Brian was first associated with the Petersham-Marrickville club in the early 1950’s when he helped out on the scoreboard at Petersham Oval while still a schoolboy. When he turned 15 the young off-spinner was selected in Petersham-Marrickville’s 4th Grade team. The season was 1955-56 and was the start of a cricket journey which was to continue for more than half a century.
A tall and solidly built player, Proops was a regular member of the 2nd Grade team in 1956-57 taking 25 wickets at 18.4 off 131 overs. He also managed an innings of 65 which turned out to be his highest in his Grade Cricket career. Interestingly in the annual report of that year 2nd Grade skipper J Walker said of the 17 year old “big, heavy and not too active Brian Proops is a very good off spinner. On numerous occasions throughout the season Brian could be relied upon to do some sustained, accurate and often vicious bowling. Admittedly Warwick Armstrong was a good cricketer but I think it would pay dividends if Brian did some solid pre-season training.”
Within a few years Brian was in the club’s 1st Grade side where he played 21 matches over four seasons with most of his cricket being played in 2nd Grade. Brian had the distinction of being named in two Petersham Marrickville 1st Grade Final teams, but didn’t get to bowl a ball as both matches against Northern District at the Sydney Cricket Ground were washed out. He can claim some notoriety however, as he played in a 1st Grade Semi-Final at Pratten Park against Wests at a time when the ABC televised two hours of grade cricket on Saturdays. The problem was his TV career was short-lived as he was the third victim of a Wally Welham hat-trick!!
And while he was on the receiving end of a hat-trick he inflicted similar pain on opposing batsman as he achieved the rare feat on two occasions. In 1960-61 playing against the old Paddington club at Rushcutters Bay Oval the 21 year old spun his way to a 4-54 return which included three wickets in successive balls. Three years later in 1963-64 he did the same thing against Bankstown. As rare as a hole-in-one in golf, it takes a special ability to return two hat-tricks within three years of each other and even more so when the player is yet to turn 25 years of age.
While his 24 1st Grade wickets cost him 31 runs each Brian’s 2nd Grade statistics were far more imposing. In 71 games spread over nine seasons Proops took 214 wickets at the superb average of just 17.84. But with a career total of 320 wickets at 17.87 in grades 1-4 and Poidevin-Gray Shield, work commitments took their toll in 1965 and Brian was forced to hang up his cricket boots. It is clear that had he been able to continue he could well have doubled the number of wickets he took.
His love for the game remained however, and in 1967 with work pressures easing Brian Proops returned to Petersham Oval as a scorer. That decision proved to be a good one as over the next 40 years Brian became one of the best scorers in Sydney. His neatness and accuracy were rewarded with official Cricket NSW scoring duties for more than 12 years while Channel 7 snapped him up for their pay TV broadcasts of Sheffield Shield/Pura Cup cricket. He was rewarded for a lifetime of loyalty to Petersham-Marrickville with life membership in 1998 and in 2000 received the Australian Sports Medal.
Following the merger with Randwick in 2001 Brian continued as Randwick Petersham 1st Grade scorer. However with mounting family pressures Brian took the decision to put away the pencils and at the 2007 Annual General Meeting he announced his retirement. On that same occasion he was awarded Randwick Petersham’s prestigious Ernie Toshack Memorial Award for his lifetime of commitment and dedication to the club and the game of cricket.
For the man who regarded Clive Johnston as the best captain he saw or played under and acknowledged the late Randwick Petersham patron Noel Hughes as the one who taught him “all about cricket”, he was able to look back on a cricket career with a great deal of pride and satisfaction.
Brian was also a well-known figure within the Bulldogs Rugby Leagues Club as he was their official timekeeper for 35 years between 1972 and 2007. Two years into the role Brian bought his own stopwatch in 1974 and in a fitting and nostalgic move in 2015 he donated the watch to the Bulldogs club.
Brian Proops passed away in his sleep on Saturday night 28 January 2017. He was 77.
Randwick Petersham Cricket Historian