Story by Joanne Bennett, South Canterbury Herald
Alan Wolff still holds South Canterbury’s record for the most wickets in a season, and for taking a double hat trick. The record hasn’t been broken since 1956.
Mr Wolff says that in that season, as a 17 or 18 year old, his technique was perfected and he was fit – the perfect combination for a stealthy bowler.
‘Saturday after Saturday I was always taking wickets. I usually took five or six, I can’t remember not getting any. I never had 10 in a game but I did get nine,’’ he said.
Almost equally impressive is the fact that Mr Wolff bowled a no ball only once in his cricket playing days, which began when he was 8 and ended when he was 43.
An 11-yard run before delivery was standard, a ritual that obviously was successful and was never changed from the beginning of his cricket career to the end.
Although he attended Marist Brothers’ School in Timaru, Old Boys was the club he belonged to and was loyal to until his retirement, when he became an umpire for South Canterbury. From his school days he remembers one of the Brothers telling him that he would be an All Black one day, but although that never panned out, successful at sport he was nonetheless.
His fitness came in handy for other reasons too;
‘‘Because I was good at sport at school and fit, the Brothers would ask me to do their gardens and cut the big macrocarpa hedge. I remember we once made a hideout in the middle of the tree and threw the cores of the apples that we were eating at the girls in the convent. I enjoyed my sport and I enjoyed being a boy,’’ he laughed.
At Marist Brothers’ he was presented with the all round sports cup and the running cup.
In the 1955-56 season (when the record was set) Mr Wolff was playing in the third grade under captain Trevor Griffiths, a name that has since become synonymous with beautiful old roses. Mr Wolff was surprised to be invited to the end of season breakup, where he was presented with a trophy in recognition of his achievements. His team came first that season, and in Mr Griffiths’ absence Mr Wolff was asked to accept that trophy as well.
There is confusion about what it means to get a double hat trick, but in Mr Woolf’s case he took three wickets in a row, missed one, and took another three.
South Canterbury Cricket Association acting executive officer Mark Medlicott could not remember a double hat trick ever happening in his time.
‘‘It’s quite an achievement, but not only that – taking 105 wickets in a season is very impressive no matter what grade. Seniors who are in the running for most wickets in a season typically take around 50 or 60,’’ he said.
Mr Wolff is still fighting fit, and manages to nimbly go about his daily tasks. He still has a keen interest in sport, never smoked and has never been into drinking, but surprisingly has been given his last rites in hospital three times. It seems his innings has been a good one, and let’s hope it is far from over.