For such a convivial bloke, the darker side of Peter Harvey had a habit of manifesting itself on the sporting field.
Over-officious umpires, ‘arsey’ batsmen, unsympathetic wickets and clumsy fieldsmen often felt the ire of this left-arm paceman, whose volcanic outbursts could enliven the dullest of Saturday afternoons.
He’s always maintained a glass half-full approach to life, has ‘Harv’, but once he crossed that white line, he tended to believe that the sporting gods were conspiring against him.
And while we’re on the subject of his grudges, don’t even mention footy selectors. Those hardhearted bastards deprived him of a spot in three Premiership sides………
Team-mates and opponents alike have a favourite yarn about ‘Harv’. He even tells a few against himself………..Like the time he was spending a cricket season on the tiny island of Jersey – just off the English coast:
He was enduring another one of those ‘nearly’ days; as the ball regularly just whistled past the outside edge of the bat. The lucky batsman was a veteran, Colin Graham, reputedly the best and fastest bowler that the island has produced.
“I was having a bit of a sook and ruing my misfortune, as he kept playing and missing. Then I got one through him and rattled the stumps. He stood at the crease for a few seconds and stared me down: ‘That’s what happens when you pitch the fooken thing up, lad.’………“
‘Harv’ inherited his sporting genes from his dad Bill, who was a handy footballer and basketballer.
Nowadays the old fellah shows poultry, with quite a deal of success. I noticed Bill at one of their events earlier this year. The exhibitors were mingling socially, thermos flasks and picnic lunches laid out, whilst the freshly washed and manicured birds clucked in the background.
I couldn’t help thinking that there’d be no hope of ‘Harv’ following down Bill’s path. If one of the chooks was getting cantankerous he’d just as likely wring it’s neck !…………..
Even though it’s years since I’ve seen him bowl, the vision of his approach to the crease is still firmly implanted in my mind. He would have carefully measured out his 20-metre run-up, tinkered pedantically with some minor field adjustments, and methodically worked up a shine on the Kookaburra, on his superbly-tailored creams.
At a stretch, you’d call it a rhythmic approach. His left-arm pumped furiously and there was a skip in his final delivery stride; his eyeballs focused on their target from behind a technically-perfect, uplifted right arm………
It had been the same, really, from the first time young Pete began wheeling them down as a 12 year-old for United in the WDCA’s Under 16 competition.
His ambition had been to play senior WDCA cricket and O & M footy for the Rovers – and that’s what eventually happened.
In the meantime, like all kids who show promise, there had been oodles of opportunities to refine his obvious talent. Every summer week-end was consumed by cricket – WDCA games on Saturday, the Social competition, North-East Colts or other rep fixtures on Sundays.
‘Harv’s’ first full senior WDCA season in 1985/86 had been promising enough. After a few tidy hauls, he got to open the bowling in the Final against Rovers – a match which gave him a fair indication that cricket’s not all bells and whistles.
United lost the toss, and Rovers piled up a mammoth 414, to virtually seal the game. The youngster contributed a wicket-less 23 overs, and his opening partner Graeme McMillan a marathon 45 of the 143 overs that United sent down.
Two seasons later, he was representing the North-East in a State-wide Under 21 competition when, over several post-match drinks, a plan was hatched to play some cricket in England.
“Rod Barton, Scott Kay and Andrew Killeen from Albury, were also playing in that side, and we decided to head over some time in the future,” he recalls.
‘Harv’ had broken into the Rovers senior footy side earlier that year, and was a handy contributor up forward. Most of the players were of his vintage, and shared a unique spirit, as they shaped more and more like premiership contenders.
When the Grand Final side was named, he was squeezed out. The Hawks ran away from Lavington to clinch the ‘88 flag. For ‘Harv’, it still remains his greatest disappointment in sport. ( “Come to think of it”, he says,” being named as an emergency in the 1993 and ‘94 Grand Finals runs pretty close.” )
A few months later, at Bendigo Country Week, in mid-January 1989, a seemingly innocuous error of judgement brought down the full force of officialdom upon Pete and his team-mate Scott Clayton.
I’ll let him take up the story : “……..We were ‘winding down’, late one night, as exhuberant youngsters do, when we unhinged a fire-extinguisher off the wall of the motel-room.
One of the boys,’Chewy’ Brezac, was sleeping peacefully and we thought we’d wake him up by giving him a little squirt……”
“We didn’t realise you couldn’t turn the thing off automatically, no matter how hard we tried. There was foam everywhere – on beds, walls, ceiling, bathroom, toilet…… “
“The Motel Manager was aghast at the damage we caused. So were we. The situation became worse when the media got hold of it. ‘Country Calamity – Axe May Fall’, was the headline in one paper.”
“The WDCA was threatened with expulsion; we were made to look lower than a snake’s belly….……..I’ve treated fire extinguishers with suspicion ever since……”
Stern correspondence was still being relayed between the Bendigo and Wangaratta Associations when he flew off to England to play for Huddersfield League club, Paddock.
He relished the opportunity to have up to four games a week if he desired. It proved a marvellous experience, highlighted by plenty of wickets, laughs and refreshments.
Despite an offer to try out with the 2nd XI of County club Sussex, Pete decided to base himself in Greece and tour Europe the following season. He did intend to spend some time playing in Denmark, but instead, after a break, landed in the delightful tax-free haven of Jersey.
He twigged immediately, he says, that he was in for a good time when he was handed his cap on the eve of his debut. The club’s crest depicted a Pint of beer leaning against a Palm Tree……….
In his absence, his old club, United, had merged with their arch rivals, Rovers. They’d fallen short in recent times, but consoled themselves that: “ All will be well soon. ‘Harv’s’ coming back.”
He took no time to settle back into life at the City Oval. Rovers-United were developing a good young side and he was skipper – and the leader of their attack – when they took out successive flags in 1995/96 and ‘96/97.
There was little doubt that he was a much better bowler after his European Odyssey, as he emphasised by performing well on a couple of Melbourne Country Week trips.
‘Harv’ reckons he was playing his best season of football in 1994. A broken thumb stalled it though, and by the time he was fit again, the Rovers line-up was settled. He had to watch from he sidelines, as the Hawks completed their unbeaten season.
There was some consolation three years later, when, along with a few old Rovers mates, he shared in North Wangaratta’s 1997 O & K win over Greta.
Undeniably, his favourite cricket moment came in a tense WDCA Final against Wang-Magpies in 2001/02. He had taken 3/33 (giving him 44 wickets for the season) to limit the Pies to 151. But the Hawks proceeded to lose wickets at regular intervals.
They were 9/140 when ‘Harv’ was joined by his opening bowling partner Adam Booth. Amidst high drama, the pair scrounged the runs to secure a memorable victory.
He continued to rack up the wickets – totalling 509 in his 22-year A-Grade career – until a torn hamstring, incurred whilst ten-pin bowling with his kids, brought about his ultimate demise.
On the footy front, he coached the Rovers Reserves for two years, was an assistant with the Thirds for three, and helped run the bench out at Greta for several years.
‘Harv’ loves reminiscing. Tall stories flow and laughter permeates when he gets together with old team-mates.
And he’s always the butt of plenty of ‘piss-taking’ from blokes who’ve taken their fair share from him, and want to ensure that he doesn’t get too far ahead of himself…….