Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

14.10.16

World's most out-of-the-way cricket ground.

I was researching a long-defunct 1960s cricket team called the Northern Cricketers.

The Northern Cricketers were a social side who played on Sundays at Holbrook Reserve, West Brunswick. The ground was at the westernmost point of the suburb, perched on a horseshoe bend of the Moonee Ponds Creek, so that a good stroke over cover would land in that part of Moonee Ponds immediately south of Moonee Valley Racecourse. Just a short way south of the ground is the Essendon Hockey Club and Ormond Park, home of the Moonee Valley FC, once known as the Fog, as anyone familiar with that low-lying area would know, especially on those cold autumn evenings at the start of footy season.

OK, the place is dripping with sporting history.

I didn't know if Holbrook Reserve still existed. So I investigated. A glance at the map showed that it looked to be almost obliterated by the Tullamarine freeway, which was built in the early 1970s. However, the ground survived, and I found it. The freeway is its east boundary, and it is so close you can touch it. I stood there at square leg wondering how many balls have smashed windscreens heading to the airport in the intervening years.

Holbrook Reserve has a nominal street address - 8 Jewell Crescent - but that's like saying Ronald Ryan's last address was Champ Street, Coburg. It kind of was but kind of wasn't.

I got to Holbrook Reserve by finding Jewell Crescent near the start of Dean St, or the end of Brunswick Rd, take your pick. Then I drove down Jewell Crescent to what appeared to be a dead end. On closer look, it wasn't. I turned left into a virtual drainway under the Tullmarine Freeway, and crunched over some gravel in the darkness, on a very narrow concrete lip parallel with the Moonee Ponds creek. It would be easy to slip into the creek here. I wondered how many cricketers cars ended up in the fast-flowing channel after a few beers on game day over the years.

I managed to safely negotiate this frightening piece of below-freeway infrastructure, and emerged blinking into the midday sun shining on a hidden field, like a crop circle in a vast industrial estate.

Around the perimeter was a circumference of daisy-spotted grass, a coin-in-the-slot barbecue, and a pavilion. That was all. It was the quintessential Australian cricket ground.

When I arrived, the roller had just finished and was loading back up onto the truck. The pitch looked perfect, with that pale green tone that contrasts so beautifully with the deep green of the surrounding grass.

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I suggested to my old running friends that they take a run up the Moonee Ponds creek walking path, cross over at Brunswick Road, and add in a lap of Holbrook Reserve.

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