Brothers in arms: The Risbey tale

Pelican stalwarts: Bruce (left) and Geoff Risbey reflect on their glory days at Bookaar Cricket Club.

Pelican stalwarts: Bruce (left) and Geoff Risbey reflect on their glory days at Bookaar Cricket Club.

BETWEEN them, Geoff and Bruce Risbey took 775 wickets, 232 catches and made 10,313 runs in their cricket careers.

A tally of the games between the legendary Bookaar cricketing brothers reveals over 1000 days toiling away with bat and ball for the Pelicans, as well as taking to the field for Country Week games and Hudson and Standard shield matches.

“That is equivalent to three years – my wife was horrified when I told her that,” Bruce said.

Geoff liked to think of it as “dedication and commitment”, and that is exactly what has defined the brothers’ contribution to the club they love.

A 15 year-old Bruce and 18 year-old Geoff first padded up in 1965, little suspecting the impact they would have on the small country club.

They were there as the team secured three premierships in a row in B grade from seasons 1966/67 to 1968/69, under the captaincy of the late Nick Cole.

They endured the lean years that followed a promotion to A grade, as numbers dwindled and questions were raised about whether Bookaar was up to the task.

“We struggled in A grade because we were only a (small) country side, so we got a couple of people out from Camperdown to help us out to try to be competitive,” Bruce said.

“We happened to get a bloke, John Baker, who lifted us greatly, and then after him coming up we happened to get his father Terry and (brother) Keith, and in 1976/77 we won the A grade flag, which was a great achievement.”

Bruce played a pivotal role in recruiting the Camperdown contingent, breathing life into the team and helping it scale back up the ladder, culminating in the breakthrough flag.

“Bruce had a pretty strong influence on mates here and workmates,” Geoff said.

“Once you start to get a bit of an atmosphere or personalities (at a club), it’s like running a hotel, if you’ve got a good barman: personalities draw people in.”

Decades later, it was Geoff who threw the club a lifeline, using his influence as a life member of the show society to help the team secure a new base at the Camperdown Showgrounds when they decided to move on from Leura Oval.

Bruce and Geoff have long been the faces of a strong family connection at the Bookaar club, with father George and brothers Ian and Colin also representing the club.

While Geoff and Bruce played alongside each other for many years – going together through hundreds of games for Bookaar, as well as Hudson and Standard shield matches, 15 years of Melbourne Country Weeks and 10 years of Bendigo Country Weeks – there was just one occasion at Noorat when the four brothers and their father played in the same team.

Geoff, Bruce and Ian were more regular team-mates, combining for one of the more memorable moments in their family’s cricketing history.

“We were all selected in a Hudson Shield team (and) the three of us went in a hat-trick,” Geoff said.

“That was probably our lowlight, actually – going so far and getting to represent the association (only to be dismissed like that).”

The three brothers were named in Bookaar’s team of the century, while Geoff and Bruce are among just a handful of Life Members at the club.

They both took on off-field roles over the years, acting delegates to the Hampden association and its successor the Mount Emu Creek association.

They have also taken on administration positions at the associations, with Geoff assuming the mantle of president of the Hampden competition in the five years leading-up to its expansion to Mount Emu Creek.

While Geoff was in charge of the association, Bruce earned a spot in the 13-man Corangamite squad to take on the English cricketers when they made their way to Reid Oval in the late 1970s, but missed out when the squad was cut to the final team of 12.

Bruce’s son Scott was also a Pelican, captaining the Under 16 side to a premiership in 1995/96 and securing an A grade premiership the same year.

It was none other than Bruce who coached the juniors that year, following on from stints as B grade and A reserve coach.

“I coached him (Scott) right through and I was coach-selector for Hampden for quite some years in the Under 16s,” he said.

“I coached Bookaar with Scott when we won it and we were unbeaten in that year. I must admit I did retire that year.”

The A grade grand final saw Scott line up alongside his uncle in what was to be Geoff’s last appearance in a premiership decider.

While Geoff and Bruce’s involvement at Bookaar has decreased from what it once was, they still take an active interest in all that goes on at the club and are regular attendees at home matches.

“Geoff and I both go up there – we’re probably two of the most regular ‘outsiders’,” Bruce said.

“We’re still supporting the kids.”

The brothers have also left their mark in other sporting circles, playing together for Camperdown Basketball Association foundation team Northside, where they were coached by the late Harold Lamb.

Bruce still holds the record for most points scored in a season with over 600 – averaging over 30 a game – despite missing a game that season for Melbourne Country Week.

They played tennis on the old lawn courts and Bruce also dabbled in football as a junior before finding his ideal place at the Camperdown Football Club: behind the bar, where he has served for 30 years.

He has also had two stints on the committee, including when Ken Hinkley famously took Camperdown to back-to-back flags in 1999-2000.

“Football is everything to me, plus the cricket club,” Bruce said.

“The town owes me nothing.”

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