The annual Bill O’Reilly Memorial cricket match between the Michael O’Reilly XI and the Wingello XI was played at Bookham Oval on Feb 5.

The clash at Bookham was held in honour of former Australian Test great Bill “Tiger” O’Reilly. 

Bill spent many years in the Highlands and played at Wingello.

The annual memorial game played between the Michael O’Reilly XI based in Wagga and the Wingello XI based in the Southern Highlands was played in Bookham, approximately halfway to each town.

William (or better known as Bill) OBE (20/12/1905 – 6 October 1992) was an Australian cricketer, rated as one of the greatest spin bowlers in the history of the game.

Daniel O’Reilly-great grandson of Bill O’Reilly – holding Shield won by Michael O’Reilly XI on Sunday Feb 5

Following his retirement from playing, he became a well-respected cricket writer and broadcaster.

Bill O’Reilly played 27 test matches for Australia, taking 144 wickets, and now has a stand named after him at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).

Bill O’Reilly – William Joseph “Tiger” O’Reilly, ca 1932, by Sam Hood. Photo collection – NSW State Library 

59-year-old Michael O’Reilly is the grandson of Bill, while 22-year-old great-grandson Daniel O’Reilly also played.

Michael O’Reilly XI won the 2023 Memorial game, in what was a great contest, but more importantly was played in the great spirit of the game.

“Bill O’Reilly is my grandfather and for a time he lived in Wingello in the Southern Highlands. Since 2006, we’ve played an invitational cricket game with myself and cricket friends of mine. 

“We play against a team called the Wingello Tigers who play in the first-grade comp in the Southern Highlands. My pop’s nickname was Tiger, so they called their club the Tigers too.

“Most times we play the Bill O’Reilly memorial game in Wingello, but I met Bruce Hazell a couple of years ago and he is involved with the ground in Bookham.

“Two years ago, I told the boys in Wingello, when they play an away game, we’ll play it at Bookham. Bruce and his son and daughter-in-law have been wonderful, so that’s the second time we’ve played there now.

“It’s halfway, the people have been lovely there and the ground is terrific. We were blessed it’s been reasonably wet both times so there’s some good grass there.

“They did the ground up when the Bookham bypass went through in the early 2000’s and moved the schoolhouse up to the cricket oval and put a picket fence around it.”

Despite the fantastic memorial effort for Bill O’Reilly, Michael said it was now time to pass the baton onto younger players, including his son, Daniel.

Bill O’Reilly memorial game – Michael O’Reilly XI and Wingello XI together for the Bill O’Reilly Memorial Game

“I’ve been captain since 2006, and I said to Daniel a couple of years ago, “if this game’s going to keep going, it’s time to pass the baton onto your generation.

“Wingello have done the same. A lot of the blokes that I started playing with and against are in their late 50’s as well, so all their sons are playing as well.

“Daniel captained our side this year. We don’t beat them often. They’ve got a decent amount of first graders and some pretty good cricketers, but we actually knocked them over this time, which was good.”

The Bill O’Reilly Memorial game is a 40-over game for each innings, split into four 20-over blocks. 

“They batted first and fell in a bit of a heap, at 9/80 odd, but had their two best batsmen still in. Then we batted and were 2/124 at lunch, so we’re leading.

“We stopped to have a lunch break and they went back out and went pretty close to us, but one of our lads knocked them over and we didn’t have to bat again.

“It was nice because the social part of it takes over and we have a few beers and tell stories. We were back in Wagga just after 6pm, which is about four hours earlier than we are usually home.”

Bill O’Reilly’s great-grandson Paddy Abrahams also took a superb hat-trick in the game.

Michael and Daniel O’Reilly are honorary life members of the Wingello Cricket Club, with the pair receiving baggy green caps in previous years.

Daniel has also played against recent Australian test debutant Todd Murphy, with the spinner making his debut against India in Nagpur last week.

“Daniel played against Todd quite a lot, Daniel played for Northern Riverina and Todd played for Southern Riverina. He got a buzz out of Todd getting some wickets for Australia. It’d be good to see one of your old cricket buddies playing for Australia.”

The Bill O’Reilly Memorial Game is likely to be back in Wingello next year for the next instalment of the game.

 Tim Warren