UNBEKNOWN to many locals, the Bega Valley shares a special link to Australia’s greatest cricketer.
This Wednesday marks 83 years since Sir Donald Bradman played cricket in Bega.
The late Bradman is known as one of the greatest batsman to play the sport.
Between 1928-48, he played 52 Test matches, scoring 6996 runs at the famous average of 99.94.
According to leading cricket website Cricinfo, 99.94 is “often cited as statistically the greatest achievement by any sportsman in any major sport”.
Bradman scored 29 centuries and 13 half-centuries for Australia, including a highest score of 334.
His first-class record saw Bradman score 28,067 runs at an average of 95.14, including 69 centuries and a top score of 452 not out.
Typically, Bradman was in top form when he visited Bega, representing his Sydney Sports team.
The Bega District team batted first and scored 8/167 declared, with J Raymond and G Johnston both scoring 37.
Surprisingly, Bradman led the charge with his leg-break bowling, taking 4/48.
Bradman is often not remembered for his ability with the ball, but finished with a first-class record of 36 wickets at an average of 37.97.
In reply, Sydney Sports cruised to victory, compiling a total of 6/210.
At just 22 years of age, Bradman hinted at what was to follow in his Test career by top-scoring with 127 retired.
It was an impressive performance by Bradman who, just one day earlier, retired on 103 as Sydney Sports recorded a four-wicket win over a Narooma side.
Alfred James, of Sydney, has researched Bradman’s history, including his tours of regional areas.
James is an honorary research librarian with NSW Cricket and has copies of all matches Bradman competed in during the 1929/30 season, including the contest in Bega.
In 2006, he published the book “The Don versus the Rest – The Scorecards of the Minor Matches played by Sir Donald Bradman 1920/1921 to 1962/63”.
James said he began researching Bradman’s career in regional tours because “I thought there’d be a lot of people interested in it”.
According to James, between 1930 and 1962, Bradman played over 300 matches and scored 28,000 runs, including 100 centuries.
However, James believes Bradman’s bowling ability was often underrated.
“He was a pretty good leg-break bowler, but he barely bowled after 1934,” he said.
“He bowled quite a bit before then.”
James contacted the Bega Pioneers’ Museum in 2005 searching for information about Bradman’s visit to the local area.
Researcher Sandra Florance looked through the museum’s cricket file and found a program for a dinner in Bega for February 6, 1930.
The event was held at Hotel Central, Bega and tendered to Bradman’s visit to Bega.
Florance said she didn’t hear anything more about Bradman until a recent school visit to the museum.
Bemboka resident Dave Allen asked his daughter Josie to make an inquiry about obtaining any information or a scorecard.
Allen’s great-grandfather J Rheinberger played that day, dismissed by Bradman for 1.
Allen has also researched the visit and discovered Sydney Sports was touring the South Coast as part of a sponsorship deal with Mick Symons Sports Store.
Bradman headed into the tour in good form, having scored 452 not out for NSW against Queensland during a first-class game on January 6.
Later that year, Bradman would score 974 runs at an average of 139.14 as Australia scored a 2-1 Ashes serious victory over rivals England.
Allen said it was an “eye opener” to find out Bradman had toured regional areas between these historical achievements.
“It’s just phenomenal to think this happened in this modern day era of cricket – times truly have changed,” he said.
“Bradman was the most famous sportsman in the world.”
Meanwhile Florance decided to search the cricket archive, which features thousands of local documents and photos.
Florance stumbled upon a tiny card which revealed more information about the Hotel Central dinner.
She said she enjoyed researching about Bradman.
“It’s riveting, I got quite excited,” she said.
“This thing happens often and I’ll say ‘oh my gosh, look at this”.
However, Florance was disappointed to announce she hasn’t found any photos from the 1930 visit.
“I can’t believe no photos were put in the file,” she said.
“Bradman was famous in his day, and still is – it’s quite a mystery.”