Almanac Book Review- ‘A View of Australia From Fine Leg’

 

 

 

 

An email arrived from Craig Dodson just prior to the commencement of the 2019/20 season. He’d decided to undertake a cricketing journey which would see him play for ten different clubs around Australia, raising funds for mental health charity Gotcha4Life. He asked if my club would be interested in hosting him for a game. You bet we were!

 

 

I’d met Craig at several Footy Almanac lunches and events, had enjoyed his company and his writing on cricket and footy. After being a part of the Pomborneit CC Division 1 flag winning team of 2018/19, in my old age I was appointed captain of our 2nd XI as we entered a third senior team for the 2019/20 season, fielding a Division 2 team for the first time in 12 years. The previous season had seen players miss out on selection most weeks. But now we could easily cater for Craig’s involvement. A wonderful thing to be a part of, and as a bonus maybe he could help us get a win?

 

 

‘A View Of Australia From Fine Leg’ beautifully captures Craig’s journey around Australia in his quest, highlighting the clubs and characters involved who devote their time to community cricket. The welcoming atmosphere at all the clubs he became a (brief) part of. The self expectation to perform. A journey that took him back to his roots at the Lake Albert CC and to his family’s future at the Macleod CC.

 

 

The story of Match 7 was particularly evocative. Nearing Wodonga on the way to play for the Narrandera CC, Craig and his wife Sophie heard an emergency warning over the radio. Australia was in the middle of a bushfire crisis, and despite earlier indications his travel route would be safe, a new grass fire was out of control. They could see and smell the fire, told to stay in their car and hide under a blanket if need be. Thankfully it didn’t get to that and Craig was part of Narrandera’s 1st XI’s win over Leeton.

 

 

Match 3 saw Craig fly to Adelaide to turn out for the Payneham Dukes Cricket Club, home of the Almanac’s own Malcolm ‘Rulebook’ Ashwood. His anecdote about a (very) early morning chat with a flight attendant as to his reason for flying to the city of churches is highly amusing. Payneham won and Rulebook sold many raffle tickets despite C.Dodson failing to trouble the scorers.

 

 

From playing 6th XI Grade cricket for Brisbane’s Northern Suburbs District club, home of Ian Healy and Jimmy Maher, using one of Maher’s ‘player’ issued bats and making a few, to getting a send off after chopping one onto his stumps playing for the Sheffield CC in North West Tasmania as his team was smashed by Burnie, Craig’s experience covered so much of the cricketing spectrum. The positive life experience he, partner Sophie and their sons Jack and Harry had on this adventure shines through in every chapter; a time they will surely always treasure.

 

 

Forewords can often be formulaic and unessential reading. Not so in this case. Darren Lehmann writes openly about his own issues as well as showing full interest and engagement to Craig’s endeavour. The character of DS Lehmann shines through, he has much to give and is a valuable asset to the cricket community. Gotcha4Life founder Gus Worland also contributes an introduction to the book.

 

 

As for Match 1, we didn’t get the win despite and through no fault of Craig’s presence. It had rained the night before and most of the morning. Truth be told, we wouldn’t have played had Craig not made the trip. Division 1 and Division 3 were completely called off. I suspect our opponents, the Ecklin CC, would have preferred to adjourn to the bar every bit as much as my team. Craig’s description in the book of it being 8 degrees feeling like -4 is spot on. To Ecklin’s credit, we played. I got to bat with Craig, a huge highlight. The misty rain coming in sideways didn’t help our batting. A tall man, his front foot driving reminded me of another tall man, the very much front foot Tom Moody.

 

 

Craig’s bowling was ideally suited to the wet, skiddy pitch. His offies, delivered from a great height, yet always accurate, netted 2/11 from 7 overs. He kept us in with a sniff. Ecklin passed us 5 down with 7 overs remaining. He spoke well at the after match function. While his boys were playing cricket out on the oval with my boys.

 

 

His chapter on playing for Pomborneit is wonderful to read as someone who was also involved. The kind words about our tiny town, our club and the members who spoke to him mean a lot. Stephen “Churchy” Murphy is possibly the most loved man at the Pomborneit CC; to the joy of all, he played in his first premiership in the club’s 2019/20 Division 1 flag win when we went back-to-back. Craig’s final lines for Match 1: “About twenty kilometres down the road, I received a text from Churchy saying ‘I hope you felt the magic today that we all feel when we walk out on the Pomborneit Cricket Ground’. I sure did Churchy, I sure did!”

 

 

Reading the book I have no doubt Craig ‘felt the magic’ at all of the clubs he represented. He chose his clubs with care and has told his story very well. A cracking read for anyone involved in a cricket club, a sporting club or anyone interested in travelling around some different parts of Australia.

 

 

A particularly poignant afterword covers the the effects the COVID-19 pandemic had on getting the book published, on the cricket clubs involved and life with home schooling. It’s a credit to Craig that he could get the book out so soon.

 

 

For the record, Craig got two votes in his game for us at our club vote count.

 

 

 

The book is available HERE for $20 plus postage.

 

 

 

 

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About Luke Reynolds

Cricket and Collingwood tragic. Twitter: @crackers134

Comments

  1. craig dodson says

    Thanks Luke, I am glad you enjoyed the book. I had a fantastic day at Pomborneit CC. My batting has been called many things (mostly unkind!) over the years so I’ll take the Tom Moody comparison and run with it!

  2. Luke ‘Great Man’ Reynolds, we all know that whoever is in your company is the most loved person at that time! xo

  3. Rulebook says

    Great stuff,Luke ( as always you sell yourself short ) as I have said elsewhere a pleasure to be involved
    I reckon,Kate Evans the wife of club coach,Ash ( Kate a v good cricketer in her own write ) summed it up best saying it was the best atmosphere that,Kate had ever felt the night when,Craig spoke and trust me for whole the bar to be quiet when,Craig was being interviewed was a true testament to Craig !

  4. matt watson says

    The book is on my desk, ready to be read.
    All I have to do is finish the book about the centenary Test.
    I bet Craig’s book is better!

  5. craig dodson says

    Thanks Matt, hope you enjoy it.

  6. Thanks, Luke, for a wonderful review of a book that I’m looking forward to reading very soon.
    Craig, well done on not just writing the book but for your fundraising for Gotcha4Life and for putting mental health firmly in the spotlight.
    Being the “guest player” at 10 different clubs, I think the view would’ve been much better from fine leg than short leg.

  7. craig dodson says

    Appreciate the kind words Malcolm. You were a big part of the day at Payneham mate.

    Churchy, hope you are well and thanks for the warm welcome you gave me at Pombo..

    Pete, appreciate it mate.

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