One of Australia’s most prized sporting icons, the SCG’s old cricket scoreboard, is to return home after being restored, a Curious Sydney investigation has found.
A treasured piece of sporting history for cricketers and fans, the scoreboard, designed by Robertson and Marks and built in 1923, stood for 60 years at the top of the Hill at the ground’s eastern end.
A history of the scoreboard
- Built in 1923 and in use until 1983, it was the third in the SCG’s history
- Replaced by an electronic scoreboard and kept behind the Doug Walters Stand until 2006
- Dismantled in 2006 under the supervision of the SCG Trust and moved to a warehouse in Surry Hills before being shifted again to Western Sydney
- ‘Gregory’s Scoreboard’ — the first scoreboard designed by Ned Gregory, was in use from 1896 until 1905
- Another scoreboard was used from 1905 to 1924
Anthony Dowell, like many passionate cricket tragics, has fond memories of the scoreboard from his visits to the SCG as a small child with his father.
“I first when to the cricket ground when I was about five or six. When you walked into the ground, the old Sheridan stand was there and the first thing you saw was the scoreboard,” he said.
He asked Curious Sydney to investigate: “What ever happened to the old SCG scoreboard? My understanding was that it was heritage listed but I think it must be in pieces somewhere.”
As a result of Anthony’s question, the SCG Trust confirmed that after keeping the scoreboard in storage for years, it’s now deciding where it should go.
While the location hasn’t been decided, an option within the grounds is on the cards.
“The goal has always been to bring back the SCG scoreboard because it is and was one of the most recognisable features of the ground,” SCG Trust spokesman Phil Heads says.
A ‘silent witness’
Before the scoreboard was dismantled and moved, it stood for years, unused, behind the Doug Walters stand, with just the top of it visible.
The late cricketer and broadcaster Bill O’Reilly lamented its passing.
“How sad,” he would say, “that such a great structure which had borne the names of so many greats of the game, from Bradman to Benaud to Border, was now hidden behind the Doug Walters stand, ignored and forgotten.”
SCG heritage officer Anthony O’Carroll says the Robertson and Marks scoreboard is ‘ultra significant’ in the history of the ground. Even when it wasn’t in use, it played a role.
“It’s been a silent witness to many modern-day events here since 1983,” he said.
“I kind of look at it with the shutters down, which for me are kind of like the eyelids closed of the scoreboard watching on behind the Doug Walters stand.”
“The Hill itself was a very raucous environment. In the museum we have a few items from the excavation of the Victor Trumper stand, and you can see these old-school bottles of Toohey’s where people have brought them in and left them on the ground.”
‘It was your conduit to the game’
“The first thing you do when you walk in [unless you’re listening to ABC Radio’s coverage] is look at the scoreboard and ask: ‘What’s the score?'” the doyen of ABC cricket, Jim Maxwell, says.
“But it was permanently displayed in those days, they didn’t offer advertisements or any other distractions.
“It was your conduit to the game. If something happened in the ground and somebody needed to be contacted, they would put their name on the scoreboard and ask them to go to the members’ gate.
“They didn’t have mobile phones. They didn’t even have a PA system, so it was a very important part of the ground.”
A precise business
The enormous four-storey structure was split in half to be moved, and had to be unloaded by heavy-duty cranes from a truck after being escorted along Parramatta Road.
Stored alongside it in the warehouse are the steps, frame and old rollers which helped display the calico cloths, stencilled with unforgettable names like Bradman and Benaud.
The team of operators employed to work behind the scenes inside the scoreboard had to climb up and down ladders quickly to change the calico sheets which displayed cricketer’s names and the score.
The information was much less detailed than on the current electronic scoreboard.
“They were up and down ladders, wiggling various handles to make sure the right numbers went up — it was a very precise business,” Maxwell says.
“It was more basic information, you only had runs and wickets against each of the bowlers, you didn’t have any other statistics on the screen.”
A ‘bit unloved’
The ABC was given exclusive access to view the old scoreboard in its current location at a western Sydney warehouse.
Hidden up the back of a large shed, carefully covered over, sits the famous pediment of the old scoreboard.
Bits of broken brick and peeling paint reveal its current condition, but the green letters at the top are unmistakeable.
“It’s a bit unloved at the moment because it’s been in storage for 10 years,” Mr Heads says.
“The paint is superficial stuff, the structure is good and the structure is really easy to bring back to life.”
Where will it go?
The scoreboard will be pieced back together and placed in a prime location as part of the new stadium development at Moore Park.
“The two options we’d considered are over the gate A members’ entrance or fronting Driver Avenue so it’s more easily seen,” Mr Heads says.
“But there’s also an opportunity to in some way work it into the Victor Trumper stand, maybe facing out to EQ [Entertainment Quarter] which is where it sat as part of the ground.”
It will be interesting to see where the SCG Trust decides to put it, Maxwell says.
“They’ll have to find out how it fits with the new ground next door, but if there’s a way of recreating that history let’s go for it,” he said.
“It’s a very important part of what this place is about. And as the scoreboard was there for 60 years, there’ll still be a few of us around that will remember it.”
Who asked the question?
Anthony says the ground is special because he went to his first Test in 1961 with his father, who died young, and he has maintained his connection by taking his sons with him to the cricket and to see the Swans.
“I do want my ashes spread on the ground but I don’t know who to ask about that! I think the boys will probably wander down to the fence one day and let me go,” he says.
“It’s very special. That’s actually in my will.”
He believes the scoreboard should never have been taken from the ground.
“I’ll be very happy on the day that it does [go back up], I don’t think it should ever have been taken away from here.”