Selk BOB

Bobbie Selk

Research by Gordon Freegard 2017

Born Rudolph Albert Selk on 6th October 1871 at Benalla, Victoria, “Bobby” Selk retired in his 40th year – an age at which all cricket bowlers of an energetic type must begin to lose their sting.

He began playing as a promising colt of the Albury (N.S.W.) Cricket Club. After leaving Albury he joined the Benalla Club, and while with them achieved the high distinction of winning every trophy presented to his club. After much success in the Benalla district, where he got an immense number of wickets, Selk migrated to Western Australia during the 1895-6 season, and has been closely identified with cricket in the State ever since.

Bobbie Selk first took to the field locally, in 1895, when he “flannelled” for North Fremantle. He first played for the State in 1897, when an Australia eleven met a team of 13 West Australians. He also played with South Fremantle, Fremantle and later Claremont.

Trundling with moderate success it was not until 1900 that Selk blossomed forth into greatness – greatness which he has held right through to his retirement. Thorough in all he did, working like a Trojan always, non-chalant as to punishment, cheerful, successful, and with a striking individuality no wonder Selk was the idol of the Western Australian crowds. Indeed “Bobby” was such a favourite with the public that the battles on the creases were joyfully looked forward to.

His figures against Victoria at Fremantle in 1910 have been set down at the time, as the best for the State. He took eight for 28 and five for 49 and the powerful Victorian team was beaten. In 1912 he distinguished himself against an Australian Test team, dismissing seven batsmen at a cost of 46 runs.


With no pretensions as a batsman, yet he made runs in big games at times, his success possibly being due to the fact that he was always confident and fearless. He more often than not proceeded to the wicket at a trot, padless and hatless, and the crowd could always rest assured that every ball bowled by him would have an attempted scoring shot made at it. As a bowler Selk, however, will always be remembered best. With a big variety of paces, turning from both sides, with a fine command of length and bowling that impossible ball which ‘Fizzes” off the pitch and comes back from three or four inches.’ Bobby was always likely to bowl the best of batsmen “neck and crop”, as the cricket phrase goes. Selk was also the possessor of a “googlie”.

When Braund was here with the English team he noticed it, and remarked that Selk was a “googlie” bowler of class, but that he did not know it. Whether Braund’s observation was right or not is very doubtful, as Bobby, always very loath to give his bowling secrets away, remained very silent after the remark. Enough for us to know that Selk has often deceived the bat and hit the wicket, and that knowing little look of his, which was always seen on his face after scattering the stumps with a “deceiver”, would lead one to suppose that “Bob” had a thorough knowledge of his powers with the “googlie”. The most striking feature of his bowling was the number of times that he hit the wicket, and the biggest percentage of his victims were clean skittled.

His greatest performances have mostly been up against big sides, and he always conveyed the impression of bowling better when trundling against a stiff proposition. He has done some remarkable things on plumb wickets against visiting teams, and amongst his many successes the best have been 5 for 29, 5 for 19, 6 for 39, 5 for 50, and 7 for 108 against South Australia; 8 for 28 and 5 for 49 against Victoria; and 7 for 45 against New South Wales.

Amongst his treasured scalps are the names of D. R. A. Gehrs, E. L. Waddy, “Jack” Reedman, F. Hack, Jarvis, N. Claxton, W. Hewer, Victor Hugo, A. J. Hopkins, Warren Bardsley, J. C. Barnes, C. G. Macartney, “Dave” Mailer, Warwick Armstrong, B. J. Kortlang, Colin McKenzie, Kenny, “Jim” Horan, Harry Stuckey, E. G. Hayes, L. C. Braund, A. O. Jones, and last but not least, E. F. Parker, all of whom have fallen to him for low scores.

It seems strange to chronicle that a man who has taken numberless wickets during his career should have only once preformed the hat trick, but such is the fact in Selk’s case. He has only performed the hat trick once in 24 years of playing, and only once taken 10 wickets in an innings. In two seasons, those of 1905-6 and 1908-9, Selk took over 100 wickets in pennant games alone for ridiculously low averages.

At various times Selk has been the recipient of presentations from enthusiastic admirers,and these trophies are among his most valuable possessions. The public will miss the genial “Bobby” and his tattered old red and white scarf around his waist, sleeve dangling below his bowling wrist, and the bottoms of his trousers on the ground. He was the despair of all well-dressed cricketers, but he never cared.

Selk’s figures in the many test games played between Perth and Fremantle are unavailable, but they amount to a great many victims at a low cost. From the other figures available Selk has taken 869 wickets for 8,891 runs, at an average of 12 runs per wicket. It will therefore be seen that with the test match figures, and miscellaneous successes Selk must have taken well over 1,000 wickets in Western Australia.

There was something in Bobbie Selk’s sport-loving nature that made him turn instinctively to the freedom of outdoor life. He had been a post-master in a Perth suburb but came to live in the Carilla area on a block on Merrivale Road, Pickering Brook, just past Lees’ property, building a couple of rooms there and creating a lovely garden. He planted a couple of Kurrajong trees next to his house and close to that a double row of vines which were trellised and then covered with mesh netting to foil the birds. Over his gate the name of the property was printed on a board: “THE EVELESS EDEN”. He planted things that were different, such as Lilac and Holly – and the Kurrajong trees. In his last few years Bobbie Selk spent some of his leisure time devoted to a study of various ways and means of altering the world’s money system.

Whenever big-time cricket was being staged in Perth, Bobby was always given a place of honor at the celebratory gatherings. It was hard to get him away from the solitude of the hills where he moved among the trees and flowers to which he devoted the evening years of his life. It was only when some international or interstate eleven came to Perth that he could be lured away from the quietness of the bush.

BOBBIE SELK (Left) one of the greatest bowlers Western Australia has ever produced & C.H. "TIM" HOWARD a polished opening batsman #5

Reference: Article: Pickering Brook Heritage Group


Mac Beard, son of the owners of the Pickering Brook Store remembers Bobby Selk well. As a little boy of under ten years old, at the store, he said Bobby would come regularly to the store smoking his curled pipe and tapping his cane on the wooden floorboards and always his first words would be “It’s 263 days to Christmas” or however many days it was. He called Mac “Mickey Mouse” and his brother “Donald Duck” and often bought his favourite sweet hard licorice which he liked to chew on.

Bobbie Selk passed away in his sleep at his Pickering Brook hills retreat, in 1940 aged 69 years old. He was recognised as one of the greatest bowlers Western Australia has ever produced. All through his life he hated fuss and display. Expressive of this characteristic were the detailed instructions he left directing a strictly private cremation and no announcement until it was all over.

In the moist, warn ground at Pickering Brook, the roots of a giant Kurrajong tree will, with the passing years, entwine themselves around the ashes of one of the State’s greatest sportsmen.

With simple ceremony, the cremated ashes of one of the States greatest bowlers were, at his own expressed wish, buried beneath the tree.

It was Bobbie’s own hand that, years ago, planted two Kurrajong trees on his property at Pickering Brook. One of the trees, defying wind and storms, raised its mighty head far above his surrounding brothers. And it was at the foot of the grand old tree that Bobbie Selk felt he would rest easier when he had bowled his last ball in the long and changing game of life.

On the day he was called he was planning to make one of his rare visits to the city to meet the interstate cricketers, but death took his wicket, and Bobby was always too much of a sport to dispute the decision of the Great Umpire.

Strangely enough neither of his two boys followed their father to the bowling crease. Ernie, who went through the Jervis Bay Navel College and held a lieutenancy in the Navy before joining the New Guinea Air Service. At Jervis Bay Ernie Selk did a bit of bowling, but he did not persevere with it., swimming being his forte. Grove, the second boy, who qualified as a midshipman in the Royal Australian Navy, and later entered the Point Cooke Air Training School attached to the Royal Air Force. He spent time doing hazardous flying up the north of India and in 1928 was based in Afghan evacuating women and children from the dengerous zone of rebel activities. They both eventually went into commercial aviation. The happiest interlude in the veteran cricketer’s last years was when one of his sons came home on leave. Content to step out of the atmosphere of the officer’s mess and share with his father the daily toil of the garden. That brought to the affectionate parent a strength-giving tonic and left him a memory to which he often talked about.

After their father’s death, his daughter lived on the property in another house, and later still his son, Grove, built there, and lived with his wife on the original property at Pickering Brook but left after a few years.


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References:           Article:          Pickering Brook Heritage Group

                           Images:      1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6         Various Newspapers
                                             6        Pickering Brook Heritage Group