Long innings for Donaldson, ton of information

DON WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 03/01/2014
Bill Donaldson
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ

STRING OF STATS: Appleby Cricket Club historian and statistician Bill Donaldson immerses himself in the boxes of information he has collated for his beloved club.

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For any player who has donned the whites for the Appleby Cricket Club during the past 100-odd years, chances are Bill Donaldson can fill you in on how good they were, or are. Don Wright highlights just how much time and effort the club's stats man and historian has devoted to keeping the records.

Diligence is described in the Oxford Dictionary as an unremitting application to work and voluntary Appleby Cricket Club historian and statistician Bill Donaldson surely fits the bill.

On his own frank admission, he sometimes wonders whether he has bitten off more than he can chew.

"If I'd known how much work was involved, I probably wouldn't have started the whole lot but, the thing is, I have enjoyed doing it."

The 62-year-old Invercargill-born-and-bred director of his own company Donaldson Construction Services began playing for Appleby in senior reserve grade in 1969.

His father, Henry (Harry), took up with the club in the late 1930s and again in the early 1940s when home on leave from the air force.

"I enjoyed playing from 1969 through to 2003 in all grades, senior, senior reserve, second grade and president's grade for about 340 games in total," he says.

His vast voluntary input has included being president of the Southland Cricket Association for two years in the 1980s and holding the same office from 1974 to 1980 at the Appleby club.

He was made a life member of Appleby in 1988, and he served as chairman of the club's centennial committee in 1997-98.

The Appleby School of Excellence concept for junior cricketers was an initiative of Owen Ramsay, Ian Donaldson and Bill Wilson, the father of "Double All Black" Jeff (Goldie) Wilson, and ran for 14 seasons.

It involved some high-profile coaches and produced players who went on to higher honours.

Bill Donaldson worked for only one employer in his life, Fletcher Construction, for 27 years before going out on his own in 1995. He has 14 staff but there have been as many as 28, varying according to work demands.

In unison with Ramsay and Tara Bates, he compiled and wrote the book Across The Centuries, a history of the Appleby Cricket Club. Research began in 1995 and the book was published in 2004.

"It was thought we could knock the job over in two or three years but, in actual fact, it took nine."

The first reference the trio and others could find to the club was in 1897, when it fielded a junior team. The club celebrated its golden anniversary in 1950 because that was 50 years since the club first played senior cricket.

"Our committee decided we would celebrate the centennial 100 years from the first recorded reference to the club. When I started with the club in 1969, there were five or six photos of previous teams on our walls, now there are about 70."

People came forward with pictures when they heard about the research, he says. But most information during the painstaking process was gleamed from the Invercargill Public Library.

Six months before publishing the book, he wasn't entirely happy with some aspects and spent four nights a week at the library double checking and, more importantly, expanding the extent and validity of content.

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"I had a premonition to dig deeper and countless hours were involved. Tara Bates was largely instrumental in format work. In fact, without her, the book wouldn't have seen the light of day."

The content Ramsay contributed was also vital to the balance and credibility of the book, particularly with the sections on the Appleby families, the golden and centennial celebrations and the club's coaching history.

The tradition started by the Poole, Shirley, Lilley and Calvert families, continued by the Ramsay, Donaldson, Gutsell and Wilson families and more recently by the Johnstone and Williams families is a significant feature of the club's history.

It does, however, have its drawbacks with the allocation of wickets, runs and catches, Donaldson adds. "Ongoing family involvements have been hugely meaningful over the years and make for wonderful in-depth reading. ‘'

Donaldson still compiles statistics for the club, carrying on from the book. About 18 months ago, he began compiling individual player statistics.

"I became interested in the batting averages of a number of current players, so I went back and researched details and have now completed about 50 detailed player stats, including all 22 players with 100 or more senior games.

"Every senior match I can find reference to, involving Appleby players, has now been checked back to 1900. It has involved extensive work and to date covers almost 1200 matches."

A huge pile of records is stored in his Kelvin St business office. Most of Appleby's score books for the past 40 years have been grabbed before they disappeared. His gradual buildup of stats was only as good as the information he had at his disposal, he said.

The exercise was ongoing and he was always on the lookout for more club records.

"I've thought about updating the book to coincide with the 125th celebrations in 2022.

"Interestingly, Greg Munro, our president for the last 10 years, has played 199 senior club games and should become only the second to reach 200 behind Richard Wilson early in the new year."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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