The Hobart

Tassie Cricket Legend David Boon

by Stephanie Williams
Tassie Cricket Legend David Boon

David Boon is one of Tasmania’s best ever cricketers and was recently named the new chair of Cricket Tasmania, a role he is taking on with enthusiasm. A family man, he 8 reveling in being a grandparent and getting out in the garden and golf course.

You grew up in Launceston in the ‘60s, and your parents were newsagents. What was Tassie like back then? In essence Tasmania wasn’t a lot different. It was a great place to grow up, being a little bit quieter and reserved than some of the bigger cities on the mainland. But I was just a kid and that was life. Mum and Dad were news agents, and Launceston in those days was home so you didn’t really know a lot different. The biggest difference now is obviously the state has grown. Both Launceston, Hobart, and the other cities have all grown up, but in essence the fabric of it, I don’t think is a hell of a lot different.

I think there are still elements of what it used to be like. Absolutely. The biggest difference is there was no social media or mobile phones. Communication was different and the pressures on young kids is vastly different now to what it used to be. There are a lot more avenues of career that young people can take these days too, but with that comes an added pressure to achieve what you want and move on.

I think it used to be that you had to leave to actually do something bigger than the usual. There’s so much opportunity here now. You don’t have to do that anymore. I’ve never been a big one for having to leave to achieve what you want. If you have goals, ambitions and integrity, and you move forward, that opportunities arise.

Did you make an active choice to pursue cricket as a kid? Sport was quite big in my family. Mum and Dad both being heavily involved in sport. Dad was a footballer, played tennis, coached football, and was a long-term administrator with amateur football. Mum played hockey for Australia in the ‘50s. I was very privileged to grow up in a household that knew sport, but back in those days not as much was available. For a young bloke you played cricket during the summer, football during the winter, and in between you did what was available. It wasn’t until I was around 14 or 15 that my coach of the day Jack Simmons from England suggested very quietly to Mum and Dad that he thought that I could play and may have a future. But it wasn’t until I was about 18, still playing football and cricket, that eventually the cards fell, and I started playing cricket for Tasmania and got injured a couple of times playing footy. That made the choice for me.

It worked out well for you. You always dream though. I had a childhood dream of playing football for Carlton. But I was always going to be a bit height deprived and probably a little bit speed deprived too!

You made your debut for Tasmania at 17. What do you think has changed since then. The basics probably haven’t but everything else has. It’s evolved and moved forward. When I first started playing for Tasmania, it wasn’t really what you’d call professional. There were a lot of volunteers who helped out. We went into the Sheffield Shield part-time initially until we got full entry in 1983. We played our cricket in three different venues and trained together once a week in preseason by traveling to either Devonport, Hobart or Launceston to train. We had a manager and that was it. What the kids have available to them now is unbelievable, and it’s absolutely brilliant with all their support staff over different areas and the facilities and administrative support they have available. It gives them every opportunity. In the role that I do for the International Cricket Council (ICC), you see the teams travelling and they have more support staff than players! It’s a little bit confounding as to why that’s really necessary, but when you look at the way the game is played and life in general, I think we have an obligation to help young people, both men and women, see their dreams in the best possible way that we can.

And keep them safe along the way, I imagine as well, from a mental health perspective and social media, or even physically. Oh, absolutely. The education process now is vastly different to what it used to be. There’s no chance anymore of somebody saying, “Just suck it up and get on with it.” I know being a parent that it doesn’t cut it. I used to talk to my wife (Pip Boon) about things, and I have no doubt in the wide world that at some stages during my playing career that I was probably a little bit confused. I may have had some issues with dealing with certain things, but that was it. We didn’t have anyone to talk to as far as that because you worked it out. I can recall overhearing a couple young guys when I was playing for Australia and one of them said, “Old Boonie’s struggling a little bit at the moment but he’s been playing for that long, he’Il be night.” I wouldn’t profess that it does. The more you play and the more experience you get, yes, you probably can cope a little bit more when you’re struggling but cricket’s a very mental game. One thing I’ll never ever forget was about six or seven months after I finished playing all the cricket, my wife and I were just having a quiet meal, and she said, “Welcome home.” I thought I was home the whole time but obviously wasn’t! But now they have people to help you with that, just to discuss it in a confidential, quiet manner and to help you get through those difficult patches.

You’ve been described as Australia’s most reliable batsman in your time. What would be your most memorable performance, for you? For me, I think it was contributing solidly with the ‘87 World Cup win. That was the start of the comeback to playing cricket. I think the other one was the Bicentennial Test where I got 180-odd not out. I’d been dropped the year before against England, so I had a point to prove. Then I reckon ‘90 or “89, just being a part of the first winning Ashes team in England and getting the Ashes back. And then finally beating the West Indies in the West Indies in ‘95. I hold those very dearly.

David reads a story to grandson Harrison

Since retiring, you’ve been a selector and a referee. Did you ever think about cutting ties with the game? I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a dedicated scholar, at least at school. In fact, I look back and I smile sometimes and say, “Why did my parents waste their money sending me?” because all I did was play sport. Then I worked for the Launceston Bank for Savings and they were great supporters of cricket. To be brutally honest, I had no idea what I was going to do after I finished playing, but through the bank and our executive staff, especially a guy called Mark Atherton who was general manager, he asked me one day if I’d like to work in marketing and I thought, “Oh, that’ll be great. I can go for lunch and golf and all that.” And he said, “No, when you get yourself some qualifications, you’ve got a job.” I started my schooling late in life after school. Then near the end there, Denis Rogers, who was the chairman of the Tasmanian Cricket Board, asked me if I would come and work for Cricket Tasmania as the manager of marketing and media. I said to him, “I’ll have to talk about it with Pip.” And I learned a valuable lesson because he said, “Yes you should.” When I went home to Launceston and said to Pip what he’d asked me and said, “We’d have to move to Hobart from Launceston if we did,” and she said, “Yes, I know. We’re going back down tomorrow. We’ve got appointments at three schools to see which ones the kids would go to. We’ve got this…” He’d been talking to her for 12 months!

Smart man. Very, very smart man. So, that’s how I came to Hobart after I finished at Durham in September ‘99. We’ve lived here ever since. The children have all since moved on, but we’ve had a great life down here. After three years of that, the board asked me if I’d bring all the cricket departments under one roof, and then went to the ICC about 11 years ago. I’ve been blessed to stay in the game that I love and to try and help out with an underlying strategy of as a player and as an administrator. I believe totally in what Sir Donald Bradman said once that we don’t own the game, that our responsibility is to leave it better than when we’re joined it. We’re custodians, not owners.

You were recently announced as chairman of Cricket Tasmania. What do you actually do in that role? I’m very lucky again that the directors have the faith in me to lead them. Like any board, you’re a leader, you convene, you have strategies, you discuss the future, and you move forward leading with your other directors. Our core responsibility at Cricket Tasmania is the game of cricket and to provide pathways and the opportunities for all young girls and boys to play, and be the best that they can be. In some cases that will be just enjoying the game, and in others, we hope we can nurture and present opportunities for young Tasmanian kids to fulfill their dreams as I did, and go on to play for their state and play for their country. As a board, when we go back to the chairmanship, as a board and an organisation, over the next four to five years, there is going to be some challenging circumstances put up. Obviously, there’s a lot of things which we support – the new stadium, the growth of cricket, how cricket fits into that, and everything surrounding that is going to be a challenge. Maintaining cricket’s popularity and growth is very important to us and providing the best that we can for kids to try and fulfill their dreams. That’s in the forefront of my mind as a chairman and that the game here in Tasmania is flourishing, both men and women.

 

David and wife Pip with their three children

Do you feel like Macquarie Point a good spot for a new stadium or do you think there should be more focus on improving Bellerive? There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge yet with all that. Obviously, Bellerive has become our traditional home, and it’s very dear to us all, but nothing is ever written in stone, and you’ve got to move on and move forward. As we discussed before, the game now is vastly different from 1978 to 2022, and where would we be if we were still stuck in ‘78? So, you’ve got to move forward and treat everything as it comes with much knowledge and review and see what the opportunities are to ensure the financial stability of cricket in this state and our ability to deliver what we see as our core business.

Are there any young players you think we should keep an eye on? I haven’t really had a lot of tabs on Australian cricket as such because of the independent nature of what we do. But in what I’ve seen over the COVID period and moving forward, I think from an Australian perspective, Cameron Green is an exceptionally exciting young man, as are many young kids all over the world. They have no fear now, they just go and play with freedom and choice. I love watching the inventiveness and fearlessness with which they play. Here in Tasmania, we’ve got a lot of kids who have talent, and going back to my previous question as Cricket Tasmania as a whole, board, as the administration, as the coaching and support staff, we try and give these kids every opportunity. To single them out, would be wrong. I reckon we’ve got seven or eight, at least, of our squad that in the next two to three years, some already, have blunted the eye the Australian selectors, some have already played in one or two formats. We’ve got a group of kids that will have every opportunity to be considered in the next few years.

I imagine you were constantly chasing summer for your professional career, with it being a summer sport. How does a Tassie winter fit into that now? It doesn’t bother me. As my wife says, she can’t understand how I walk around in shorts and T-shirts all the time. I do get cold, but one thing I tell people is that Hobart is in no way as cold as Durham in the cold snap. At Chester-le-Street, our main oval there, it was reasonably open, and when that breeze came off the North Sea to the castle, wow, you need to get your kit on! I like the cool, the winters, open fire, nice ambience, and living in such a great place.

You’re a grandfather now and you’ve got your adult children. What do you enjoy about being a grandparent versus a parent versus a cricket player? I don’t think it’s a lot different. I was absent for a lot of my three children’s early and formative years. To the extent that a couple of my babies had no idea who I was, which was quite difficult to comprehend, but we got over that. Pip and I supported them in everything that they did, the same as my parents did with me. There was no heat, no pressure, just enjoy it and just be the best you can be in whatever you choose to do. The difference is with my grandson Harrison who turned three the other day, we’ve been about for his whole life, especially the last two years since Georgina and her husband Michael have moved back from Melbourne. We know him and he knows us, and he’s with me practically all the time. We enjoy his company and we have a lot of fun. He’s a terror, but it’s really enjoyable to be around and watch him grow.

When you have time off, what do you like to do around Hobart? I’m a golf tragic. I’m a member at Tasmanian Golf Club, so I try to play there as much as I can. I love gardening, although we’re renovating at the moment, so that will be a new job in the future which I’m looking forward to – new gardens. Going to Salamanca on a nice evening is really enjoyable with see friends. I think we’re blessed down here with so many fantastic places to go at every level or occasion that you want.

What’s your hot tip for kids out there who are getting into cricket? That’s a difficult one. The bottom line is, cricket is a great game. It’s played and provided in a very safe environment which we’re extremely aware of and must have. Mums and dads shouldn’t have any fear when the child goes to cricket. My advice to the child initially would be to enjoy it. No matter what level you get to, if enjoyment isn’t a part of your fabric, it’s not worth doing.

I think if you don’t enjoy any sport then it’s pointless. You’re obviously doing it for someone else. Exactly. Just have fun, and I suppose if you’re going to have a little bit of a shot at it, give it everything you’ve got. As my darling late mother said, “The only people that fail are those who didn’t try in the first place.” So give it a shot, see how you go.

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May 2024

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