Johnston Steps Down – Part One

Born and bred in Broken Hill, Peter Johnston recently stepped down as the Chairman of the Barrier District Cricket League after a staggering 42-year tenure. Although Mr Johnston intends to remain involved for another year or two to assist the new Chairman, Matthew Apps, the move signals the end of an era for the preeminent summer sport in the Silver City.

Mr Johnston sat down with the Barrier Truth to discuss his long career in cricket, his tenure as Chairman, and his post cricket plans – here is part one of our chat.

BARRIER TRUTH: Thanks, for chatting with us Peter. We are going to start at the beginning, so tell us about the early years.

PETER JOHNSTON: Effectively, I was born into a cricket family. My father was a prominent cricketer here. He was an opening swing bowler and could move the ball pretty well. He played a lot of representative crickets and represented New South Wales Country, and, in fact, still holds the local record for the most number of wickets in a season.

BT: So fond memories of watching your dad play when you were a youngster?

PJ: I started following A-Grade cricket when I was five. I’ve effectively been involved in local cricket for 56 years. Because of that, I started playing A-Grade cricket when I was 16, Also, when I was 16, I went on the Cricket League as a delegate, I was playing for Central at the time. So, I’ve been on the Barrier District Cricket League board for 56 years, of which 42 have been as Chairman.

BT: What sort of player where you?

PJ: Average. [laughs] I was a bowler. I took after my father and very much like my father, probably, as I got later in life, developed my batting a little bit. So, I initially started off batting at number 11. It got to the point where on several occasions, I opened the batting. The only thing I didn’t achieve, like my father used to always tell me, the day before I was born, he scored a century. Unfortunately, the closest I got was runout for 99.

BT: How long did you play for?

PJ: I played my last game when I was about 63. I’ve played over 500 senior games. I was fortunate in that I was pretty resilient and had no major injuries, which helped.

BT: Over a 47-year career, that is impressive! Cast your mind back a little for me, any coaches, or teammates that really helped improve your game?

PJ: One of the major ones I can think of was one I played for early on in my career for South was Ian Fillery. That’s a name synonymous with the South Cricket Club. Ian certainly gave me a lot of useful advice. He was a prominent representative cricketer for Broken Hill.

The other big influence was a bloke named Rodney. He’s my cousin, but we were basically brought up as brothers. Rodney captained the Broken Hill representative side for a number of years and went on to captain South Australian Country. Three years ago, he was inducted into the Australian Country Cricket Hall of Fame.

Rodney now lives in Adelaide, and he is still a representative for Broken Hill Cricket because he’s on the South Australian Country Cricket Board. Rodney and I, as I say, we basically grew up as brothers and he played for West, so there was always a bit of rivalry there too.

BT: What are some of the highlights of your playing career?

PJ: Premierships. I certainly think you appreciate premierships the most. I know a lot of blokes and even my cousin played in a lot of premierships. In my 10 years at Central we only got to play in one premiership and that was right before I left Central. Then I left Central because I got married and shifted out South and then during my time at South, I think we played in 16 Grand Finals, and won two of them. We were the perennial bridesmaid for so long. So, you really appreciate the premierships when they do come along.

I had a few good games with the ball that I really enjoyed. But look, I’ve enjoyed the whole career. As I say, the thing that kept me going, particularly even as I got older, is the comradeship of the young blokes around. I think the young blokes keep you young. And the friendships I made, that’s what has kept me going in cricket.

BT: Now you mentioned you played your last game of senior cricket when you were 63. Tell us about that.

PJ: It all happened because I’m the Secretary of the South Club, and I had gone out to give the guys some tickets for a game and someone hadn’t turned up. They turned to me and said, ‘Johnno, go home and get your creams’. I had to think whether my wife had burnt him by that stage or not. [laughs]

I went home and grabbed them, and I ended up playing. When I got back to the game they said, ‘you’re opening the bowling’ and I hadn’t bowled a cricket ball for about 18 months.

There’s a bit of standing joke with one of the Central guys that I played against because I got him out. He got a fair bit of ribbing for letting a 63-year-old man get a wicket.

I also remember vividly that for about a week and a half afterwards, I couldn’t laugh or lift my arm above my shoulders.

Next Saturday we continue our chat with Peter Johnston in part two of our interview…

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