On Saturday afternoon, Crookwell junior cricketers got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Australian cricket legend Jeff Thomson.
The 68-year-old made an appearance at Todkill Park to launch the junior cricket season, and he spent an hour coaching the next crop of up-and-coming Crookwell bowlers.
Crookwell Junior Cricket president, Kip Skelly, said that, even if the kids were too young to know who Thomson was, it was still a special opportunity for them to learn from an old pro.
“It should mean the world to ‘em,” Skelly said.
“Any of these kids that are my age will know that he’s the fastest bowler the world’s ever seen.
“He’s very good to have with kids here because he doesn’t preach this ‘you must bowl this way’ bit. Because he had what was seen as such a strange action, yet he went through all his bowling days and I don’t think he was ever hurt while he was bowling.”
The key to producing high-quality and unique fast bowlers, Thomson said, was to encourage kids to bowl their own way while instilling technical basics which would hold them in good stead.
“You’ve still got to let it go properly, it’s all about letting it go properly,” he said.
“Some kids try to run in quick and slow down or the other way around, it’s [actually] all about what you do at the crease.”
Of the kids at Crookwell, Thommo said that “they’re like everyone, they do silly little things [technically].
“Bowling is keeping it simple. The more simple you do it, the less trouble you have.”
Thomson’s trip to Crookwell came about as a result of a visit from Doug Walters five years earlier. Walters was invited by the owners of the Top Pub to come and auction some memorabilia.
While he was in town, he also agreed to meet some of the local juniors, and Skelly confirmed that the pub did the same this year with Thomson as he and Walters share the same manager.
The term “legend” is one that is often bandied around in cricket. As it is a multifaceted sport, there are numerous ways to be regarded as a legend: batting average, bowling average, longevity.
Few players, if any, earned the moniker with such tremendous speed and with such resounding effect as Jeff ‘Thommo’ Thomson.
Statistically speaking, he was a very good cricketer. 200 wickets at an average of exactly 28 leave no doubt as to his legacy.
However, what pushed Thomson from the bracket of “very good” to “legendary” was his pace. Sheer, unadulterated, terrifying pace.
Rod Marsh, the man who kept wicket to Thomson for much of his career, is famously quoted as having said that, by comparison with modern speed demons like Shoaib Akhtar and Brett Lee (both of whom broke the 160kph barrier), Thomson must have nudged 180 on occasion.
The belief that Thomson is the fastest they have ever faced, if not the fastest in history, is a common one among the Australian’s opponents. And, know him or not, the Crookwell cricketers will walk away from their brush with fame better for it.
Following the net session Skelly discussed with the Gazette the impact of events like on the enthusiasm of local cricketers.
“If we can get things like this and boost this up, we’ve already got two new kids lined up wanting to play,” he said.
“That’d be directly off [Thomson’s visit].”
He also said that the enthusiasm of the committee was a particular strength of the club, and thanked each member for their dedication and commitment to continuing the strong legacy of Crookwell cricket.