‘Josh joins cricket’s travelling caravan…” by KB Hill

A tall, slightly-built young fellah powers purposefully across the crisp sands of Burleigh Heads……striding past picturesque pandanus palms and pine trees……offering nary a sideways glance at the bevy of bikini-clad belles and bronzed Adonises who dot the beach…..

He has not long returned to our shores from the 50/50 World Cup which has captivated the nation – or, should I say, most of the planet……..

Its magic moments flash through his mind…….Glenn Maxwell’s once-in-a-lifetime double-century against Afghanistan…….India’s unbeaten run to the Final….. the sensational timing out of Sri Lanka’s Angelo Matthews……. highly-rated England crashing out of the preliminary rounds………the brilliant individual performances of Adam Zampa and the much-maligned David Warner…….

As to that Final at Ahmedabad…….well, the atmosphere was something else………. 92,500 pumped-up, screaming Indian fans doing their best to will their team home…….And, as their heroes stumbled in the closing stages, thousands began to drift home…disconsolate…shattered…

He admits he still has to pinch himself that he’s become a part of cricket’s travelling caravan, albeit playing a minor role……But it’s the stuff of dreams for this rising sports journo…..




It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was watching Josh Schonafinger steadily make his way through local cricket as an enthusiastic Anil Kumble-type leggie and a gangling, defensively-oriented, upper-order right-hand batsman…….




His initial sporting foray had been into tennis, he says…….”But that didn’t work out for me because I was a bad loser, so Mum and Dad made me switch to something a bit more team-orientated.”

Thus, it was footy for the Wangaratta Rovers Thirds and cricket for Rovers-United……

When he began, as a 16 year-old in WDCA A-Grade ranks, he was part of a battling Rovers-United line-up…..The Hawks had experienced a period of success but had fallen on tougher times ….

Hence the necessity for him to attempt to craft every innings in the manner of his favourite player, Justin Langer…..

“I just liked the way ‘JL’ went about it,” he says. “Nuggety…no-frills….a knuckle-down and get-the-job-done sort of player.”

He even used the pet Langer ‘blade’ – the Kookaburra ‘Belta’.

“Unfortunately, I wasn’t blessed with too many of his batting qualities…….I certainly wasn’t a beautiful stroke-player or anything like that…..I had to graft and work hard for every run…..So I could relate to him on that level……”

One old team-mate remembers a typically stoic three-hour vigil at the crease against Yarrawonga-Mulwala whilst wickets were tumbling around him……Another quipped that Josh could, against the trend of play, unleash a shot of immense power……almost resembling a butterfly beginning to emerge from a cocoon…..

When the two Wangaratta clubs, Rovers-United and Bruck, joined forces to form a fresh entity in 2015/16, Josh was part of it when they reached the Grand Final – only to be defeated by Yarra-Mulwala.

His older brother Jacob, who had taken 7/17 and scored 34 in the Semi the previous week, was one of the rising stars of WDCA……..”I’ve always admired the way he’s played the game, and it was great to line up alongside him……He was, and continues to be, an inspirational figure to his younger team-mates…..”

But Josh wouldn’t be there to share the Hawks’ future success…….


From around Year 10-11 he made the decision that he really wanted to work in sport…..

“I come from a family with a distinct journalistic bent…..My Pa (Jeff Whitten) covered motor-sport for most of his life, then Mum and my uncle Pete also got involved in that space…..So it was a natural progression for me……”

He attended Latrobe University in Bundoora and a practical part of his studies included undertaking an internship in the Media Department of the Collingwood Football Club.

In the same year – 2016 – the Uni had an exchange program which involved sending a couple of students to the Indian Premier League, connecting with King’s XI Punjab….

“I was one of few people who applied and, sure enough, I was sent over there……It was a pretty cool experience, a real eye-opener, I can tell you…..”

“Everybody describes how passionate the Indian fans are but it’s hard to know what to expect until you’re there……..just the way they worship the players……It’s phenomenal, really….”

For a touch over two years Josh was part of the social media team at afl.com and, among other media roles, was the Western Bulldogs beat reporter and covered the 2018 and ‘19 AFL Draft periods.

In an effort to hone his presenting skills he was also the host of a ‘Dynamic Skills’ Mentoring program, an on-line football coaching course which gave him valuable experience in script-writing and front-of-camera skills.


Josh played a season and a half with Sub-District cricket club Plenty Valley after graduating from University. He was starting to perform okay in the Seconds and believed that he was close to cracking the First XI when he landed a job with Cricket Australia in 2019.

“I had to give up playing because there was so much weekend work involved……It put a comma on my on-field career, but it was a sacrifice I had to make…”

“I really miss playing…….More than the runs and wickets, it’s the camaraderie, the team spirit, and the good fun that goes on within a group, that you miss…..”

He and his partner Bella settled on the Gold Coast a year or so ago. It was a seamless transition in his role with Cricket Australia as he was able to combine working from home with commuting to Brisbane whenever he is required at the office .

Thus, he resumed his dormant footy career with the Burleigh Bombers in the QFA’s Second Division.

“It was the first footy I’d played since the Rovers Thirds…..the team’s comprised mostly of expat-Victorians….It’s been good fun…..”

“They put me down back …..I was just hitting my stride last year when the opportunity to cover the Ashes Tour came up…..So I had to put the season on hold and head over to England….Mind you, it was a pretty good trade!“


Josh’s main role was to be the host of the ‘Unplayable’ Podcast, a highly-popular production sponsored by Qantas, alongside colleagues Louis Cameron and Jack Paynter……

“We were required to provide daily episodes of the Test series, which was fantastic…….I mean, what an Ashes series it was…..one of the all-time classics…”

“To be there for all those five matches and seeing the drama, the craziness……it was the thrill of a lifetime….. impossible not to get swept up in it…..The crowds were engaged and completely packed every day…..It’s some of the best atmosphere I’ve ever witnessed at a cricket game…”

“Some of the players weren’t too happy to go out on boundary-line duty because they’d get heckled like there’s no tomorrow……At some of the grounds you’ve got blokes who’ve been drinking since 10am…….It gets pretty rowdy out there….”

The ‘Unplayable’ Podcasts proved highly successful….

“Throughout the Ashes series we were blown away by the size of our audience…….We projected to Qantas that we’d get x-amount of listeners, and we achieved nearly double what we’d promised…..”

“We continued on for the World Cup at the end of last year and the numbers in India were unbelievable, particularly for that Glenn Maxwell innings…..”



Josh says that, as a member of the media, he gets fairly close to the players when on tour…..

“You’re chatting with them most days, interviewing them at training and the like…..For the most part it’s a professional relationship…..”

“I must say, after they won that World Cup, I was on the ground capturing some vision and a few of the players came up and gave me a hug as if I’d done something……..I think they were just hugging anyone who looked vaguely like an Australian ! “

Another highlight of his overseas ‘expedition’ was being able to interview English Soccer’s ‘Man of the Moment’ – Tottenham Hotspurs’ Aussie coach Ange Postecoglou……

Josh is also keen to do more sports-writing in the future…..not so much features, but more newsy articles, and the day-to-day coverage of cricket……..”That’s the stuff I’m keen to keep improving on…..”


The long hours, he says, are the only impediment to his job as a cricket journo….

“Test days can last forever……You’re watching the match, then you have to do the press conference, write articles and do the podcasts……So they can stretch out to 10-12 hour days…..”




“But it’s worth it…..I want to do more podcasting, interviewing and commentary…..My role is evolving a lot, though……..Who knows, I could stay in this role, or it could look completely different in 2-3 years’ time.”

He’d like to do a bit more work behind the microphone but realises that the opportunity doesn’t immediately present itself…

“I think you have to wait until someone drops off the perch…….I was talking about it to Jimmy Pierson (the Queensland wicket-keeper) the other day, and he reminded me that it’s a bit like his job….You can be the second best ‘keeper in the world but if the best one’s ahead of you you’re not going to get a game…You’ve gotta be lucky in that regard and commentating is the same…..”


Josh says that, if he didn’t work in sport – or, in particular, cricket – he doesn’t know what he’d do….

“I can’t really see myself doing anything else…….I like to think it’s the result of pursuing my goals, working hard and putting a lot of unpaid time into it……”

“After all, in my book, it’s the ‘dream job’…..”







This story appeared first on KB Hill’s website On Reflection and is used here with permission.
All photos sourced from KB Hill’s resources unless otherwise acknowledged.

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