The Ashes. Two small words that get every cricket fan – especially English and Australian ones – all fired up and ready for a battle.
The women’s and men’s series will be a magnet for fans from both countries who wouldn’t dream of missing the action. Along the way, there are many unique cricket-related attractions on offer across the country too.
From special exhibitions and collections, to museums and interpretive centres, to places of pilgrimage and quirky local attractions, there are plenty of destinations deserving of a visit if you’re a die-hard cricket fan.
Shrine of Remembrance (Victoria)
Cricket fans visiting Melbourne this summer can head to the Shrine of Remembrance for an unusual insight into just how valuable the sport can be.
At a special exhibition, visitors are taken inside the experience of modern combat through the eyes, words and cricket bats of a former Australian soldier, who completed almost 1000 days of active service in Afghanistan, Iraq and Timor between 2000 and 2012.
Soldiers’ XI: the humour, humanity and psychology of modern combat features a series of stories from the frontline connected to eleven cricket bats owned by Sergeant H. Each bat features the signature of service personnel who used it, and a few special visitors to the troops’ stations, including royalty and heads of state, also put pen to willow.
The stories behind the bats are of mateship, recovery and relaxation, of death and injury, of getting to know the local children, communities and even the enemy – all through the lens of cricket. We see how cricket helped to build relationships and resilience among service personnel and the civilians they were there to protect. It’s an engrossing and thought-provoking exploration of how cricket can be about so much more than the game itself.
Johnny Mullagh Interpretive Centre (Victoria)
Tucked away in Victoria’s oldest inland town, 390km from Melbourne, the Johnny Mullagh Interpretive Centre at Harrow tells the compelling story of a group of talented Aboriginal cricketers from the local area who toured England in 1868 and became “Australia’s first international cricketing stars”.
The centre’s namesake, Johnny Mullagh, was the star all-rounder of the team. On that tour, he played 45 matches, scoring 1698 runs at an average of 23.45 (highest score of 94), and bowling around 1877 overs, which resulted in 831 maidens, and 245 wickets at an average of 1/10 – impressive stats by anyone’s account!
At the centre, you can discover how the team came together, the challenges they faced in making the trip to England, how the English responded to the matches, and the sobering reality of life for these cricketers on their return.
Narrikup Cricket Club (Western Australia)
On the other side of the country, a local cricket club with a big tourism vision for their tiny town is well worth a visit.
Back in 2014, Narrikup Cricket Club, which sits just north of Albany and 375km south of Perth, started an ambitious project. It had begun three years earlier, when five cricket bats were recycled by local resident Tony Poad to create a feature gate in honour of Club Life Member, Chris Norton.
The gate became such a popular talking point that in 2014 they decided to extend it into a world-first cricket bat fence. They need around 2,500 bats for a complete boundary fence; so far they’ve received 425 cricket bats from all around the country. Some have been signed by players after they’d scored centuries with them, some are decorated by local school children, some have been dug out of sheds where they’d been forgotten and left to decay. Narrikup Cricket Club says they’d love to receive a signed bat from every cricket club in Australia.
In late 2014, they were offered an eight-metre-tall cricket bat – it now stands proudly at the entry to the ground, and is the tallest cricket bat in the southern hemisphere.
Not bad for a town with an estimated population of just 515 people!
The Village Green & Pavilion (Victoria)
Finally, how about a relaxing getaway at a private cricket ground in the Australian bush?
At The Village Green & Pavilion, just over an hour’s drive north of Melbourne, you can book B&B, glamping or bunkhouse accommodation options at a unique property run by John and Ros Rogers. John is a former CEO of the WACA and before that, played for NSW.
Their son is former Australian opening batsman Chris Rogers, and any cricket-loving visitors to their little patch of cricketing heaven will be sure to find a tale or two in store, and enjoy a tour of memorabilia on display in the pavilion.
Fun Fact: the cricket ground at The Village Green & Pavilion was modelled on Lord’s – complete with the famous slope!
For more info:
Soldiers’ XI Exhibition http://www.shrine.org.au/
Johnny Mullagh Interpretive Centre http://harrow.org.au/
Narrikup Cricket Club – search via Facebook
The Village Green & Pavilion http://thevg.com.au/
Other cricketing attractions worthy of a visit include:
New South Wales
Bradman’s Birthplace http://www.cootamundra.nsw.gov.au/tourism/attractions/bradman-s-birthplace.aspx
Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame http://internationalcrickethall.com/
Sydney Cricket Ground Museum and Tours http://www.sydneycricketground.com.au/history/scg-museum/
The Gabba Tours http://www.thegabba.com.au/The-Venue/Venue-Tours.aspx
Adelaide Oval Tours, Museums and Roofclimb http://www.adelaideoval.com.au
Blundstone Arena Tours and Museum http://blundstonearena.com.au
Melbourne Cricket Ground tours http://www.mcg.org.au
Cricket Willow – bat making, museum, shop and café http://cricketwillow.com.au
WACA Ground Tours and Museum http://waca.com.au/ground/ground-tours-and-museum
Written by Yvette Hollings, a passionate cricket fan, writer and enthusiastic traveller who recently founded cricketwithacause.com to celebrate the many ways cricket contributes to positive social change all around the world.
First published on 10 November 2017 on cricketaustralia.com.au