In spite of making just one First Class appearance, Roland Blinko appears to have been a talented and gifted cricketer. In his history of Hawke’s Bay cricket, Frank Cane refers to Blinko as “ A versatile run-getter with all the strokes … [who] … also specialised very effectively in the close-in positions in the field.”
Blinko likely emigrated from the United Kingdom in 1911, initially settling and playing cricket in the Marlborough area before moving to Hastings where he worked as a cabinet maker. There, he played for the Hastings Cricket Club in 1913-14, performing well enough to earn a spot in the Hawke’s Bay side that was matched against the powerful touring Australians in their fixture at Hastings on February 18th and 19th, 1914.
In a side led by former English Test player, Jack Board, Blinko had a decent game against a very strong opposition. He only scored 10 in the first innings where he was bowled by the spin of Arthur Mailey. He wasn’t alone in struggling against Mailey’s leg breaks – he claimed 8 for 51 in the first innings. Blinko’s second innings was a little better. Promoted up the order, he scored 21 (the third highest score) and was described as one of the few Hawke’s Bay batsmen who could use his feet against the spin and movement of the Australian bowlers.
The highlight of the game for Blinko may well have been his catch to dismiss the great Victor Trumper. Described as a very difficult catch down by his legs, it reinforces Cane’s description of his skill as a close-in fielder. Although Hawke’s Bay lost the match by 9 wickets, getting Trumper was key to avoiding a much larger margin – he hit 293 (with, apparently, 44 fours!) against Canterbury less than a month later.
Surprisingly, Blinko did not play for Hawke’s Bay again. He was a member of the championship winning Hastings side of 1914-1915 and then disappears from the cricket field.
Blinko joined the army on the 8th of January 1916. On the 19th of April of that year he was married in Wanganui and by the end of August he was on the front line in France as a Lance Corporal in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. On the 18th of September he was wounded in the forehead and cheek during the attack on Fiers, leading to him being evacuated to England two days later. Sadly he never recovered, dying from meningitis on the 6th of January 1917 in Walton-on-Thames. He was buried exactly a year after he joined the forces.
Roland George Blinko; b. Birmingham, United Kingdom, August 1st 1886, d. Walton on Thames, United Kingdom, January 6th 1917