Cricket, tennis and Father’s Day brunch

The chorizo is ferociously tasty, and just short of generating physical pain. It’s as hot as the Henley Beach weather is not. Outside, Alex and Max are leaping over some wooden benches. Storm surges roll past the jetty in thunderous grey and white. Even the seagulls shelter under the eaves. We’re starting Father’s Day at a café.


Alex went to his first cricket training last Sunday. Worried he wouldn’t be good enough, he had told me repeatedly that, “Ty can bowl at 55 kilometres an hour, Dad.” Indeed, his mum confirmed that he had bowled at a Jason Gillespie cricket centre with a speed gun measuring the pace of his looping cricket delivery. Statistics can haunt us early in sport, and life.


Max batted first, and as the family expert, then showed Alex how to insert the box or protector as it’s now disappointingly known. What a curious sight, to see the boys bonding over a triangular plastic prism. Still brotherhood is a surprising beast and this shared skill is a most Australian thing. Not for the first time I considered a cricket box, and wiped a tear from my eye, although this was a parental observation, and not the wincing experience of an inadequate lower-order batsman on a dusty West Coast pitch.


Alex galloped in to bowl from an excessive run-up, all limbs and heart-breaking innocence. Max was back a pitch length as well, and reminded me of the Yorkshire fellow who once commented that a bowler ran too much before delivering the ball. “I don’t go that far for me holiday,” he noted.


He nodded as the coach advised on his action, listening well and taking it in. He’s made an investment in this sport, and already values his emerging place in this most Australian of pursuits. Too soon, his summers appear to be stretching out, in their endless, languid joy. He’s on his way.


Max and I went on his first school camp Monday, down to Narnu Farm on Hindmarsh Island. As a former teacher who gorged himself on camps early in his career, I reckon everyone has a lifetime quota. Although I reached mine years ago, I was excited. I was a volunteer.


I had some benevolent community-mindedness in jumping on that bus, but like many, a major motivation was to watch and learn, to see Max in action. Of course, I was going to spy on him.


As leader of Group 3 and its eight kids, we cycled through a set of activities including horseriding- the old gelding Pudding a class favourite; animal feeding- an escapee goat providing a highlight, as goats generally do, and finally; half-court tennis.


I played with Max and two of his friends. Between fetching balls from the neigh-bouring (sorry!) horse paddocks I discovered much. Dispensing with the medieval French scoring system we played first to twenty points. It was close throughout. If Max and his partner lost a point, there was no disappointment, just the fizzing joy of a close contest; an opportunity to go again, to share the action with his friends.


Self-appointed scorer, he’d jump up and down, proclaiming, 16- 15, and so on. He preferred it tight, to enhance the social connection. He had no wish to surge ahead, and claim an easy victory.


Great or errant shots with balls lurching about in exotic trigonometry offered little for Max. He simply wanted us: his mates, his Dad, himself, to zip about together on a tiny court in communal enterprise. He was entirely in the moment. That was his universe. I loved it. I’ve rarely been happier.


Later, in the bunkhouse, Max took himself off to bed around ten. Of the fifty kids, he was the first asleep, and I suspect, the first awake. One of his friends told me that in the morning, “Max told them funny stories” as they squirmed in their bunk beds with the sun struggling through.


The deputy principal was unsurprised that Max was done in moments. “He runs pretty hard.” I nodded, “He’s just the same at home.” Over his coffee the deputy continued, “He gives every minute a flogging, does our Max.”


I considered. Giving every minute a flogging. Beyond report cards, or NAPLAN results, this, I reflected, is exactly how I want them to tackle life.


Read Mickey’s previous piece about the first time his boys walked to school together.


About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Was that escape goat called James by any chance Mickey?

    Half court tennis – that was gonna take on the world and revolutionise our backyards. Do they still use those hard plastic racquets?

  2. Swish- goats being goats it was difficult to tell if that particular one was involved in pharmacological experiments. The school took their own full-sized racquets, which possibly accounts for the balls over the fence every minute.

    The half-court was the lava lamp of the suburban backyard, for a while.

  3. Seems like we can all learn a little from young Max, Mickey. On our recent visit, the scampish goats (climbing into other animals’ cages) and the emu that would pick a person and follow them around for a few minutes were the highlights… after the horse riding of course. All the fundamentals the same as when I went there on a school camp 30 years ago.

  4. Really enjoyable read good stuff,Mickey

  5. Thanks Dave. Like weddings at Ayers House, the school camp at Narnu Farm is somewhat of an Adelaide institution. My brother-in-law went there and many years later so did his son where he rode the same horse!

    Thanks Rulebook.

  6. That’s a moment in time, Mickey. Lovely.
    You have a happy knack for capturing these moments.

    Giving every minute a flogging sounds a fair return.

    And you can’t capture any moments if you don’t notice them.
    Or create them.
    Hats off.

  7. Under 12 conversation, Pechey St, Toowoomba, November 1974. “That’s Colin Lindenberg. He’s genuine pace.”

    He was.

  8. I love watching our boys play sport Er, and their athletic prowess or otherwise is only a tiny part of this for me.

    In the early part of his first soccer season Max lacked some confidence with the ball, but was very good in every goal celebration- rushing, patting, cheering. I enjoyed this. The belonging, the togetherness.

    JTH- in this world of bowling speeds the boys have often asked me how quick I was to which I’d say, “Don’t forget the value of line and length.” And then I’d explain this!


  9. Luke Reynolds says

    “Not for the first time I considered a cricket box, and wiped a tear from my eye, although this was a parental observation, and not the wincing experience of an inadequate lower-order batsman on a dusty West Coast pitch.” Superb line Mickey. The wincing. Funny for most on the the field. Apart from the wincer.

    Another great piece. Always enjoy following the Randall family journey.

  10. Thanks Luke. “Box” in a cricket context along with the generalised “moist” is among our funniest words. As an old school type I can’t call these pieces of equipment a “protector” and won’t. We all have stories about the absent-minded batsman who went out having forgotten his box, and suffered, to the raw delight of others.

    Remind me to tell you the story of my cousin- let’s call him Froggy- who enjoyed a certain notoriety, and was forced by his teammates, back in the 1980’s, to buy his own box. But, this is a story for the front bar of the North Fitzroy Arms. We’ll attend to it in 2018.


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