Les Everett’s epic quest to uncover Australia’s ‘lost’ cricket pitches

Jan 24, 2021 by

By Toby Hussey –

A cricket pitch in the middle of a paddock, in disrepair.
Some of the nation’s forgotten cricket pitches are part of farm paddocks like this in North Baandee.(Supplied: Les Everett)

West Australian amateur historian Les Everett is on a mission to document the relics of Australia’s cricketing past, no matter how many kilometres he has to cover.

So far, he has travelled thousands of kilometres and spent hundreds of hours poring over maps and newspaper archives to locate WA’s “lost” cricket pitches.

Mr Everett, 65, says each one has a unique story to tell.

Many of those he’s found are now overgrown or surrounded by fields of crops that have sprouted in the decades since they last heard the echo of willow striking leather.

“I see it as a celebration of life — even though some places and some towns have totally disappeared and all that’s left is a cricket pitch.”

Moss and trees grow from an old cricket pitch surrounded by grass and bushland
Nature is almost consuming this old pitch.(Supplied: Les Everett)

‘There’s always a cricket pitch’

The Kalgoorlie-Boulder-born former primary school teacher’s quest to document lost pitches began in 2019 after a visit to a ground in Corrigin, in WA’s Wheatbelt region, where he played cricket in the 1970s.

A middle-aged man in a black cap and sports jacket stands in a park
Les Everett says discovering old cricket pitches is “a bit of an obsession”.(Supplied: Leone Becker)

What started out as a passing interest “turned into a bit of an obsession” the more he researched old clubs.

Mr Everett has since driven across WA, discovering and sharing pictures of the concrete relics he’s found, some now almost entirely consumed by nature.

“Some of the places I’ve been to have virtually returned to their original state. You wouldn’t know there could possibly have been a sporting field there.”

Cricket grounds central to town life

Mr Everett estimates some of the pitches he’s documented are about 100 years old.

Back then, Mr Everett said, cricket grounds were a central part of most country towns.

They were social venues for the whole community — and often played a bigger role than just hosting sporting events.

“The idea of social life was really important, so the hall [would be for] drama, dancing and music and so on, and also a place for sportspeople to gather at,” he said.

“[To visit them] gives a feeling of what life would have been like.”

An old weatherboard building near a jetty with a cricket pitch in the foreground
Mr Everett says this coastal pitch at Camp Quaranup near Albany is “perhaps our most unusual find”.(Supplied: Claire Michael)

Lifelong country sports fan

Mr Everett’s passion for sport stretches back decades.

He’s penned books on the history of Australian Rules football in the Goldfields, and he released a history of the Fremantle Dockers Football Club in 2014.

He also has a website where he shares photographs of old football scoreboards.

While his latest project requires him to be away from home regularly, he says his wife Titian supports his passion — and sometimes joins him for the journey.

“If I’m going to nice places [Titian will] come along with me,” he said.

Grass and trees grow out of a decrepit cricket pitch
Remnants of a pitch at the Nokaning Golf Course, 270 kilometres inland from Perth.(Supplied: Les Everett)

Social media users pitch in

Mr Everett says he’s found about 200 pitches so far in WA — but reckons he hasn’t “scratched the surface too much”.

Once he’s pinpointed a town, he studies old maps and searches online newspaper archives for clues to where old cricket pitches might be.

To find the most remote “lost” pitches, he has scrambled through overgrown bushland and traipsed through farm paddocks.

“Some really old ones have trees growing in them,” he said.

Social media has also been key, helping to put him in contact with people eager to contribute to his quest.

A cricket pitch covered in red dust and entirely surrounded by red dirt
There’s no place for cricket whites at this old pitch at Windsor Station in WA.(Supplied: Corey Folezzani)

Mr Everett has an Instagram page where he regularly shares photographs of his discoveries.

His project has inspired others to seek out lost cricket pitches and he now receives contributions from across Australia, especially from Victoria.

Hopes for book, nationwide pitch search

Mr Everett hopes to share his journey in a book that will celebrate Australia’s forgotten cricket pitches, and hopefully recount stories of the country towns they were once central to.

But first, he still has places to search in the nation’s west: the Pilbara, Goldfields and the Great Southern regions are next on his list.

A tractor clears a go-kart track beside an old cement cricket pitch
The only spinners here are go-kart wheels that race by this old pitch beside a dirt racetrack in Goomalling in the Wheatbelt.(Supplied: Les Everett)

“A lot of these little communities, most of the ones I’m looking at are farming communities … these places started and pretty soon they realised the importance of social life,” he said.

Source: Les Everett’s epic quest to uncover Australia’s ‘lost’ cricket pitches – ABC News

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Trevor Prestage

    Les Everett
    Will you please contact Doug Jones (ex Country cricketer) 0451806705. Doug would very much like to talk with Les regarding country cricket as Doug played for and with country teams over a long distinguished career.

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