Rochdale Football Club was delighted to welcome a couple of first-time visitors to the Crown Oil Arena when Dale entertained Lincoln City on Tuesday.
Richard and Dorothy Cornock from New South Wales attended their first-ever English league game on the night – but there was a reason for their visit and link to the club.
Richard's father, Walter Cornock, was born in Sydney in 1921 to an Australian father and English mother, but the family moved to the UK when he was a child.
Walter later played as a goalkeeper in amateur football for a team called Ashton National, but when WW2 began, he switched to Ashton United.
He served in the Royal Navy during the war and saw active service in Africa and the North Sea.
On the resumption of competitive football, Walter joined Oldham Athletic, playing six times during the 1945/46 season. He then joined non-league Hereford United before coming to Rochdale, where he made one appearance in the Football League, a 2–0 defeat at home to Hartlepools United in November 1947.
He also played cricket while in the UK and in 1941 set a league record score of 197 not out while playing for Royton against Ashton in the Central Lancashire League.
Walter spent the 1948 season with Leicestershire, scoring over 800 runs and taking 81 wickets. Notable wickets included those of another footballing cricketer, Denis Compton, and future England international Tom Graveney.
He returned to Australia at the end of the 1948 cricket season and joined the Cumberland Cricket Club in Australia. He captained the side during Richie Benaud's absences on national team duty and continued to play until his fifties.
Walter was also both president and club secretary at Cumberland and was responsible with his other son, John, for the building of a sightscreen on the club's ground. The ground is now home to the Parramatta Cricket Club and the sightscreen has been renamed in Cornock's honour.
Sadly, Walter died in November 2007, aged 86.
Mark Wilbraham, editor of Rochdale’s matchday programme, The Voice of Spotland, made contact with Richard four years ago while researching a season-long feature on the club’s goalkeepers.
They have kept in touch ever since – usually to exchange Ashes banter – but when Richard told Mark he was visiting the UK, plans were put in place for him and his wife to attend a game.
The club’s directors invited Richard, Dorothy and Mark as their guests to the Lincoln match and an excellent evening was enjoyed by all, with the two visitors being particularly delighted at the kindness and generosity shown by everyone at the Crown Oil Arena on the night.
“This was a fantastic experience for Dorothy and I and we can’t thank everyone enough for the evening,” said Richard.
“The interest shown in my father and his life in the UK and then back in Australia was something we have never experienced before and we would like to thank everyone at Rochdale Football Club for that.
“I tend to watch the Premier League games when they are on TV back home, but it was great to see a match live and be so close to the action.
“Rochdale has a fantastic stadium and a great team, with some outstanding young players. I was particularly impressed with Ollie Rathbone and agreed with his Man of the Match selection.
“I would like to wish the club all the best for the rest of the season and I will certainly be following results and club news from thousands of miles away.”
Pictured are Richard & Dorothy Cornock, with TVOS editor, Mark Wilbraham