The first application to get Tasmania into the interstate Sheffield Shield competition was rejected in 1964, starting a campaign to marshal the required resources – playing skills, public support and money. It took nearly 13 years but success finally came. In January 1977 the Australian Cricket Board decided to admit Tasmania on a two-year trial basis, playing only five games each season as against the 10 of the other states.
First-class ups and downs
January 1979 saw Tasmania pass two milestones. It won the national one-day competition on 14 January 1979 (see A cricket landmark: the TCA Ground), and recorded its first Sheffield Shield win a fortnight later, on 30 January 1979, when a memorable 172-run partnership between Roger Woolley and Jack Simmons gave Tasmania a historic four-wicket win over Western Australia at Devonport. Steady improvement saw Tasmania rewarded with full partnership in the interstate competition in 1982-83. Within a year it had its first modern-era Test representative – batsman and wicketkeeper (and Tasmania’s captain) Roger Woolley.
Things were looking good. But victories remained scarce for the island state through the 1980s and early 1990s – in most seasons Tasmania could manage no more than a single victory.
Finally, at the end of a season in which the Tasmanians had lost only once and achieved three outright wins, the Tigers reached their first Sheffield Shield final. The 1993-94 final, in Sydney in March 1994, resulted in an emphatic win by New South Wales, but the Tigers had made their point.
Tasmania had an outstanding season in 1997-98. The Tigers scored a remarkable six outright wins in succession to reach the final against Western Australia in Perth. The team was more competitive than in its previous final, but again Tasmania lost. In 2001-02, after the team had won five of its last six matches, Tasmania’s final against Queensland in Brisbane brought a similarly disappointing result.
But the Tasmanians had proved they could compete with Australia’s best. Their achievement was due in no small measure to a new hero of Tasmanian cricket, David Boon, who showed it was possible to achieve success at the highest level of Test and one-day-international cricket while remaining firmly attached to his island home.
Tasmania’s recent period at the top level of Australian cricket has uncovered a wealth of cricketing talent. The sterling performances, among others, of Danny Buckingham, Dene Hills and (especially) Jamie Cox might have brought Test selection at another time, but they were up against a settled and increasingly-successful Test team and some outstanding emerging talent throughout Australia.
Reaching the top
Resident Tasmanians who have been selected for Australia and played in Tests make up a very select list. Ken Burn was the first, in 1890. Between the inauguration of the Sheffield Shield in 1892 and Tasmania’s entry into the competition in 1977, only two cricketers played for Australia in Tests while Tasmanian residents: Charles Eady (in 1896 and 1902) and Laurie Nash (in 1932).
In the modern era, some names have been obscured by time and circumstances. Roger Woolley, State captain, batsman and wicketkeeper, represented Australia in Sri Lanka and the West Indies just before David Boon began his illustrious career.
Fast bowler Greg Campbell played four Test matches and 12 one-day internationals for his country after being selected to tour England in 1989, and talented all-rounder Shaun Young played one Test for Australia in England in 1997.
Melbourne-born Colin Miller represented both Victoria and South Australia before arriving in Tasmania in 1992, but he was selected for Australia on the basis of his outstanding record over many years for Tasmania. His 1997-98 season tally of 67 wickets remains the largest ever for any bowler for any state in the history of Australian interstate competition. Selected for Australia in 1998, Miller continued to confound international batsmen and take wickets with his mix of spin and medium pace. In 18 Tests he took 69 wickets and was named Australian Test player of the year in 2000-01.
Over the long history of cricket in Australia, four Test players stand out for their contribution to the Tasmanian game.
Ken Burn (1862-1956)
Two Tasmanians were selected for Australian touring sides before ‘Kenny’ Burn – John Arthur and, after Arthur’s premature death, George Bailey, in 1878 – but Burn was the first Tasmanian who actually played for his country in a Test match. Burn was a batsman, but a squabble between selectors for the 1890 England tour saw him chosen as the team’s second wicketkeeper, though he had never kept wickets in his life. Burn’s short Test career was not outstanding, but his performances for Tasmania as leading batsman and captain were legendary. At a time when 20 runs was considered a good individual score and team innings totals rarely exceeded 200, his average was over 30 in a representative career spanning 27 years. After retirement Burn continued to serve Tasmanian cricket as a TCA official.
Charles Eady (1870-1945)
Eady was the first Australian to score a century in each innings in a first-class match, for Tasmania against Victoria in 1895. He was selected for Australia in 1896 for his outstanding all-round skills, making a mark by taking wickets as a fast-medium bowler in Tests in England in that year, and again in Australia in 1902. Eady has the distinction of a world record – the highest individual run total in officially-organised cricket, a massive 566 scored for the Break O’Day Club in Hobart in 1902. In the 20 years he represented Tasmania, Eady took 110 wickets at an average of only 20.38. As a State batsman he was one of the few rivals of Ken Burn, with an average of over 33. Eady was a naturally gifted sportsman, a champion in Australian football and tennis as well as cricket. As well as being a cricket administrator (he was Tasmania’s representative on the national cricket board for some years), Eady went on to a distinguished career in law and politics.
David Boon (1960- )
A youthful David Boon first represented Tasmania in 1978, playing a big part in Tasmania’s success in the Gillette Cup one-day interstate competition in January 1979. He broke into the national Test team in 1984 after a string of outstanding performances for Tasmania in both forms of the game. Boon’s great achievement was to become a mainstay of Australia’s Test batting through difficult times. He showed his true mettle against the mighty West Indies, consistently displaying a special ability to play the world’s best fast bowlers. In 107 Test matches he scored 7422 runs with 21 centuries, in addition to nearly 6000 runs in one-day internationals. Fittingly, Boon was captain of his State in his later cricketing years, leading Tasmania to a final in 1998 before bowing out of top competition in March 1999 with over 8000 runs in 119 Sheffield Shield and Pura Cup matches. David Boon’s commitment to his home state is emphasised by his subsequent career with the TCA as its Media and Public Relations Manager and his contributions to Tasmanian sporting and charity causes.
Ricky Ponting (1974- )
Appointed to lead Australia’s one-day team in March 2002 and to become the national Test captain from early 2004, Pointing is the first Tasmanian to reach these twin pinnacles of Australian cricket. By December 1995, when he embarked on his Test career, he had scored 2601 first-class runs in three years for Tasmania, at an average of nearly 60. His Test record is no less impressive. Following David Boon’s precedent, he is now firmly ensconced in the Australian team’s premier batting spot of No. 3, averaging over 50 an innings in a total of well over 5000 runs for his country. In the calendar year of 2003 he scored more Test runs than any other player in the world. Australia’s one-day international performances since Ponting took over the captaincy have been close to miraculous, winning a record 21 successive matches including all of its 2003 World Cup encounters. In the World Cup final against India, at Johannesburg’s Wanderers Stadium on 23 March 2003, Ponting led from the front with a magnificent 140 not out off 121 deliveries in an unbeaten partnership of 234 with Damien Martyn. Ricky Ponting’s Australians scored a record total of 359, crushing the Indians by 125 runs.
TASMANIA’S FIELD OF FAME*
Honouring Tasmania’s leading first-class cricketers since the State’s entry into the Sheffield Shield competition in 1977
(in order of selection for Tasmania; years of playing for Tasmania in brackets)
Jack Simmons (1972-1979)
Roger Woolley (1977-1988)
David Boon (1978-1999)
Brian Davison (1979-1988)
Peter Clough (1980-1984)
Danny Buckingham (1983-1992)
Jamie Cox (1987- )
Rod Tucker (1989-1996)
Dene Hills (1991-2001)
Shaun Young (1991-2001)
Colin Miller (1992-2000)
Ricky Ponting (1992- )
* As at 1 September 2003