WACA, Perth, February 1976
When I was 13 I was fortunate to attend the Norm O’Neil Cricket Coaching Clinic at the WACA. Every Saturday morning I would catch the 309 from Cloverdale. I would get off the bus on Adelaide Terrace outside Police Headquarters and walk around to the WACA on Hay St, with a nervous anticipation in my stomach.
For this budding teenager the training session every Saturday morning loomed as 90 minutes of potential and likely failure. Embarrassment writ large in front of other boys who I was sure were on their way to being Test cricketers. Every Saturday morning for 90 minutes I would do my best to not look like a dickhead in front of all the other boys. I could not comprehend that any of them could possibly be wracked with the same numbing anxiety that coursed through my sweat drenched body.
One particular Saturday we arrived at the WACA to be told training would finish early as the centre had been booked for another event. That was fine but I would be stranded. On Saturdays busses only ran on the hour after midday. This was Perth in the 1970s! So I asked if I could hang around. No worries, was the barely considered reply.
The hottest band in Australia, Sherbet was, riding a wave of success and later that year would get even bigger with the release of Howzat, the album and song. Howzat would become one of the biggest selling singles of the year. In early 1976 they toured WA. While they were in Perth they played a concert at the WACA and the following week they staged a “Celebrity Cricket Match” with Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee. Our cricket clinic wrapped up early because Sherbet were coming in for a photo shoot to spruik the celebrity cricket match. To add buzz to the photo-shoot over 100 teenage girls were bussed in to watch these goings-on and scream on cue.
There was a lot of hustle and bustle as things were organised. Camera being set up, lighting stands moved around, the fans given their instructions. I stayed in the background in awe of it all. The band looked as cool as you could get. They were joking around oblivious to the commotion they had set in train. I noticed that the lead singer Daryl Braithwaite was padding up. This all felt very exciting compared to my humdrum existence and I wanted in. I asked someone who looked important if I could bowl a few down. After a quick conference with band members it was agreed. The kid could join in.
So there I was, at the WACA indoor nets with 100 flushed and excited teenage girls, ready to bowl to Daryl Braithwaite. Sherbet had been voted Most Popular Australian Group by TV Week readers. Darryl was the King of Pop. Keyboard player and songwriter, Garth Porter bowled first. Bear in mind, these guys are musicians and hardly cricketers. They didn’t care, they were mucking around. A couple of others bowled. Daryl sent one straight back over the bowler to big cheers from the spectators. I say cheers but they sounded more like wild screams.
Then I was encouraged by the band to bowl. Daryl, playing up to the moment danced up the wicket, bat poised. I bowled the ball. I’m a medium pacer at best, with little swing and no discernible tactical nous. On this occasion my line and length were not too shabby. Daryl swung and Daryl missed. The ball hit the middle stump, taking the bails. Howzat! The band fell about laughing. Daryl looked around at his wicket and gave me one of his winning grins. All this was drowned out by one hundred girls booing.
It’s not often a reasonably shy pubescent boy finds himself the centre of attention of one hundred teenage girls. There I was, in all my glory, having bowled the King of Pop, with a ripper of a delivery I might add, only to be greeted by the mob, angry with me for doing my best. Demanding my death. Daryl feigning disgust only encouraged the girls. This made the band laugh even more.
I headed off to catch my bus home, not necessarily feeling like a hero. On the walk back to the bus-stop I pondered things like mob mentality, cognitive dissonance and motivated reasoning. Or how we ignore the rational because we are biased by deeply wired emotions. Of course I didn’t think any of those things. I was a 13 year old boy. I did wonder however whether being booed by 100 girls was better or worse than being laughed at by the same girls had Daryl smacked my delivery out of the park. And with that philosophical conundrum weighing me down I boarded the 309 back home to Cloverdale.
See right hand column for Sherbet tour dates in WA in early 1976, including “Celebrity Cricket Match” on 15 February.