Today marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Australia’s first Test captain, Dave Gregory.
The father figure of Australian cricket and member of one of Australia’s great sporting dynasties, Gregory died aged 74.
Born in Wollongong during 1845, he will forever be etched into the annals of Australian cricket folklore for that moment in 1877 against England at the MCG when he led Australia out in what became the first cricket Test ever played.
Gregory and four of his seven brothers played for NSW in international and intercolonial matches. Dave was the 10th First Class captain of NSW and his brother Ned captained the state six years prior
Ned also played in the first Test match. The son of Ned, Syd Gregory, also captained the state between 1894 and 1912 as well as played for Australia.
At 31, Dave Gregory captained an Australian team, comprising six Victorians and five New South Welshmen, against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground from 15 to 19 March 1877 in what is now recognised as the first Test match.
He was the first of 46 players to have captained Australia in Test cricket, with wicketkeeper Tim Paine currently leading Australia in his first Ashes series.
Gregory played all three of his Test matches for Australia as captain between 1877-79. He won two and lost one.
Australia won that first Test match by 45 runs, and famously, 100 years later the result of the Centenary Test at the MCG was the exact same margin.
Another famous NSW cricketer, Charles Bannerman, faced the first ball in Test cricket during that eminent match in 1877.
Not only was Dave Gregory the first Australian Test captain, but arguably put cricket in this nation on the map.
Sporting a distinguished beard, the hard-hitting batsman was the first man to lead an Australian team on a First Class tour to England, in 1878.
Cricketing scribes at the time heralded a three-day match at Lord’s, against the Marylebone Cricket Club, as a turning point in Australian cricket history.
The match lasted just one day and Australia won by nine wickets, but importantly according to records of the match, established the credibility of Australian cricket.
Gregory was hailed for his leadership during that fixture and it set the tone for his captaincy.
According to celebrated cricket writer, Jack Pollard in ‘Australian Cricket: The Game and The Players’, Gregory “set an example in thoughtfulness and tact” as a captain.
He played 41 matches at the First Class level for NSW, scoring 889 runs, including a highest score of 85, and claimed 29 wickets at an average of 19.24. His best figures were 5-55.
Gregory was a selector for NSW throughout the 1880s and secretary of the NSW Cricket Association, now Cricket NSW, between 1883 and 1891.
His First Class debut came against arch rivals Victoria, at Sydney’s Domain, in 1866 during which he claimed seven wickets. He played his final First Class match in December 1882.
Alongside his brothers Ned, Walter, Charlie and Arthur, Gregory reportedly played most of his early cricket at the Domain, now the wonderful sprawling park that hosts many concerts and carnivals.
Three of those brothers, Ned, Dave and Charlie, challenged the almighty Victorians in a single wicket contest watched by 5,000 people, at the Albert Ground, Redfern, which was won by the Gregorys.
In 1919 The Sydney Mail wrote that Gregory worked in the Public Service for 47 years, including the NSW Auditor-General's Department and Treasury.
He died in Turramurra, north of Sydney, after a life that played such a significant role in the journey of Australian cricket.