18 May 2020

Phil Hillyard's favourite SCG snaps

Award-winning photographer and friend of the SCG, Phil Hillyard, recounts his favourite photos from the SCG after a three-decade career on the sidelines.

I remember coming to the SCG on holidays from Adelaide. I used to hang on the fence, trying to get Dennis Lillee’s autograph," Phil said.

"To be on the other side, photographing and getting to know some of Australia’s most decorated sportsmen and women, is really the next chapter in my life as an avid sports fan. History and memories like that makes this my favourite ground in the world."


When I first heard that the Major League Baseball was to come to the SCG, I was excited. It was one of the many sports I played as a kid and I thought how good is it that Australians could get to go to a ball game ... and what better place than at the beautiful SCG.

I was covering training of the LA Dodgers in the days leading up to event but I was desperate to try and make a portrait to preview the games. Long after all the media had left I hung around and made requests to get a player to pose for me for a portrait. The longer I waited the better the light became. Andre Ethier, one of their star batters, kindly agreed. The picture took no more than two minutes and I only shot eight frames. It ran on page one of The Daily Telegraph on the day of the first game.


Virat Kohli getting heckled by the SCG Members is another favourite. Cricket photography requires great patience and concentration. When there's 540 balls a day and you never know when something good is about to happen. Indian captain Virat Kohli droppped Steve Smith on the boundary and the ball crashed into the rope for four to bring great applause and laughter from the members. It made for a different picture from the day.


My portrait of Steve Smith playing a classic stroke was an idea I had for a while. Smith at the time was ranked as the No.1 batsman in the world and was widely being talked about as the best since Bradman. Back in the day without the long telephoto lenses of today, cricket wasn't as easy to photograph. The players would often pose for photos displaying their array of shots. I remember seeing these types of pictures and wanted to emulate them using a short lens. To do the image in sepia tone also reflected that era and I achieved the result we were after.


The SCG is my favourite ground in the world to photograph cricket. One of the reasons is the clean backgrounds and the light. After tea the light is perfect and you won't find me anywhere other than sitting in the straight position next to the tractor tunnel. It is a great angle to watch and photograph the great game of Test cricket and as you can see the light is spot on.


After many years of travelling covering cricket one of the great privileges is often sharing a beer in the dressing rooms after the match or series win. Here we stayed a little longer than normal after Australia's 5-0 Ashes clean sweep captained by Michael Clarke. The players ventured to the middle for the traditional belting out of 'Underneath the Southern Cross' team song led by Nathan Lyon. It was exactly midnight. I like that you can see the time on the famous clock tower of the members pavilion.


As much as this is a cricket ground it is also the home of footy. Aussie Rules. The Sydney Swans. There really is nothing better than the atmosphere at a packed SCG watching the red and whites thrill their supporters. With footy now played across many different times the twilight time slot always allows us to work in different light. Here we got a great sunset to remember.


The imminent retirement of Steve Waugh was going to be big news. I knew that it was probably going to be his last year and so I had asked him on a number occasions that before he retired I wanted to take a portrait shot him. One day I got a phone call out of the blue which said we will do the portrait tomorrow morning. I spent an hour so with him the dressing rooms and made this picture. A few hours later a press conference had been called by Waugh. Rumours started flying he was about to retire. He did not mention it at all to me but it soon became obvious that he had granted me the privilege of shooting his final portrait. The picture ran the next day on front pages around the country.


The Sydney Test match against India in 2008 was one of the greats. It was looking like it was heading for a draw until Ricky Ponting threw the ball to Michael Clarke. Going right down to the wire he claimed three wickets in an over giving Australia a memorable victory and a world record equaling 16 Test match wins on the trot. One of my favourite cricket pictures ever shows the euphoria as the moment of victory unfolded at 6.35pm on Day 5. That's why Test cricket is the greatest game of all.


A clean sweep of The Ashes 5-0 under Michael Clarke was one of the great team performances. For five Test matches Australia played with an unchanged line up. Incredible really. Some team photos work and others don't for either not being in the right spot yourself or players looking in all different directions. But this one came together nicely at the home of cricket and sat across the front pages the next day.


Again the light at the SCG is magnificent. This was of the Sheffield Shield Final between NSW and Victoria and was shot late one afternoon from the rooftop of the old Bradman/Noble stand. 'Outfield Chase' is another favourite of mine from this beautiful ground.

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