Keith Hubert Sheffield, captain of Sydney University's First Grade semi-final team of 1956-57, died in Brisbane on 3 June 2017, aged 87.
Born on 13 February 1930, Keith was a popular boy at Canterbury Boys High School, with a pleasant manner and was a very keen sportsman from a young age. At school, he played both cricket and rugby league, competing against Richie Benaud, who was at Parramatta High.
Cricket was his first love but he also excelled in football and golf. Although he never mentioned it to his children, his wife, Barbara, always said he was an excellent tennis player in his youth as well. A prefect and vice-captain at his high school he excelled academically as well as on the sports field. He was interested in the classical languages of Greek and Latin and taught himself Greek while still at high school. After school he attended Sydney University where he met Barbara. He studied Law, Latin, French, Philosophy and History and graduated in Arts/Law in 1952. He became a solicitor working in Sydney CBD, where according to someone who knew him at the time he was popular and highly regarded for his work.
At Sydney University he began cricket in the lower grades, but was too talented not to rise to the top. He was a higher order batsman and complete all round fieldsman. He had a good knowledge of the game and of players in the various clubs.
His cricketing strengths were in batting and fielding. He was awarded a ‘Blue’ by the University in 1951.
Following graduation he was not eligible to continue with the University Club and during this time SUCC had disappointing results even though there was a nucleus of first graders with much potential. The feeling grew that he would be an appropriate leader to foster that potential as well as being an asset to the team as a player. As a graduate he would become eligible again if he was appointed a captain.
Under his leadership the team developed a new hopefulness and began to have success. Saxon White recalls: 'The only thing that made 56-57 different however, was that the University side grew up together over a few years.....so in that season when Keith Sheffield took the captaincy, the District Clubs were faced with a more confident and growly University.. Keith.. managed one of the best cricket years of our lives.'
An example of his initiative was his willingness to risk Donald Scott-Orr as the team's slow bowler, for lack of another. Donald was predominantly an opening batsman and had not bowled his slow stuff during earlier years with the club, except in the nets. To universal surprise this began to bear fruit, being backed by a talented fielding side. In addition he had two good really quick opening bowlers, Frank Stening and David Walker, yet he understood the wisdom of using his slow bowler unexpectedly early in the innings for reasons of surprise and because the main weapon of this bowler was what he did in the air, rather than off the pitch - this strategy worked even better when the ball was relatively new.
Such ability to engender confidence drew a response which resulted in the team engaging in the semi-finals for the first time in many years. It proved to signal a renaissance.
Keith played First Grade between 1949 and 1961, scoring 2919 runs at an average of 23.54, with a highest score of 121 not out. That was, at the time, the fifth-highest tally of First Grade runs for Sydney University. In all grades, he scored 3982 runs at 23.98, which was then the highest number of runs anyone had scored for the club.
He also continued playing rugby league for club teams. With so much time devoted to sport he was not able to keep up fully with his work as a solicitor and with the financial demands of a growing family (by now four children) he eventually made the decision to leave legal practice, and Sydney, and took the family to Cooma in 1964 when he took on a job with the Snowy Mountains Authority. He wasted no time in joining Cooma Golf Club and Cooma Cricket Club
He then took a job at the University of New England in Armidale, northern NSW, where he worked under Zelman Cowen (later Sir Zelman Cowen, Governor-General of Australia) and of course joined the local golf club.
In the early 1970s the family relocated to Brisbane when Zelman Cowen, who had become Vice- Chancellor at the University of Queensland, offered him a job as Assistant Registrar. He worked there until his retirement in 1990. While there he won awards for two study tours to the United States and Europe.
He had joined the local golf club and a steady stream of club prizes came into the house as he won weekend rounds and competition.
After the loss of his wife, Barbara, his memory began to fail. However, his daughter Jan and son Bruce flew him from Brisbane to attend the dinner at the Sydney Cricket Ground to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Sydney University Cricket Club, when he sat with his 1956-57 team.
The Club's condolences are extended to the Sheffield family.
Don Scott-Orr and James Rodgers