Australian cricketer Josh Hazelwood shares his childhood memories of home town Bendemeer. Interview by Mal Chenu.
What are your fondest memories of Bendemeer?
It has a really relaxed atmosphere and everyone knows everyone. When the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival is on, it overflows to Bendemeer and we have a few concerts at the local hotel.
Describe growing up there.
It was a great place. We were outdoors all the time, riding our bikes and playing cricket and other sports in the backyard. Or we were at the river, swimming and fishing for rainbow trout – when there wasn’t a drought, anyway. The school was pretty small; in my last year, there were about 20 students. We won the open primary-school cricket competition when I was in year 4 and my brother was in year 6. It was a lot of fun to beat the bigger Tamworth schools.
What took you away?
Purely cricket. I made a couple of representative teams when I was 16 and 17, and I was contracted to Cricket NSW in my last year of high school. I moved to Sydney when I was 18.
How often do you go back?
Two or three times a year. We generally have a break from cricket around April and I spend a week or so in Bendemeer. Mum and Dad are still there and my brother and sister live in Tamworth. Dad is pretty much the go-to man for handyman jobs in town and Mum is the principal at Woolbrook Public School.
Has it changed much?
No, it’s still much as I remember it. There are a few kids about and people around 45 and over – a lot of people move away for work then come back when they’re a bit older.
What’s your favourite thing to do there now?
Catching up with friends and family. I like to go to the pub and have a beer with Dad, my brother and a few mates. We talk about farming and I forget about cricket for a while. And maybe I’ll have a game of golf in Tamworth. It’s great to get out of the city.
Is there anything you miss about Bendemeer?
Mostly the peace and quiet – it helps me unwind. But I also really like the friendly, family environment. You talk to everyone you see, something you don’t do in a big city.
Name something about Bendemeer that you think would surprise outsiders.
The biggest event is the Grey Fergie Tractor Muster, held every three years [the next muster runs 17 to 18 March 2018]. People with a “Little Grey” come from all over and the town puts on a bit of a show, with tractor events, bush poetry, shearing demonstrations, markets and food stalls.
What are three things you think every visitor should do?
Relax with a drink in the beer garden at the Bendemeer Hotel, which was built in 1864 and has a lovely view of the Macdonald River. There’s a bowling green and families come up from Tamworth for lunch on the weekends. Have a game at Longyard Golf in Tamworth and also head out to the Apsley Falls near Walcha.