Almanac (Junior) Cricket: That time when you believe anything is possible


At 12 years of age you believe anything is possible. If you happen to be a cricket obsessed kid then this means the Baggy Green is within reach. It is that last magical time of childhood (at least in my experience) before your sporting reality kicks in and you get a picture of where you will likely end up on the pyramid.


My eldest son is 11 and asked me the other day about my cricket experiences when I was his age, which sent me on a dive into the depths of the storage facilities at Dodson HQ, whereby I found my old Riverina PSSA Representative Cricket Cap.


I throw out important financial documents and file nothing in my life, but I’ve kept every important cricket cap I’ve ever had.





In an instant I took my mind back to 1990. A time when I used to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the telly that only had 2 channels, every family drove either a Commodore or Falcon and I just happened to be the best 11-year-old batsman in Wagga Wagga and secured myself a ticket in the Riverina district rep team to go to the State Primary School Championships in Lismore.


I wasn’t a religious kid, however, I do clearly remember hiding behind the cricket nets at the trials and praying to God that the selectors would give me the nod. It meant that much to me at the time. I promised not to swear for a week in return for the divine intervention. I broke the promise 13 seconds later as I mumbled “F***, I made it!” as the selectors announced Craig Dodson from Tolland Primary School was selected.


Lismore? I was told it would take 2 days to drive from Wagga Wagga and was up somewhere near Queensland – In my 12-year-old mind, which hadn’t travelled further than Sydney, this seriously felt like going on an Ashes tour to England. A 9-day itinerary with 5 days straight of cricket.


Dad called around and I managed to grab a second pair of creams for the trip from a teammate. I can still recall the arrogance I displayed to my Primary school chums as I left school and wished them all the best with Social Studies class next week as I was off the play cricket!


Dad provided some direct advice on the morning of departure. Just play straight, son, and get behind the ball and remember your manners.


I didn’t know anyone as we boarded the Greyhound Bus at the Wagga Train Station. There were kids from throughout the Riverina Region. As our careers (or lack of) played out, the two most notable alumni from the Trip were Dominic Thornley the former NSW Allrounder and Adam Perry – a NRL premiership player with the Canterbury Bulldogs.


I was seated next to my fellow opening bat for the Trip, a friendly kid named Russell from Henty, whose mother happened to have provided him with a ‘travel bag’ full of chocolate for the trip. We quickly bonded over Jaffas and Cherry Ripes as we ripped into the Bounty, much like Boony must have ripped into the tins on the way to London in 1989.


Our coach was Mr Bee – a local teacher from Wagga, handy cricketer in the day and a mate of Dad’s. A good man, given the challenge of managing the emotional roller-coaster that is a busload of 12-year-olds, many of whom travelling away from home for the first time.


I needed Mr Bee’s support early in the trip. Dad had given me $100 spending money for the trip. Quite a bit for 1990. I remember staring at the 2 crisp $50 bills and wondering what the old bloke whose picture was on them had done to deserve the honor? (NB – Lord Howard Florey was best known for the discovery of penicillin)


We were all billeted for the trip but had to pick up meals and incidentals. I went to dive into my Rip Curl wallet on one morning early in the trip and to my horror my wallet contained nothing but fresh air? Panic set in. Had I been robbed? Had I simply lost the money somewhere? I was skint and in tears. How was I going to tell Dad I had lost half a week of his pay?


I fessed up to Mr Bee, who simply dove into his own pocket and handed me $50 and said that Dad could fix him up when I got home. I guarded that $50 with my life for the rest of the trip and spent it with the frugality of Scrooge McDuck. As it turns out, I found the original money on the last morning of the trip, having fallen out of my wallet and under the bed. I think this experience may have led me to being tight with a dollar in the years since.


I strode to the centre of Oaks Oval in Lismore for our first match, pretty confident that I would handle anything these kids from the Barrier District Cricket League (Broken Hill area) would throw at me, and also fiercely determined not to rip a hole in my best pants as they had to last the 5 days!


The step up in level was evident early as I experienced a concerted sledging attack from the young Barrier opening bowler who couldn’t find a way past my Gray Nicolls MegaDrive Twin Scoop. To date in my ‘career’, I had never experienced someone calling me a f***wit before and threatening to kill me. I found I didn’t mind the contest, however, a lack of fitness and application saw me perish in the 20s. Not a bad start. Surely those NSW selectors would have noticed my Steve Waugh-esque back foot cover drive that took me from 13 to 17?


It is fair to say leaving the lunchtime nutritional purchases to my own discretion was always looking for trouble. Five days straight of the $2.80 minimum chips and coke special at the milkbar opposite the oval really didn’t do much for the waistline or leave me with much in the tank for the afternoon sessions.


One kid from one of the city teams went through my defences early in one match and sent my stumps headed back to Sydney. A shock to the system.


I’m not sure if kids still get billeted these days, in a world where child protection laws are far more stringent, but the chance to be billeted was an awesome experience for me. I stayed with a great family who took me out to see the sites and make me feel like one of the family. I wish I had kept their details.


All the Riverina Boys got on well. Friendships were formed through a mutual love of the game. Like any cricket team there were different personalities. A few focussed and highly-strung kids, a few knockabouts, some characters…We had a ball together.


As the week wore on I held my own on the field but didn’t go on with my starts. For the first time in my life I saw other kids that were far superior than me. Kids that scored hundreds or bowled like the wind. I guess the trip did knock that magical bulletproof 12-year-old confidence and aspirations out of me. I left with the feeling that I probably wasn’t going to get that treasured Baggy Green.


All that being said it was worth paying the price. A magical week I will never forget.


To read more by Craig Dodson on the Almanac site click 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. Love your cricket nostalgia Craig; always a highlight.

    I’m memorabilia fan too and have affection for a commemorative shirt, key-ring (still use my 2008 Glenelg Footy club one), stubby holders (my Footy Almanac collection is used frequently and likely tonight) but there’s something extra special about a sporting cap or a hat and my Kapunda and Kimba Cricket Club caps, along with my Greg Chappell hat are, at least in my mind, heirlooms. Their evocativeness is peerless. As is your Riverina representative cap. Thanks.

  2. Mark ‘Swish’ Schwerdt says

    Being picked in a Rep/Association team was the highest accolade a kid could get (apparently). How long did the bragging rights last Craig?

  3. craig dodson says

    Thanks Mickey…Love the old GC floppy!

    Swish, I held onto some credibility until 16 then fell back into the pack.

  4. matt watson says

    Similar questions are being asked by my boys about my cricket ‘ability’…
    I tell them it is a hard game but easy to love.
    And to enjoy junior cricket all they can.
    Watching my eldest play, geez you know it is a tough game regardless of the ages…
    Good story Craig!

  5. craig dodson says

    Thanks Matt. I coached my sons u12s this year and it was a tough education for the kids as they learnt to ride the highs and more often the lows. A hard game as you say mate but we all keep coming back..

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