Thursday, 26 August 2021 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY Page 6703/6704
The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (15:57): Today, I would like to speak about another project that Aaron Ward from the John Pirie Secondary School is getting his students to undertake on people who have had connections to Port Pirie and who have had significant exposure to worldwide events.
I must admit that the words that I will be reading are those that were used by the students involved.
This project was compiled by Jack Soutar, a student of John Pirie Secondary School. Melbourne Cricket Ground, Saturday, September 1998: against all odds, Adelaide Crows captain Mark Bickley holds the AFL premiership cup aloft for the second successive year. The Crows had finished the minor round fifth that year and were promptly belted by Melbourne in the first qualifying round of the finals. Road trips to Perth, Sydney and then Melbourne awaited them, and history also. History also conspired against them. No side had won the flag from outside the top four in VFL or AFL history since the introduction of the modern format.
The Kangaroos were convincing minor premiers. They had won their previous 11 matches and were led by the seemingly unstoppable Wayne Carey, the code’s first million dollar man. Very few gave the Crows a chance that day; however, a 40-point fourth quarter blitz saw them comfortable winners and the state of South Australia and Port Pirie erupted in celebrations. One small pocket of
this vast state had more reason to celebrate than most. Mark Bickley was born in Port Pirie, a Solomontown Football Club premiership player. He was the youngest ever recipient of the Madigan Medal, awarded to the best player in the local Spencer Gulf Football League and that association.
He was best known for his hard work, team orientation and a no-nonsense leadership style,as opposed to having sheer natural talent. These were qualities that sat well with Port Pirie’s hardworking populace. On that magical day in September, Bickley joined an exclusive club. Since 1897, just 18 men have captained back-to-back AFL or VFL premiership sides and his name now sits among great names such as Coventry, Daniher, Tuck, Voss, Hodge and others.
Remarkably, while Bickley is certainly Port Pirie’s most well-known sporting export, he may not be the most successful. To provide him with any real competition, however, one needs to go back to 1893, the year Port Pirie boy Clarence ‘Nip’ Pellew was born. During the summer of 1920-21, Nip was famous for two things: his distinguished World War I service record and his membership of an Australian cricket team preparing to host England in the first Ashes series following the Great War.
Nip was no batsman and had a deplorable bowling record, yet was regarded as South Australia’s greatest cricketer purely for his athleticism in the field. His second great love was Australian Rules football. He would later play for North Adelaide. He delighted crowds by attacking lofted strokes of opposing cricketers, like a fullback leaving his man to effect the spoil downfield. He hunted shots driven along the turf as if his life depended on it.
He caught rockets most spectators could not see. He had an arm like a field gun, the fitness of a midfielder and moved like lightning between wickets. He also adopted the posture of a footballer straight from the trenches. He was mouthy, confident and in your face. It was as if the archetypical modern Australian fielder had been born a century before his time.
The war to end all wars and the polarising conscription debate had recently ended. For the Australian public, particularly the Irish, an anti-British sentiment ran hot leading up to the 1920-21 Ashes series. By the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, the same venue where Bickley would be crowned 79 years later, Australia found itself 1-0 in the series but in big trouble at 7 for 282. Batting at No. 7, however, the Pirie boy flipped the switch and plundered the English attack, piling on 116. His record 180-run ninth wicket stand stood for over half a century and batted the old enemy out of the match.
A fortnight later, Nip again found himself at the crease, this time at the Adelaide Oval, again with hopes of a nation on his shoulders and his back firmly against the wall. Australia had been completely outplayed in the first innings and did well to avoid the follow on. After being run out for 35 just two days before, Nip again answered his country’s call. His knock of 104 came from just 135 balls—a strike rate unheard of in those days—and helped Australia to a 3-0 series lead, with Australia—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Keep going, member for Frome. I am enthralled with the story.
The Hon. G.G. BROCK: —going on to win the series 5-0, a remarkable feat that would not be repeated until the summer of 2006-07. Comparisons between Bickley and Pellew are best attempted with a mathematician and plenty of spare time. Which of these two can claim being the sports-crazed city’s most successful export will remain forever a matter of debate. What is fact, however, is that these two Port Pirie men have climbed two of the biggest mountains on the Australian sporting landscape.