“Welcome to the MCG!”
Stirling Hamman opens his arms wide and welcomes us onto his field of dreams.
Despite the acronym, Mr Hamman’s MCG — the unofficially named Mandalong Cricket Ground — is a world away from its famous counterpart in Melbourne.
This is one of only a few private cricket grounds in Australia.
Set on a private 25-hectare property on the NSW Central Coast, the field is surrounded by farmland, horses and the calls of bellbirds in the untouched bushland once walked on by Indigenous people.
At dusk, kangaroos emerge to graze on the grass.
“It’s one of God’s special little spots,” Mr Hamman said. Mr Hamman had the pitch built in 1994 after he went on a road trip from his Sydney home in search of a property large enough to host a full-size cricket ground.
In his younger years he dreamed of playing for Australia but lamented that conscription to serve in the Vietnam War “killed my cricket career”.
It wasn’t until decades later, and after a career as a barrister, that Mr Hamman could afford to follow his passion and build his pitch.
Modelled on the MCG
A hand-painted sign and a pair of pads and box marks the entrance to the property in Mandalong.
Visitors have to drive along a rocky dirt track lined with native trees and cross a rickety narrow bridge over a creek before catching a glimpse at the expansive field.
It cost $150,000 to excavate the ground — there is underground drainage and pipes for a hose connection — and the pitch surface had to be tilted slightly to reduce flooding, which can happen often in this part of the Central Coast. The grass is meticulously maintained by Mr Hamman twice a week, who cuts and waters the outfield atop an electric lawn mower.
The wicket, which is modelled on the dimensions of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, is hardened by a 50-year-old roller.
The roller is custom-fitted with a Lamborghini engine and “still runs like a sewing machine”, Mr Hamman said proudly.
There’s even a custom urinal facility behind the grassy knoll; a trough fitted inside a steel shed with a large viewing window cut out.
“I was always a great fan of Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series and the famous painting of Ned Kelly and his helmet, the square box with his eyes looking out,” Mr Hamman said.
“So I thought I’d build a toilet just like his helmet and it works; you’re all padded up, you have a nervous [Jimmy] Riddle and you can still watch the game.”
The first game at the ‘MCG’ was held in 1995 and it has since been used almost every week and most weekends for club cricket.
First grade and Test cricketers like Phil Hughes, Mitchell Starc and Danny Morrison have played there, as well as former Australian captain Michael Clarke, who Mr Hamman said hired the pitch for some private practice ahead of the Ashes one year.
He’s also hosted numerous overseas clubs, including the first international competition game played last week in the Over-50s Cricket World Cup between Wales and Australia.
“I’ve never expected to see a cricket ground out here, it’s amazing,” Wales team manager Mike Lloyd said.
“We were very excited to see the kangaroos jumping around. We only see them in zoos back home,” Captain John Jones added.
Source, Images & More: https://www.abc.net.au/