Cricket started to become established, in the area now covered by the Sale – Maffra Cricket Association, in 1861. The Gippsland Times, published on Wednesday 23rd October 1861, carried the following article...
“At a public meeting held at the Royal Exchange Hotel on Thursday evening, the 10th inst, for the purpose of finally establishing a cricket club Mr Hart was called to the chair. The resolutions of the preliminary meeting were confirmed. Rules were also passed for the government of the club. The following officers of the club were unanimously elected. W.T. Dawson Esq. – President, F. Webb Esq – Vice-President. COMMITTEE, Messrs, Clements, English, T. Fletcher, Hart, Raphael, Reese and Topping. Messrs, Chester and Pattern, Treasurer and Secretary, pro tem, were re-elected.”
Thus, the Sale Cricket Club was established. As no formal competition existed, challenge matches against other districts were to be arranged. At this time the nearest potential opponents were situated at Bairnsdale and in South Gippsland. Within six months, a public meeting in Rosedale would establish a team in that town providing a rival closer to home.
After moving into the town from Benella in 1972 to take up a position as a stock and land salesman with Elders, Ian Couchman joined the Sale Cricket Club. His main reason for choosing the Sale Cricket Club was because it had a turf wicket, one of only two in the district at this time. The turf wicket was newly established at the ground as was the O.A Ruff Stadium and the Cliff Gamlin stand. The square consisted of 3 turf wickets, 30 metres long and almost devoid of grass. Ian might have chosen to play at Sale because of the turf wickets, however he quickly realised that the poor standard of wickets being prepared in the early days by council members did nothing to improve a player’s enjoyment or ability.
Ian was not the type of person to tolerate sub standard cricket conditions. He approached the council with the idea of handing over the preparation of the centre square to the cricket club, with himself being the overseer of the work. The council agreed to this proposal and thus the cricket club took control of the turf wickets at the Sale Oval. With Ian in charge, the centre wicket improved immediately and over many years of hard work from himself and dedicated club volunteers, the wicket was shortened and widened to what players currently enjoy today; a centre wicket block that is almost seven wickets wide.
Once Ian took control of the centre wicket area he declared that “if we bat first at home, the wicket will always be as good as or better for the opposition the next week”. This philosophy has been carried through by the club to this day when preparing a wicket a Sale wicket for matches. Ian would not have had it any other way; a testament to his fair play and sportsmanship.
As a right handed batsman, Ian’s signature stroke was the on-drive. He was also a leg spin bowler with a reputation of giving the ball a big rip, as well as possessing a wrong-un. When not bowling, Ian generally fielded in the slips. He played first grade cricket for Sale well into his late forties, however he is also remembered for filling in at 1st grade level at the age of 52. In that match, Ian took a spectacular catch at leg slip. The smile on his face after it was as large as the Sale Oval is long. As the batsman trudged off, Ian muttered to his elated team mates that the batsman had no idea just how unlucky he was to have been caught. For his fellow players, it was the catch of the year and also further testament of his belief for wit and enjoyment during a game.
Ian captained the Sale Cricket Club for four seasons and was a club champion in the 1977/78 season. As well as being the club curator for many seasons, Ian also found time to coach the Sale under 16 side. Many of the players he coached went on to play first grade cricket for Sale. The most notable names were Ken and Ron Couchman, Andrew Hood and Dean Benson. In 1982 the Sale Cricket Club awarded Ian with a Life Membership for his services to the club, both on and off the field.
Ian also represented the Sale Maffra Cricket (SMCA) in the Gippsland Cricket League and Country Week, as well as serving on the SMCA committee for many years. During his time as a committee member, he was highly respected by all other clubs for his honesty and determination to improve facilities and conditions within the area, something that was achieved due to his passion and commitment.
Ian sadly passed away at the age of 57; however he leaves behind him a legacy at the club of participating hard but fairly and always with enjoyment both on and off the field. This is something that he believed was important and had tried hard to instil into the players who represented our club.
Ian Couchman has two major memorials named in memory of him at the Sale Cricket Club. The first Ian Couchman Memorial is directly related to the skills of cricket and is awarded to the Club Champion at the end of each season. The second one is the Couchman Club which is associated with the social side of cricket, where all members of the club are eligible to join. It was named after Ian because of his belief that the social side of cricket builds character in players and is a very important ingredient in not only the survival of a club, but in promoting friendships among players and teaching players about the game and about life. Both of these areas are extremely important to the survival and wellbeing of any sporting club, and to have both memorials named in his honour is a testament to what a truly well rounded sportsman, team player and respected member of the club and community Ian Couchman was.
Ian Couchman is fondly remembered and honoured at the Sale Cricket Club for his skills, honesty, sportsmanship and good nature. These awards ensure that his legacies to this club are never forgotten.