Death Of Sir Donald Bradman

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SpeakersSeaton Ms Peta; Greene Mr Kevin

Page: 12036

    Debate adjourned from 27 February.

    Ms SEATON (Southern Highlands) [11.09 a.m.]: Those of us from Bowral know him as our Don. It is a great honour to represent the area that includes Bowral, where the Bradman legend began in a house with a water tank at the back which the young Don Bradman used for batting practice with a cricket stump and a golf ball. I pay tribute to Bowral's favourite son, who departed the field this week with the undisputed reputation of the greatest cricket player the world has ever seen, and one of our greatest Australians. Sir Donald Bradman was born in Cootamundra and at the age of 2½ moved to Bowral, where he lived with his family in a house in Shepherd Street, near to where the Bradman Oval is located.

    Sir Donald attended the Bowral Public School along with Jessie Menzies, who later became his wife. He became a member of the New South Wales Sheffield Shield team and the Australian test team, which he captained with great distinction for many years. Many details of his cricketing career have been covered by other members of this place who have contributed to this condolence debate. I had the honour of meeting a number of members of the Invincibles team of 1948, which was greatest Australian cricket team that ever left our shores. It was interesting to hear Arthur Morris and Bill Johnston, both members of that team, speak of Sir Donald's leadership, his aura, his sense of fair play and his great pride in representing Australia. I am honoured that I had the chance to speak to both those gentlemen and hear at first hand what it was like to be captained by the great Sir Donald Bradman in 1948 when the team visited England.

    In the Southern Highlands we are very proud that Sir Donald Bradman grew up and lived in Bowral and attended Bowral Public School. The school has had the distinction of having been visited and touched by many great Australians, one of whom was Sir Henry Parkes, who visited the school in March 1890. A few decades later Sir Donald Bradman, then a young boy, took his first steps to school in Bowral, accompanied by Jessie Menzies. In recent days I have spoken with members of the Bowral Public School Parents and Citizens Association. At its meeting last night there was discussion about an appropriate way in which Bowral Public School might acknowledge its famous former student. One idea that was put to parents was to change the name of the school to include the name "Sir Donald Bradman". Another idea, which probably has a lot of support, is the reconstruction of a gate which is in need of repair as a memorial gate to Sir Donald Bradman.

    The school is located a few blocks from where Sir Donald grew up, and is close to the famous Bradman Oval and Bradman Museum. I look forward to working with the parents and citizens association to implement whatever it decides is the most appropriate way in which the school can acknowledge that Sir Donald was once a student at that school. I never had the privilege of meeting Sir Donald but long before I became a member of this place I certainly revered him and knew a great deal about him. I first became aware of him when I was a child living in the Solomon Islands. At that time it was a British colony and very keen on its cricket. In the afternoons I used to listen to the British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC] World Service. Brian Johnston, a famous British cricket commentator, would tell those living in that tropical place, four degrees below the equator, what was going on in a cricket game in England or Australia.

    Living in a place where there was no television and no other form of communication, the BBC World Service evoked in me pictures of a game that I had never actually seen. Although Sir Donald was not playing in any of those games, his name was often mentioned in those broadcasts. From a young age I had some idea of him, although I had never seen an image of him and certainly never seen a real game of cricket. When I was elected to this House in 1996, as a matter of courtesy I wrote to Sir Donald Bradman and told him that I was now the member for Southern Highlands. I told him that I was keen to do whatever I could to support the work of the Bradman Museum and the Bradman Foundation.

    I informed Sir Donald that I had been elected to the position held by John Fahey prior to the by-election. I did nothing much more about that letter, which I had written as a matter of courtesy to keep him up to date with what was happening. I was extremely touched and surprised when a few weeks later I received a letter from Sir Donald Bradman, handwritten on blue paper. He congratulated me on my election and thanked me for my interest. He said that the best help I could give him was to support the work of the Bradman Museum, especially that of the curator, Richard Mulvaney, on behalf of the foundation for the promotion of cricket.

    I took Sir Donald's request very seriously and with a sense of honour. I have done whatever I can to work with the past president of the foundation, Gary Barnsley, and the current chairman, Ian Craig, as well as Richard Mulvaney, the executive officer. I was not present at the opening of stage one of the Bowral Museum, but John Fahey was there. I followed with interest the comments that Sir Donald made at the opening of the building. He said, "I hope they will have some wonderful contests on this lovely ground." It certainly is a lovely ground and I urge any members of this place who have not yet visited the Bradman Museum or Bradman Oval to do so. The museum is a great tribute not only to Sir Donald Bradman but also to the game of cricket and its cultural characteristics.

    Some wonderful contests have been held on that lovely ground and Sir Donald would be proud to know that it is used as he had hoped it would be. Recently it has fielded contests between the South African test team and a selection from the Australian test team as well as contests between Australian and English women's elevens. This year there was a wonderful match between the West Indies test team and the New South Wales country side. It is with pride that I say that the New South Wales country side wiped the floor with the West Indies side—all in good fun, a good-natured game. It is an extraordinary testament to the quality of Australian cricket, and the heritage of our game, that a New South Wales country side can convincingly defeat a West Indies test team. Sir Donald would be pleased to know that on any Saturday morning in summer the Bradman Oval is teeming with young cricket players from the local schools and their parents. They gather for cricket practice and matches. Certainly Australian cricket is alive and well at the Bradman Oval.

    I spoke with John Fahey, a former member for Southern Highlands, earlier this week about the death of Sir Donald. As many honourable members would know, John Fahey has been in hospital for a number of weeks. I asked him if he would like me to place his sentiments on the record, as he would not have the opportunity to do so. He was grateful for the opportunity and asked me to acknowledge the greatness of Sir Donald and his contribution to the Australian character and spirit. He also asked me to acknowledge the work of the Bradman Museum and the Bradman Memorial Foundation. John Fahey has had a long involvement with the museum and has worked on the fundraising team for the foundation.

    The Bradman Memorial Foundation plays an important role in fostering and developing cricket, particularly amongst children of remote communities and people with disabilities. The foundation does a very important job. One of the objects of the creation of the Bradman Museum was to give focus to the foundation. On that basis Sir Donald Bradman broke his famous characteristic silence. He was a private man and was cautious about lending his name to anything because of the way in which it might be used. Because of the work and objects of the foundation, he agreed to put his name to the museum. A number of functions have been held in Parliament House to raise money for stage two of the Bradman Museum. John Fahey, who plays an ongoing role in the foundation, was keen to take the opportunity to place on record his tribute to a very great Australian.

    I also spoke during the week to Richard Mulvaney, the curator of the Bradman Museum, who, in the course of his work, developed a close friendship with Sir Donald Bradman. He valued that friendship very much. He asked me to say that he very much regrets Sir Donald's passing, as we all do. However, he called on us to look at his life by way of celebration rather than mourning. We all mourn the loss of a great Australian who has touched our lives in some way or another. But I believe Sir Donald would want us all to celebrate being Australian and the ambassadorship not only of himself but of all Australian players who have left our shores to play cricket overseas. That is one of the most rewarding experiences that Australians have been able to share with other countries.

    Richard Mulvaney also said that in some way perhaps Sir Donald's death was a relief. In the past couple of years since the death of Lady Jessie he has been quoted as saying how much he missed her and that life on his own was not what he had hoped. It is nice to know that he died peacefully at home. Richard Mulvaney also spoke of the importance of the public appreciation that is being shown for Sir Donald and his life. He said that the Bradman Memorial Fund is now set up for the purpose of raising funds to support disadvantaged and disabled communities who have would-be cricket players in their midst.

    Condolence books are available for signing at Australia Post offices around the country and at the Bradman Museum in Bowral. In this time of public mourning it is important that a facility is provided for the public to show their appreciation and respect for Sir Donald Bradman. Richard Mulvaney asked me to acknowledge the work of Australia Post in providing access for Australians to do so. He told me that a public memorial service will be held in approximately three weeks at Adelaide cathedral and that people will also be able to gather at the Adelaide Oval on that occasion. International and interstate visitors will come to pay their respects to Sir Donald Bradman. A memorial service will be held in Bowral two or three days after the Adelaide service, so that those who attend the Adelaide service and others may come to Bowral and pay their respects.

    Sir Donald Bradman is survived by two children, John and Shirley, and grandchildren Tom, Greta and Nicholas. I acknowledge the interest that John Bradman has shown in the ongoing work of the Bradman Museum and the Bradman Memorial Foundation. I met him at a recent fundraising dinner held by the foundation in Bowral. John Bradman had travelled from Adelaide. It was an honour to have him with us and to know that he is interested in the work of the museum and the foundation. The people of the Southern Highlands look forward to the development of our relationship with him. The death of Sir Donald Bradman is a loss which, I suspect, we all had hoped we would never have to face and that Sir Donald, like the values he represents, would go on forever. Whilst we all express our sympathies to his children and extended family, Australia has lost an icon and a gentleman and Bowral has lost a favourite son. Sir Donald will now be reunited with his beloved wife, Jessie, who, he always said, was his greatest partnership.

    Sir Donald Bradman helped define us as Australians. He set the standards for sportsmanship and a fair go and he treated everyone who admired him with respect and humility. Despite the fact that he was uncomfortable in the limelight, his extraordinary talents shone upon him. He was a man of great intelligence, complexity, compassion and modesty. In a documentary that was shown recently he said, "I try and get as many runs as I possibly can." That was the only explanation he gave for his great achievements. If in the course of doing that he set a few records, so be it. In the purest and simplest form, he was out there to get runs, and he certainly did. A heavy burden of responsibility falls on us in Bowral and the Southern Highlands to honour and celebrate his outstanding legacy. With the privilege of hosting the Bradman Museum in our community, it falls on our shoulders to be the custodians of the values and Australian characteristics that are synonymous with the Don. Farewell to a great and much loved Australian.

    Mr GREENE (Georges River) [11.26 a.m.]: As the member for Georges River I can proudly say that my electorate is completely within the St George district, which is a district also synonymous with Sir Donald Bradman. I can also proudly say that in my years within the St George area I have been privileged to have been a life member and president of the Georges River St George Cricket Association. I am a life member and current President of the Georges River Penshurst St George Junior Cricket Association, as well as the President of the Illawarra Catholic Club Cricket Club, which fields 23 sides every Saturday of the cricket season in the St George district cricket competitions. I am very proud of my association with cricket in the St George district.

    One of the other great privileges I have is being a member of the St George District Cricket Club. It was to the St George District Cricket Club that young Don Bradman came in November 1926. Sir Donald Bradman, as a young 18-year-old, decided to further his cricket career by playing in the Sydney grade competition as a member of the St George club. On his debut in November 1926, playing for St George against Petersham, he scored 110 and then, unfortunately, was run out. At that time Petersham was one of the strongest clubs in the Sydney cricket competition. In that innings Bradman and a fellow by the name of Target put on a fifth wicket partnership of 197, which to this day is the record fifth wicket partnership for the St George District Cricket Club. That was Don Bradman's debut.

    The next season Bradman, aged 19, played his first Sheffield Shield match and on his debut scored a century—in fact 118. At this time Bradman was still living in Bowral and travelled to Sydney for both his grade and Sheffield Shield commitments. Bradman's Sheffield Shield debut was against South Australia, which had a reasonable leg spinner in the shape of Clarrie Grimmett, who went on to take more than 200 wickets for Australia. Clarrie Grimmett led the attack, but Bradman on his debut scored a century.

    That season Bradman posted a score of 134, which was his first century against Victoria at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Unfortunately, he was not able to play for St George too often that season because of his Sheffield Shield commitments, but as a young 19-year-old he still managed to lead the batting average with an aggregate of 402 runs for the season. As has been well documented, in the 1928-29 season Bradman made his test debut at the age of 20 in the first test of that series against England in Brisbane. Bradman was the first St George player to represent Australia. The St George Cricket Club was a fledgling grade club, having commenced its first grade commitments in 1921.

    On debut Bradman was not successful on a wet wicket. He accumulated only 18 runs in his first innings, and he scored about one run in the second innings. Amazing as it may seem, he was dropped for the second test. But he was picked for the third, fourth and fifth tests. In the fifth test he had the pleasure of sharing the debut of another St George player, Alan Fairfax, who was also a very successful test player. Although he played only 10 tests before moving to England to play professional cricket in the Lancashire league, he had a test average of 51. In the 1928-29 series Bradman managed to score two centuries. He also scored a couple of sixties and a couple of forties. At the age of 20 years and four months he was the youngest player at that time to score a test century.

    In the Sheffield Shield season that year Bradman managed to start what was to become something of a regular occurrence: notching up big scores. In the game that year against Victoria he scored 340 not out, and in the match against Queensland he scored a century in each innings. When I was a young cricket historian and I read the feats of Bradman, I believed that he had something against Queensland because in the 1930s he scored 452 not out, which was the highest first-class score at that time. I note that later, when he played for South Australia, he also accumulated some very large scores against Queensland. Bradman continued his career with St George for a number of years.

    In the 1929-30 season he scored 187 against Randwick, which at that stage was a club record score. He also scored 180 against Glebe. His aggregate of 549 with an average that season of 109.84. It was in that season that he scored 452 not out, which eclipsed the previous record of 437 held by the Victorian Bill Ponsford, who was known as a great accumulator of runs. In 1930 Bradman and Alan Fairfax were the first St George players to tour England. On that tour Bradman made 2,960 runs at an average of 98.6. In the second test at Lords Bradman regarded his innings of 254 as technically the most perfect innings of his career, even though he scored 334 in the third test of that series at Leeds, which included 309 in one day and 46 fours.

    Bradman went from 254 in one innings to 334 in the next, which became the record test score, surpassing the previous record of 287 set by R. E. Foster in 1903 against Australia. In the 1930-31 series against the West Indies, when Bradman was still playing for St George Cricket Club, he made his first test duck. But that season he also posted his tenth double century. I suppose the duck was an indication that cricket is a great leveller. We can reflect on that later when we look at the end of Bradman's test career. In the 1931-32 season for St George he improved on his previous record by taking the highest score to 246, which he scored against Randwick.

    I note the comments of Ernie Laidler, the long-time St George wicket-keeper who played in that game against Randwick and who, at the age of just on 90, is still a resident of the St George area. Randwick did not declare until 10 to three on the second day of the match because they were so fearful of what Bradman could do. Their fears were proven correct, because Bradman managed to win the game with a club record score. Bradman played more games for St George that year because there was no test series, and he scored 785 runs at an average of more than 100, which set a new record batting aggregate for the club. The 1932-33 season was Bradman's last year at St George. It is also remembered as the bodyline test series. Bradman's record in that series is well documented elsewhere.

    It is appropriate to note at this time that during Bradman's career with St George, which spanned seven seasons, he had 44 innings and scored 3,013 runs—which included 13 centuries—at an average of 91.30. It is well recorded that Bradman ultimately played 52 tests for Australia. When he finished playing for St George at the end of the 1932-33 season, at the age of almost 25, he had been playing test cricket for just over four years and he had played 23 tests. In those 23 tests he scored 3,091 runs while he was still a member of the St George club, which included one triple century, five double centuries and seven centuries at a test average of 99.71. Bradman was extremely consistent throughout his career.
    The St George Cricket Club is very proud of its involvement with Sir Donald Bradman. This morning I was speaking with Warren Saunders, the long-time President and co-patron, with Brian Booth, of the St George club. Warren was reminiscing about his Sheffield Shield debut. Both he and Brian Booth made their first tour to South Australia in 1955. While there they hoped to meet Sir Donald Bradman, and they had that privilege when Bradman walked into the New South Wales dressing-room. Warren tells the story that as Bradman walked in there was instant silence across the dressing-room. The captain at the time, the very famous Keith Miller, was a good friend of Bradman, and introduced him to the team.

    As young players in their initial year of Sheffield Shield cricket they were in awe of this great man of Australian cricket when they met him. New South Wales managed to win that game over South Australia in about two and half days. At the end of the game Warren Saunders and Brian Booth decided to borrow a couple of tennis rackets and have a hit on the Memorial Tennis Courts, which are just out the back of the Adelaide Oval. They were amazed to see Sir Donald Bradman leave the ground, and they were even more amazed when he stopped for five minutes to watch them having a hit. As St George players they certainly appreciated the fact that Bradman was watching them.

    As Bradman was about to leave he stopped and said to them, "You know, young fellows, you would probably be better off practising your cricket." It is an indication of the man that Bradman stopped to talk to these two young players. He was keen to encourage them to continue to practice their cricket to improve their skills, which is very much a part of the development of the young cricketer as it is for any young sportsperson across any life development. Warren Saunders and Brian Booth were most impressed with his comments.

    St George Cricket Club is world famous for the quality and calibre of its players, including Sir Donald Bradman, but the involvement of St George with Bradman goes even further. Bradman always said, and I saw this again the other night in the television replay of an interview with Ray Martin, that the best bowler he ever played with or against, or ever saw, was Bill O'Reilly, who was also a great record holder with the St George Cricket Club. Until his death he lived for many years in the Blakehurst area.

    It is worth reflecting on another of Bradman's close associations with St George players. We all know that Bradman was dismissed in his final innings at the Oval by Eric Hollies' second ball: a googly that caught the inside edge and bowled him. The gentleman then standing at the other end of the wicket was Arthur Morris, who scored 196 in that match—a fact that is often forgotten. Arthur Morris was also a famous St George cricketer. He played his junior cricket in the St George area, progressed to Green Shield and through the grade ranks to play for New South Wales and then Australia. It is fitting that a St George player was at the non-striker's end during Sir Don's last innings for Australia in 1948.

    It is also worth mentioning that, in the previous test at Leeds when Australia scored 3 for 404, Morris and Bradman shared a significant partnership of more than 300 runs on the last day while attempting to overhaul an enormous English lead. Morris scored just over 180 and Bradman scored just over 170 runs. That partnership obviously helped Australia to win the fourth test at Leeds. It is also worth noting that in the final test at the Oval Bradman did not have a second innings because, first, England was dismissed for 52 through the efforts of the young Ray Lindwall—who was also a St George junior cricketer—and, second, Morris scored 196, which meant that Australia did not need to bat a second time.

    It is apparent that the relationship between the St George District Cricket Club, the St George district and Don Bradman goes back a long way. In fact, when Bradman first came to live in Sydney at age 20 during the 1928-29 cricket season, his first residence was in Penshurst. After a couple of months, he moved to Rockdale where he lived with the Cush family in Frederick Street. At the time, Frank Cush was secretary of the St George District Cricket Club and he later became president of the Australian Cricket Board. Two other famous Australians also came from Penshurst: Sir Jack Brabham and Ken Rosewall. The Georges River electorate—and particularly the suburb of Penshurst—has a famous sporting tradition. Bradman certainly enjoyed his involvement with St George. He celebrated his twenty-first birthday at the home of Harold Fraser, after whom a cricket field at Carss Park on the Princes Highway is named.

    Much factual information has been supplied about Don Bradman. Many souvenir editions of newspapers and books have been published about him. Michael Page's book entitled Bradman—The Illustrated Biography, which contains a collection of Bradman's private material, features on its cover a photograph of Sir Donald Bradman wearing his St George District Cricket Club cap. Bradman was obviously a great Australian. Although I never had the pleasure and the privilege of meeting Sir Donald Bradman, the few great sportsmen whom I have met all have one thing in common: great humility and humanity. In other words, they considered themselves to be ordinary people who had been given extraordinary gifts.

    The previous speaker, the honourable member for Southern Highlands, referred to a comment about Sir Donald Bradman made on Monday by Alan Jones on Radio 2UE. In his concluding remarks, he said that at the end of Bradman's life the greatest desire of that great man and great Australian was to be reunited with his wife of 65 years. It is worth reflecting on that point. As well as being Australia's great hero and our Don—the Don—he was also a man with a family and a long-term relationship with a loving wife with whom, ultimately, he wished to be reunited. We thank Sir Donald Bradman for his contribution to Australia, to Australian cricket and to Australian sport. I also thank him for his contribution to the St George district. Ultimately—and most importantly—we thank him for being a great man who set a fine example to this nation.

    Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Gibson.