which had as its theme "Australia's Sporting Heritage", I was delighted to announce in Parliament the Government's intention to add the Bradman Museum and the Bradman Oval at Bowral to the State Heritage Register. There was strong community support for that listing and the museum and oval were formally added to the State Heritage Register in June 2000. I would like to acknowledge that the idea for listing on the State Heritage Register came from Carmel McKeogh, my policy adviser on heritage matters and a great cricket fan. The Bradman Museum spans not only one man's great career but the history of the game. The museum contains an oak bat dating from the 1750s, Sir Donald's first cricket bat and the bat he used at Headingley in 1934 to score his second highest test innings of 304. Other items include helmets and coloured one day uniforms of the modern era. The museum is one of the best examples of moveable heritage in the country.

    Sir Donald's greatest partnership was far removed from the cricket oval. Although a very private person, he was open about the happiness his 65 years of marriage to Lady Jessie Bradman had given him. He suffered profound grief when she died in 1997. Like so many in our community, family life brought Bradman the greatest happiness and the greatest sadness. His first child lived only a few hours, his son had polio as a child and his daughter was born with cerebral palsy. We learned yesterday of Sir Donald's kindness to the Beazley family at a that time that they, too, were experiencing the pain of a child suffering the illness of polio. Sir Donald's 92 years spanned a time of great challenge in our society.

    From his debut in first-class cricket in 1927 Bradman's cricketing feats were part of a decisive period in the history of modern Australia. He will always be revered throughout the cricket world and his memory and great achievements will live on in the museum at Bowral, in the Bradman display at the South Australian Museum in his adopted State and in the Bradman Memorial Fund, which will be directed towards disadvantaged groups to encourage their participation in cricket. I am delighted to learn that Aboriginal communities will benefit from this fund. In 484 BC the poet Pindar wrote of Xenophon of Corinth, who won the Olympic Games short sprint and pentathlon on the same day: "He achieved things no mortal man had achieved before." Two and a half thousand years later we can say the same of Bradman in the modern sporting era. We mark Sir Donald's death with great sadness, but also with gratitude and thanks for his life and his wonderful achievements.

    Mr SOURIS (Upper Hunter—Leader of the National Party) [5.45 p.m.]: Sir Donald Bradman stopped playing cricket in the year I was born. I make that observation merely as an indication that, therefore, a significant proportion of the Australian population would never have seen or heard Don Bradman play. Yet he is an Australian icon without peer. The country is mourning the loss of Australia's greatest sporting hero and I join all Australians in expressing condolences to Sir Donald's family and friends. Donald Bradman dominated his chosen sport of cricket like no other has dominated any other sport. He was clearly the best batsman to have played the modern game. He was a relentless accumulator of runs at an astonishing scoring rate and he holds or held almost too many records to tabulate.

    Sir Donald was a born and bred country boy. His story has inspired many country kids for nearly a century. His talent was evident at an early age when, aged 11, he scored 55 not out in his first cricket match. He made the first of 115 centuries for Bowral school against Mittagong school at the age of 12. He made a century in his first-grade debut with Sydney club St George and matched the feat by scoring a century in his first-class debut for New South Wales against South Australia. He was selected for his first test in November 1928, two months after his twentieth birthday, but failed with scores of 18 and one and was subsequently dropped for the next test. He was subsequently reinstated to the side and hit two centuries before the series was over. He finished his first series with an average of 66.8.

    Donald Bradman became a hero to Australians as the nation suffered through the Great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s. His extraordinary cricketing skills gave ordinary Australians something to admire in a depressed world, somebody to look up to and to lift their spirits. He stamped his greatness beyond doubt in 1930 when he set the world record for first-class cricket with a score of 452 not out against Queensland and the world record for test cricket by scoring 334 against England at Leeds, including 309 in just under a day.

    Don Bradman slaughtered the English in the 1930 Ashes series in England by scoring 974 runs at an average of 139, including a triple century, two double centuries and one century. He once scored exactly 100 runs from 22 balls in a minor match at Blackheath. In the 1932-33 infamous bodyline series the English demonstrated their desperation to control Bradman. The tactic was partly successful, as Bradman averaged only 56 runs in the series. He was selected as captain of the Australian team in 1936. He served Australia and the Commonwealth in the Royal Australian Air Force and the Army during the Second World War.

    In December 1946, aged 38, he scored 187 against England in his first innings after World War II. He agreed to lead Australia to England in 1948 to help the game get back on its feet—he had his fortieth birthday on the tour—and led the team through the first unbeaten tour of England. The 1948 team became known as the Invincibles, and it was regarded as one of the best Australian cricket teams ever. He scored zero in his last innings in August 1948, even after the English team sang For He's a Jolly Good Fellow and gave him three cheers upon his arrival at the crease. In March 1949 he retired after his last first-class match.

    Don Bradman played 52 matches and scored 6,996 runs at an average of 99.54. He played 234 first-class matches, and scored 28,067 at an average of 95.14. He was knighted in January 1949 by King George VI, the only Australian knighted for services to cricket. He was a very talented all-round sportsman. He played tennis with the Australian Davis Cup Team, he played golf off scratch, and he won the Australian squash championship. He was an accomplished self-taught pianist, and was regarded as having the potential to become a concert pianist. Sir Donald's influence on the lives of people throughout the world can be demonstrated by the fact that Nelson Mandela, very soon after his release from prison in 1990, asked whether Sir Donald was still alive.

    Sir Donald's wish was to be remembered as a man of integrity, one with the traditional values of country people. His wish will, without doubt, be granted. As a final gesture of the generosity exemplified by his years of tirelessly responding to his fan mail, Sir Donald was instrumental in the establishment of the Bradman Memorial Fund, which will help promote cricket among disadvantaged groups, including indigenous Australians. Sir Donald Bradman was a boy from the bush who learned his cricket in the local country competition and became a twentieth century phenomenon. He is the most well-known and respected Australian, and a man who will be missed and mourned by millions around the world.

    Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Gibson.

    Pursuant to resolution private members' statements taken forthwith.