A view of Australia from fine leg – Game 9: Port Fairy Cricket Club

There is something special about playing cricket in the country. Every time I head out of the city to pull on the whites I can feel it. Sometimes I think I know why, other times I can’t put my finger on it. Perhaps I’m just sentimental, having spent the first 20 years of my life in the country? Game 9 at the Port Fairy Cricket Club reinforced all I love about the game when it is played outside the city limits.


Mrs D and I packed up the kids on Friday morning and jumped into the heavily overworked pale blue Camry and headed off for the three and a half hour drive from Melbourne to Port Fairy – a pretty little coastal town in south-western Victoria.


A pleasant drive, with the kids immersed in counting cows as we pass paddock after paddock. Mrs D and I find the time to talk, which is not always a given, given the frenetic speed our house operates at during the week.


This match would be a little different. I actually knew someone in the team! 20 years ago I had played a season of club cricket in Melbourne, with Port Fairy Cricket Club Life Member Steve Dwyer. Steve left the big smoke to work at the Post Office in Port Fairy. We had bumped into each other only a handful of times in the last two decades, however, when it came time to do this adventure I knew he was worth a call to see if he could get me a game.


Back in the day while I was busily accumulating runs, wickets and dropped catches I was blind to the fact that I was developing lifelong connections with people. It is perhaps the greatest thing that the game of cricket can offer. Over a lifetime in the game I now have a vast network of good people that I can ring up (or bump into in the street), having not spoken for years, and then pick things up just like it was yesterday.


Steve and his lovely family hosted the Dodson tribe for a Friday night BBQ – the kids played backyard cricket all night while the adults caught up over a relaxing ale and discussed the events of the last 20 years. A fantastic evening. An illustration of time passing was the fact that I would be playing with Steve, plus also his eldest son tomorrow!


I arrived at the ground and was greeted warmly by my teammates and even the opposition. A few local radio spots during the week and a mention in the paper (I am enjoying my 15 minutes of fame before returning to mediocrity) meant most people knew why I was in town.


No coins could be located for the toss. Flipping a credit card was deemed unsuitable so the Captains went with the good old fashioned bat toss. We lost and were asked to bowl by the Koroit Cricket Club – our nearby local town rival. The teams were a mix of experienced (yes, bald) cricketers and youth, some at the tender age of 12.


After the loss of an early wicket Troy Richardson entered the crease – apparently a multi sport talent and former player at Port Fairy. As he effortlessly stroked his first two balls to the cover boundary I knew he would be hard to get out. My thoughts were confirmed as he knocked up 70 odd. The typical country gun sportsman.


I grassed catch number 3 for the tour – it just wouldn’t feel right to catch one at this stage. Steve made me feel better by grassing one as well (before redeeming himself with a screamer later).


The straight breaks came out well enough to get a wicket and not leak too many runs. We are chasing just shy of 200 from our 40 overs. On several occasions, I look out to see if my kids are cheering Dad on? Turns out they are engrossed in a 5 hour battle in the nets with local kids, which sounds like it is carrying more intensity than the match being played by the grown-ups.


In the tea break I’m given the floor to speak to all the teams from both games. Normally it would be a hard gig to grab the attention of 44 blokes who have just spent two hours in the sun and just want to rest the legs and fill up by scoffing their body weight worth of mini sausage rolls. I was however met with such a warm country reception and lost count of the number of players and public that wanted to stop for a chat. I was made to feel very much at home.


I would be in at number 7, so plenty of time to continue the conversations in the pavilion. Turns out I should have just stayed upstairs and opened up a few ales early as for the first time this tour I was not required at the crease.


As was the case with Koroit, we had our own gun bat up our sleeve. It was an absolute pleasure to watch Kalon Wilkie deliver a belligerent 143 not out as we charged to victory, only three down. A sure sign Kalon has made a bucket load of runs over the years was his nonchalant celebration when he reached three figures. The first (and sadly only) time I got to one hundred I was dismissed two balls later – in my defence, it is difficult to see the ball when you still have tears of joy in your eyes!


The match is played in fantastic spirits – nothing even remotely approaches a nasty sledge. Plenty of banter is given, but it is all in the right spirit and received well. The two gun bats were also commending the young kids when they delivered a good pill. The youngsters that took the field today received an invaluable education into how the game should be played and were also given a masterclass into how to build an innings of substance.


One theory I have as to why cricket in the bush, perhaps carries a greater generosity of spirit than in the city, is because most people know one another to some degree. The odds are you will cross paths in your personal or professional life in some capacity. If you carry on like a pork chop it will follow you.


As teams chat over a beer in the pavilion I am introduced to Wally Sheehan – the man who the pavilion we are drinking in is named after. Wally is Mr Port Fairy Cricket Club. Now in his 60s he first arrived at the club in the late 1970s, where he took up the President position. A lifetime of service saw Wally recognised with an Order of Australia Medal last year!


Wally has no interest in pumping up his own tyres or talking up the OAM. He tells me he was never much good as a cricketer, yet, he has a sound theory about wicket keeping, ‘why do they bother crouching then coming back up to catch the ball?, you should just start (and stay) standing up and save your energy for other things.’  Wally, Cheste, Phillipa and countless others have been helping flog raffle tickets for me while I have been on the field today. Good people just wanting to pitch in and lend a hand.


The club kicks in profits from the bar and combined with the raffle we raise over $600 for Gotcha4Life. A brilliant effort for a small country town.


I am sad as we leave Port Fairy behind in the rear view mirror. A weekend full of catching up with mates, competitive and good spirited cricket and warm country hospitality. A chance to also relax and spend some quality time with the family. You just can’t beat strapping on the pads and having a hit in the country – it is unique and special. I’m glad I got to do it one last time before the adventure is over.


To follow the adventure:


Web: www.aviewofaustraliafromfineleg.com


Facebook: fromfineleg


Twitter: @fromfineleg


Check out more stories from Craig Dodson 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. A few points to consider:
    1. I wholeheartedly agree that one of the great things about cricket are the friendships that are fostered – many of my closest mates are those with whom I played (footy also).
    2. The post-match beer is just a wonderful time, more so if the match is played in the right spirit (as this match obviously was)
    3. Yes it is your 15 minutes of fame, but you are in no way mediocre, my friend.

  2. craig dodson says

    Thanks Smokie, appreciate you following the adventure with such interest.

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