Bryan Hazell OAM
Playing against some of the icons of cricket can be an intimidating experience. And so it was for 14 years old Canterbury Boys High schoolboy Bryan Hazell when he shaped up against Bill O’Reilly and Sid Barnes at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1942. The occasion was the annual Combined Schools versus NSW XI fixture. While the match was generally used for coaching purposes the competitive edge of all players was clearly present when Bill O’Reilly knocked Bryan’s stump out of the ground after he had spanked him through the covers for four the previous ball. The 20 runs he scored that day was a valuable lesson while the running between wickets help he received from Sid Barnes would also prove to be of great assistance in his later career.
That 1942-43 season saw young Bryan drafted into the Petersham 3rd Grade team when they were short a player. He remained in 3s and the following summer won the batting average with 349 runs at 24.69. Some sound early season performances in 2nd Grade in 1944-45 saw him picked in Bill Alley’s 1st Grade team which included the NSW player Ken Grieves. A mix-up in Bryan’s Campsie residential qualifications was discovered soon after and he was forced to transfer to the Marrickville club much to the disappointment of Petersham legend Dudley Seddon who had originally invited the youngster to Petersham.
Born at Gordon NSW on 29 July 1928, Bryan Charles Hazell was an instant hit with his new club in 1945-46 scoring 110 against Balmain in his sixth game for Marrickville’s 2nd Grade team. That performance prompted an immediate elevation to the 1st XI under the captaincy of Test player Ron Saggers. While he only scored 30 runs in his two matches in the top grade his 3-11 with his leg-spinners against Manly helped the team to a narrow four runs win.
Over the following few seasons Hazell struggled to command a regular place in the 1st Grade team playing mostly in 2nds where he had a number of good performances. In 1948-49 he scored 104 and followed up with 102 against St George the next year. When Petersham and Marrickville merged in 1951-52 he topped the 2nd Grade batting with 402 runs at 33.50 including the team’s highest score for the season of 99.
Called into 1st Grade in 1952-53 for a couple of matches, a solid 69* led to his selection in the top side for the whole of the following season. His 490 runs that summer included a dashing 103 against Northern District and with George Debnam he figured in five opening partnerships of 75 or more. That was the start of a 10 year period as a regular in Petersham-Marrickville’s 1st Grade line-up and one which would bring him three 1st Grade premierships.
The first of those was in 1954-55 when a young Bobby Simpson knocked up 729 runs assisted by Hazell who scored 370 while narrowly missing a century with 95. Bryan’s 117 against Cumberland the following season however, was the highest score of the year as was his aggregate of 488 which played a major part in the successful defence of his teams’ premiership title. Six years later in 1961-62 Hazell enjoyed yet another premiership, living up to his reputation as an attacking batsman with a number of hard-hitting innings. In one match against Cumberland Bryan struck Richie Benaud for five successive fours before the champion leg-spinner bowled him with a flipper for 87. Hazell was just one of five players to play in three Petersham-Marrickville premiership teams in the club’s 50 years history. The others being Clive Johnston, Johnny Martin, Noel Hughes and Ken White.
In 1964 the NSW Cricket Association was considering the admission of Sutherland DCC to the 1st Grade competition. Hazell was at that time living in the Sutherland Shire and the Association felt that as an experienced player it was in the best interests of Grade Cricket if he were to transfer to the new club and help in its formation. Although he could have remained with Petersham-Marrickville under the “10 year residential rule” he accepted the challenge. He played that season in the local Sutherland Shire competition and served as a member of the Sutherland steering committee charged with the establishment of the new club.
Sutherland became a 1st Grade club from the start of the 1965-66 season and its introduction triggered a new era in the Grade Cricket career of Bryan Hazell both as a player and administrator. As a player he was appointed vice-captain of Sutherland’s inaugural 1st Grade team filling in as skipper when regular captain and Australian Test star Norman O’Neill was on first-class cricket duties. At the conclusion of that season Hazell volunteered to bring his 1st Grade career to a halt and play in the lower grades to develop the up-and-coming younger players. In adopting that approach he ended up with the distinction of captaining all Sutherland’s five grades over 10 seasons and led the 1967-68 3rd Grade team to a premiership victory.
On the administration front Bryan was appointed Deputy President of Sutherland in its first year before taking over the following season as President, a role he was to hold for the next 10 years. He was also appointed Sutherland’s delegate to the NSW Cricket Association and served in that capacity until 1978. His extensive involvement with the Association was recognised in 1977 when he was made a Life Member.
Bryan Hazell had a distinguished cricket career spanning 34 seasons. His contribution to the game as both a player and administrator was immense and it was a true reflection of the esteem in which he was held by his peers when he received the Order of Australia for his service to cricket in 1996. In his Grade Cricket career he scored a total of 11,913 runs including 4,124 in 1st Grade. Of those runs, 7,724 were scored with Marrickville / Petersham / Petersham-Marrickville including 3,823 in 1st Grade while the remainder of 4,189 was achieved in his Sutherland years.
When he retired, Bryan moved to Burleigh Heads although he was a regular face at the New Year Sydney Test, catching up with former Association friends and colleagues. He died at Burleigh Heads on 17 March 2017 aged 88.
Randwick Petersham Historian
18 March 2017