HE may have pulled up stumps on his long-standing career in the public service, but Queanbeyan and ACT cricket legend Peter Solway is embarking on a new innings.
Solway, renowned as a swashbuckling batsman, has turned his hand to rolling out wickets as curator of Queanbeyan’s Brad Haddin Oval.
“I’m no expert at this, but it’s a lot of fun… it sure beats sitting behind a desk all day,” Solway says, midway through preparing the wicket for the under-19’s NSW country championships.
It’s Solway’s first season tending the turf at Brad Haddin Oval, after recently retiring from a 35-year career pushing papers around a desk.
With a bat in his hand, Solway was all but a Canberra Comets master. But with a roller in both hands, he is a self-confessed curating “rookie”.
But for one of the region’s greatest ever cricketers, clocking up nearly 10,000 club runs in his four-decade long career, it’s all part of a new challenge.
“I’ve played on a lot of pitches, but to actually prepare them is a challenge. But it’s really rewarding and I’m finding it a lot of fun.”
Solway’s impressive cricket career features 270 first-grade games for Queanbeyan, ANU and Eastlake and 183 matches in ACT colours.
He’s probably won more grand finals and scored more runs than any other cricketer in ACT first-grade history and his astonishing high score of 339 is testament to his reputation as a master of his true love.
Perhaps his biggest claim to fame was playing in the 1993 Prime Minister’s XI clash against South Africa, exchanging high fives and pats with the likes of Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer.
“The top order was Hayden, Langer and Ponting, but that was when they weren’t established players – they were up and coming at that stage,” says Solway.
“To be honest, the day was a blur, I batted sixth, I think – it was pretty cool.”
Despite the great memories he has created in the middle, Solway prefers to keep his head to the ground.
In the lead-up to each year’s new season, soon after footy posts are pulled out and replaced by sight screens, the work begins on the wicket.
Solway rolls, paints the lines on the pitch, and manages the under-soil drainage, ensuring the multi-use ground remains at its peak.
The man who was born in Coffs Harbour and raised in Queanbeyan says it didn’t take long to get hooked on the job.
“I love it,” he says.
“The idea is to try and make it hard, so the ball can bounce evenly, you want a nice cover of grass, there is a knack to it, but it’s not rocket science.
“The Manuka curator Brad is awesome at this stuff, he’s probably sick of my calls, and Ron Bates up at Freebody Oval, he’s been good too and is helping me out.”
Solway, who still plays grade cricket, has watched the career progression of many famous ACT-raised and adopted cricketers such as Brad Haddin, Michael Bevan and Nathan Lyon.
In fact, it was Solway who helped give Lyon, a groundsman himself, his first big break into cricket.
“The selectors from Canberra changed his career because we picked him from SA to play for the Comets, and he had a good game in that Comets game and so we take full credit for Nathan.”
Family plays a big role in Solway’s life.
His sons Dean, 27, and Mark, 25, made their cricket debut playing together for the ACT recently and daughter Abby, 17, is playing basketball in the US – and wife Julie is a constant support.
“I’ve been really lucky to play in an era where ACT cricket was moving forward all the time – we had country championships as a young fella and the Mercantile Cup, which I was involved in for three years.
“It’s a shame Canberra is not in that anymore.”
In recent years, Solway captained the winning Australian team at the over-50s World Cup, beating Pakistan in the final. He was also selected for another World Cup to be played in South Africa, but the tournament was cancelled because of COVID-19.
But for now, Solway is enjoying the challenging task of creating a pitch.
“I hope to do this for as long as I can – I’m loving it.”