THIS month marks 35 years since the first official game of cricket at Caversham’s Lilac Hill Park.
In a spectacular setting right on the Swan River, the ground is home to Midland-Guildford Cricket Club, which has been at the ground since day one.
Life member and former president of the club Brian Rakich was part of the inaugural match on December 5, 1981.
“I’ve been involved with Midland-|Guildford since I was 15,” he said.
“Prior to the construction of Lilac Hill, the club was based at Midland Oval.
“The first time we proposed to move there we lost the vote, because Lilac Hill was further west than where most of our members were based in the Hills area.
“It probably wasn’t for another five years until we got all members to agree, because it was an outstanding opportunity for the club.”
The ground was developed by the City of Swan, which has supported events at the ground throughout its history.
Swan Mayor Mick Wainwright said the famous ground had been a breeding ground for talent, where several Australian Test players honed their craft.
“Before wearing the baggy green, young guns such as Simon Katich, Brendon Julian and Tom Moody were all honing their skills at MGCC and Lilac Hill Park,” he said.
“Former English cricket captain Alec Stewart also spent several seasons playing for MGCC at Lilac Hill and later said the experience had prepared him for the toughness of Test Match cricket.”
For 19 years, the ground on the banks of the Swan River forged a tradition of hosting touring international teams in the annual Lilac Hill Festival Match.
Crowds of up to 12,000 people attended the festival match in its halcyon days as marquees and temporary grandstands lined the boundary – an organisational feat achieved by dedicated volunteers from MGCC.
Cricket royalty, including the likes of Brian Lara, Dennis Lillee, Graham Gooch, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting, all played in the Lilac Hill Festival Match on at least one occasion.
Since then, the ground has been regarded among the best district cricket grounds in WA and was voted the best Premier Cricket venue for the 2014-15 WACA season.
MGCC has won two first-grade premierships since its move to Lilac Hill and has developed into a club of four men’s teams, two women’s teams and four junior teams.
Lilac Hill will make history again next month when it hosts the Women’s Big Bash League, now in its second season.
Midland-Guildford batswoman Chloe Piparo (22) will represent WA again this season and will play with fellow club member Elyse Villani on home turf.
“Lilac Hill is one of the best district facilities going around. As a female cricketer, it’s great to have sessions there, whether it is indoor or out on the turf,” she said.
“I think having four Women’s Big Bash League games there is a really good opportunity to showcase the club and the community.”
Swan Valley-Gidgegannup ward Councillor Darryl Trease said Lilac Hill Park would enter into a new era when it hosted franchise cricket for the first time.
“Lilac Hill to my mind is the best cricket facility outside the WACA,” Mr Rakich said.