Warren Smith, John Buttrum and Greg Smith at Hill Park Oval, Wollongbar. Along with Dick Bryant and Stan Thompson, they have been recognised by Cricket Australia for their 50-year contribution to the sport.
Warren Smith, John Buttrum and Greg Smith at Hill Park Oval, Wollongbar. Along with Dick Bryant and Stan Thompson, they have been recognised by Cricket Australia for their 50-year contribution to the sport. JAY CRONAN

Fifty years of local cricket

CRICKET has always been a game that can get you in – sometimes for life.

Among those who have never shaken the ‘bug’ are Greg Smith of Cumbalum, his brother Warren Smith of Goonellabah, John Buttrum of Lismore, Dick Bryant of Alstonville and Stan Thompson of Pottsville.

The five men, who all have a long involvement in the sport, especially in the Ballina District, have been recognised with 50-year badges and certificates awarded by Cricket Australia.

For the Smiths and Dick Bryant, the connection extends back to the days of the long-defunct Rous Cricket Association, which included teams from Rous, Rous Mill, Wollongbar, Wardell, Meerschaum Vale, Tregeagle and Goonellabah.

It was a time when the glazed concrete pitches on rural fields eventually gave way to coier mats then ‘Kippax’ canvas mats in town.

Greg Smith, 61, played for Rous, Wollongbar and Alstonville for many years but is probably better known today as an umpire.

Warren Smith, 73, had stints asa player with Rous, Wollongbar, Alstonville, Wardell and Bangalow.

He hung up the boots only two years ago but continues to help out coaching and scoring for the Bangalow club.

At 65, Dick Bryant continues to play lower grades for Alstonville.

He was in the powerful Alstonville A-grade teams of the 1970sand 1980s that had a running rivalry with the even stronger Mullum-Brunswick line-ups of the time.

John Buttrum, 69, and Stan Thompson, 71, were in thoseMullum-Brunswick teams.

Since 1979, after playing for Norths in Lismore, Buttrum has also been involved with the Far North Coast Cricket Council, for many years as a delegate from the Ballina District. He is now president of the council.

Thompson’s contribution to cricket in the Mullum-Brunswick region and on the FNCCC has been widely recognised, including the naming of the main oval at Bruns-wick Heads in his honour.

So down the years, which cricket-ers have stood out?

The bowlers who spring to mind for Greg Smith include lethal left-arm paceman Warren Watkins, whose new-ball combination with Thompson for Mullum-Brunswick was feared by all opponents.

Harry Blake, Warren Noble, Bill Robb and his youngest son Trevor also rate a mention along with Ballina leg-spinner Graham Fleming, who Smith rates as the best bowler of his type he saw locally.

With the bat, there was Jimmy Cook and Lance Cupitt from Ballina, Lloyd Strong from Clunes and Bill Douglas from the Tweed.

What about batsmen today?

“They don’t face the same quality of bowling,” Smith said. “There were no helmets back then and the pads were fairly primitive.

“But Sam Irvine (Casino) would be up there with them.”

Smith’s wicketkeeping gong goes to Peter Gunthorpe (Clunes), with Snow Bryant (Alstonville) not far behind.



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