Harry Solomons is the Managing Director and founder of Kingsgrove Sports Centre Pty Ltd which runs a chain of five specialist cricket retail stores across Sydney, one cricket shop in the regional city of Newcastle and an online shop serving the cricketing community across the world.
Kingsgrove Sports was started by Harry Solomons in 1976 with a small store in the shopping strip of Kingsgrove and later moved to larger premises, where the Head Office is established. As well as the retail store and warehouse, there is a busy Cricket Academy with four indoor training nets equipped with bowling machines for year round coaching and training and a small Cricket Museum.
It was Harry’s ambition that transformed a tiny store in Kingsgrove into one of the largest and best providers of cricket goods and cricket services in Australia. By sheer hard work, long hours, good fortune and a vision, the business grew and prospered. After 35 years, the business employs 55 passionate staff and is a highly respected, international cricket brand.
Through his early involvement and creation of the famous “Symonds” brand of products, Harry worked with many high profile players in Australia and abroad. Players such as Allan Border, Doug Walters, Mick Whitney, Dirk Wellham, Len Pascoe, Steve Smith, Peter Toohey and Trevor Chappell were his early acquaintances, whilst he became a mentor of sorts and sponsored latter day stars such as the famous Waugh Twins (Steve & Mark), Mark Taylor, Greg Matthews, Michael Clarke and the like. He also had the opportunity to work with overseas internationals such as Gordon Greenidge, Richie Richardson, Courtney Walsh, Malcolm Marshall, Imran Khan, Larry Gomes, Aravinda de Silva and countless other greats, over the years.
As a sideline and over the course of the years Harry passionately collected many items of cricket memorabilia from the rare to the novel. In time, there was enough memorabilia lining the walls and hallways of his shop to create a Cricket Museum.
Early Sporting Life
In 1972, Harry had emigrated from Sri Lanka with his wife and young son, Hamish, who today works in the business. It was a tough start in a new country but Harry had been passionate about sports from a young age, playing cricket and soccer for his school in Sri Lanka and later rugby union at Club Level.
As a boy, Harry showed promise in his favourite sport as a dashing left hander and right arm pace bowler. If he didn't have a bat in his hand it was probably because it was soccer season. He honed his game and found himself in the St Aloysius Galle College First Eleven with his elder brother Mark, when he was just 15. The previous year he had commenced playing in the College Firsts for Soccer as a fullback and also was the College 400 Yard Champion in Athletics. By the end of his schooling, Harry had earned College Colours for all three Sports, a very rare feat indeed.
Unfortunately just as it seemed Harry's cricket career was taking off after representing Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Schoolboys, he had to give up on his dream. It would be many, many years before Harry would have the opportunity to play decent cricket again but he was able to keep his competitive spirit alive by playing a new sport to him, Rugby Union. Within a short period of time, Harry became comfortable with "Rugger" and, in only his second season, took over the captaincy of his side, Kelani Valley. . . . a 1st Division Rugby Union Club in Sri Lanka.
Life in Australia
In Australia Harry played local club cricket in the Western Suburbs competition, later moving to the South Sydney Competition and finally settling in the St George District Competition. He represented all three Associations in the Martin Shield. He was President of the Illawong-Menai CC and is currently a Patron, Vice President, Life Member or Sponsor of many Cricket Clubs, Associations and organisations. Harry is a long time supporter, benefactor and Life Member of the famous St George District Cricket Club – the Club represented by the great Sir Donald Bradman, Arthur Morris, Ray Linwall, Bill O’Reilly, Norman O’Neill and Brian Booth.
Today one of Harry’s passions is the Golden Oldies World Cricket Festivals, for players aged over 40 years old who gather every two years for a week long festival of cricket somewhere in the world. In 2006, Harry was appointed Festival Director for the Festival held in Colombo, Sri Lanka. This gave him the opportunity to show case his former country to his cricketing friends from around the globe. About 600 people travelled to Sri Lanka for the Festival which was an enormous success and judged to be the “best Festival ever” by many of those attending. Harry and his team also attended the Festival in Queenstown, New Zealand in March 2008 where he was awarded the Personality of the Festival. He also attended the 2010 Festival in Harrogate, Yorkshire in the UK. He is now the Patron of the Australian Golden Oldies movement.
A life helping others
Harry is not only passionate about cricket but also in helping others – be it helping an individual player, an association or organisation - to achieve their cricketing goals. Through the good times and bad he has, through his position as the Managing Director of Kingsgrove Sports, sponsored and assisted many a players and organisations. Kingsgrove Sports has been a long time sponsor of Cricket NSW, NSW Country Cricket and NSW Districts Cricket (NSW Juniors). These and other sponsorships of the likes of St George, Sutherland, Camden/Campbelltown, Bankstown, North Shore JDCA, Sydney University CC, Randwick Petersham DCC, Moore Park South Eastern CA, Newcastle DCA and Juniors and several Country and City cricket organisations and clubs have benefited from the success of Kingsgrove Sports.
Outside of his cricket interests, hundreds of charitable organisations have also benefited from the generosity of Harry Solomons and Kingsgrove Sports. Harry is a firm believer that giving back to the community in Australia and overseas is an integral part of his life and Kingsgrove Sports’ success.
With the assistance of Kingsgrove Sports’ customers, cricket kits, both new and second hand, have been provided to hundreds of under privileged clubs and schools in places such as outback Australia, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Vanuatu, Bangladesh, Tonga, Lord Howe Island, Solomons Islands, Afghanistan and Uganda.
After the catastrophic tsunami on Boxing Day 2004, Kingsgrove Sports became the depot for the collection of material and financial aid for Sri Lanka. Tons of clothing, non-perishable food, medical items, books, toys and much more was later shipped to Sri Lanka through the generosity of corporate donors.
Financial aid was directed through the Sri Lanka Disaster Relief Fund NSW Inc (SLDRF), of which Harry is a Trustee. This money initially went to build emergency infrastructure in Sri Lanka, to purchase medical equipment and to build houses. Projects helping people restructure their lives with the purchase of equipment to give them new employment and the development of educational and sporting infrastructure are still being supported.
A project that Kingsgrove Sports has close ties to is the development of The Foundation of Goodness at Seenigama, a village near Galle that was devastated by the tsunami. Cricket NSW offered a substantial donation to the SLDRF following the tsunami as a gesture of support for a fellow cricketing nation. This money has been directed towards the establishment of an Accommodation Centre as part of the Seenigama project to house young cricketers from around Sri Lanka, and from overseas, who visit Seenigama to play on the newly opened ground. Incidentally, Kingsgrove Sports raised funds to donate the artificial turf for the ground which was opened in February 2007.