On Saturday 7 October 1893, 125 years ago today, University players followed their venerable captain, Tom Garrett, on to the field at Wentworth Park before 2000 spectators. This was the first day of the first round of the 1893-94 season and University was playing Glebe in a game to be spread over three successive Saturdays.
The significance is that this was the first day of what was then known as ‘Electoral’ cricket, the forerunner of Sydney Grade Cricket, now known as NSW Premier Cricket. And, University is one of only two easily recognisable Clubs surviving from that first season. East Sydney, South Sydney, Redfern, Glebe, ‘Parramatta and Central Cumberland Combined’, Paddington, Balmain and Canterbury have all disappeared under those names.
North Sydney survives, as does University although we are more commonly known as Sydney University these days.
All the other clubs had to draw their players from the Electorates that gave the clubs their names. University was admitted to the inaugural competition as an exception to this rule. Previously, players had represented clubs such as Albert, Carlton, Belvidere, Warwick as well as University and qualifications were loose as some players played for more than one club in the same season. Now the rules were definite and strictly enforced. Players represented the places where they lived…except the University players.
That first game at Wentworth Park resulted in a 30 run win to Glebe on the first innings even though University made a bold effort to chase 200 on the third day and were 5 for 146 when time beat them.
Who were University’s first 1st Graders (ie caps 1 to 11), the pioneers in whose footsteps we tread 125 years later?
University’s first delivery in Electoral cricket was bowled by Tom Garrett (cap no. 1) to Glebe’s LT Cobcroft. Garrett had been playing for University for 20 seasons and he was the first AustralianTest player to represent the Club, having played in the very first Test Match, against England in March 1877. At the time of this game in 1893, Garrett was 35 years old, easily the oldest of the University players who went out behind him on that first afternoon and he was easily top score on the second day when his 58 was a lone hand in University’s dismal 98.
18 year old Arts student Walter Burfitt (cap no. 2) faced the first ball when University batted. This was his only 1st Grade game for University although he was to live for another 63 years, many of those as a prominent Macquarie St gynecologist.
Burfitt’s opening partner was Herbert Moses (no. 3) who doesn’t appear to have been a student at the University. He played just two 1st Grade games.
Hedley Terrey (no.4), a future medical practitioner, recorded University’s first duck in the 1st innings when he was one of Andrew Newell’s 7 wickets. An off spinner, Newell had represented NSW.
Erskine Robison (no.5) batted productively for 11 and 49. A few weeks later, Robison, a third year Medical student, was to score University’s initial 1st Grade century when he hit a free scoring 113 not out against East Sydney. Seven years later, aged only 28, Dr Robison died in Germany.
Norman White (no.6) took five cheap wickets for the match but scored no runs in his two innings. He was an Engineering student, recipient of three Blues (Cricket, Rugby and Rowing) who lived long, dying in 1957, aged 85.
Henry Charles Delohery (no.7) had a quiet match but eventually scored 809 runs and took 52 wickets in University’s 1st Grade.
Frank Dight (no.8), a 17 year old first year undergraduate, who lived for another 58 years, took 4 for 29 in Glebe’s first innings, including Syd Deane, a former NSW wicket keeper who went on to become the first Australian to act in Hollywood movies!). Dight could bowl effectively and accurately but, despite batting at number 8 in this first game, he could not bat. He was to average just under 6 with the bat in a 1st Grade career that lasted four seasons.
Alfred Hadley (no.9), a leg spinning Arts student, played his one game in 1st Grade in this match, scoring 0 and taking 0-12.
Arthur Garnsey (no.10) was probably the side’s wicket keeper in this match. He was to become an Anglican clergyman and was Warden of St Paul’s College from 1916 until his death in 1944, aged 71.
And John MacPherson (no.11) took University’s first wicket in Electoral cricket when he bowled Cobcroft for 2. MacPherson was to play only one more 1st Grade game as he concentrated on his studies, graduating with First Class honours in Arts in 1893 and with an MA in 1895.
So there they are. The first-born, Garrett, was born 160 years ago this year and the last to die, White, has been dead for 61 years.
But, remember them, because on this day 125 years ago, they were University’s first eleven and since then, another 749 have played 1st Grade for a Club that has survived during all that time.