JOHN Woods, curator at Bert Hawke Oval inNortham, has prepared cricket pitches for Avon Valley games for more than 40 years.
In that time, the oval has hosted some of the game’s greatest players and major touring teams, including the West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand.
The Shire of Northam depot worker is equally proud of his achievements in building high-quality turf wickets for regular use by the Avon Cricket Association
Mr Woods said he first learnt the skills of his trade from WACA Ground curator Roy Abbott, much lauded for his ability to produce fast and bouncy pitches at the Perth ground.
“Roy produced the fastest wickets in Australia when (Dennis) Lillee, (Jeff) Thomson and (Sir Richard) Hadlee were playing,” he said.
“There’s no real secret to it. The hardest part is the start, where it’s all about getting the grass to an initial stage where it can be sealed.”
Mr Woods said he fondly remembered some of the characters from local and international teams, including former great West Indian fast bowler Joel Garner and world record run scorer Brian Lara.
When the West Indies team visited the ground in the 1991-92 season, there was former great fast bowler Joel Garner riding a bike around the car park.
“That made us all laugh,” he said.
“We met all the players and there was no arrogance at all,” he said.
“After the New Zealand game at Jubilee, the players were more than interested in staying on for a few beers. They nearly missed the train back from Northam to Perth. I was tooting them from the railway station.”
The Avon Cricket Association, for the most part, has avoided the cost-effective shift towards synthetic pitches, thanks to a dedicated band of volunteers.
Bert Hawke Oval has been Northam’s home of cricket since 1990 following a shift from Burwood Park.