Cricket legend Sir Donald Bradman grew up at Bowral. He was aged 2 1/2 years when in 1911 his parents relocated to the town from a farm near Cootamundra. Continuing here is an overview of his years spent locally along with a history of Glebe Park oval that would be renamed Bradman Oval.
As told in the previous article, the young Don attended Bowral Public School, participating in competition athletics and playing rugby, tennis and cricket. At age 12 he was chosen to play in the senior school cricket team. The Bradman family lived near Glebe Park which from 1909 was leased by the Church of England to Bowral Council as a recreation park. According to anecdotal recollections of nearby residents at the time, Don and other youngsters played cricket on paths that crossed Glebe paddock, it then being heavily wooded and stumpy.
During the 1920s Council made improvements to Glebe Oval with the assistance of cricket, football and soccer clubs. It was partly cleared and drained, a concrete cricket pitch was laid and by 1927 a toilet block, shed and boundary fence were erected.
According to scoresheets published by Alf James in 2004, Don's first match in local men's competitive cricket took place on 23 and 30 October 1920 at Lackey Park, Moss Vale and Glebe Oval, Bowral. Don was a member of the Bowral 'A' team against Moss Vale. Bowral won by 166 runs, having scored 10/288. In his first innings Don scored 66 not out, including hitting 5 fours.
In a memorable game on Glebe Oval in 1925, Bradman scored 234 against the Wingello team that included Bill O'Reilly, who later achieved great fame as a bowler for Australia. In 1926 Bradman was invited to a cricket trial at Sydney Cricket Ground and the rest is history.
An overview of Don's cricketing career on the Bradman Foundation website includes the following details. In 1927, aged 19, Don went to Adelaide for his first-class debut for NSW against South Australia in the Sheffield Shield, scoring 118 runs.
Then known as 'The Boy from Bowral', he became the 20th Australian to score a century in his first-class debut. In 1928 he was selected to play Test cricket for Australia and at that first Test match in Brisbane, the Queenslanders were delighted to see 'the baby' of the Australian team bat. Unfortunately the team lost the first Test and a difficult batting wicket meant Don was left out of the second Test. However he made it back into the third Test in Melbourne, where he played brilliantly, becoming the youngest player to score a Test century.
Don Bradman reached the scoring peak of his career in a Sheffield Shield match between NSW and QLD at the SCG in January 1930, breaking the world's batting record for the highest score in first-class cricket with 452 not out in just 415 minutes.
The previous record of 437 was held by Bill Ponsford and took 621 minutes to reach. He also notched up one thousand runs for the season. Don was now called the 'run-making machine' and was carried from the field by some of the Queensland players. In his first overseas tour to England with the Australian team in the 1930s, Bradman made a double-century in the first match at Worcester.
Locally, as early as 1930 suggestions were made to name Glebe Oval after Don Bradman. The Southern Mail published a letter on 22 August 1930 calling for its renaming: "To the Editor. Our Don Bradman has covered himself with glory and proved himself the world's best bat. I would like to make a suggestion that the Glebe cricket oval should be called the Don Bradman Oval. This, I believe, is where Don started his cricket career. It is only a small tribute to one who has so ably upheld the honour of cricket and put Bowral on the map. Signed, Frank Dale."
The paper's editor supported the idea: "The suggestion that the cricket oval at Bowral should be re-named Don Bradman Oval has much to commend it. Though Don needs no such monument to keep his memory green in his home town the name would be an inspiration to the youth of the district for all the years to come."
Although there was no immediate change, the matter was high on the agenda after Bowral Council received agreement from the Archbishop of Sydney at the end of 1934, following lengthy negotiations, for the purchase of Glebe Park.
Part 2 of a 3-part series. To be continued
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.