Although I’ve been here several times in recent years, this is my first visit to Tumut as autumn beckons. You can see that the leaves are about to turn and so the colours are something to behold. Another visitor I know has described this part of the world as “heart-achingly beautiful”, a description that it’s hard to disagree with, regardless of which season we’re viewing. Even the recent fires in the Minjary area have lent an appearance that is so Australian bush.
Another first is the opportunity to take in the business end of the local cricket season. I’ve heard about these clubs and players for about six years now, so it’s good to finally see the faces and watch them in action. The juniors had their grand finals on Saturday morning while the seniors played their semi-finals. Everything that is good about the game was on show as well as it’s frustrations, unpredictability and sometimes unfairness.
The junior finals were played at Gundagai’s picturesque Anzac Park. My previous visits here have been in winter with the trees bare and ghostly, the temperature struggling to get to double figures, and scarves and beanies the order of the day. Now it’s in full flush, a bright and crystal clear morning in the low 20s, and sunscreen the order of the day.
Both sub-junior teams (ages about 8 – 10) feature one female player. Unbeaten Gundagai took on their main rivals Colts on the Owen Vincent Oval and, by game’s end, it wasn’t hard to see why the Gundagai outfit hadn’t tasted defeat. Colts batted first with their little lady, Molly Manns, opening the batting. It wasn’t Colts’ day, however, and they were rolled for a less than impressive 33 in a little over an hour. It was Gundagai’s lone lass, Jordan Cooper, who did the damage with impressive figures of 2/1/6/3, including a double wicket maiden. But even modest totals make mums of the chasing team nervous, as I discovered when I bought a hotdog at the start of the Gundagai innings. “It’s a funny game – you never know what could happen.” But after a couple slow overs to start, a brace of boundaries soothed the nerves and the locals went on to a comprehensive 10 wicket win. In a show of respect for the better traditions of the game, the two teams lined up for post-match handshakes before young Jordan was awarded “player of the match”. All done and dusted by 10.30am.
The juniors’ (12 – 16 year olds) final saw Tumut Blues, chasing a fourth consecutive title, up against Gundagai on Stan Crowe Oval. Batting first, Gundagai was travelling steadily at drinks on 2/67 but a stuttering second session saw them reach 119 after their 25 overs – it looked defendable but perhaps about 15 short of the mark. Jack Lemon and Will Herring both made 20s while, for the Blues, Liam Dobbie took 4/11 and snared two catches. Tumut batted steadily in the chase and by the break were on an even footing at 2/66. In contrast to Gundagai, however, Tumut stepped up the pace after drinks, rattled the bowlers and fielders, and rolled on to win by 6 wickets with 6 overs to spare. Dobbie was in the mix again with an innings of 20 (a great allround effort for the morning) and he was well supported by Adam Hawkins, Jack Prior and Flynn Piper-Bye. It was a competitive match played in good spirit with post-match presentations showing generous appreciation for the lads’ efforts during the season.
Back in Tumut, the first semi-final of the Tumut and District Cricket Association at the Bull Paddock pitted first placed Coolac against archrivals Wyangle for a place in the grand final. With storms forecast for later in the afternoon, there was always the chance of an interesting conclusion. As is often the case in bush cricket, several families provided the bulk of the two teams. For Coolac, it’s the Grahams and the Scotts (7 in all); for Wyangle, it’s the Sheddens and the Bulgers (5 in all). Coolac batted first on a good looking turf strip but were well contained to tally only 67 off 31 overs. James Scott, together with Tim and Andy Graham, scored the bulk of the meagre total. For Wyangle, the Bulger brothers, Neil and Vince, took a combined 16/6/20/8, all the more remarkable because their aggregate age is somewhere around 125! Neil, 65, played for the Australian indigenous team and the ACT as a youngster and still bowls an immaculate line and length as a left-arm tweaker. His fizzing top-spinner speared in at leg stump is local folklore. “Young” Vince, who won’t see 60 again, is a leggie, bowls a great line and included three lbws in his bag of five.
The clouds got darker as Wyangle set about the chase with Jason Bulger (a comparative youngster in his 40s) riding his luck to get to 39no. With thunder rolling ever closer and light rain gradually increasing, Wyangle got to 2/60 after 12 overs. To their great credit, the Coolac boys played on in the light rain and didn’t try to slow down play or ask the umpires to leave the field. Then the heavens opened and a downpour forced a halt. Fifteen overs are required to constitute a match, so Wyangle was so close to a win in more ways than one, if only they could get back onto the field for three more overs! The rain passed quickly, the umpires inspected the pitch, found it still potentially playable and called for a 20 minute pause to see if the wind would dry things out sufficiently to resume. However, another shower near the end of that period was enough to force the abandonment of the game with Wyangle so close but so far. Ever the optimist, Dave Shedden quipped that it would give his team the chance of playing an extra game next weekend, so that can’t be bad. He then headed off to his car to get a carton of beer for the Coolac lads to reciprocate their generosity from a previous match. The Wyangle lads took it all in good spirit – “That’s cricket”.
Saturday night saw the season’s end function for the players of the Ori Rangers. A family affair and a bit noisy but well supported, the Rangers celebrated their three wins for the season (up from just one last year). With a collage of season’s photos in the background and Andrew “Pothole” Symmons in charge, well supported by wife Kylie, players and supporters were generously acknowledged with appropriate trophies and fun awards to much merriment. This is real grass roots stuff, eminently enjoyable and a celebration of community. Every club needs a “Pothole” character, people who just get in and get it done with no fuss.
A sunny Sunday brought with it the second semi-final between Tumut Plains and the RSL Lippers at the beautiful, tree-lined Riverglade Oval. Riverglade nestles beside the Snowy Mountains Highway and is, I’m told, the favourite ground for local players because of its excellent surface and pretty setting. Can’t argue with that. RSL got off to a horror start to be 3/1 after just 7 legitimate deliveries with numbers 1,2 and 3 all dismissed for ducks. At 12.35pm, I felt sure I’d be home comfortably to see the NRL replay at 4.00pm. Enter Craig Sercombe, local sporting enigma, full of swagger and bravado, scorer of 92 off about 40 balls a few weeks back. Sercie is one of those blokes who thinks defence is that thing built around de-yard. You could use any or all of the following to describe his batting style – swashbuckling, cavalier, heroic, arrogant, contemptuous, bludgeoning. On this occasion, he scored 42 off 22 balls and was dropped 4 times along the way. But he shifted the momentum and allowed Jason Back (71no) and Greg Crampton (62) to consolidate before leading the way to a respectable final total of 9/200 off their 40 overs. Matt Beer (5/35) and Michael Langridge (3/48) were best for Plains with Langridge very unlucky to have several chances put down off his bowling.
Plains had their heads down after a great start and there was a sense of foreboding as they set about the chase. A good, steady start saw them get to 74 (Manuel 48, Sturt 33) without too much bother before wickets fell to successive balls with Langridge ( at number 3) again unlucky to be given out caught behind for a golden duck. From there it was a procession with part-time bowler Daniel Mech helping himself to 4/21 off just four overs. Exit Tumut Plains for a total of just 152. RSL now go on to play Wyangle next weekend for a place in the GF against Coolac.
So yet another great weekend of sport in Tumut and surrounds. Tonight it’s the last round of the league tag competition, another first for me to see. Can’t wait. And tomorrow a hit of golf with another local character, “Chappy” from the Royal – now that should be educational!