As Jim Deem walked from the pitch at Kendalls Flat for the final time, he hung up his junior cricket umpire hat knowing he had helped make a difference to thousands of lives.
Jim has an extensive cricket history in the Bundaberg Region, having started playing when he was 13 years old.
He was one of the founding members of Bundaberg Junior Cricket Association and said it was “pretty special” to achieve such a long career in a sport that he loved.
In 1967, Jim was instrumental in turning a dump at Kendalls Flat into one of Queensland’s best junior cricket facilities.
By 1968 the junior association was up and running with more than 250 eager young cricketers, in more than 40 teams, ready and waiting to whack sixes in the new competition league.
“We (the junior association) formed in 1968, when there were only two others, Toowoomba and Gympie, at the time that I knew of,” he said.
“For the first three years we had nowhere but schools to play, and I will always pride myself knowing we left the school grounds in great condition and we never had one complaint from a principal.
“We were then given the three ovals of Kendalls Flat and we thought we were made.
“We had everyone come down and pitch in to help, retired men and people came from everywhere to help.
“It was a lot of work for a lot of people and we got it done.”
In 1976 Jim said the first-ever state junior cricket championships were held at Bundaberg, and with 24 teams it was a great success.
“We’ve always had a great committee, and at one stage I recall the committee was made up of adults who didn’t have any children even playing cricket that year,” he said.
Jim said through the decades the cricket ovals, including the one named in his honour, had been through some tough times, including floods, and the community was always there to help with the clean-up.
“The grounds look as good as they are today because of all the dedication from the community,” he said.
Jim devoted many hours to preparing wickets and outfields and building the first clubhouse and rebuilding it after the 2011 and again after the 2013 floods.
In an extraordinary 53 years of umpiring, he said it was all made possible because he had his wife Margaret by his side, and she had given him endless support.
“In the early days we didn’t have a permanent canteen and Margaret would be there in a steel frame with a tarp over it, selling cold drinks to families,” he said.
“We’ve been married 63 years on 20 April, I am very lucky to have Margaret’s support.”
Jim’s cricket achievements span decades
Through the decades at Bundaberg cricket Jim has worn many hats, from registrar, treasurer and then club president for more than 20 years.
He organised state carnivals and championships, umpired games and transformed the association grounds into one of Queensland's best.
And after all of this he remains modest, saying he never planned on taking on so many responsibilities each year.
“I’ve had many rewards, although I never looked for them,” Jim said.
“I didn’t expect my career to go this long to be honest.
“I would just turn up at a meeting and wound up in a job, and Margaret always supported me.”
Some of Jim’s accolades include:
- 1988: Jim Deem Oval at Kendalls Flat was named after the Bundaberg cricket identity
- 2008: Bundaberg City Council Senior Sports Administrator Australia Day Award
- 2013: Queensland Australian of the Year finalist
- 2014: Order of Australia Medal recipient
- 2018: Queen's Baton Relay for the 2018 Commonwealth Games
- 2020: Bundaberg Cricket Association Outstanding Achievement Award for his services to cricket umpiring for 53 years
Jim said he would miss both the camaraderie of cricket and the opportunity that was given to him to mentor some of the region’s youth, which was one of his biggest personal rewards.
“I will miss the guys, but I know I will go out there every now and then and give them a bit of cheek!” Jim said.
“I really want to thank everyone for their friendship over the years.
“The guard of honour I was given as I walked off the pitch really softened me, and I know how much I will miss it, but it was an honour to have done it.
“I had been umpiring for more than 50 years and had been doing it because I wanted to, and I'd do it all over again if I had to.”
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