Joe Burns’ debut century: a win for the little guys

By Wally Wright



Less than a week after reading what I believe to be the best article written about the current state of Australian cricket, which emphasised the Australian public’s lack of connection with its national team, I have found a reason to believe that all is not lost for Australia’s national pastime.

John Harms was right on the money in his article, Here’s to cricket without the spin, in Wednesday’s (Feb 16) Courier Mail. Harms wrote: ‘People are feeling disconnected from the Australian cricket side. For a century or more there was a sense the national team was just that: the team representing the nation of Australia. When I played lower-grade QCA cricket for the University of Queensland there was a belief (as misguided as it might have been) that we were only half a dozen steps away from donning the baggy green.’

Being a Brisbane grade cricketer myself, I couldn’t help but agree with everything Harms highlighted in his piece, and I was not alone in my support of this voice of reason.

It may be a sign of the times that only a small percentage of cricketers at Northern Suburbs District Cricket Club read the “Viewpoint” section on that day but who that did became overnight fans of Harms’ insightful writing.

On Monday afternoon, I was given hope that Australian cricket can regain connection with its grass roots.

Joe Burns, a first grader from Norths, made 140 not out in his Sheffield Shield debut against South Australia at the Adelaide Oval.

Only 14 other Queenslanders have scored a ton in their first class debut and only three have been not out.

Statistics aside, what makes Joe’s achievement so special, is the affect it had on the members of his club.

Joe is a North’s man through and through.

He began playing cricket as a Wilston Norths junior, represented Brisbane North at State Championships, then moved on to Lord Taverners and Under 18’s at the senior club.

Joe was never given a free ride up the grades like some of his fellow Queensland squad members, he had to earn every promotion he was given, he started in fifth grade and he worked his way up to fourths, thirds, seconds and finally first grade over a period of five years, which is why he is so popular at Norths, everyone knows him and he knows everyone because there is a good chance that he has been their teammate at one time or another.

Drop by the Ernie Toovey Complex on a Sunday afternoon and you will see a group of North’s lower graders bowling over after over to Joe in the nets or out in the middle.

This small but devoted group give up their Sunday afternoons to bowl to Burnsey because they believe in his ability; they want to help him hone his game but mainly because Joe is their mate.

Scores of Norths players, past and present, collectively held their breath as Joe edged towards triple figures.

A number of them had been following Joe’s progress throughout the day on Cricket Australia’s website and I have a feeling that workplace productivity on the north side of Brisbane was quite low on Monday afternoon after Burnsey leg glanced Ben Edmonson for four to bring up his maiden ton.

I can guarantee every Norths player walked just that little bit taller on Tuesday as they went about their day, one of their own had made it to the show, one of their mates.

Having a North’s boy in the Queensland team is nothing new for the men from Shaw Park.

Less than seven years ago, the Norths First Grade team, at full strength, comprised of almost every member of Queensland’s Shield side.

Maher, Hopes, Hauritz, Johnson, Nash, Sullivan, Brant, Perren, Townsend and Hartley were all Vikings at one stage.

Us lower grade players occasionally saw them at training but we would never dare talk to them unless they spoke to us because they were seen as untouchable.

Some of them were great mixers and took time to talk to fifth-graders and first-graders alike but they were in the minority, which seems to be the case at most clubs that are home to State contracted players.

We were proud of their achievements but we didn’t share in their glory because we didn’t know them as people, we only knew them as Queensland players that occasionally played for Norths instead of Norths players that played for Queensland.

On Monday night, all of Norths, from sixth grade to first grade, shared in Joe’s outstanding achievement.

Joe embodies everything that John Harms loved about grade cricket in Brisbane when he was playing for University of Queensland.

Burnsey’s debut century gives us all hope that maybe, one day, if we take enough wickets and score enough runs, we too could be Shield cricketers.

On behalf of all the dreamers, Thanks Joe! Your century was a win for the little guys.

For more excellent cricket articles at CLICK HERE


To buy a copy of The Footy Almanac 2014 CLICK HERE


  1. Very kind words, Wally, and thanks for your terrific story on Joe. I look forward to reading the Wally Grout book. There are many reasons to love Wally – one is that he is a Theodore, and the world needs more Theodores – Arthur Theodore Wallace Grout. You also mention Ernie Toovey. I hope he is still kicking on. I’ve met him a number of times over the years. He was from out INglewood/Yelarbon way, and joined up. He was on the Perth when it was sunk and he swam all the way to Java. After a very long time in the water he got to a beach only to find he was naked. NOt a good place to be: naked and in hostile territory. He was going well – but of all things sunburn got the better of him. After his capture he spent his time in the POW camps of SE Asia. Thanks again. And congratulations to Joe and Norths. (I once took 4/12 at Mayne on a turning track).

  2. I grew up near Wests at Graceville and had the thrill of meeting John Bell, who at the time was the Qld captain at the fish and chip shop up the road from Wests ground. I was very impressed with his willingness to engage a young and eager pup whilst waiting for our orders. It seems the disconnect was not so great in former times.

    Although, I think I have previously mentioned Andrew Symonds giving my Aunt the shirt off his back when she told him during a chance meeting that her son was a big fan of his. Then again, he did have a bit of character!

  3. lee donovan says

    just thought I’d mention the first cricket book I ever read was My Countrys Keeper I must have read it a dozen times. What a legend the great Wally Grout was to a young budding wicketkeeper growing up on the other side of the country.

  4. thats exactly what I thought JTH was talking about Wally
    The disconnection between District/Grade and higher honours has widened.
    Back in the early 80s I worked with a young Dean Jones. To track the 19 year olds progress we had to call a Telecom Cricket info scoreline [1287 or something similar]. Every 10 mins you got a recorded message updating all matches underway that day. To avoid getting in to trouble the boys in the office rotated the calls and rang the scores via the internal phone system. Have a vivid memory tracking a ton in Newcastle on a sticky.
    And does your family get a royalty every tume someone in a bar says “Its your wally”?

  5. That’s the article I meant…thanks for the reprise

  6. John Butler says

    Good call Crio.

  7. I heard Wally W interviewed by Jim Maxwell during the Test about his recent biography of his grandfather “Its Your Wally Grout”. Sounded a good read about a great keeper and old-fashioned scallywag with a good heart. You can get it through

  8. Wally, I recalled this article again yesterday when I heard of Joe’s selection – have followed his progress keenly since your wonderful story.

  9. Terrific insight, Wally. Thanks.

    I love it when little guys win.

  10. Malcolm Ashwood says

    A win for the true aussie cricket system ( doesn’t happen much any more) good luck
    Joe Burns ! ( great story )

Leave a Comment