Remember the swinging ‘60s? The Beatles… Flower Power… all the way with LBJ. It was a time of change, everywhere. And 50 years on, nostalgic re-glimpses of those good old days continue to entertain and excite.
In cricket, one of the brightest stars of the ‘60s was a Melburnian Bob Cowper, son of an Australian rugby legend, known throughout the sporting firmament as ‘Wal’, short for Wallaby.
Cricket paid a pittance back then and Cowper was soon retired, becoming a merchant banker and for a time being based in exotic Monaco.
He farewelled big cricket in 1969-70 by leading Victoria to the Sheffield Shield.
Even without six of its lead men, including the regular captain Bill Lawry, Victoria wrapped up the Shield with a game in hand.
Cowper was a hero everywhere he appeared. But, as portrayed in Bob’s Boys, a celebration booklet produced for the Golden Jubilee reunion of the team in Melbourne in October, the silky left-hander was far from immune to the byplay and inner-sanctum jokes which are still so much part of the game.
In searing 40-degree February heat in Adelaide, the week the Vics took an unassailable lead in the race for the Shield, one of the few spectators at the ground was a huge man in a dark green Great Coat leaning against a post at backward square leg.
Given that most others were in shorts and t-shirts, he was impossible to miss.
This day team manager Bill Jacobs was informed that there was soon to be a 21-gun salute, right on the stroke of midday.
Cowper had only just started stepping out with the love of his life, his wife Dale, who had separated from her previous husband.
Seeing an opportunity for some fun, Jacobs hastily scribbled a note and calling 12th man John Ward over, said: ‘Rush this out to Wal, now.’
‘But it’s almost drinks Faig (Jacobs)’
‘That’s all right, just get it out there. And hurry now.’
It was just a minute or two before noon.
In the note Jacobs warned Cowper that the big fella in the huge green overcoat in front of the members at backward square was in actual fact Dale’s husband. And apparently he wasn’t too happy with Bob… maybe he was concealing a gun under that bloody huge coat of his…
As Bob read the note and cited the big fella with the out-sized overcoat, Ward tipped-off a few of the others what was happening. Minutes later, the gun salute went off: BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
Fearing for his life, Cowper dived for cover. You’ve never seen anyone hit the ground quicker.
The shrieks of laughter from the Victorian boys reverberated long after the drink’s break.
‘It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in sport,’ said Ward.
This and the reminiscences of others like Alan ‘Froggie’ Thomson, Ken Eastwood, Les Joslin, Peter Bedford and others enliven Bob’s Boys, making it a particularly engaging trip back in time.
A softback, limited to 307 copies, it is signed by 12 of the team. $35