My Geelong

Long-time East Belmont Cricket Club member Tony Wakefield. (Louisa Jones) 221300_02

After 51 years – not out – Tony Wakefield is part of the furniture at East Belmont Cricket Club. He chats with Luke Voogt about his automotive career, battling skin cancer and a half century at his beloved club.

Tell us about you…

I’m 68, married to Mariska and the father of Anna and James. I grew up in East Geelong and live in St Albans Park. I began work as an apprentice fitter and turner with Ford in 1970 and retired in 2013 as an automotive designer, having worked at Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi and General Motors in Detroit. I played my junior cricket at St Albans Park. My passion for cricket was given to me by my coaches, Wally Ralph, Ivan Felder and Maurie Fox. In the late ’60s to mid-’70s I played football with St Marys and in later years played baseball at East Belmont Saints.

Tell us about your involvement with East Belmont Cricket Club…

I joined East in 1969 after a visit from Ray Connoley and Roy Spence. It was only the club’s fourth season in district cricket but they had a core of youngsters and a great coach and batsman in Ron Brunger. In the space of two seasons we made the first XI grand final with seven players under 20-years-old. After a few seasons, I was encouraged to join the committee, before becoming treasurer and later taking over as president from Barry McMahon. My brother Gerry and brother-in-law Ian were also players and committee members.

The reasons I stayed so long were, firstly, I loved cricket and the contest between bat and ball. Secondly, I had enormous respect for those who had the vision to grow this club. I think we all wanted to see the club grow and to develop the facilities at Winter Reserve.

Some of my best memories are from my days as a junior coach. Seeing those youngsters grow into leaders was a great source of pride. Another great memory was the day my son James and I took all ten wickets between us – five each. The premierships were great but the friendships and the journey were even more special.

How are you coping with COVID-19?

It’s been a challenging time as I have been dealing with skin cancer. I had surgeries in January and March, and more in October. All is OK, but it’s a reminder to be vigilant and get checked if you detect anything unusual. Being retired, the COVID restrictions were not such a problem. For Mariska and I, not being able to visit our grandchildren Tom and Isabel has been the hardest.

What do you like to do locally?

Geelong is a great place to live. We love to have a drink at Murphys when we can, and some of our favourite places to eat are Brunenzo’s, Kohinoor and The Geelong Boat House on Western Beach.

What’s something about you that people might not know?

After retirement, I became involved in set building for musical theatre company Footlight. It was very rewarding and enjoyable working with my friends Mal and Ray and playing our ’60s and ’70s music loud. Geelong has so many talented performers so hopefully we can support all of the upcoming productions in 2021.