Never give up the chase for a baggy green!

 

At some point most of us abandon our childhood sporting dreams. Some sooner than others. Ability always gets in the way of imagination. It may have come 20 years later than originally planned, however, I can now proudly say that I have donned the famous baggy green!

 

Despite the Australian cricket teams attempts to rise above a recent spell of mediocrity, I wasn’t called on as a 40 year old second off-spinning option for the series against Sri Lanka. It was always going to be hard to get Trevor Hohns to take a second look at me after my 1/82 in the 2004/5 VTCA Senior Division 1st Grade Grand final (the wicket did make the Adelaide Oval look like a minefield, in my defence your honour).

 

My moment to don the baggy green came courtesy of an MCG tour during the school holidays, courtesy of the former Victorian leggie and once capped Test player Bryce McGain.

 

Why did the sight of a simple cricket cap of dark myrtle green colour cause me to feel like a 7 year old again? Why were my eyes as wide as saucers and my mouth gaped open? Why did I feel compelled to plead with the 6 year old who was currently wearing it on his head if I could have a touch of it? Truth be known, in that moment I probably would have hip and shouldered his 82 year old Nan out of the way if that is what it took to get my hands on it.

 

The baggy green cap has long been a symbol of national pride in Australia. Like anyStuartcricket mad kid growing up in the 80s, wearing stubbies, wielding a Symonds Tusker and placing McDonalds WSC posters on my bedroom wall, I dreamed of having my own baggy green.

 

The dream lived on for years, perhaps even a fraction longer than your average kiddie. My first doubts didn’t creep in until 12 years of age. I was picked to open the batting for Riverina at the NSW primary school rep carnival and state selection trials in Lismore (those 3 hours a day knocking a ball around in Mum’s discarded razamataz stockings paid off). I strode out to Oaks Oval as a pretty confident young chap, in my first set of velcro pads and a freshly minted David Boon autographed Gray Nic megadrive. The dream was still alive. 4 balls later as the ball cannoned into my pads whilst I was contemplating which shot to play, the first seeds of doubt creeped in.

 

I returned from Lismore with a few 20s under my belt and no state selection. No worries, just more time banging those stockings around I thought.

 

Three consecutive ducks as a 13 year old back in Wagga made the doubts grow louder. No worries, I’ll just change tact. Time to become a fast bowler! Oh, the dare to dream that a youngster possesses. Blissfully there is no room for common sense at that age.

 

Fast forward to 16 years of age and the dream of the baggy green is disappearing quicker than I can demolish a $15 chicken parma and Carlton Draught schooner Wednesday night special from the Watsonia RSL these days. I’m playing for Northern Riverina under 17s vs Southern Riverina and bowling to future NSW player Dominic Thornley on a postage sized ground in Narrandera. I deceive Dominic (perhaps with an alarming lack of pace for an opening bowler) and he offers a dolly return caught and bowled, whilst on 10. I fumble, stumble and swear (all simultaneously) and spill the chance. 3 hours later as Dominic waves the bat to acknowledge his 150, I can feel my grasp on the baggy green slipping further and further away.

 

Now 22 years of age I find myself at the start of a simply inglorious year trying my luck in Sydney Grade cricket with Eastern Suburbs. Perhaps I choose the step up in class to finally extinguish my dreams. Cue desperate career reinvention number 3 – I’m going to be the next Peter Taylor!

 

I made enquiries with the club secretary via phone and was told that I should fax a copy of my ‘cricketing resume’. What I produced was the best piece of fiction written since Herman Melville penned Moby Dick.

 

Not long after my fax arrived, I received a call from the club inviting me to pre-season training at Centennial Park. No dramas I thought. On a beautiful spring Saturday morning I chucked on the Mangoplah Cookardinia United Goannas footy shorts and my Lake Albert Cricket Club vest and made my way to training. I arrived late. Eleven blokes were doing a warm-up lap. Where was everyone else? Shit turnout for a club training session I thought.

 

I waited for others to arrive. Nobody did. I sheepishly made my way up to club coach and ex-international hat-trick-taker Anthony Stuart. Like a starstruck teenager I nervously introduced myself. Anthony took one look at the footy shorts and prematurely receding hairline and justifiably my stocks took a dive. He informed me that it was First Grade squad training. Shit, that fax must have been REALLY well-written.

 

I introduced myself to the cream of the Eastern Suburbs Cricket Club. A few handy ex-Shield players like Mark Patterson and Adrian Tucker, and a collection of other players well above my pay grade. Just fielding and fitness today. I was in trouble and everyone knew it.

 

Pre-year 2000 first grade fielding drills in Wagga essentially involved the Captain hitting catches to a semi-circle five minutes before the match started. I lived by the philosophy of a former senior player who liked to tell us there is no point being able to field if you can’t bat or bowl for shit.

 

I took more catches in the first 20 minutes of training than I had in the previous 15 years. It all looked so easy for everyone, yet I was grassing 1 in 3. The pace was relentless. The standard impressive. I was blowing hard. The harder I tried the worse things got. The blokes to their credit, were encouraging.

 

Ninety minutes later and I could feel the Grim Reaper approaching. The bats and balls were put down and it was time for sprints. Perfect, for a guy who was gassed, chaffing and couldn’t run 100m under 18 seconds at the best of times. Following the merciful end to the session I then proceeded to vomit for the next three minutes. I informed Anthony that I’d miss next week’s beach session at Bondi and reappear when the nets were put up. As I stumbled my way home to Kings Cross via a collection of drug dealers and ladies of the night I finally decided to let go of my baggy green dream.

 

I forged a decent-ish career as an offie plying my trade for the mighty Royal Brunswick Cricket Club in the Melbourne VTCA first grade competition. I got the privilege to win a flag, play against Stuart Broad and some other former internationals from the West Indies and Sri Lanka (whose names I can’t remember) and even dismiss an ex shield player (if you have a spare three hours I’ll tell you how). I retired at 29. I had had my fill and didn’t have the passion or commitment for cricket left in me to slowly slip down the grades as any hint of athleticism I had started to fade away.

 

I was essentially lost to the game until the last 12 months when my kids started to develop that same unquenchable thirst for the game I once had. They live for backyard cricket with Dad. It has been great to reignite my passion.

 

So there I found myself taking my scallywags on a school holiday tour of the MCG, hosted by Bryce McGain and Sam Harper of Renegades fame. After a tour of the change rooms, ice baths and finding out about bowling load restrictions (gee time has changed since I was 17 and ordered to bowl in the nets for 2 hours straight in 42 degree heat on a Thursday night, to earn a game in the firsts), Bryce pulled out the mystical baggy green to show the punters.

 

A big hats off to McGain I must say. If I had my own Baggy Green it would be kept under 24 hour protection by Armaguard! It must be a thrill though for him to see the expression on the faces of kids BIG and small when they try the cap on. A Baggy Green used for goodwill and the enjoyment of others. Such a small piece of cricketing clobber that means so much, to so many.

 

I made sure to capture some photos of Harry and Jack for prosperity. At the time they probably thought why is Dad putting this on my little head (I’m sure they probably would have preferred Sam Harper’s Renegades cap). In time I hope for it to be a precious memento, although I’ll need to cross my fingers and toes that Test Cricket still has a relevance in time to them (and others).

 

I wore McGain’s cap for only a few seconds, just long enough for Jack to take a photo. Whilst fleeting, I did feel for a few seconds like the little boy from Wagga Wagga who dreamt big. In a middle aged life full of mortgages, key performance indicators and skin cancer removals off a balding scalp it was a moment to really drink in. Did I look like a bit of a dickhead? Yes. Did I care? No.

 

I hope my little scallywags Jack and Harry continue to dream big and chase that baggy green for as long as they can. As for me, the late Bob Holland did debut at 38 and Mrs D still can’t pick my arm ball….Best I hold on for that phone call from Trevor Hohns…

 

 

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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.

Comments

  1. Love it, C Dodson.
    (If the cap fits…)
    Bravo.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Thanks Craig. Unexpected pleasures like that are the best. Hope your boys will appreciate the significance one day.

  3. Good stuff Craig both aspects resonate re the dream to wear the baggy green love the mayo re your ability in the fax and coaching with Dizzy one day he bought along his baggy green to show the kids and just like you I was far more spellbound than the kids

  4. Nice.

    What’s the team up Wagga way who are green and gold? Footy/cricket?

  5. craig dodson says:

    Holbrook wear green and gold JTH…ive probably forgot someone as well..

  6. lucky bugger!

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