It would be difficult to find any individual who spent more time training, playing or celebrating at the SCG than Phil Emery. Across almost 200 first-class and someday games for New South Wales between 1987 and 1999, many of them as captain, Emery became nearly as synonymous with the grand old ground as the Members and Ladies stands that still give it a number of the most distinctive silhouettes in world cricket.
Next week, on the other hand, Emery will find a new way of experiencing the SCG, by sleeping rough on its outfield as a part of the Sport Stars Sleepout for the Chappell Foundation, an event held so as to raise money for the reason for youth homelessness in Australia. For Emery, the average figure of approximately 30,000 homeless Australians under the age of 25 on any provided night is maddening.
The onset of Covid-19 this year has capped the number of SCG sleepers for the third edition of the event at 32, but provides still more impetus to bring money for the cause. Emery, who over the last 20 years has built a trade career in the insurance industry while also serving as chairman of the “Baggy Blues” New South Wales past players organization, said he had been floored by the numbers when asked to participate by the foundation’s patron Greg Chappell.
Emery will sign up for the likes of Mitchell Starc, Alyssa Healy, Lisa Sthalekar, Steve O’Keefe, Russel Arnold, Stuart MacGill, Alex Blackwell and Daniel Hughes among cricketers taking part on Monday night. Donations, pledged to an individual sleeper, may also be made here.
“People never consider it, seeing the numbers it’s ridiculous. With a bit of luck we raise a lot of money, increase awareness approximately the issue and we will perform a little good with it,” he said. “From sending out a message approximately it at 4 o’clock the day past, I think at 6 o’clock I had A$2,200 in the space of two hours, of just people generously giving stuff straight absent. Extremely beneficiant, it’s great.”
While the unchanging elements of the SCG have been a big a part of its charm, Emery reflected on one of the vital hidden elements of the ground that he and other state teammates became mannered familiar with over the class lesson of a career that featured three Sheffield Shield wins in 1990, 1993 and 1994 – the final two as captain.
“It was once amusing, when you were playing it was once like your second home,” he said. “There is a bar now underneath the members bar, but it was once like an underpass with a Road that ran through it. We used to park in there in what will be the middle of the bar now. You were available in the market from pre-season in July, August, even just for fielding, and we used to train on the ground, so you’d spend an huge period of time on the field.
“I first went onto the field when I used to be 11, and that was once when the Sheridan Stand was once there and the Brewongle and the entire old concourse, the big hill, and the Paddington hill and all those things. Playing through the era when they took the hill absent, I keep in mind doing an interview with Tracey Holmes and I used to be facing the members stand on the ground, and she said ‘so what’s it going to be like playing without the hill’ and I went ‘what have they done’, and I turned around and there were bulldozers on it. I wasn’t paying that much attention back then!”
As the son of the former Wallabies international Neville, Emery experienced the old precinct before the advent of the Sydney Football Stadium – currently being rebuilt – and redevelopment of the adjoining showgrounds into a studio complex.
“Going back now, it’s still got the same feel to it with the Ladies Stand and the Members Stand, around the back, the nets are the same,” Emery said. “But when I used to be first there we had the No. 2 ground and I played a NSW Colts game there. You used so that you can walk through a little gap in the fence at the top and go through to the sports ground. I played a rugby grand last, my first year out of school in third grade on the sports ground. You had the showground oval, the SCG Nos 1 and 2 and the sports ground all in a row.
“But it’s still a fabulous place, it’s just got an aura approximately it, it is a big ground but it is not the MCG. Whether you put the wicket in the middle its a biggish ground, but it’s intimate whether that makes sense. The visitors’ vinaigrette room has still got the split room between professionals out the back and the gentlemen out the front. That’s still there. The home vinaigrette room’s changed a bit since I first went in it, there’s some mod cons in there, but the layout hasn’t changed in reality, and you would not change that for the world.
“Fabulous feel in the old room, even the little windows and banister out the front where you take a seat outdoor. You’re not in a dungeon, you get natural light into the place. You’ll be able to if truth be told stand in the change room and watch the game – not the most efficient view but the most efficient place to be. You’ll be able to walk out through the bar and then out to bat whether you wish to have. That sort of object – it’s connected to the building, you’re not hidden absent, and that is the reason a part of its charm.”