The Port Adelaide Cricket Club mourns the passing of Life Member Eric Freeman at 8:30pm last night after suffering a heart attack. Sincere condolences to Fitzy’s family, particularly Di and Michelle and his close friends. We loved the bloke, and the Port community has lost one of its rare treasures.
A Grade Captain for three years in 17 seasons over three different periods due to employment in the country.
He amassed 3632 runs at 27.31 with two centuries and the highest score of 140. In that time, he took 347 wickets at 18.84. Best Bowling 6/13 v University in 1964/65. He took 5 or more wickets 18 times and 10 in a match once.
Member of B Grade premiership side in 1963/64 and A Grade premiership side that beat Prospect in 1967/68. Prospect were bowled out for 53 chasing Port Adelaide’s 96, Freeman 5/29, and Hawke 5/22 the destroyers.
Eric and A.R.C. McLean, Eric are the only players to make 3000 runs and take 300 wickets and is the third highest wicket taker for the club after N.L. Williams and McLean.
Test, State and A Grade cricketer, Port Adelaide League footballer, ABC Radio commentator and to those that had the enormous pleasure of meeting him a thoroughly good human in every sense of the word. Semaphore born and Woodville High School alumni, he was a student of life and he taught us all an awful lot.
In his Test debut, against India in 1968, he hit a six to get off the mark, at the time he was the first player to do so. Freeman played eleven Test matches for Australia and toured New Zealand (Australian Second XI - 1966-67), England (1968) and both India and South Africa (1969-70). He was an allrounder batting right-handed and bowled right-arm fast-medium and took 34 Test wickets and made 345 runs, in first-class cricket 241 wickets at 27.75 and made 2244 runs at 19.17, with one century.
He played 135 games for us from 1964-65 to 1984-85 and at one stage, 4th test Australia v India 1968, the Port Adelaide Cricket Club could boast that its’ A Grade opening bowlers were also opening the bowling for Australia in Test Cricket when he and Neil Hawke combined.
The following is from his biography written by David Jenkins.
Eric's career in sport was meteoric. A tiny back pocket player for Exeter colts, where he won a premiership, transformed over the summer of 1961-62 into a 6'1" key forward. He took that size to the other side of Largs Reserve and joined Semaphore Centrals in A1 of the amateur league. Three games into his first senior season he was picked in the state team for the Australian Amateur Carnival in Melbourne.
The following year he played in a reserves premiership with Port Adelaide and was that competition's leading goalkicker. After that, it was in Port Adelaide's league team that he flourished even if the club was a tad unlucky. During Eric's time, Port lost the SANFL grand finals of 1964, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1971 and 1972. They won a famous victory over Sturt by three points in 1965 with Eric kicking the winning goal. Which is to say, he kicked Port's last goal of the match in the final quarter then watched as Sturt kicked the next five to fall agonisingly short.
In winter he turned his hand to football, starring as a key forward for Port Adelaide in a 116-game SANFL career from 1964-71, which netted 390 goals. He won a premiership with the Magpies in 1965 and the Ken Farmer Medal as the SANFL leading goal kicker in 1966, when he booted a career-best 81 goals.
Freeman topped the Magpies’ goalkicking list five times – in 1965, 1966, 1967, 1970 and 1971 – and represented SA on six occasions, booting 13 goals. He kicked a career-best 14 goals against Woodville in 1970.
As a young cricketer, he was the 'C' grade wicketkeeper until the finals when the fast bowler failed to appear for the semi-final. Tossed the ball, Eric took 7/50 and 7/62, scored 81 with the bat and Port still lost. Next week, Freeman was chosen for the 'B' grade in their grand final, scored 128, and celebrated the premiership in style. That was two Port Adelaide 'B' grade flags in six months.
The next season, 1964-65, Freeman was in 'A' grade and five games later he was playing for South Australia. Six months later, he was debuting for South Australia on the football field. The rest is history.
A natural talent with a will to succeed, succeed he did. His finest moment was his 13 wickets to beat NSW in the last match of the season to clinch the Sheffield Shield for South Australia in 1970-71. All done with a dodgy knee and a torn hamstring. He simply willed himself to perform and he never doubted he could do it.
All of us at the Port Adelaide Cricket Club knew him as a humble, insightful, warm, and sincere man who regularly attended our games and presented playing caps to over a hundred Magpie players making their A Grade cricket debut.
We recognise that the South Australian Cricket Association, SANFL, Port Adelaide Football Club and the West Torrens Cricket Club will be feeling the loss as well.
Green Cap No. 244, Red Cap No. 385, and Black Cap No. 327. You never gave up and neither will we. Goodbye Fritzy we miss you already.