Uncovering the 90-year-old cricket pitch lost to local sporting history
by Aiden Taylor
When looking at the oldest sport fields in Park Ridge, Hubner Park comes to mind with its 44-year history, but sport fields in the region go much further back than that as proven by a recently re-discovered cricket pitch created in the 1930s.
For a long time, it seemed the pitch would be lost to nature and would miss out on taking its place in local sporting history, only to be known by the few who owned it..
But late last year, that changed when Park Ridge Connect helped Peter Smith and his sons navigate the bushland west of the Mt Lindesay Highway along Stoney Camp Rd in Park Ridge South.
“When we went looking for it, all we had was a map with the pitch marked on it,” says Mr Smith, son of JJ Smith, whose father made the concrete pitch in the 1930s.
“We must have walked over it about half a dozen times and just didn’t spot it because it was covered with trees and debris.
“When we found it, it was just the end of the concrete that was sticking out.”
From the time it was built to when the second world war started in 1939, the field became a popular Sunday hang-out for cricket players from the regions and Brisbane metropolitan areas.
“They used to get people from town, and [from places] like around Annerley, Yeronga – they came out with teams to have a Sunday game,” he says.
The war then came and the pitch was never used to the same extent and it started becoming lost to the cricketing public.
“When the war was over, they never played back there, I don’t know why or what the score was,” says Mr Smith.
As for Mr Smith, he last bowled a ball there about 60 years ago.
“I’m 77 and I was about 17 when we had some of my mates come out from Marooka and had a little Sunday afternoon game there,” says Mr Smith.
Aerial photographs taken by surveyors in the 1960s and 80s show the pitch and its surrounding field, but by the 2000s, it was unrecognisable due to several floods and revegetation in what had become council land.
“When dad sold the property in about 1971-72, a bloke by the name of Bruce Hallt and he was tangled up with the Wanderers Cricket Club at Woolloongabba,” says Mr Smith.
“He and Dad got talking about the cricket pitch and Bruce said ‘there’s no way in the world I’ll get rid of that cricket pitch,’” says Mr Smith.
“He got the bulldozers in and cleared the property and he wouldn’t let them touch the cricket pitch and that’s why it’s still there today.”
Mr Hallt knew and loved the game of cricket and the pitch’s heritage value.
“I’m a cricketer from way back, I played QCA A Grade cricket for 20 years, so I’m well aware of the importance of heritage in most of these sites and it was part of heritage,” says Mr Hallt.
Mr Hallt ran cattle on the land up until he sold it to council, at which time, council subdivided the land, placing the pitch into what is now classed as nature reserve stretching down to Jerry’s Downfall.
“Being an old cricket buff, I was keen to see it stay as it was and have the heritage go on and on and on, so I never ever interfered with the area.
“I kept it well mowed, I played a few games on it with mates of mine, and I left it the way I found it.”
When the nature reserve was instated, the pitch became overgrown with lantana and covered by fallen trees and mud – the current state it was rediscovered in.
“It’s just a bit of concrete in the ground to me, but I know it was pretty sacred to dad because you weren’t allowed to drive over it, you had to look after the cricket pitch.,” says Mr Smith.
“To my dad, it was everything.
“It was just one of those tragic things that never got followed through on.”