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As Australia Goes Matilda Crazy, Let’s Talk About the Posts!

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56450642 0201 4896 9ACD 2043AF841449

Australia has been swept up in World Cup fever.

Tonight the Matildas, Australia’s female football team, is taking on France in a do-or-die quarter-final.

It comes after Matilda’s victory over Denmark was the most-watched broadcast in Australia this year.

Goals, Goals, Goals! Footage courtesy of @OptusSport.

The match drew 3.633 million viewers, with all Matildas games considered ratings gold mine for broadcaster Channel 7.

In addition, streaming figures showed another 385,000 viewers watched the match live on Seven’s online platform, 7plus, a record for the service.

Footage courtesy of @abcnewsaustralia.

But what does this have to do with wood or timber?

My love of soccer dates back about 25 years, and in that time, there have countless occasions where physics has been defied when a ball has almost snuck inside the post or the crossbar … with fans often screaming ‘bloody woodwork’! 

The term ‘woodwork’ is often used to describe the frame used in a soccer goal – two posts and a crossbar. Contact with any part, especially a thunderous long-range shot deserving of a plan, bouncing back is deemed ‘hitting the woodwork.’

An early example of football during the 17th century. (Image courtesy of Four Four Two)
Origins of the Crossbar

With originals dating back over a century, the term referred to the goals from when they were made a little differently.  

In the early 19th century, soccer completely differed from what’s on television and computer screens worldwide today.

More closely linked with rugby, rules allowed players to handle and run with the ball. Rules of the game evolved, with a more traditional version as we know it today more apparent by the late 1800s.

Of course, this meant that adaptions had to be made, especially for the goal frame and box. What resource would provide the right balance of strength and durability and be lightweight to manoeuvre around the pitch easily? The answer, of course, is timber.

The rectangular frame of soccer goals was constructed primarily of timber, including the crossbar. Allowing staff and players to transport on and off the field quickly. At the time, goal sizes weren’t standardised, often confusing visiting teams due to their differing dimensions.  

The crossbar was made compulsory in 1882, marked eight feet above the ground. In 1888, Kensington Swifts were disqualified from the FA Cup after one of their horizontals was lower than the other, and Crewe Alexandra complained. (Image courtesy of Four Four Two)
The most commonly sourced timber in goalposts was an elm

Construction of said frameworks was pretty standard, beginning with builders preparing an appropriately chosen piece of timber.

The most commonly sourced type was elm, which was structurally sound and lightweight to transport.

It was also a prominent tree throughout Europe, keeping costs low and sourcing much more accessible.

Preparation was vital, as it took years for the wood to be structurally sound to meet the demands of the soccer framework.

Selected wood would be seasoned in well-ventilated areas, allowing it thoroughly dry.

This provided the stability required of the timber, avoiding unwanted warping or breakage. 

Carpenters would carefully cut and mould the timber to the correct dimensions, differing for each club.

The unique dimensions of each goal frame, height, width, and diameter, played a part in the difficulties of constructing a structurally sound goal frame.

Once completed, paint was used to distinguish the goals, allowing for ease of sight and goals to be scored.  

As technology evolved, football clubs competed to create ‘standout designs’ and innovative ideas.

This led to design improvements and the sourcing of different types of timbers.

Clubs also manipulated the dimensions of their goals to create any small advantage over a visiting opponent. 

The term ‘woodwork’ has been utilised in the annals of football for well over a century, even maintained during modern years.

The phrase ‘hit the metalwork’ doesn’t have the same ring.

So, remember the next time your favourite striker clips one in off the post or a goalie tips a save onto the ‘woodwork’, take a moment to reflect.

The expertise of many labourers, carpenters and painters contributed to the evolution of the original soccer frame; the craftmanship was superb, and the end product sublime. 

The days of wooden posts in professional soccer are well past (some frames are still made from timber).

But the expressive cries of the crowd will continue to radiate throughout stadiums worldwide every time a ball hits the woodwork.

A World Without ‘Leather on Willow’ is Just Not Cricket!

The Oval was the site of the burning of the bails which bore the Ashes. Its also the location for the 5th and final test match of the 2023 Ashes Series between Australia and England. Wood Central
The Oval was the site of the burning of the bails which bore the Ashes. Its also the location for the 5th and final test match of the 2023 Ashes Series between Australia and England. Wood Central

It’s Ashes time! 

Arguably one of the sports’ most important and fierce rivalries, with origins dating back to 1882 when Australia defeated England for the first time on English soil.

Since then, the term ‘ashes’ has been used to describe the death of English cricket.

The burning of the bails and the ashes urn defines Anglo-Australian relations. Footage courtesy of @BehindtheNewsABC.

In lieu of the current ongoing Ashes series, one feels it is important to delve into the importance of timber within the annals of the cricketing world.

More specifically, the evolution of cricketing bats!

Bats have evolved, like everything, to become lighter, more powerful, sleeker and simply better as technology has improved. 

Today, we will explore the origins of the bat, from the late 1800s, through the entirety of the 20th century and explore the changes in the more aggressive, shorter modern formats of this illustrious of sports.

Cricket bats have taken different shapes and forms since the first test match in 1877. Footage courtesy of @foxcricket.
The development of a cricket bat

The origins of the cricket bat date back to 1620, but one constant remains – English Willow!

A tough yet light timber, willow was perfect in the face of adversity when surviving the rigours of batting many hours on end. 

The average bat weighed approximately 5 pounds from a Willow Tree’s heartwood. 

All cricket bats were made from English willow, but not all were equal. William Gilbert Grace, otherwise known as WG Grace, is regarded as one of the greatest cricketers of all time. One of the most famous personalities in 19th-century England, his cricket bat was reportedly wider than the width of the cricket wicket. Photo Credit: Wisden via Getty Images.

This gave it a recognisable dark colour, especially compared to today’s lighter-coloured bats. 

As the necessity for a lighter bat became apparent, manufacturers sourced the sapwood of a Willow tree. 

They created more lightweight bats, both in colour and weight.

Manufacturers soon discovered the importance of moisture-free willow when designing lighter bats. 

Ensuring minimal moisture was contained within the willow led to bats becoming lighter yet still maintaining their power. 

This allowed batsmen more freedom to play square of the wicket and hold the power associated with a front-foot drive.

WG Grace was a cultural icon and has been integral in developing cricket as a global sport – not only in Australia and the UK but across Southern Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and New Zealand. Footage courtesy of @lordscricketground.
Mid-20th century and the onset of limited-overs cricket

The cricket landscape changed during the 1970s, as limited-overs cricket was introduced and its popularity grew. 

The demand for lighter, more potent bats allowing batsmen to score quickly, was high. 

As the technology evolved, many variations of traditional bats were introduced: shoulderless and polycarbonate hybrid bats.

The vast majority of cricket bats are manufactured in India from forests worldwide. In the North Indian city of Meerut, tens of thousands of cricket bats are produced every year – including Sachin Tendulkar’s bats. Footage courtesy of @DiscoveryTV.
Head and shoulderless above the rest

Slazenger introduced shoulderless bats during the 1960s, originally a marketing ploy where the bat’s design incorporated narrower, rounded edges. 

Lance Cairns infamously smashed the fastest ODI 50 (at the time) off 21 balls, utilising the shoulderless wooden design.

Undoubtedly an unexpected positive for the bat’s designer.

Footage courtesy of @cricketcomau.
Aluminium – Can I use it?

A short-lived but well-known woodenless, 100% aluminium bat was utilised in the 1980s. 

Former Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee used a metal bat briefly in 1979. 

Greg Chappell (second from left) walks away from Mike Brearley (second from right), showing his disgust at Dennis Lillee’s aluminium bat, during the 1979 Perth Test.

Laws of the game ruled against the continued use of an all-metal bat, rendering it illegal. 

Designs quickly focused on improving timber designs to enhance the development of the bat further.

Turbo time!

During the 1980s, a two-pieced cricket bat was designed by John Surridge. 

Essentially the bat was formed by two pieces of willow glued together to drastically improve the power transfer within the bat, reducing the flex. 

Graham Gooch, the former English batsman, utilised the ‘Turbo’ to score 333 against India in 1990. 

They probably benefited from the extra power!

In 2014, Graham Gooch spoke to Wisden about the importance of cricket bat selection. Footage courtesy of @WisdenCricket.
Hybrid – Two for the Price of One

With the turn of the century, batsmen benefited from technological designs incorporating polycarbonate hybrids. 

Bat manufacturers have tinkered with designs in recent decades, implementing polycarbonate spines, handles and other differing designs. 

Helping batsmen greatly, many of these new designs have led to modifications of the Laws of the Game. 

These changes are striving to ensure that competition between Bat and Ball remains fair, not providing an added edge to batsmen over bowlers.

For years, willow has been the priority choice for bat design. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sixty years ago, @britishpathe explored the “old traditions’ of cricket bat manufacturing.

The need to enhance bats has evolved as technology has improved and the game has shifted focus to shorter formats. 

It’s good for the game, but this cricketing traditionalist prefers a closer battle between bat and ball in the longer Test Match arena. 

Yes, ODIs and T20s are entertaining, but Test Matches remain the theatre of dreams for the cricketing world. 

Time at the crease is essential…Willow in bats is as well!

Wood Central Publisher Note

In 2013, the Wood Central publisher was invited into the Marylebone Cricket Club’s (MCC) historic Long Room where he enjoyed three days of the 2013 Ashes Test Match at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

Photo taken by the publisher from inside the MCC Long Room as Usman Khawaja walks out for his first innings at Lord’s Cricket Ground dated July 19, 2013.

The Long Room is steeped with history and tradition and is lined from ceiling to floor with elegant timbers.

For more than a century MCC members have occupied the wooden benches in the Victorian pavilion – with the pavilion one of six grandstands that occupy the Grounds.

The publisher observed MCC members, of varying ages and fame, sitting informally on elegant timber benches and stools and applauding the game.

Lord’s Cricket Ground has emerged as a global leader in the push to lower carbon emissions in stadium construction and operation with Wood Central previously covering their mass-timber-led master plan.

Let’s Discover the Wooden Roots of Ten-Pin Bowling

Ten Pin Bowling Alley Wood Central
Ten Pin Bowling Alley Wood Central

One must be wondering, how on earth is an article on a ‘timber’ content dedicated website titled ‘Turkey Time’! My promise is it doesn’t have anything to do with aviary, nor Thanksgiving! I digress.

Today’s article focuses on the ‘turkey’ ladled pass time of Ten Pin Bowling. The history of timber and its incorporation in Ten Pin Bowling will be explored throughout.

History of Ten-Pin Bowling

Whether it be a popular pastime or a competitive streak, Ten Pin Bowling is a popular sport worldwide; with over two million players in Australia alone. Ten Pin Bowling’s origins date back to ancient Egyptian times, incorporating similar styled events played as part of religious rituals.

By the late 19th Century, bowling had made its way north to Europe and across the Atlantic to North America. The two aspects of Ten Pin Bowling that have been or continue to be reliant upon timber as a source include both the lanes and pins.

An image depicting King Edward VII and his ten-pin bowling lane at Sandringham House. (Photo credit: Getty Images)
Evolution of Bowling Lanes

The earliest bowling lanes were originally made of sawdust, sand or clay; providing grip yet no surface consistency.

A challenge for regular and competitive bowlers. Continuous development of modern bowling lanes introduced firmer surfaces, constructed of steel and concrete, during the early 20th century.

Unfortunately, they were deemed too slippery and lacked grip. To counter this, wooden bowling lanes were introduced during the 1920’s.

The experience of bowling in the 1920s was very different than it is today. Among the many differences, ball returns, as seen at a bowling alley in Menasha, Wisconsin, were constructed out of wood and often featured chalk trays. After firming their grip with chalk, bowlers had to roll without the benefit of the aiming dots and arrows that appear on bowling lanes today. (Photo credit: Photographer unknown, from the IBMHOF collection)

The perfect balance of grip, durability and flexibility; creating ideal conditions for competitive bowlers.

Wooden planks were utilised as alley surfaces, but flaws in their floors (or is that floors in their flaws?) were starting to rear their ugly head.

Splintering and warping were two prominent issues that arose during these initial stages. Constant problems plagued wooden alleyways, lowering their popularity over the coming years.

Moving into the 1940’s and 1950’s technological advances led to the creation of laminated wood construction techniques.

Laminated-wood construction revolutionised bowling alley construction, leading to a post-war boom in the sport. Footage courtesy of @BowlingOldies

These became standard for bowling alleys. Advantages included smoother surfaces, fewer ruts and bumps and prolonged durability.

Polyurethane was layered over the top during the 1960s, providing an added extra layer of protection that was further resistant to dents, scratches and natural wear and tear.

The introduction of hard rock maple during the 1970’s was revolutionary to the sport, as it further improved the quality of bowling alleys worldwide.

Hard rock maple is a hard, dense timber that capably absorbed the intense pressure of bowling balls down an alleyway.

Its tight pores also prevented the ongoing build-up of grime, dirt and oil over time, reducing maintenance costs and needs.

Modern-day alleyways are now made up of a combination of types of woods, with the topmost layer still predominantly utilising hard rock maple.

Footage courtesy of @goldcrown8491
Construction of Bowling Pins

Further to its importance in recent wooden lanes, Rock Maple is the main staple of pins utilised in alleys.

The process begins by glueing two pieces of timber on top of one another. The uppermost is narrower.

Once secured, they are placed on a lathe and the magic begins.

After their curved shape is complete, the beautiful maple surface is coated and painted; providing them with their distinctive white, two-red stripes, glossy finish.

Synthetic versions are frequently utilised throughout alleys worldwide. However, the distinctive sound of a ball on a wooden pin is far more satisfying than that of a hollow plastic sound.

On the surface, [a tightly held, shock resistant and smooth one at that], the importance of timber in Ten Pin Bowling is easily overlooked.

But the next time one manages 3 strikes in a row, even a solitary one for that, remember that without the well-maintained surface, one wouldn’t capably knock down 10 pins, not least 30. Hence…Turkey Time!