Tasmania and Queensland will battle for the chance to hold aloft one of the most iconic trophies in Australian sport in the Bupa Sheffield Shield final, starting on Friday at Blundstone Arena.
The origins of the Shield date all the way back to 1891 when Lord Sheffield was in the country promoting an English Tour featuring the great WG Grace.
Lord Sheffield was considered an eccentric gentlemen, but his place in Australian cricketing history is legendary.
During the English Tour, there was a growing sense of unrest at the amount of attention the tourists were taking away from colonial cricket.
As a result, Lord Sheffield generously donated 150 pounds to the NSW Cricket Association for a trophy to be struck for inter-colonial cricket between NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
In 1892, tenders were put out for the creation of a trophy.
The tender was won by Polish immigrant Phillip Blashki, a prominent Melbourne silversmith and watchmaker.
He created a Shield of incredible detail, with over 150 different components of gold, silver and copper making up the overall piece, including the Australian coat of arms, Lord Sheffield’s coat of arms and a centerpiece depicting a cricket match at Lord Sheffield’s Sheffield Park cricket ground in Sussex.
The trophy was first awarded at the conclusion of the 1892-93 season.
Since then, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania have joined the competition and what was a colonial trophy has become a state trophy.
Renowned trophy historian, John Holmes, describes the Shield as; “Without doubt the most significant cricket trophy in Australia, if not the world, behind the Ashes urn” and has been assigned the task of detailing the trophy ahead of the Final on Friday.
“A cup is rather simple where you have a nice oval surface or a smooth shield or a plate, but something like this where you have 150 components does take a lot of care and attention,” he says.
“If I gave you a million dollars right now and said go and find me another one , you simply couldn’t. This is our holy grail of cricket.”
In the late 1990s the trophy had fallen into a “terrible state of disrepair”. In fact, it was in such poor condition that it was taken off public display, but in 2008, Hardy Bros. in Queensland undertook the arduous task of restoring the trophy, a process taking over three months.
As either Tasmania or Queensland take to the stage with the trophy as victors of the 2012-13 competition, Holmes admits he will watch on nervously.
Such is the delicacy of the trophy there are strict rules around the handling and winning players are not allowed to pass it around the dressing room like other trophies, to ensure the Shield can continue to hold such a special place in the history of cricket.
Follow all the action from the Bupa Sheffield Shield Final on Fox Sports 3 from 10:30am and via the ball-by-ball live scores and live blog on www.cricket.com.au
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 21 March, 2013 9:25AM AEST