Almanac Cricket: Party Pies with Stuart Broad

While watching the Big Bash the other night, I leaned over the couch and proudly boasted to Mrs D that I’ve played against that Stuart Broad bloke on the telly. “I know, you have told me that at least 100 times over the last decade”, said Mrs D in a flash.

 

In 2005, a young and impressionable Stuart Broad made a visit to the Western Oval in Park Street to take on the Royal Park Brunswick Cricket Club. A little over 12 months later he was playing ODIs for England.

 

Broad was out in Australia learning his craft with the Hoppers Crossing Cricket Club in the Victorian Turf Cricket Association (VTCA) in Melbourne. A sort of ‘finishing school’ for his junior cricketing education. The opportunity to play against ‘real men’ who worked 9-5, drank, sledged and ate party pies for afternoon tea when it was 40 degrees outside in the shade. No polite English schoolboys or cucumber sandwiches in sight.

 

Broad’s reputation had preceded him. We knew he was the son of ex-80s Pommie Test batsman Chris and that he had played junior rep stuff back in the UK. It was exciting to get a chance to take him on. A chance to rub shoulders with a bloke who might make it big one day. Most of our own dreams of Baggy Greens faded by the end of primary school.

 

As a Pommie with a famous cricketing dad, it is fair to say he had a pretty big target on his back. By the time he reached Royal Park it was mid-season, so I’m guessing he had heard it all and learnt to stand on his own two feet.

 

The VTCA is a weird mix of players. Talented juniors, ex-District first graders chasing cash, Bushies with talent and overseas pros all mix with average cricketers. A good standard of cricket is on show in the top few divisions. Over the years I played against other international players from the West Indies and Sri Lanka and a handful of State players in the competition.

 

The Royal Park Brunswick boys were a diverse tapestry. We were captained by ex-Bulldog AFL player Adam Contessa, arguably one of the best players in the competition. Good with bat, ball and Carlton Draught. Scott Ferrier, a former Olympic Decathlete (and son-in-law of John Inverarity) swapped the shotput for a Kookaburra and took the new pill. I used to follow Scott in fielding drills and curse my parents for not providing me with any fast twitch fibres. A good mix of blokes and decent cricketers who liked a drink after dark and indulged in Billy Mac’s famous steamed dimmies and hot doggies after training on a Thursday night. My ability to bowl clinically dull offies and competently take the piss out of most blokes kept me in the team.

 

Hoppers Crossing won the toss and elected to bat. Broad came out to open. Turns out he was opening both the batting and the bowling. With a gentle undercurrent of vitriol chirping away in the background he looked a pretty good bat. Played straight and knocked it around well enough. It was evident the kid could bat a bit, yet there were no flashes of brilliance that suggested Test tons were around the corner.

 

I was observing from my customary position down at fine leg – I possessed the athleticism of a 78-year-old who was recovering from a broken hip and a had a rare ‘ability’ to do the Sydney Harbour Bridge pose over most balls hit in my general direction. Contessa made me run from fine leg to fine leg each over.

 

Some bloke started chatting to me. Cordial conversation at first. Then he started talking about the game. Observations on the field, the pitch etc etc. Upon closer inspection it was actually Chris Broad. He was in town on ICC referee duties.

 

Any thoughts I had of sledging Stuart went up in smoke after I started chatting to Chris. You can’t in good faith call junior every name under the sun and then casually stroll back to fine-leg and resume a chat with the old man. I didn’t have that much hide. Mind you Chris was a big lad and could probably belt the suitcase out of me. I still remember when he used his Duncan Fearnley to smash all his 3 stumps out of the ground following a dismissal.

 

After knocking around for a half dozen or so Stuart nicked one from our Decathlete and was on his way. Soon after I took to the bowling crease and prayed for some loose stones to help make the ball move off its axis. Throughout my spell, Chris offered advice and good-natured support. He suggested trying balls that were well beyond my pay grade. It was fascinating to chew the fat between overs and some of it must have actually rubbed off as I managed to get a tidy 4 for (yes I do only tend to write cricketing pieces that correspond me with playing well…funny that).

 

Hoppers Crossing was knocked over for 98, well short of their allotted 40 overs. The usual Royal Park Brunswick Cricket Club afternoon tea spread of Party Pies, Tim-Tams, Ham and Cheese sangas and weak lemon cordial was on offer. Nothing like walking out to bat 5 minutes after scoffing down 6 party pies. Stomach cramp or excessive flatulence were bigger risks than getting your off-stump knocked out.

 

Broad took the new pill for Hoppers and settled into his work. Nice smooth action and hit the right spots, yet it was evident that he was lacking a bit of muscle and strength. Those balls which were getting up around our openers hips would be up around the throat with another 10kg.

 

Matty ‘Woody’ Corrigan stepped inside a few attempted bouncers from Broad and sent them to the fence. When Broad was slicing through our Test team in the 2013 Ashes Series, Woody would send me numerous texts offering his services to fly economy to London and take Broad out of commission again.

 

Our batsmen ran down the total easily and Broad bowled well enough, taking 2 for 30 odd. His visit hardly took Park Street by storm, yet he showed enough glimpses and good technical skills that you sensed he was going to be a player on the rise when he grew into his body.

 

Other than that he seemed a nice polite kid who was enjoying his Australian adventure. Out of his comfort zone and away from family, learning the value of sunscreen and a Greg Chappell Floppy hat, like countless other Pommie kids who grace Australian fields each summer. It was funny to reconcile this kid with the man the Aussie public were viewing as enemy number 1 following the ‘not walking’ incident.

 

As the season developed Hoppers Crossing was bundled out in the semi-finals and the Royal Park Brunswick Boys saluted in the GF.

 

I read with interest a recent article in which Broad credited this experience of playing cricket in Australia as a youngster with helping to develop his ‘edgy and competitive’ cricketing style. It’s sort of cool to think I, and many other countless suburban cricketing warriors that season, may have played a small part in helping the development of a 300 Test wicket-taking cricketer. Pity it was for the enemy though.

 

Since that day in 2005 our careers have taken different paths. Broad has captained England and is well on his way to being in the top echelon of fast bowlers produced from his country. I now spend my time lobbing gentle throw-downs to my four year old son in our driveway, following a two-decade career of mediocrity which featured brief flashes of competence. I have now made a New Years resolution not to bore Mrs D with my Stuart Broad story anymore and quietly watch his achievements from the couch in silence.

 

WBA cover jpeg version

 

Presenting…The Doggies Almanac 2016

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. James Grapsas says:

    Terrific article, Craig. Keep up the good work.

    Stuart Broad has come a long way. It’s impressive that he has commented positively in public about his formative days in the VTCA.

  2. Dave Brown says:

    Top stuff. Were he Australian of course we’d love his combative nature. Never stop telling the story!

  3. Good read Craig.

    stuart Broad has turned out a superb cricketer, top bowler, handy with the bat,and certainly performs well against us. I cringe at he rubbish in the News Ltd papers during the 2014-15 Ashes series when they tried mocking him a s the player without a name. This was their puerile comeback for him standing his ground in the 2013 Ashes series.

    It’s intriguing seeing the career path of his father. From his display in the bicentenary test of 1988 to be a high ranked referee in the ICC. They say poachers often make the best game keepers.

    Stuart Broad is a top cricketer. Thanks for sharing the memories, Craig.

    Glen!

  4. Ripper tale Craig. The people we meet hey!

    Stuart Broad has always puzzled me. He never looks like he’s going to get a wicket as he runs in, then always looks likely once he lets the ball go.

  5. Peter Warrington says:

    I think Broad has taken 5 in a session something like 7 or 8 times. Incredible achievement.

  6. Great stuff, Craig.
    For what it’s worth, I reckon Stuart Broad is really bending his back when bowling for the Hurricanes – not just here to go through the motions and pick up his pay-cheque like some (many) of the other imports.
    I wonder if he will catch up with his old Hoppers mates?
    By the way, I saw Adam Contessa make plenty of runs – he is a gun.

  7. Terrific tale Craig I heard Stuart left a positive impression here but its still hard to hope he goes well against the Aussies! Love the connection with his dad too. Cricket has a way of creating lasting gentle memories.

  8. Nice yarn Craig. Lots of good lines in there- “Good with bat, ball and Carlton Draught.” He reminds me of Flintoff- a bloke you’d love running around for us.

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