District mourns community leader

SOME people while away summer afternoons leisurely watching a Test match, but cricket was more than a simple pastime for Robert Haberfield.

The Mepunga farmer was entranced by the crack of leather on willow and knew the complex rules of cricket inside out. He became an administrator of the game around the same time he gained his driver’s licence, eventually rising to head the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association.

It was his leading role in the cricketing community that was highlighted by friends and colleagues yesterday following his death in a truck crash at Ecklin South on Tuesday afternoon, aged 53.

Wife Heather said Mr Haberfield’s life revolved around family, community work and venturing on to the cricket field.

She said the Haberfield family was heartened to hear of warm words about Robert following this week’s tragic events.

“(Robert) was really close to his father (John) and they’re both really community-minded,” Mrs Haberfield said.

“He loved cricket, trucks and aeroplanes and was really starting to get back into flying. He was also heavily involved in the CFA and received his 35-year service medal  recently. He was just a talkative, kind person who really cared about other people.”

Nirranda Cricket Club past president Glenn Dalton said Mr Haberfield was a tireless advocate of south-west sport.

The life member played with the side for 30 years as well as serving in several leadership roles including president.

“He was a great leader but he wasn’t just focused on cricket, he was focused on people too,” Mr Dalton said. “When he heard another club member was in strife recently, he instigated a hay drive to help him out on the farm. 

“That was the type of bloke he was, community-minded and always thinking about others.”

The former fast bowler was a champion of young players like Nirranda’s Tim Ludeman, who is regarded as one of the finest wicketkeepers in Australia.

The South Australian star posted a tribute on social media site Twitter.

“A Nirranda hero, had a Lillee-type action, most passionate cricket man I know, a true gentleman taken far too young.”

While Mr Haberfield was a strong Nirranda supporter, teams from across the WDCA also paid their respects yesterday. Brierly Cricket Club issued a statement passing on their condolences while Woodford Cricket Club described Mr Haberfield as an outstanding cricket administrator who would be “sorely missed by many”.

Former Warrnambool Cheese and Butter (WCB) chief executive John McLean said Mr Haberfield was not only noted for his sporting prowess but his role in agriculture.

The Mepunga dairy farmer served for a number of years on WCB’s supplier advisory board.

“The whole Haberfield family are highly regarded for their community and sporting involvement and Robert continued on that tradition,” Mr McLean said.

Former Moyne Shire councillor Dick Prendergast said Mr Haberfield was a hard-working community man and well known for his sporting abilities.

Robert Haberfield was born in Warrnambool in 1960, one of five children to John and Margaret. He attended Allans Forest Primary School and Warrnambool North Technical School before owning and operating a dairy farm at Mepunga.

The long-time cricket administrator also had on-field success, notching up several premierships with the Nirranda Cricket Club in the early 1980s.

He is survived by wife Heather and children Rebekah, David, Melinda and Sharryn.

alex.sinnott@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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