August 15th – A Day of Reckoning

Tuesday, August 15th this year was a day tinged with sadness for me. It was the day Bob Murphy announced that the 2017 AFL season would be his last. For the next 10 days I held out hope that the old Western Bulldog warrior would become part of another fairy tale, having cruelly missed out on being part of the Doggies’ drought-breakers a year earlier.

 

It wasn’t to be. The Dogs lost to Port Adelaide in their Ballarat baptism four days later and all vestige of hope for another ‘miracle’ flag was the following week when we were pipped by Hawthorn in what proved to be Bob’s last game. His final kick was a shot at goal that missed by so much that it sailed out on the full and into a bay of cheering Hawks’ fans.

 

The typically self-effacing Bob later claimed the kick as the perfect way to end his career, describing it as proof positive that his time at the highest level was up. For me, though, the kick – even if did go nowhere near finding the mark – embodied Bob’s career. He put every last ounce of his effort into that kick, as I’m sure he has done with every task he’s taken on since arriving at the Kennel in 2000.

 

Every last ounce. As I grow older, I try and embrace that phrase in everything I do.

 

Tuesday, August 15th was also a red-letter day for me for another reason. On that day, I turned 52 years and 165 days old. Many would know me as a numbers man but there is no numerical or mathematical significance to that particularly specific age. Rather, it is the age of England cricketer Wilfred Rhodes on April 12th, 1930, the last day of the last of the 58 Test matches he played for his country.

 

No one older has ever taken to the field in a Test match. Just as Bob’s time was up on August 15th, so was mine – at least in terms of any hope of playing Test cricket.

 

Of course records are made to be broken, so perhaps there is still hope for me. With that in mind, late August saw me head down to Ramsden Street, Clifton Hill to renew old friendships and saddle up for another season of cricket at ‘The Hill’.

 

The previous season had been a bittersweet one for me. I played in our vets’ (over 40) inaugural premiership side, but my open-age team – our 3rds – fell at the second-last hurdle, losing narrowly to St James Malvern, a side we’d beaten earlier in the season, in a semi-final.

 

I was lucky enough to take 7 for 27 in that match, and I briefly flirted with the thought of giving the game away and going out on a personal high. But surely I can’t go out with anything less than a premiership, can I? In previous recent seasons I’d finished the season as part of a premiership team and asked the opposite question – can I give the game away while still riding a wave of success?

 

For me, no matter which of those questions I put to myself, the answer is the same – no. Which can mean only one thing – I will keep playing cricket until I can play no more.

 

My brain is very happy with this decision. After all, the Clifton Hill Cricket Club is full of a wonderfully diverse bunch of people with whom I love spending my time. The thought of winning a cricket game – and a premiership – is appealing, of course, but it is the people that see me heading down to ‘Rammo’ each Tuesday and Thursday for training, and on weekends for games.

 

My knees, though, have made it clear to me that they are not enamoured with the concept of a never-ending career. They’re as wonky as ever, perhaps more so. They’ll need to be looked after one way or another. Right now I’m 75.6 kg, a little too heavy for someone who just scrapes in at 168 cm. (I used to make the 168 cm mark more comfortably when I had hair.) The first thing I need to do is get back to around the 66 or 67 kg mark. (As someone born on 3/3 at 3:33pm weighing 3.3 kg, I’m thinking either 66.6 – 2 x 33.3 – or 66.7 – exactly 33.3 from 100 – would be good.)

 

I’m working on the weight loss, and will pay the odd visit to my local physio as I load up on ibuprofen before each training and playing session.

 

In the meantime, the season has started, Clifton Hill 3rd XI’s first match getting under way last Saturday against our semi final vanquishers, St James Malvern. In a two-day match, we lost the toss and fielded.

 

Scheduled to come on as first change, as our two openers tied their two openers down I recalled my first over of the previous season. It had not been pretty. From memory I conceded 23 runs (although there was a dropped catch that went for four in amongst the carnage). I was determined this year would not start off as badly.

 

I lived up to my hopes and started with a maiden, then bowled another and another. After half a dozen overs my figures were 6 overs, 6 maidens, no wickets for no runs.

 

Eventually runs began to flow from my bowling but fortunately so did a few wickets. I finished with 3/57 off 23 overs, not quite below the two-an-over mark I usually set for myself but acceptable with three wickets to go with it. Next week, we will be chasing 219 in 72 overs. The match is evenly poised.

 

For me, the significant figure out of Saturday was not the 57 runs conceded or the three wickets, but the number of overs I bowled – 23.

 

I have not bowled 23 overs in a day since the 1980s. While I am reasonably pleased with my bowling figures, I am elated I actually survived to tell this tale. I cramped up badly on Saturday night and could barely move on Sunday. But I was back at training on Tuesday and got through the full session.

 

If I can survive that, I should be okay for at least another summer, especially if I can knock off those extra kilos to give my knees a helping hand. As a slow medium bowler, I haven’t lost any pace because I never had any! And I’d like to think I’m also a shrewder bowler than I used to be, even if I am old. (Incidentally, old mate WILFRED RHODES is an anagram of SHREWDER, IF OLD.)

 

Bob won’t be running around anymore, and I fully respect his decision. He has given me more happiness as a player than I could ever have hoped for – and while he wasn’t on the field on Grand Final day last year, we would never have won that flag without him.

 

But while Bob enjoys are well-earned retirement from footy, I’ll keep going with my cricket, hopefully for a long time to come.

 

In the meantime, I’m off to stock up on Radox. I think I might be having a lot of long, hot Saturday night baths this summer.

 

 

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Thanks for the reminder of my spare 10kg Gigs.

    I’ll be looking out for your regular weekend cricketing tweets.

  2. Happy to oblige, Swish! I’ll try and track my season’s progress via some more Almanac pieces over the summer.

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    23 overs ?!! Mate, you are getting better with age. If it gives you joy and purpose why stop? I’m glad I got a chance to play VETS with you for a couple of years Gigs. Good memories old Skipper. Rock on Tangles !!

  4. Thanks Phil. It does give me great joy! At least most of me – maybe not my knees! Remember you’re always welcome back at the Hill, Phil – as player or spectator or just for a chat.

  5. Well done Gigs. Like Swish, I too will be looking forward to your cricket tweets. When you say get back to 66kg – how long since you were last there?!

  6. So good!
    Such a sadness when these guys play their last game, kick their last goal etc.
    May it be a good season

  7. Great stuff Gigs my knees are long gone keep going while you can ! Look forward to more articles on your summer exploits

  8. Thanks guys. DJ, I reckon I was last around the 66kg mark in the early ’90s, if not earlier.

  9. Luke Reynolds says:

    Great effort Gigs. Sadly our Association has gone to all 50 over and T20 games. I’m highly unlikely to bowl more than 10 overs in a game again.

    Look after those knees, you’ve got plenty of games left in you!

    Still also playing in the vets team?

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