Watch how Australia's famous cricket bats are made at the Tinetti's Cricket Willow

The Tinetti name is synonymous with Cricket Willow and their renowned jabaroo cricket bats.

There is a whole story behind the famous name, with a history stemming from the small township of Shepherds Flat and a family that goes back six generations. 

CRAFT: Ian Tinetti is continuing the legacy his great grandfather Aquilino Tinetti began. Photo: Dylan Burns

CRAFT: Ian Tinetti is continuing the legacy his great grandfather Aquilino Tinetti began. Photo: Dylan Burns

TINETTI FAMILY

The 1850s was a time of revolution in Europe as people fought to create democratic systems of government. And while many struggled to survive in the fight for a better life, there came news of gold rushes in California, USA, and in Australia. 

A 25-year-old Aquilino Tinetti left Switzerland and arrived in Australia in 1856, like many others, in search of gold. 

“Our country wasn’t too good back then - there was famine and all sorts - they came out looking for gold but most of them settled as farmers,” Mr Tinetti said.

At the time of their arrival, gold-seekers were arriving at Jim Crow Goldfield in increasing numbers from the likes of France, Denmark, Germany, England, Wales and China.

Though unique to the region was a cluster of Italian speakers, which grew to around 2500 by the 1860s, who were traversing the land in and around Daylesford in search of gold. 

Naturally, national groups lived and worked in groups from their mother land. The Tinettis settled in and around Hepburn, with the landscape reminding them of their home, Biasca. 

“I don’t know anyone that found gold,” Mr Tinetti said. “They came here for a better life. We are all good farmers, and builders. We are land people so we can turn our hand to anything.”

Aquilino returned home to Biasca to marry Maria Capriroli, before journeying back to Australia and settling in Shepherds Flat, where they raised their 13 children.

The Tinettis farmed at Shepherds Flat from the 1860s, during which time they developed a love of cricket. In the 1900s they started growing willows from which their neighbours, the Crocketts, produced their famous Crockett cricket bats.

EXPERT: Each cricket bat is handcrafted from the female willow trees grown at the Shepherds Flat property. Photo: Dylan Burns

EXPERT: Each cricket bat is handcrafted from the female willow trees grown at the Shepherds Flat property. Photo: Dylan Burns

HISTORY

The story of Cricket Willow began with a Test Match between Australia and England in 1902 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Test umpire Robert (Bob) Crockett and English captain Archie MacLaren struck up a conversation, during which MacLaren expressed surprise that Australia did not produce its own willow for their bats. 

A few months later, Crockett received six willow cuttings from England, though only one survived the long journey.

The cutting was immediately rushed to Shepherds Flat, where it was nurtured and propagated into thousands of trees by MacLaren’s brother.

More than 5000 trees were grown at R.M. Crockett & Sons, with the Crockett Cricket Bat Company becoming the first major supplier of bats in Australia, before gaining worldwide recognition.

“You only need one tree to start a cutting,” Mr Tinetti said. “Any part of the willow tree will grow.”

The company was sold to UK company Slazenger in 1956, with the plantation regarded as a non-essential asset.

The trees were felled, except for a number saved by Aquilino, who had a dream of re-instating the manufacturing of bats at Shepheds Flat.

CRICKET BATS

Willow trees have been grown to be made into bats at the historic Shepherds Flat site for over 100 years. 

The cricket bats are made from wood harvested from the female willow tree.

“[The wood] is firstly cut into a billet, then dried out until it’s light and ready to make clefts,” Mr Tinetti said. “It takes at least a year – it can be more – to dry out properly.”

It is then put through a “buzzer” to form a face – this forms the edges of the bat. Then a ‘v’ is cut out for the solid cane handle to be inserted into. 

The remainder of the bat is finished by hand with a draw knife. 

“This shapes the bat. You use your imagination to finish the bat.”

CURRENT DAY

With their long association with Australian cricket, the Tinettis have established what is now known as the home of the Australian Cricket Bat. 

After they were forced to close their dairy farm in 1984, the Tinettis decided to turn part of their property into a cricket ground.

The site currently has over 100 acres of willows, that the Tinettis continue to propagate and grow.

"They aren’t in love with the warm afternoons so there’s a bit of a trick to growing them. There are a lot here now and other people who grow them in Australia, they have come from here," Mr Tinetti said.

The Tinetti family have created the Cricket Willow museum to share their interesting story with visitors.

The site comprises of a cricket oval and the Tinetti bat factory, where bats are crafted by hand and people can learn all about the process of creating a product ‘from bud to bat.’

The Tinettis sponsor players with the Imparja Cup and sponsor cricketers to go to England.