Jeanne spent a lifetime at cricket matches

Sep 09, 2012, 06:40 IST | Ian Chappell

If Jeanne had been a racehorse she would've commanded a hefty breeding price.

My mother was sired by an Australian cricket captain and then she produced two of that breed and a third son Trevor, who also wore the baggy green cap.

Meatloaf might have been happy with two out of three but not Jeanne. All the same, Jeanne wouldn’t be impressed by me saying she was worthy of a high fee. She was happiest with family and friends around her having a good time. You know your mother loves you when she admits; “If any of you three boys ever commit a murder I’ll still stick by you.”

Martin and Jeanne Chappell with their sons Trevor, Greg and Ian (right) in December 1980. PIC COURTESY: Brian Ferguson (Sunday Observer from cricket yearbook 1981 edited by ken piesse

No crime was ever contemplated; I only had to recall the belting I got for not tying my shoelaces properly to refrain from any confrontation with the law. While Martin’s form of discipline bordered on bribery; “Son, if you don’t behave yourself I won’t take you to the cricket/baseball/football,” Jeanne preferred a good old fashioned whack on the backside. Martin’s form of mental anguish worked because I often thought to myself; “Please Dad, just belt me.” Martin encouraged us to play sport but Jeanne also contributed greatly to our achievements.

Ian, Greg, Jeanne and Trevor Chappell (right) at a Thai restaurant in Adelaide on December 12, 2003. Pic/Clayton Murzello

Jeanne spent a lifetime at cricket matches. Growing up, she followed her father Vic Richardson and then as an adult, she traipsed from ground to ground supporting her three boys. How she must’ve yearned for more matches like the two we all played together at the Adelaide Oval, one where the three of us represented South Australia and the other when Greg had moved to Queensland.

The first season Greg made the move I returned home from South Australia’s encounter at the Gabba and rang Jeanne. After the usual pleasantries I told her; “You’ll be surprised to hear Greg and I had an argument about ten minutes into the game.”

Her wry sense of humour shone through when she replied; “What took you so long?” Her happiest day was when the stands bearing her married name were unveiled at the Adelaide Oval right next to the gates commemorating her father’s achievements. She stood proudly on the ground with her three boys.

In addition to her positive encouragement I learnt from Jeanne to value money but not worship it and to judge people purely on their behaviour. I also inherited her trait of speaking your mind; if some people think I can be blunt and stubborn then they should’ve met Jeanne.

When I was captain, an Australian cricket administrator complained about how difficult I was to deal with and I told him; “Mate you’re lucky.”

When he asked what I meant I replied; “You could be dealing with my mother.” Jeanne, and Martin for that matter, both professed to treat all three boys equally. They lived up to that admirable sentiment except in one area. When Greg and I used to engage in our highly competitive backyard Test matches it would quite often degenerate into a heated argument. Jeanne would come storming out of the kitchen and demand to know; “What’s going on?”

“This little so-and-so nicked one,” I would pipe up, “and he won’t go out.” The prototype third umpire would then respond not with a red light, but, instead I’d be told firmly; “Well dear he’s younger so let him stay in.”

There was another occasion when cricket and I collaborated to cause Jeanne a bit of aggravation. On the 1972 tour of England, Australia played Northants prior to the fifth Test. I was more concerned with the upcoming Test match and played what Doug Walters described as, “A wild village yahoo,” to be bowled early in my innings. Following my dismissal I delivered some signed miniature bats to Martin sitting in the crowd. When I handed him the bats he said; “Nice shot son.” Aroused by his sarcasm I angrily responded; “Piss off Martin, I’ll get my head down on Thursday when it matters,” and then stormed off.

When Greg and I made centuries on the following Friday at the Oval it was in front of both parents. By the time I reached the tent for a drink after play, Jeanne must’ve had a couple of gin and tonics to celebrate. Jeanne came rushing up to me as I came through the door; “Well done darling,” she said, as she planted a kiss on my cheek, “you were right.” Martin was quickly at her side and responded angrily; “You don’t have to bloody well agree with him.”

Not being one to back down easily I can’t imagine she lost that disagreement. Despite her directness, or maybe because of it, Jeanne had plenty of admirers. I’ve lost count of the nurses and carers who told me, “Your Mum’s a character.”

Sadly her health deteriorated following a fall in her 92nd year, which resulted in a broken hip. It was heartbreaking to see her in such pain but right to the end she was stubborn. In one of her final lucid moments, surrounded by family she suddenly sat bolt upright and asked: “Who’s dying?’

She was a stayer to the end and that may have added to her value as a horse but Jeanne was happy just being a thoroughbred mother.

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