THIS year marks 30 years since indoor cricket arrived in Bendigo and a reunion is planned to celebrate the milestone.
Graeme and Ruth Pearce have been involved with the sport since 1982 and were among the first people to play in the region’s inaugural competition.
Mr Pearce said indoor cricket swept the nation in the 1980s and became a game that people of all ages wanted to be a part of.
“Indoor cricket started in Western Australia, went to major cities and then it started to take off across country cities,” he said.
“We fell in love with the game.”
Mr Pearce ended up owning an indoor cricket centre in Bendigo.
“In late 1983, the owners of the Golden City Indoor Cricket Centre wanted to sell out and so, with friends of ours, we decided to venture out and run the centre ourselves,” he said.
“We were farmers and the drought in ’82 was pretty bad so when the cricket centre became available, we thought it would be a great opportunity.”
Mr Pearce said the sport became hugely popular in Bendigo and there was always someone at the centre with a bat and ball in hand.
“In the ’80s and ’90s, it was just full-on,” he said. “We were operating seven days a week, and at one stage we had more than 1000 players coming through the doors every week.”
Mrs Pearce said the beauty of indoor cricket was that anyone could play, no matter what their skill level.
“You would bat for four overs, even if you went out,” she said.
“Every person had to bowl, whether you could bowl or not.
“It made it even and it was super fun.”
Mr Pearce said the Super League competition proved a hit with locals.
“Super League started out being every month, then it got big and we were doing it every weekend,” he said.
“You would play in Geelong, Ballarat, all over Victoria.
“The then Vic League formed a competition for the best teams in the state. Back then, they only allowed two country teams and we were lucky enough to be allowed in the competition.”
Mrs Pearce clearly remembers going to one of the first Vic League games and the response from the Melbourne teams.
“I’ll never forget when we went to Melbourne and we walked through the door and the comment was, here comes the country bumpkins, the country hicks,” she said.
“At the end of the game, when we had won, I went up to the guy who made the comment and said, “What do you think of us now?”
Looking back over their time at Golden City, the pair said they had made lifelong friendships.
“Indoor cricket was a family thing – the kids would play juniors and then stay and watch mum or dad play,” Mrs Pearce said.
“I miss it – it was our life.”
The couple sold the centre in 1998.
“Golden City is now closed. We sold it on and then it was resold again and now there is a new centre in Golden Square,” Mr Pearce said.
“At that stage, the boom days of indoor cricket were over. Towards the end of when we finished, the interest in the sport died down and we had to add indoor netball to the centre.
“Through winter, we used to have indoor bowls played on each side of the cricket pitch.”
Mr Pearce said one of his fondest memories was seeing local juniors become state players.
“The thing we look back on now that we like is that the juniors who were playing indoor cricket back then are still playing cricket in some form now,” he said.
“Several players got into indoor cricket state sides. To have some quality players go on to bigger and better things was a feather in the cap for Bendigo.”
Golden City was sponsored by the Foundry Arms Hotel, so it is fitting that the reunion will be held at the Foundry on Saturday, August 11.
For more information, contact Graeme Pearce on 5439 5308.