A view of Australia from fine leg – Game 10: Royal Park Brunswick Cricket Club

This cricketing adventure of a lifetime always had to end at some point. Initially I investigated several grand ways to do it. I looked at retracing Don Bradman’s footsteps in Bowral, lavish interstate cricketing getaways and there was even talk of a celebrity match with me in centre stage. At the end my mind came back to one option – finishing with a simple game with 10 former teammates at my old club, Royal Park Brunswick. I am so glad I did!


I spent my cricketing ‘prime’ at Royal Park Brunswick Cricket Club and finished my career there 12 years ago (before my John Farnham like comeback this season). The club is situated just a few kilometres from the Melbourne city centre. It has always been comprised of a diverse combination of players drawn from a few families who have featured several generations play and transient players (like myself) who found themselves in Brunswick and surrounds renting and wandered in off the streets.


Getting the band back together to form a team was simple enough. I was relying on the former cricketing CVs of teammates and conveniently ignoring that several had enjoyed a substantial hiatus from the game. I wanted blokes who had a bit of skill (back in the day), liked a laugh and would happily indulge in a cleansing ale after the match – pretty sure this was the Australian Test Team cricket selection criteria in the 1970s and 80s.


Given the friendships I formed over my time at Royal Park Brunswick it was a very easy 11 to put together. I was slightly concerned when Woody messaged me on Friday to tell me that he had spent the previous evening gluing his spikes back onto the soles of his boots, after they had blown up during a pre-match test run. Scooter started posting photos of anti-inflammatory products he was purchasing pre-match. Cuey even politely informed me that even though he had two steel rods recently inserted into his back, he was good to take the new pill (down-breeze of course).


Walking back into the rooms was like stepping back through time. Thankfully, very little had changed. Pencil, Davo, Howie and Romper where still there to welcome (actually sledge) people and the rustic charm of old premiership photos, honour boards and cheap plastic chairs set the scene. Unfortunately, two fantastic club legends in Billy Mac and Sponge had passed away since I last pulled on the whites.


The greetings were warm and genuine. I felt like I was back at home. My son Jack asked why I didn’t have as much hair as I did in the 2005 first grade premiers photo on the wall? I advised him that years of bowling off-spin take a toll on both hairline and personality – only off-spinners can enjoy a day taking 2/72.


Scotty (a former Olympic Decathlete) suggests a warm up is in order (once an athlete, always an athlete). Despite several groans of protests, out we head. The bodies are moving slowly although the bowling and catching mannerisms stay the same. Not sure what the opposition are making of all this?


I ask the team for 3 of the 11 players to pull cameo’s out of somewhere. If we do that we should get the chocolates.


I manage to lose the toss and we are asked to bowl. Smeats rattles the timber early and claims wicket number 200 for the club, after playing his last match 18 years ago (quite some time to be stuck on 199!). The recognition is well deserved.


The spells are short, however the quality decent. G-Man has reinvented himself as a seamer and Condo keeps it tight. We are on-top and its clear that the competitive fire still burns brightly for most of us, although each ‘questionable’ fielding effort is met with savage ridicule. I check with the umpire to see if it is possible to be charged for an offence against a teammate?


For the first time in my cricketing career I manage to roll directly onto a ball and suffer an immediate corky (no grudges for the ordinary throw Hally!). I roll out some serviceable offies and grab a couple of wickets.


The opposition are rolled for 103. Things are all going to plan.


My research this year has shown me that there are 3 staples that are rolled out at afternoon tea time across the country – Lamington fingers, ham and cheese sandwiches and sausage rolls. It is like feeding time at the zoo as 22 Neanderthals tuck in, most having not eaten anything since their Vegemite on toast at breakfast.


I get chatting with Boyla. We avoid the topic of his last over. Back in the day Boyla used to enjoy doing push-ups at the non-strikers end to help get himself in the game. This was incredibly distracting as a batting partner, yet thoroughly entertaining for the abuse it generated from the opposition.


We get off to a flyer, with a 70 run opening partnership. Talk in the stands is about kids and past cricketing glories. Several stories are embellished to a level that renders the truth almost unrecognisable.


G-Man tells me about his recovery from a stroke a few years back (at a very young age). I can only imagine what a scare this was for him and his family. Its great to see him alive, let alone playing the game he loves. It makes me ponder my health and the need to keep fit into the future.


To the left of me players partners are chatting over cheese and biscuits and enjoying watching old men try and act like teenagers. To the right of me players kids are setting up a makeshift cricket pitch. Everybody seems to be enjoying the day.


Finally a few wickets fall as we get close to the finish line. I’m thrust in the middle and despite encouragement I am unable to finish with a glorious six, rather hitting a prudent single to claim victory – the biggest risk I ever take is going outside with wet hair!


Post match sees a flurry of handshakes, hugs and photos. The highlight of the day is to see how genuinely happy the players were to pull on the whites and have one last hit together. A few months ago no-one would have even thought today was a remote possibility. I think we will all take something special from today.


In cricket we chase runs, wickets and premierships. While we are busy doing that we accumulate a network of mates with whom, although it may be years between catching up, we can always pick things up like we saw them yesterday. All brought together by the fantastic game of cricket. In the blink of an eye our cricketing careers are over, yet the friendships will stand the test of time.


The sun sets and we kick back in the plastic chairs and sink a few of our chosen ‘recovery’ fluids. To me this is bliss. Good company and banter for as far as the eye can see.  The generosity is flowing and $1000 is raised for Gotcha4Life. A simply fantastic fundraising result, which speaks volumes for the people involved at the club.


I’m emotional to get to the finish line of the adventure. When I started I genuinely didn’t know if I could make it? 10 clubs, 10,000 km and a chance to meet some fantastic people, all while raising funds for charity. Outside of meeting Mrs D and having kids, it is the best thing I have ever done in my life! I am proud and exhausted in equal parts.


Like most clubs, Royal Park Brunswick is fighting a battle to attract and retain players. People just don’t gravitate to the game like they did when I was starting out at the club. It’s hard work, yet a staunchly committed group of volunteers keep this mighty club afloat.


18 years ago I selected Royal Park Brunswick Cricket Club for the simple fact that someone from the club took the time to respond to an email and give me a call (two other clubs didn’t). Here I am now with a lifetime full of memories and mates. I simply could not have chosen a better way to end this epic cricketing adventure.


Read about Craig’s 9 other games HERE



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About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.


  1. Shane John Backx says

    I played for the Brunswick part of RPB when they were just Brunswick Districts way back in 1978/79. VJCA Senior 2nds division

  2. Neil Kimpton says

    Well done Craig!
    Another memorable day for all of us in the proud history of our club

  3. Thanks Craig. I have enjoyed your journey. Well done on the fund-raising. What are your stats for the season?

  4. Well played, C Dodson.
    I have enjoyed being taken on this fabulous journey.

    Question: did you play cricket (as a junior, perhaps?) prior to RPB ??

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    You know that you now have to hang on until the boys play seniors, don’t you Craig?

    Very well played.

  6. craig dodson says

    Thanks Shane, if i am correct i think the merger was early 80s

    Thanks Neil, great to meet you on Saturday.

    Noel, not great, but at 42, 12 year hiatus and not training i’ll take them. 10 wickets at 16, 75 runs at 10.5

    Thanks smokie, played 10 years in wagga as a junior and then a few years in the firsts, then a season in Sydney grade cricket before moving to Melbourne.

    Swish, will probably come out of retirement again at 50 to play with the kids!

  7. Quite a summer. Thanks for keeping us up to date on the Almanac site.

    And congratulations on all you have done for bringing this issue to people’s attention through cricket.

  8. Craig I reckon you nailed it where you ended the journey a privilege to have played a small part.
    I think back to the night of interviewing you at Payneham where you could have heard a pin drop no small achievement in itself where you and the subject of mental health overall had the crowd listening and engaging the wise one in Kate Evans pointing out later on that it was a special atmosphere that night
    V v v well played,Craig Dodson

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