From the Archives. 1985: Rebel cricketers banned for tours of South Africa

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But a deal between the Australian and South African cricket boards for the rebel tour to go ahead brought strong criticism from the Australian Government and black South Africans.

The Minister for Sport, Mr. Brown, said the ACB ban was insufficient. He was very disappointed. “I don’t want to see them back in Australian cricket.”

The Prime Minister, Mr. Hawke, said he was also disappointed the tour was going ahead and he hoped the rebels would reconsider their decision after reflecting on the consequences for the reputations for themselves and Australia, and the consequences for the oppressed non-whites of South Africa.

South Africa’s Nobel Prize-winning moderate black leader, Bishop Desmond Tutu, described the tour as an obscenity. The rebels “should have the decency to speak the truth and say they have sold themselves,” he said.

“They want to come here… there is a state of emergency, when the army is being set on the civilian population, they want to come here when on the average four blacks are killed every day and it doesn’t touch on their consciences at all.”

The South African Council of Sport will consider active demonstrations against the Australian cricketers when it meets in September.

Cricketer Steve Smith, one of the Rebels.

Cricketer Steve Smith, one of the Rebels.Credit:Ian Charles Cugley

The Azanian Peoples Organisation last night expressed anger and disappointment at the cricket tour settlement. “We view this as buying-off of the ACB by Pretorian money,” it said. “The tour gives credence and approval to the racist regime that is ruling South Africa.”

The ban on the rebel players was announced after a Supreme Court action – brought by the Australian Cricket Board against the tour organized, Mr. Bruce Francis, the president of the South African Cricket Union, Mr. Geoff Dakin, and the eight players contracted to the ACB – was settled out of court.

The terms of the settlement involve:

  • Immediate cancellation of the rebel players’ ACB contracts and retirement scheme benefits and a ban on the rebels representing Australia until 30 September 1988 and from playing Sheffield Shield until 30 September 1987.
  • The SACU paying the Australian board $120,000 in legal costs.
  • Injunctions against Mr. Dakin, the SACU and Mr. Francis preventing them from organising future tours of South Africa by players contracted to the board until after September 1988.

The chief executive of the Australian board, Mr. David Richards, described the settlement as “highly favorable to Australian cricket.”

Asked why the board had decided to settle out of court after the Victorian Supreme Court declared its player contracts valid and legally enforceable, Mr. Richards said: “The benefits of accepting the matter far exceed those we could obtain by going to court – not from a financial point of view; its cost us more than the amount of money we’re receiving by a considerable amount.

John Dyson returns to Australia after the tour of South Africa ended.

John Dyson returns to Australia after the tour of South Africa ended.Credit:Ian Charles Cugley

“The benefits are clearly there in sorting out the future of Australian cricket, making it clear to all and sundry that the bans will be imposed, that players can’t have their cake and eat it too.

The 14 players who have signed to tour South Africa are Kim Hughes, Terry Alderman, John Dyson, Rodney Hogg, Tom Hogan, Trevor Hohns, Rod McCurdy, John Maguire, Carl Rackermann, Steve Rixon, Greg Shipperd, Steve Smith, Michael Taylor and Graham Yallop.

While they have been banned from playing Sheffield Shield cricket until after 30 September 1987, and representing Australia until after 30 September 1988, any decision on whether they will be eligible to play at club level will be left to the state cricket associations.

Two more Australian cricketers are to be added to the team. Dr. Ali Bacher, special adviser to the South African Cricket Union, said part of the settlement allowed for the inclusion of two more players.

His union agreed not to approach any members of the present touring party in England, or any players contracted to the ACB.

The captain of the proposed rebel tour, Kim Hughes, yesterday said the settlement between the Australian and South African bodies was “fabulous news”.

Kim Hughes reacts to the "fabulous news" that the tour was going ahead in his Perth office.

Kim Hughes reacts to the “fabulous news” that the tour was going ahead in his Perth office.Credit:The Age Archives

The ban on representing Australia was “just an effective one-year ban” because the players would be playing in South Africa over the next two seasons, he said.

Speaking from Port Elizabeth last night, Mr. Dakin said he was disappointed at the severity of the bans on the touring cricketers, but he was “thrilled – we have a cricket tour going ahead.”

“South Africa is in the unfortunate position that because some of our laws are what most people regard as abhorrent, and rightly so, we have become the whipping dogs of the world,” Mr. Dakin said. “We’re making a hell of a lot of progress and this tour will do a great deal of good.”

In a statement released yesterday by Mr. Richards, the board said it had received a declaration from the Supreme Court by consent and legal recognition from the South African Cricket Union and the eight defendant players that the Australian board’s player contracts are valid and legally enforceable.

“This ruling was the crux of the board’s court action as it will enable the board to enter into future contracts with full confidence,” Mr. Richards said. “By settling the court action, the ACB has taken a positive step to secure the future of Australian cricket and to support those players who have remained loyal to the board.”

Trip will help my career, says Hughes

Kim Hughes was elated last night that he would be playing cricket in South Africa and said that the rebel tour would add to his career rather than cut his career as a cricketer.

The former Australian Test Captain said that he would be playing only three months of top-class cricket in each of the next two years, a less strenuous program than most international cricketers.

“This will give me nine months off each year, which will give me plenty of time to concentrate on my job, be with my family, overcome any injuries and regenerate enthusiasm,” Hughes said. “I really believe that this will add two to three years to my cricketing career, and I can see myself playing until I’m 36 and possibly until I’m 40.”

Ron Tandberg cartoon published on July 31, 1985.

Ron Tandberg cartoon published on July 31, 1985.Credit:Ron Tandberg

Hughes, 31, said he considered himself a “free agent” after yesterday’s settlement. He said his prime objective in going into court had been to be available to play in South Africa in November and this had been achieved. Each of the rebel players will be paid more than $200,000 for the two tours.

“The great thing is that we have the opportunity in two years, providing our form is good enough, of being able to play for our states again,” Hughes said. “I’m sure that in two years I’ll still have a burning ambition to play for my state.

“Over the past couple of months we’ve been kicked from pillar to post and people from all walks of life have been making all sorts of comments and making all sorts of judgements,” he said. “Now that’s all off our shoulders and we can get on with the job we do best – and that’s playing cricket.

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