23 September 2022

Grounded by COVID, the Galah cricketers look to the skies once more

| John Thistleton
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On the pitch at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. The Galahs defeated Blenheim Park Cricket Club in 2001. (The palace is Winston Churchill’s birthplace). Allan Boyd is second from the left. Photo: Galah Cricket Club.

A six-a-side tour in Nepal next month may be enough to get the Galah Cricket Club back in the air. The club’s tour manager of 45 years, Allan Boyd of Goulburn, would like to organise a couple of games in the Himalayas, and on the way home play in Sri Lanka if the unrest there settles down sufficiently.

Some of the travel-loving, willow-wielding lads are restless, not having toured since 2019 due to COVID-19. Almost 130 countries play cricket of some description, and the Galahs have completed 12 overseas tours, playing in 44 countries.

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“I got to go to lots of lovely places and if I didn’t organise it, we would never have gone there – particularly to South America and Eastern Europe: Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Czech Republic,” Allan said.

But it’s harder than ever now to travel in a group. If someone gets COVID-19, what do you do, leave them behind in a country? That’s not an option for the Galahs. Camaraderie has made them such a success that in 2017, ABC Grandstand named them its cricket club of the year.

Members’ ages range from mid-20s to mid-40s and a few older blokes. Most of the 100-plus members have played representative cricket in NSW country. More than 30 members have come from Goulburn, including fathers and sons and brothers.

Thirteen of the club’s batsmen have hit centuries while on tour. John Colwell of Dubbo hit 135 against Phuket Cricket Club in Thailand in 2008. Fifteen of their bowlers have taken five-wicket hauls or more in an innings. Marshall Baxter of Goulburn took 6/62 against Bottesford, Nottingham in 2001.

Sight-seeing at Dettifoss waterfall in northeast Iceland, Dan Cooper, Doug Webster, Ross Beasley, Allan Boyd and Ben ‘Bomber’ Haynes. Photo: Galah Cricket Club.

The Galahs have never had formal meetings, bank accounts or memberships. Nothing like that. Allan books hotels and each of the team pays his way as he goes. About 70 of the members have had only one tour. Others have been on multiple tours.

The club has its origins in the 1970s when Sydney university sides and Balmain Cricket Club travelled to the southwest of the state looking for pre-season practice. In 1975 Allan, then living in Temora, thought it was time a country team toured Sydney, and organised reasonably good representative cricketers from Leeton, West Wyalong, Cowra and his home town. As the years progressed players from Forbes, Cootamundra, Coonabarabran, Wollongong and Newcastle were selected for the Galahs.

Touring separately with the Primary Club of Australia in 1988, Allan relished the experience. He met Norfolk Island department store owner Charles Blackwell, a Kiwi who suggested they take the Galahs to New Zealand the following year. More tours abroad followed.

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The Galahs played the only international match ever to take place in Paraguay in 2003, winning in 40 degrees Celsius heat and earning a mention in Evita Burned Down Our Pavilion, a book about cricket in Latin America. Written by two English sports journalists, the book, according to the Mail on Sunday, is a highly entertaining read, deftly melding social history with sporting memoir and travelogue.

“We played in Sao Paulo, Paraguay, Buenos Aires and Santiago, so we had a pretty good tour,” Allan said. “Most of us had never been to South America so it was a pretty good experience.”

Road journeys were never a problem for Allan who enjoys driving around Europe.

“In 1999 we started down the Mediterranean coast of Spain and then drove around to Monte Carlo and up to Switzerland. Then we finished up in Luxembourg before we went to the United Kingdom. And that was a great trip, with some great cricket matches and we met lovely people everywhere,” he said.

At Krakow Castle Cricket Club, Poland, in 2017, the club donated all their kit to their hosts. Members chip in $100 each for the kit. Photo: Galah Cricket Club.

“The other tour that stands out would be the 1997 tour, the longest one of all. Over six weeks, we played 14 matches,” he said.

“In 2017 we played in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, the Slovak Republic, Czech Republic and Poland,” Allan said. “We had a 20-seater bus with a driver, then we travelled by train, then private transport.”

An opening batsman in his playing days, 76-year-old Allan no longer straps on the pads.

“That’s not the end of it,” he said. “We can still organise a tour and I don’t have to play.”

Somewhere in the world, players are looking for a game.

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