In Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play, ‘Waiting for Godot,’ a couple of characters wait endlessly for someone called Godot to arrive.
After the last race at Ascot, on March 23, that thoroughly professional trainer Neville Parnham was musing about the future of the Parnham clan, after having won the Crown Sprint (1200m) with Catlantic and having his other stable representative The Blues, run third in the same race.
Aboard the winner was young Chris Parnham (16) who landed his second city winner among his career record of 19 wins from his, thus far, 246 rides (8 per cent winning ratio).
Older brothers Steven and Brad are both prominent riders and the former currently sits in fourth position on the metropolitan jockeys premiership list. (Having followed Steven into Ascot on Saturday he looked a treat in his suit and was a clear winner of the Ted van Heemst Sartorial Stakes!)
With quiet pride the patriarch of the Parnham clan said he looked forward to the day when there would be a Parnham trifecta.
I hope I am there to see that, in whatever combination, and as extra bonus it would be good to see Neville training those first three across the line!
Although unusual these things happen from time to time.
I remember as a schoolboy (circa 1964) being at East Fremantle Oval when West Perth’s entire centre line consisted of Hebbards.
Colin Hebbard (centre) was flanked on the wing by his two younger brothers, Neville (later a bookie) and Robert. (Mel Whinnen, the regular centreman for West was a rare absence that day).
Colin was a superb and tough footballer for both Essendon and West Perth, mainly as a half back or half forward flanker and was a great drop kicker of the ball. He won All Australian honours in 1966 along with centre half back Brian France, another member of God’s side, the mighty Cardinals.
This writer was also at the WACA ground to see that famous 1979 scorecard of Lillee c Willey b Dilley take place in an Ashes Test. This was cricket’s reply to Walt Disney’s three anthropomorphic ducks called Huey, Dewey and Louie! (The late BBC commentator Brian Johnston once famously said, in an England v West Indies Test match, “the bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey.”
Actually it is appropriate that I link Neville Parnham and Dennis Lillee together because these two champions, in their own way, both remind me of my wicketkeeping days (well 25 years actually).
At the risk of sounding like Walter Mitty, I happened to have kept wickets on two occasions to the great fast bowler, DK Lillee, or as former WA skipper and England spinner, Tony Lock, used to call him, FOT (flipping old tart -and that is the clean version).
The sporting good firm Sports Specialists played numerous games against the Armed Services and the composite sides would include Test, State and Club cricketers. Sadly, in October last year, one of those players, Bryn Martin (West Perth CC and professional for the Scottish club, Selkirk), was taken by a shark off Cottesloe Beach, with only his bathers being found.
Keeping for Lillee (1968) was not as serene as waiting for Godot. Overnight rain at Swanbourne Army Camp had moistened the pitch and the hot day had turned it into a sticky wicket. Lillee was lethal.
He knocked one batsman out and broke the leg stump in two. A North Perth CC teammate, Roy Davis, was fielding in slips and it is the only time in my cricketing experience I have seen a look of terror on the face of a fieldsman. It came when a batsman snicked Lillee and it flew to slips like a scud missile. Roy ducked! The only person that was safe was Lillee’s maternal grandfather, (a great bloke), and that was because he was a spectator.
Having had that experience, and a later one at Floreat Oval (where I got a snick from FOT’s bowling and held it), I have never forgotten the performance of the grey-haired, bespectacled number 3 for England, David Steele, who made his debut against Lillee and Jeff Thomson (even faster), at Lords in 1975.
Yes, I was there to see Lillee make his highest Test score of 73no and Ross Edwards, lbw for 99 but it was the 33 year old Steele who stole the show.
Steele, or Captain Courageous, in the pre -helmet days, took on the pace giants at their peak and was magnificent throughout the series.
Steele was dubbed the ‘Bank Clerk who went to War’ and he got lost coming out to bat against the Aussies, ending up in the basement at Lords. When he arrived, FOT and Thomson called him Groucho Marx!
Having been behind the stumps to Lillee, I can only admire Steele’s performances in front of them in that hot English summer of yesteryear – and also his performances the next year against the West Indies speedsters.
So what has this to do with Nifty Nev?
Well, having spent a couple of days as a spotter at the Magic Millions yearling sales, last month, I found it was like wicketkeeping-long periods of concentration waiting for a slight nod or wink from a buyer, instead of a snick from a batsman.
Late on the second day Nev P came out of the ‘trainers pavilion’ and sat in front of the auctioneer, indicating his interest with an almost imperceptible nod. It was like Steele taking on Lillee but with the only damage being to the Parnham hip pocket rather than the scone!
Former Sunday Times political journalist Joe Poprzeczny was also spotting and I drew his attention to the battle between the two.
Joe, who was learning the difference between a rocking horse and real ones, couldn’t pick the Parnham nod when asked if he saw it.
Joe said he thought a corpse would show more animation than Nev!
I think it is time for me to leave memory lane.