As we’ve stayed up watching the cricket Ashes in England in recent weeks, take a tea break and think of the Tinetti family, of Shepherds Flat, Victoria. For generations they have made some of the world’s finest cricket bats right here in our own backyard. Fifth generation Adrian explains how it all happened.
The hamlet of Shepherds Flat, several hilly kilometres past Hepburn Springs, has been home to five generations of the Tinetti family. This tiny township has a unique connection with Australian cricket. Records dating back to the goldrush days show that the colonial sport of cricket was played intermittently on Tinetti’s hill. The cricketing connection was firmly entrenched by the Crockett family just after the turn of the century. It began with the 1902 MCG Test Match between Australia and England. Test umpire Robert Crockett and English captain Archie MacLaren were casually chatting during a break in play. MacLaren was surprised that Australia did not cultivate its own bat willow and Crockett idly suggested that MacLaren should send some cuttings to Australia upon his return to the mother country. Six months later the cuttings arrived sealed in a steel tube, but only one survived the heat of the equator. Crockett rushed this precious cutting to Shepherds Flat where it was nurtured by his younger brother James. From this single cutting grew thousands of willow trees at Shepherds Flat and the Crockett brand of bats became a household name amongst cricketers.
Australian cricketing greats Warwick Armstrong, Lindsay Hassett and Norman O’Neill all wielded the Crockett willow to great effect. In the 1960s the firm of R.M. Crockett & Son came under the control of the Slazenger Dunlop Group. The trees at Shepherds Flat were felled, except for a handful along the banks of the Jim Crow Creek that were saved by Aqualino Tinetti.
Aqualino Tinetti had a dream that one day Australian cricket bats would again be produced at Shepherds Flat. In recent years the Tinetti family have set about bringing this dream to fruition.
They have been busy propagating and planting and the Shepherds Flat landscape is once again dotted with willow trees. The past few months have seen some exciting developments at Cricket Willow. World class bat maker Julian Millichamp and his family have moved to Shepherds Flat to help refurbish the Cricket Willow bat factory and expand the bat making operation. The Tinetti family will soon be introducing Jabaroo, a uniquely Australian brand of cricket gear.
The Tinetti family are proud to say that they now have the only facility in the world where
visitors can witness the entire bat process (ie. From planting a bud to hand-crafting the bat to hitting runs in the middle). The ‘Bud to Bat’ Open Weekend will be held on 1st-2nd October 2005 to officially re-open the bat factory and launch the Jabaroo brand. The Tinetti family have created Cricket Willow to share this unique piece of history with others. Plenty of hard work has transformed their rocky front paddock into a picturesque cricket oval, complete with picket fence. The recreation of the Shepherds Flat General Store is a museum and billiard hall overlooking the oval.
Willow trees surround the oval and workshops on the deep midwicket boundary display the traditional craft of bat making. The bocce court is a tribute to the Tinetti’s Swiss-Italian heritage and the training net with bowling machine gives youngsters a chance to hone their skills. Visitors of all ages travel along the winding road to Cricket Willow to enjoy the facilities and experience the ambience of a very special part of the world. Ian Tinetti’s wonderful ‘take’ on family life:
If I can help ‘Shepherd’s Flat’ honor her little piece of our world, if I can be honest and fair with family and friends, if I can share my life with our indigenous memories of yesterday, and if I am able with the help of my wife, to provide a basis for the next generation to carry on a dream that for many would have stopped at the first stone, then I will rest knowing that I have done my best.