Friday, 2 March 2007

Bishop named among cricket club greats

Port Pirie Bishop Eugene Hurley who once dreamed of wearing the Baggy Green cap as an Australian Test cricketer has been described as one of the South Australian regional centre's best ever cricketers by his former club.

As a left-arm fast bowler of genuine pace for Southport Cricket Club Bishop Hurley played 84 matches, taking 189 wickets at an average of 16.9 with best figures of 6/46 and 11 five-wicket hauls, the Southern Cross reports.

"I feel very humbled and was very surprised," Bishop Hurley, 67, told the Cross.

"It's a very precious thing, not so much for the personal honour, but to be named among men for whom I have the most immense regard as people and cricketers."

The Bishop was a bowler of long spells and also capable of moving the ball through the air and off the pitch, according to Southport cricketers who played with him when he was simply Father Hurley, a young priest of the Port Pirie Diocese.

He made 1,288 runs at an average of 16.3, with a highest score of 59, during his Southport playing days from 1972 to 1977. He also once won the Grewar Medal for best cricketer in the Port Pirie Cricket Association – the only time it was ever won by a Southport player.

"They were a great team and it was a lovely time for me. They've become lifelong friends of mine and I really treasure that," Bishop Hurley said.

"They treated me with great respect and the greatest testament to that is they treated me like everybody else.

"I really appreciated that and never felt uncomfortable playing cricket as a priest. You're all equal on the cricket field.

"It's an enormous privilege to play sport – it's a wonderful way to be part of the community."

Bishop Hurley's inclusion in the all-time best XI at a reunion on February 17 in Port Pirie is thought to be the first time a Catholic bishop has been named in such a line-up. Event organiser Paul Pasculli explained why Bishop Hurley had been picked.

"He was a fantastic bowler. He would have had a great career as a top club cricketer," Paul said.

"I don't think it was considered strange that a priest was playing. He was a good, hard competitor on the field and didn't give any quarter.

"Bishop Hurley was one of our greatest players, indeed one of Port Pirie's greatest ever cricketers."