Born 5th January in 1912, North Fremantle, Western Australia, was former Australian Test allrounder, Ellen Mary “Nell” McLarty.
Although born in Western Australia, Nell played her cricket in Victoria, first for Clarendon in 1929, before moving to Collingwood in 1931. Captain of both Collingwood and Victoria, Nell was selected to play for Australia in the very first women’s Test match, against England in Brisbane in December 1934.
Nell was a noted medium fast bowler lower order batter, but her athletic fielding is where she really stood out, either close to the bat or off her own bowling. In her report of the 1937 tour to England, captain Margaret Peden wrote:
“Nell McLarty was called upon to do an immense amount of bowling, but worked untiringly at all times. She always kept the rate of scoring down, bowled 140 maidens out of 358 overs, 100 overs more than any other bowler, securing 34 wickets at an average of 16.4. She was hailed as a great fieldsman, taking 21 catches, mostly at silly mid-on or when bowling.”
A crippling spinal disease upon her return to Australia put an end to Nell’s cricket career. In 1948/9, the touring England team played the 1930s Australian team in a charity match to raise funds for Nell.
McLarty’s body might have given up on cricket, but Nell herself didn’t and she began to coach girls on Sunday mornings. She began to get a reputation and was soon churning out some big names; former Australian captains Miriam Knee, Mary Allitt, Sharon Tredrea, former Australian players Loraine Kutcher, Liz Amos, Jan Tredrea, Betty Wilson. That’s just a small sample from a very long list.
Nell’s five Test career is not full of outstanding numbers. Eleven wickets at 20.36 with a best of 3-29, and just 66 runs with the bat. Eight catches. However she would have been the first player picked for the team in her era and her true value is the immense amount she gave to the game through her coaching. Speak with any player who worked with Nell and their love, affection and praise for her is overflowing. Nell passed away in December 1998.