Almanac People: Mitch Hannan
Friday night made for plenty of sporting entertainment as a new era dawned upon two of Australia’s most loved pastimes. In Adelaide, Peter Handscomb and Usman Khawaja batted the fresh-faced Australian Test Cricket XI through the twilight toward a face-saving victory, while in Sydney the careers of young footballers far and wide were being either kick-started or brutally cut short.
While many were studiously studying the likes of McGrath, McLuggage and Taranto, or the lollies of Faf Du Plessis it was an unlikely name that the Woodend Cricket Club were firmly focused upon: one Mitchell Hannan, of Footscray VFL, now a member of the Melbourne Football Club.
Why Mitch was the object of this interest was thanks to his dad Grayham. Opening bowler for the mighty Woodend Thirds, Grayham had provided the team an insight into Mitch’s high-flying football life.
And by high-flying, I mean Gary Moorcroft-esque high-flying. Mitch’s speccy this year over Macedon boy Matty Dick got to the Internet in a heartbeat. Just look it up.
I’d met Mitch Hannan earlier in the year, at Racecourse Oval in Woodend during my second game in Thirds. A terrific bloke who loved a laugh and wore a constant grin, Mitch had played for Woodend before, seconds and thirds a couple of years ago. He and his mate Nick, another Woodsman of yesteryear, had come down to roll the arm over and swing the lumber. We were none the wiser of either’s cricketing prowess. Nick was a classical batsman and a good laugh, and got amongst the runs, with 61. Mitch on the other hand didn’t trouble the scorers.
But it was with ball in hand that Mitch made his impact.
With free-flowing blonde hair and the body of an athlete, Mitch looked like a typical pace bowler. I’d asked my captain during our innings whether he could play. I remember Blacky shrugging, until Nick chimed in.
“Yeah, he can bowl. I wouldn’t face him.”
Nick used to play McIntyre, First Grade cricket where the player run laps and actually look very fit. They also bowl at quite a rapid pace.
So the following week, I finished an over of my right-arm dibbly-dobblers, to see Mitch warming up at cover. We’d seen him ping a few throws in over the pegs – from the fence – earlier on, and take a pair of catches of his dad’s bowling, so by the looks of things he could push a few deliveries through a tad quicker than yours truly. So he handed in his cap and sunnies and proceeded to mark out a fairly nondescript run-up.
“Left-arm over,” grunted the umpire, almost asleep, and Mitch trotted in.
About half a moment later, the leather thudded into Dazza’s gloves. Everyone went still, dead silent. Daz wore an expression of either shock, terror or sheer surprise. He ran back another 15 metres or so for the next ball, as did the slips.
Mitch had ripped one through quicker than we’d all seen in this grade of cricket. Ever.
And so he went on for the next seven overs. Plod in, whip the arm around, thud the pill through, do it all again. The bowling action was relaxed, the run-in was more like a Sunday jog and the attitude was light-hearted. The poor batsman had eyes the size of the ball, and wore more than a few on the body.
Nick was giggling. We won by a fair bit.
While Mitch had the fairly average figures of 0/6 off seven overs, it was the impact he made that summer afternoon that mattered, a spell I (or the batsman I think) will never forget.
Fast-forward ten months and the funny, friendly guy who was famous for terrorising the Sunbury Cricket Club was drafted by the Melbourne Footy Club at pick 46. You’ll see that he’s a forward, 22 years of age, with a good leap and a clean pair of hands. He stands at 189cm. He has many accolades from many coaches. He is a ripping bloke. Melbourne are lucky to have him.
To see Mitch drafted was a joy. He plays the game well, for the right reasons.