Golden anniversary for Massie and McAullay's Double M day
June 24 is famous for several things.
Today is the anniversary of the day John the Baptist was born, the day Henry VIII was crowned and the day American football took the name NFL. But it should also be known as WA sport’s Double M day for two momentous events that took place half a world apart and exactly half a century ago.
And in a remarkable coincidence that gives extra lustre to this remarkable golden anniversary, the sporting figures at the centre of these two remarkable feats were occasional team-mates and neighbours.
It was 1972 and Australia’s sporting focus during the day was on Subiaco Oval before turning to Lord’s at night.
The Australian National Football Carnival concluded 50 years ago today with WA hosting Victoria in the final match of a tournament played by four States over a week.
WA did not win the carnival on their home turf but one of their players – East Perth defender Ken McAullay – had a week to remember on the way to being recognised as the best footballer in the country.
McAullay was awarded the Tassie Medal as best player at the carnival while his grand finale against the Big V, when he held spearhead Peter McKenna to just one goal in a performance described by Polly Farmer as the greatest ever by a full-back, provided a Simpson Medal as WA’s best.
That was the central element of a year in which McAullay, a solid opening batsman with reasonable Test ambitions, helped WA secure Sheffield Shield titles in the summers that bookended his breakout football season. Another Simpson Medal in East Perth’s grand final win provided even more cream.
One of the WA players who was also part of those two shield wins was McAullay’s Bassendean-Bayswater colleague Bob Massie who was about to produce one of Test cricket’s most spectacular arrivals.
The second Ashes Test started at Lord’s on June 22, 1972 with two West Australian debutants – Massie and Ross Edwards – replacing two West Australian team-mates in John Inverarity and Graeme Watson.
Bowling what proved to be almost unplayable in- and out-swingers in the perfect conditions, Massie claimed five wickets on the first day and then cleaned up the tail the next morning to have 8-84 in his debut innings. It was the best start to a Test career the game had witnessed.
Things got even better from there. Greg Chappell’s exquisite century set up Australia’s small lead before Massie was thrown the new ball early on the third day – 50 years ago today. His WA mate Dennis Lillee immediately struck twice before Massie, bowling for the rest of the day and mostly around the wicket, drew edge after edge to go to stumps with seven wickets to his name.
Only five Australian bowlers – including only Nathan Lyon and Craig McDermott since Massie’s feat – have had better bowling days for their country. When Massie got the final wicket the next day, he had 8-53 to his name and a place in history as the only bowler – to that point - to take 16 wickets on debut.
Massie returned to Perth at the end of the Ashes series, had several good Test days against Pakistan that summer and was reunited with his club mate McAullay at the start of the winning shield summer.
Neither player was to ever scale the heights they reached 50 years ago today but, then, few other athletes have reached them as well.