Don Bradman's statue, by Robert Hannaford, now at the eastern entrance to Adelaide Oval, gets some loving care.
Image by Kylie Fleming

DON BRADMAN SEEPS INTO CULTURE OF ADELAIDE – and the city enables the longer
cricket career that made him a living legend

SIR DONALD BRADMAN DRIVE, THE NAME OF THE MAIN ROAD FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE CITY, signals Adelaide’s ownership of the greatest cricket batsman.

Yet Bradman was born on August 27, 1908, in Cootamundra, New South Wales. He was raised in Bowral and entered first class cricket (a century on debut) for New South Wales.

The Bradman legend was sealed in 1930 during Australia’s tour of England when he scored 131 in the first Test, 254 in the second and the then-world record 334 in the third – part of 974 in seven innings of that series.

In 1934, the South Australian Cricket Association secured Bradman from New South Wales in a seemingly free trade. Bradman was enticed over the border to learn the stockbroking trade in an offer made by Adelaide businessman and Australian Cricket Board of Control member Harry Hodgetts of Hodgetts & Co stockbrokers.
But it was the South Australian Cricket Association that instigated the move and subsidised Bradman’s wages.

Bradman made a failed bid to become Melbourne Cricket Club secretary in 1939 but his life resumed the pattern of 65 years (1934-2001) in Adelaide. He ran his stockbroking business from a city office and raised his family in the suburb of Kensington Park. He spent thousands of hours at Adelaide Oval as a cricket administrator.

Adelaide didn't make Bradman a greater cricketer but its lifestyle, away from the exposure he hated, extended the time he needed to become a sporting legend.



Don Bradman immersed in Adelaide life that helped shape him

Don Bradman home in Kensington Park the scene for decades of happy and sad times

Don Bradman and his wife Jessie lived in the same modest Kensington Park house for nearly all their married life. The home saw many happy and some early sad times. They experienced tragedy in raising their children: their first-born son died in infancy in 1936, their second John (born in 1939) contracted polio and their daughter Shirley, born in 1941, had cerebral palsy from birth. The house was recommended for state heritage listing in 1987 but this was dropped after Bradman objected. Again, against his wishes, the home was heritage listed by Burnside Council in 2004. Architect Philip Claridge designed the home for the Bradmans when they moved to South Australia in 1934. Claridge's firm had long-term responsibility for maintenance work at Adelaide Oval and this led to him working on the Bradman house. The two-storey home is considered neo-Georgian, not modernist. Bradman fiercely opposed to any plans aiming to cash in on his name. Bradman’s angst caused the federal government in 2000 to change to the corporations law regulations to prevent anyone using his name to suggest a connection that didn’t exist.

Don Bradman 1939 state squash champion, good golfer, billiards player ; local cricket average 87

Don Bradman took up playing squash after moving to Adelaide in 1934. He was South Australian state champion five years later. Outstanding at billiards, (architect Philip Claridge added a billiards room to his Kensington Park home), Bradman also was a good golfer, winning the Mount Osmond Golf Club championship in 1935 and 1949. He kept playing at Kooyonga Golf Club until his late 80s. He played Adelaide district cricket for the Kensington club at Kensington Oval near his Kensington Park home. His record with Kensington (“The Browns") is less than at Test level but, from 37 games between 1935-36 and 1948-49, he scored 3377 runs at an average of 87. Kensington Oval, originally Shipster’s Paddock and later owned by a private school, dates back to 1870s. With its quaint Rex and Basil Sellers Stand and gum-tree surrounds, the oval on The Parade also has hosted Australian football, soccer and athletics. Founded in 1871, Kensington Cricket Club’s other Test players include Terry Jenner (from Western Australia), Greg Blewett and Tim May, along with the great leg spinner Clarrie Grimmett (from New Zealand, via New South Wales and Victoria). One of the major controversies of Bradman’s career was, as an Australian selector, leaving Grimmett out of the 1938 tour of England.


Don Bradman successful commercially despite resentment; part of business establishment

Don Bradman generated resentment over his link to stockbroker Harry Hodgett who offered the job (South Australian Cricket Association secretly paid his wages) that brought Bradman to Adelaide. In 1945, Hodgett’s business collapsed and he went to jail for irregular practices, with many in Adelaide’s close-knit establishment losing money. Bradman opened his own business in Hodgett’s Grenfell Street premises and, with no evidence to support it, a stigma stayed with him from the affair. But he went on to join the board of several South Australian companies, including the still-thriving Argo Investments, and had a seat on the Adelaide stock exchange. The commercial side of Bradman’s cricket career has been raised against him. Arriving back from the 1930 Ashes tour, he left his teammates to go on a reception circuit (including Adelaide), sponsored by his sporting goods employer Mick Simmons. General Motors also gave him a custom-built Chevrolet. He threatened to pull out of the 1932-33 Bodyline series and play in the lucrative Lancashire League when the cricket board fined him for writing a newspaper column. He earned rights from a book he wrote on tour, staying isolated from teammates. Bradman endorsed the Sykes bat in 1930. By the 1980s, he had much bigger offers but he stayed loyal to Sykes. Bradman’s conservative rural upbringing had drilled into him the need to look beyond cricket to secure his future.

Singer, composer and pianist, Don Bradman's love of music legacy is granddaughter Greta

Don Bradman was a keen musician: a boy soprano in his school choir, a skilled pianist, and he composed music. He recorded several solo piano pieces at Columbia Record Studios during the 1930 tour to England. Later that year, a song written for piano by Don Bradman called “Every day is a rainbow day for me” had its premiere performance at the Grand Opera House in the presence of the touring West Indian team. His granddaughter Greta sang that song at the Bradman centenary dinner in Sydney in 2015. When Greta Bradman was young, she and brother Tom went to her grandparents' Kensington Park house every day after school where she was surrounded by her piano-playing grandfather’s passion for music, especially the soprano voice. They would also listen to his big collection of LPs.Greta studied music at Adelaide University’s Elder Conservatorium when she was also a member of Adelaide Chamber Singers, the winner of consecutive Choir of the World awards.Greta Bradman has won critics choice awards including APRA/AMCOS Performance of the Year (2013) and OzCart awards. Nominated for Helpmann, MusicOz and ARIA awards, she received Australian International Opera Award in 2013-14 allowing her to train with the Wales International Academy of Voice. Richard Bonynge selected Bradman to sing the title role in a performance of Handel’s Rodelinda in 2014. Greta Bradman has recorded for Sony, ABC Classics and independently.


Don Bradman one of Kamahl's benefactors in singer's cricketing days for Kensington club

Kamahl (Kandiah Kamalesvaran) became one of Australia’s best known singers through the links made in the small social circles of 1950s Adelaide – especially with well-known benefactors such as a Don Bradman and Rupert Murdoch. From a Tamil background, Kamahl arrived in Adelaide from Malaysia in 1953 for secondary education at King’s College (now Pembroke School) in Kensington Park. Despite being injured playing cricket as a 10-year-old in Kuala Lumpur, Kamahl took up the game again at King’s College. He did well enough to be selected to play for the Kensington club in the South Australian Cricket Association. He took a ha ttrick with his first three off spin balls of the season, and finished with 7/55. Later that day he met Don Bradman, who also had played for the Kensington club and lived in Kensington Park, in the dressing room. This was start of Kamahl’s deep friendship with Bradman. As Kamahl’s university studies floundered, immigration authorities attempted to deport him. He enjoyed singing and decided to try it as a career as “Kamahl”.  This led to contact with another benefactor, Rupert Murdoch, the young proprietor of Adelaide’s afternoon newspaper The News. Murdoch put Adelaide’s first television channel, Nine, to air in 1959 with Kamahl booked for the opening night variety show. From there, Murdoch promoted Kamahl nationally until he was granted permant residency in 1966.

'Our Don' – Adelaide makes its orchestral multi-media tribute to Don Bradman in 2014

Don Bradman’s musicality and cricket brilliance were highlighted in a major all-Adelaide tribute in 2014. Commisioned by the South Australian government, the multi media Our Don featured Bradman archival video, with Elder Conservatorium graduate Luke Dollman conducting the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s music written by another Adelaide University Elder Conservatorium graduate Natalie Williams. The night’s performance included Golijov’s Songs by another distinguished conservatorium graduate Greta Bradman, soprano and granddaughter of the cricket legend. Adelaide film and television actor Gary Sweet, whose first major role in 1984 was as Donald Bradman in the Network Ten miniseries Bodyline, the story of the 1932-33 Test series between England and Australia, narrated the text by biographer Peter Allen. Williams’s music was divided into five movements: The boy from Bowral, Bodyline, The Invincibles, A national hero and His greatest partnership – the 65-year relationship between Bradman and his childhood sweetheart Jessie. Also featured was the song Bradman composed: “Every day is a rainbow day for me”. Some on-field footage and newspaper headlines highlighted his record: 6,996 Test runs at a 99.94 average and a record first-class score of 452 not out. Our Don music composer, Tanunda-born Natalie Williams, has been based extensively in the USA after following her studies at Adelaide and Melbourne universities with further graduate training (international) in composition. She was accepted into the doctoral degree at the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University in 2006. She has written pieces for Adelaide Symphony and other Australian and international ensembles.


ADELAIDE OVAL AS CENTRAL TO BRADMAN'S ACHIEVEMENTS: cricketer, administrator, philanthropist, collector of memorabilia 

Don Bradman dazzles with bat at Adelaide Oval – and took his only two Test wickets there

Besides Bradman's usual outstanding batting there, Adelaide Oval was the setting for two of Don Bradman’s extraordinary feats: his only two Test wickets – bowling leg breaks against the West Indies in 1930 and against England (getting Walter Hammond) in 1933. The oval was special to Bradman the batsman. His debut and last first-class matches were there. In that 1927-49 span, his 60 innings in 40 games at Adelaide Oval produced 4840 runs at an 89.62 average with 18 centuries. Bradman’s 368 against Tasmania in 1936 is the record first-class score for Adelaide Oval and it was part of him leading South Australia to a Sheffield Shield win. In seven Test matches and 11 innings at Adelaide Oval, Bradman scored 970 at an average of 107.77 with three double-hundreds, including setting the record for the highest individual Test score in Australia of 299 not out against South Africa in 1932. In retirement, Bradman was honoured at the Oval with the naming of the Bradman Dining Room in 1986 and the opening of the Sir Donald Bradman Stand in 1990. This stand was replaced in the remodelled Adelaide Oval but his name adorns the new setup. After the hours spent at the oval as player and administrator, Bradman regularly visited the ground to sign memorabilia for fans until 1998. On his death in 2001, the memorial service at St. Peter’s Cathedral was relayed to spectators at the Oval. .


Bradman Collection at Adelaide Oval presents the memorabilia from his greatest moments

The Bradman Collection at Adelaide Oval’s new Riverbank Stand salutes cricket’s greatest batsman with his personal memorabilia from 1927 to 1977. These include his 1948 baggy green Australian Test cap from the tour of England with “The Invincibles” and the bat used by Bradman in scoring then world record Test score of 334 against England at Headingly, Leeds, in 1930. This included 309 runs in one day. The State Library retains Bradman archival material, including newspaper cuttings.


Administrator Bradman in World Series, South Africa, Adelaide Oval/ SANFL controversies

Don Bradman was a powerful figure in the South Australian Cricket Association for half a century, notably as national selector and chairman of the Australian Cricket Board. Bradman spent many hours at hundreds of South Australian Cricket Association meetings in roles ranging from president, treasurer, selector and coach plus watching games in the committee room at the George Giffen Stand and players at the practice nets. Reviews on Bradman’s role as administrator are mixed. At the Australian Cricket Board level, he was involved in the boycott of South Africa. Although he later said he regretted the decision, Bradman as board chairman cancelled the 1971-72 South Africa tour. His other big national challenge came from the Kerry Packer’s World Series cricket in the 1970s. Refusing to pay the Australian Test players their full market value, Bradman came up against team captain Ian Chappell – grandson of Vic Richardson, an Australian/South Australian captain whose relationship with Bradman had strains. Bradman also was centre of the bitter split, from 1969, between the South Australian Cricket Association and South Australian National Football League over use of Adelaide Oval. This caused football to leave and set up its own West Lakes stadium in 1974. The rift was healed in 2012, with cricket and football sharing the remodelled $535 million Adelaide Oval, largely financed by the South Australian government.

Bradman raises millions signing cricket bats for charities and to prevent misuse of his name

Up until the age of 90, Bradman would answer the regular call from the South Australian Cricket Association office at Adelaide Oval to sign items that raised millions for charities. Bradman was upset by an industry profiting from real and false signatures.Throughout his career, Bradman gave away his most precious objects to the South Australian Cricket Association, the Sydney Cricket Ground and others. The fee for Channel 9 interviews he did at the end of his life also went to charities. 

Greatness undisputed as cricketer but his tastes and solitude may have been misunderstood

Nothing can question the core of Don Bradman’s greatness: an average of 99.94 for his Test career of attacking batting. But he has been criticised as a loner and a snob. But these criticisms must be put in the wider context of aspects of Bradman such as his love of classical music. The boy Bradman was a loner, more comfortable with adults, and obsessed with repetitive concentration. As a cricketer, he was not part of, and did not share his money in, the sport’s drinking culture.


Beyond glorious record as a player, Bradman devoted to running the game in South Australia

Don Bradman's chronology of achievements as a player are glittering but he also spent nearly 30 years, 1938-65, as an administrator with the South Australian Cricket Association. He was appointed the association's president in 1965 and being vice president since 1950, a life member since 1947, and on committees going back to 1938. Concurrently, Bradman was a member of the Australian Cricket Board from 1945 and its chairman 1960-63 and 1969-72.

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