At 91 years old, Doug Crowell might be the oldest cricket player in Australia.
“I keep saying a couple years might pull me up, but who knows,” he said.
For 15 years he’s played Veterans Cricket, a competitive league for players over 60.
He said the league’s popularity has grown over the years, and that anyone can have a go.
“It’s for the people that gave up their cricketing career when they were in their 30s, and they had an urge to want to keep going [and] keep fit.”
Mr Crowell said the game hadn’t changed, but the player’s bodies had.
“The ball’s not coming along as fast as what it used to be, [it’s] easier to catch them out now because the ball’s coming to you slower.”
Mr Crowell said he hadn’t heard of anyone close to his age still playing cricket competitively, but wouldn’t go as far as declaring himself Australia’s oldest player.
The same club for 75 years
Mr Crowell said he first picked up a bat as a 16-year-old on the family farm in Winton, New South Wales.
But there wasn’t a club to play for in the small farming community, and fuel shortages from World War II meant travelling 20 kilometres into Tamworth to play was nearly impossible.
Despite the disadvantages, Mr Crowell said he rallied his neighbours together and formed the Winton Cricket Club in 1946.
Mr Crowell credits playing country cricket in rugged paddocks for why he’s still going today.
“We learned to play our cricket in the hard way, but it hasn’t done me any harm,” he said.
“The fact I’m still playing I think is because we didn’t have the real good fields and the real good pitches to play on, we had to adjust.
The Winton Cricket Club has merged with other clubs multiple times in the 75 years since, but Mr Crowell has stuck with them through it all.
“They made me a life member, patron and I have no reason to ever want to leave that club.”
Ageing players role models in community
Mr Crowell’s wife, Margaret, has been heavily involved in Veterans Cricket ever since he started playing at 76 years old.
She said his fitness could be chalked up to him never taking a day off.
“If he does happen to have a knee that’s annoying him, or a muscle in the back of the leg, there’s no stopping playing tennis or playing cricket,” Ms Crowell said.
“He’ll keep going rather than put his feet up.”
She said getting other players onboard wasn’t as easy, but her husband made it his mission to show older people in the community their days of playing weren’t over.
“Doug had a lot of success because he would personally ask them to come to the game,” she said.
“Many a time they would say ‘oh no I’ve got a sore shoulder, I can’t run like I used to’.
“But when they came and they saw that other people on the fields were just as wobbly or had just as many physical issues as they did, they thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Friend and match-scorer Karyn Murphy said Mr Crowell had been a gentleman umpire and player in the community since she could remember.
“He’s been so inspirational through different parts of my life.”
Ms Murphy said Veterans Cricket had been a great pastime for many older players.
“Because they don’t say no, they have a go, and they’re all comrades.
“They’re serious on the field but when they come off they’re friends and mates and have a good old yarn.”
No plans of slowing down
Mr Crowell said there was no end in sight for his cricket career.
“People say you’re playing the wrong shots,” he said.
Even if he was forced to the sidelines, he said he’d happily turn up to cheer for his team.
“I just think that there’s so much to be gained out of cricket, because of the people that you still stay friends with over the years,” he said.