A view of Australia from fine leg – Game 7: Narrandera Cricket Club

Not that long ago it seemed everyone played cricket. Teams were always full and competitions were thriving. Times have changed. Getting young people to commit to a full season of cricket is a challenge, particularly in the bush. Part time jobs, the lure of the big smoke and numerous other factors make it a hard slog. It is the passion, hard work and commitment of quality cricket people who keep the game alive. In my trip to the NSW Riverina on the weekend I saw a proud cricket community who are fighting the good fight.

 

Mrs D and I jumped in the car on Friday night from Melbourne amid the backdrop of the bushfire crisis sweeping the country. A pleasant drive through the countryside was interrupted just outside Wodonga. The emergency warning cut across the radio – A grass fire was out of control just outside of Wodonga. Police and the Fire Brigade were not on the scene, and we were advised to prepare for the worst.

 

In the space of thirty seconds, we had suddenly got ourselves in strife. Soon, we spotted the flames, which were way too close to the highway for comfort. In the moment I was scarred. My immediate thoughts went to what if… the kids, were thankfully in Melbourne and not on the trip. The fear of not knowing what to do and what lay ahead was very real for a few minutes until we could exit the highway to the safety of the Albury. If the wind had been blowing in the direction of the highway things may have turned out differently.

 

For a brief and scary few minutes I became aware of the unpredictable force that is a bushfire out of control.

 

I’m not sure what the world record is for sculling a Carlton Draught stubby, however, I gave it a decent crack at the hotel, in an effort to calm the nerves.

 

I awoke Saturday morning to blue skies, comfortable temperatures and a great day for cricket. The weather in Australia never ceases to amaze me. We set off from Albury to Leeton, where I would be playing an away game for the Narrandera Cricket Club.

 

As a Wagga boy I knew the region well. In my last match in Narrandera 25 years ago I was playing in a junior rep carnival. I got future NSW player Dominic Thornely to dolly a caught and bowled back to me, which I subsequently dropped, when he was on 5. Luckily he didn’t make me pay and was dismissed soon after for 126.

 

I arrived at the Leeton Cricket Club home ground – Mark Taylor Oval. Tubby was born in Leeton. A nice synergy also given he played a lot of his junior cricket in Wagga for the Lake Albert Cricket Club, where I first played and fell in love with the game. A quick look at the deck suggested that the 45 degree temperatures had done some damage. Not quite like the Peshawar wicket Tubby scored 334* on, but enough to suggest I would be able to get the ball to move off its axis.

 

I was back in first grade again, for the first and only time this tour. It did feel good to be back on the main stage. Things were tough in the competition. Not too many years ago Narrandera used to have several teams in its own competition, however, the region now has just a three team competition – Narrandera, Yanco and Leeton.

 

I meet Brent – my skipper for the day. Brent is a proud Narrandera local who has given his heart and soul to the club over the years. A bloke that just loves his cricket and wants to do his part to ensure anyone that wants the opportunity to play has every chance.

 

The rest of the boys filter in. Chop Sullivan, Big Brodie Perram, Anthony Craig the keeper and so on. I get a feel early that this was a good crew. That delicate mix of banter and blokes who were keen to have a red hot crack.

 

We got sent in. I was a tad apprehensive when I saw Adrian Axtill in the Leeton lineup. Just when I was leaving Wagga 20 odd years ago, he was one of the quickest blokes going around. A very talented player who went to the big smoke and now finds himself back home passing on a lifetime of cricketing experience to kids lucky enough to share a field with him.

 

We make a good start, with Chop, Brento and Anthony Craig the keeper knocking through some runs. I make my way to the crease at 3 for 70 odd. Axtill is waiting for me, however, thankfully its just seam up off a few paces these days. I knock a few around, before making the error of edging one. The next pill has a few extra kms on it (every ex tearaway has a few when they need them) and I’m late and slow on it, loosing my off peg. We get rolled for a little over a hundred.

 

A good start has Leeton on the ropes early at 2/2 and we keep control for the majority of the match. Brent takes the team with him and his darts cause some chaos.

 

I am managing to extract some sharp turn. At the wise old age of 41 I’ve been giving the ball a rip, rather than the methodical darts I went to in my hey day. Bowling is much more fun I must say. I manage to sneak a few. I will be asking Cricket Australia to advance me 2 million dollars to drop this pitch into the fields for my remaining 3 matches.

 

We get the win. I spend the last few overs chatting pleasantly to a young Leeton kid (all of 15 years) who is out doing the mundane square leg duties. You would not meet a more polite kid. I wish him well on the rest of his cricketing journey, just as mine nears the end.

 

The match is played in a fantastic spirit. Throughout the match there are times to be serious and also times to have a laugh at your own expense. The kids on the field today were learning how the game should be played.

 

There is simply nothing as refreshing as an ice cold beer after an honest days cricket. The teams mix and share stories of today and yesteryear. The Leeton Cricket Club make a greatly appreciated donation to the cause.

 

The Beers are flowing at the Charles Sturt Hotel later in the evening. Families mix with sunburnt cricketers and locals. A great community feel. The club generously run a raffle for the cause. All up we raise close to $500 for Gotcha4Life. This is a brilliant result for a small country town, and speaks volumes of the people involved.

 

I have had a brilliant day. I witnessed first hand all that is good about community bush cricket. It would be easy to just sit back and say its all too hard and just let the competition fade away. These blokes on the field (and the administrators) are fighting tooth and nail to keep cricket alive so that they and more importantly the next generation can enjoy their moment in the sun playing this fantastic game.

 

I hope these guys keep at it. Hats off my friends.

 

Check out Craig’s reports from his other matches 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.

Comments

  1. Roseville Rocket says

    Good work Craig!

    Hard to believe only Narrandera, Leeton and Yanco left in the comp….

    And games not played on the Narrandera Sportsground?

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Another great yarn in your journey Craig. A 3 team comp- must get repetitive playing the same two teams over and over. Multiple grades in that competition?

    Really enjoyed your interview on “The Cricket Tragic”, fantastic to see a couple of shots from your game at Pomborneit included!

  3. craig dodson says

    Thanks Rocket, no they have a separate cricket ground in town now.

    Yep, Pombo came up well Luke..

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