They called him ‘Hollywood’.
The nickname seemed to stick after one of his team-mates compared his sartorial elegance to that of the flamboyant Sydney punter of the fifties and sixties, ‘Hollywood’ George Edser.
That was one of the colourful characteristics of Peter Nicoll, who was a true personality of Wangaratta cricket for almost three decades.
There was no more imposing sight for an opposition player than to see the bulky frame of Nicoll striding purposefully to the wicket. A gifted left-hander equipped with the full range of shots, he could murder an attack when in full flight. You probably considered yourself a reasonable chance to pick him up in slips early, but if you didn’t, then … ‘look out’.
Peter Nicoll was part of a blue-blooded cricketing dynasty at Whorouly. His uncles, Ernie,Ron and Vic were all champions, as was his cousin Lex. Brother Ian, a future proficient Carlton winger, could wreak havoc with his ruthless hitting, whilst his father Wils, a fellow ‘Hall of Famer’, had a peerless record and scored over 10,000 WDCA runs.
Yet Wils and Peter were poles apart in the rudiments of batting. Peter, stylish and playing through the lines, was a conventional stroke-player. Wils, more rough-hewn, relied on a superb eye to plunder the bowling. But both shared an appetite for runs which produced monumental results.
The story is told of Wils, striding to the crease at Country Week, looking like he’d hastily changed after a tiresome day on the farm. Trousers tucked into black socks, well-worn pads offering scant protection. And carrying a single, spiked batting glove.
There was collective derision from the fielding side. Someone sneered: “Get a look at this yokel will ya !” It was just loud enough for the ‘yokel’ to hear, and store in his memory bank.
After a commanding knock, during which he’d taken toll of a highly-rated attack, he quickly departed, in search of a relaxing ‘roll-your-own’ as his method of winding down.
Peter, to the contrary was all sophistication , replete with finely-tailored creams and the most up-to-date equipment.
He was just 13 when he lined up alongside Wils in the Whorouly side. Two years later he was hailed as a prodigy when he shared a 240-run opening partnership with his father. His contribution was 104.
He was one of the youngest-ever Country Week players when selected that year. A season later he was representing a Wangaratta team against the visiting Victorians. It was all very heady stuff for the lad, but he handled a Shield attack with aplomb.
“Ian Meckiff routed the remaining bats, although young Peter Nicoll provided stubborn resistance with a fine innings of 17. He certainly justified his selection and played a fine array of shots to score his runs”, said the Chronicle reporter of the day.
Peter headed to Melbourne , where he spent a couple of seasons with Richmond. To the surprise of most WDCA followers, who rated him an excellent chance of playing District Firsts, his time was spent in the Seconds and Thirds, with a Third XI Batting average and a top score of 99* being the highlight.
Employment as a livestock agent took him away from Whorouly for a period. He represented Mansfield at Country Week on three occasions whilst working in the town and he had spells at Ariah Park and Wagga in the early seventies. But for 27 seasons he was one of the cornerstones of a usually-strong Whorouly line-up.
Besides his formidable batting he adopted another string to his bow, as a medium-pace swing bowler. He was under-estimated in this role, but showed accuracy and guile to trouble the best of batsmen.
Nicoll enjoyed an excellent season in 1967/68, scoring three centuries and taking out the Chronicle Trophy. But he would probably rank ‘71/72 among his most enjoyable. It was a season of one-day games and he totalled 623 runs, finished runner-up in the Chronicle Trophy and played in his first Whorouly premiership.
He had scored 114 not out in the final-round and played a lovely hand of 46 to help the Maroons defeat Tarrawingee in the semi-final. He then hammered a top-class United attack to the tune of 116 not out to assist in knocking off the hot favourites in the Final. Some people rate this as his finest and most disciplined innings, but then again, any of his other 11 WDCA ‘tons’ could rival that honour.
His name was regularly thrown up when representative fixtures came around and he was selected for two international games. The first, against England at Euroa in 1965 was washed out, but he opened the batting against the West Indies at the Showgrounds in 1969, defying the pacemen Wesley Hall and Richard Edwards for more than half an hour, for 13.
Nicoll was a permanent fixture at Melbourne Country Week and his 17 trips as part of the Wangaratta team spanned 26 years. Only Max Bussell, Clem Fisher and Barry Grant made more journeys down the highway for the best country cricket around.
He was always a vital part of the upper-order, with his highest score, a breezy 86, helping Wang to defeat Ballarat in 1966. In his last innings, at Coburg in 1985, he promised the boys, on heading through the gate, that he would ‘turn it on’ for them. True to his word , his 69, against Colac ,was a classy swansong. In latter years his bowling at Melbourne had also proved invaluable,
There were few more recognisable players in local cricket than “Holly”. His competitive nature was a vital part of his make-up. There’s no doubt that occasional sparring sessions with opponents may have rubbed some of them up the wrong way.
But he gave great service to Whorouly in his 286 games and the stark statistics of 7561 runs and 466 wickets speak for themselves. So does his record with the WDCA – 17 Country Week trips and 50 North-East Cup games.
His prowess as a footballer often faded because of his cricket achievements. But he was an aggressive, strong defender, who starred in key position roles with Myrtleford during the sixties.
The Nicoll residence borders the Whorouly oval and if the present-day merged Ovens Valley side happen to be playing there he usually sidles up to peruse the state of the game . Old-time cricket watchers would say that , when he was in his pomp, there was no more attractive sight than watching “Holly” unveiling his repertoire of shots.