Seasons in the Sun (Part 6): Fine times and $2 fines

As I awkwardly park at W.A Smith Reserve, I notice that the ground seems very oddly shaped.
“It’s very wide and very short,” I observe to the Benevolent Leader.
“We’re not here, we’re over there,” he replies.
‘Over there’ is the smallest ground I’ve ever played on. From the stumps to the straight boundary is no more than thirty metres.
“Christ,” I whisper. “I could hit a six on this ground.”
“No,” the Leader flatly refuses. “Play the ball not the bowler, play the ball not the ground.”

Today the mighty Lower Plenty Thirds have been strengthened with the bat – Noogs, Huddo, Maestro and Trav Ramone have made way for Jacko, Heata, AT and Steansy.
However drama strikes before a ball is even bowled.
“I’ve forgotten my pants,” Mantis hisses to Bronty.
Most unfortunately for him, Wellsy overhears.
“That’s alright, Mantis,” he says, hiding a mischievous grin with a look of philanthropy. “You can have my spare pair.”
He promptly pulls out a pair of baggy Elder Communion creams that would look ridiculous on Krusty the Clown. Liam responds with silent disbelief that resembles the ‘Five Cougars’ ad. He dives back into his cricket kit and emerges with hitherto unfindable pants.
Wellsy, King of Problem Resolution, strikes again.

The Benevolent Leader wins the toss and elects to bat.
“I know it’s a small ground boys but nothing changes,” he reminds us. “Play the ball, not the ground, yeah?”

As we’re delivering throw downs to Charmer and The Mantis, chaff starts to rain from the sky. There’s no wind and we’re in the middle of suburbia. It’s not quite falling frogs or swarming locusts, but there’s a touch of apocalyptic eeriness nonetheless. It’s a bad omen – one that foreshadows our top order collapse.

Second over in, Wellsy snicks a catch to first slip. Two overs later, Mantis is bowled whilst obligingly leaving a straight full toss (The Charmer says later, “I asked him if he forgot that the guy bowls inswing and he said, ‘Yep’”). The Charmer slashes a couple of cuts with characteristic deftness over the slips cordon.
“They’ll probably think they almost had him on those,” Jacko grins.
Unfortunately he’s right; Charmer chances his arm one too many times on his beloved cut. This is an unprecedented and unpleasant situation.

As he’s coming off, The Charmer says, “Y’know, I heard about twenty sledges and only one was against me – they were just chipping each other.”
The Stars are up and about. It’s becoming clear that they are Masters of Banter.
Many clubs have the Two Bucks Rule – minor infractions such as dropping a catch or turning up late result in a $2 fine that goes towards the end of season trip. The Lalor Stars are either right wing fine fascists or are planning to go to Las Vegas come March.
Bronty is struck on the pad coming well down the pitch – the bowler is the only one to appeal.
“Two bucks, Griff!”
“C’mon, I had to try – ”
“I said, two bucks, Griff.”

Next over, Griff is sent to silly mid-wicket. Bronty drops a back foot block onto the pitch.
“Two bucks, Griff!”
“’Cos you weren’t walking in.”
“I’m on the edge of the pitch – ”
“I said, two bucks, Griff.”

Griff’s third fine in two overs comes when he bowls a no-ball. He wanders nursing his pride on down to the fine leg boundary where we are all gathered.
From over the fence, I offer, “Gee, you were a bit stiff mate… 1/4 off 4…”
He turns to me wide-eyed and indignant. “I bloody know, right!?”
“How much do you blokes pull in a match in fines?”
He shrugs.
“50, 60?”
That’s a very interesting end of season trip.

Watching Bronty bat early on always makes me nervous; he stomps hard down the pitch, misses balls by the merest of touches and just survives lbw shouts. When I tell him this, he simply replies, “Well, I’m not worrying you for long these days.”
This continues today: a small inside edge strikes the off stump and we’re 4/35, bringing Jacko to the crease with AT. Jacko quickly figures out that onside shots are the go; some pearling on drives and leg glances send his score racing north.
“He’s got one gear – go,” says Charmer. “You just hope he gets runs before he goes out.”
AT matches him with some sharp cuts and drives to the long boundary. Not bad for a bloke who’s spent a year away from the game.
“Why did he take the year off?” I ask Bronty.
“He’s CEO of the Magistrates Court. His wife ordered him back to cricket to have a bit of a break.”
I don’t know which of these pieces of information surprises me more. Mrs Bronty ordered Bronty back to cricket and has regretted the subsequent endless cricket conversation ever since.

As Jacko and AT restore some balance to the game, Mrs Charmer arrives with Little Charmer holding a ball.
“Wanna play?” asks Charmer.
They spend a few minutes throwing the ball back and forth before Little Charmer lobs it over the fence and onto the field. Charmer diligently returns it and encourages his son away from the fence. Little Charmer turns and throws the ball down the hill. He’s got the old man stitched up.

A sky rocketing Jacko pull busts the fingers of a fielder named Rocky, who comes off the ground to nurse his digits and chat with us.
“You blokes serious about this fines thing?”
“Oh yeah,” he says. “You get one for not batting, being not out, beating the outside edge… should’ve seen – once we were losing a stack of balls at training, we went from 70 to 30 in about two weeks. And we put it out that there’d be a bag search for the missing balls. Brought it back up to 70 in a week… we would’ve made a fortune.”

There’s a sudden barrage of abuse on the field: mid off has just let an AT drive go through him for four and the bowler has erupted. It happens next ball and he’s out of control. The Stars’ captain wisely sends mid off to the boundary before Vesuvius devours him. But the very next ball is driven out to him.
The ground holds its breath. For the first time in history, a batting team wills a fielder to stop the four. The Human Colander gets down and resolutely stops the ball. We exhale.

“New bowler,” call the Stars fielders. “M Marshall.”
“There you go,” I grin to Rocky. “His nickname’s surely Malcolm?”
“Nope – Fathead.”
Oh, this is a cruel and clever cricket club.
“Are you blokes Lalor or the Lalor Stars?”
“No, we’re the Stars,” says Rocky.
“Always annoys us on the radio show, they say Lalor.”
My teammates smirk at me and I bury my head – I’m the co-host of The DVCA Show and that sounds like my error.

I look up to see Catesy arrive.
“Weren’t you supposed to play this week, Catesy?” Bronty asks innocently.
Catesy glares at the Benevolent Leader, who looks down guiltily.
“Yes,” Catesy answers. “But I was forgotten by someone who wants to advance my retirement.”
“Sorry, Catesy,” mutters the Leader. “I owe you lunch.”
“I told my wife that I was picked because I didn’t want to see her looking disappointed,” Catesy sighs tragically. “Also, I would’ve had to take the kids to soccer if she didn’t think I was occupied.”

Jacko, having played one of his finer knocks, scoops a catch and is out for 52.
“Well batted, Jacko,” says Bronty. “Excellent onside shots.”
“Well, when the boundary’s four metres away you kind of have to,” Jacko chuckles modestly.
AT continues to battle on, reaching 85 before he snicks a pull shot and walks.
“Good comeback, AT,” quips the Benevolent Leader.

Poor Griffo comes back on and is welcomed with jeering applause. Steansy hooks his first ball for six and that’s just it.
“Two bucks for everyone who was clapping!” roars Griffo furiously.

Jacko looks up the Lower Plenty Team App for around the ground updates.
“Says here my Dad was picked in two teams.”
“And Catesy wasn’t picked for any,” smirks Heata.
All roads lead back to this joke.

The Stars continue to pick at each other: a block from Steansy rolls between the bowler and silly mid-on.
“He can get it, he needs the exercise,” shouts the bowler.
Next ball, big Vesuvius dives to stop a Steansy drive.
“Christ, did you all feel the aftershock?”
It’s like playing with white Rastafarians.

Bronty checks Catesy’s Facebook Page and quotes from 9pm Thursday night. “Just ironing my whites. Looking forward to playing with the boys again. My kids are excited cause they reckon I will take a bag”.

The Benevolent Leader appears happy when another wicket goes down and he can bat.

As the overs dwindle and our score needs a boost, The Benevolent Leader finally gets onto a bomb over the straight boundary. It sails over the parked cars and down into the surrounding swamp.
“Lachlan,” Vesuvius yells to the bowler. “We were on track to finish very, very early!”
DK tries desperately to get bat on ball, but misses every time. As he gets increasingly visibly frustrated, I start to suspect I’ve stitched him up by sending him in before me.

We reach 247 – below the minimum of 260 that Rocky has recommended.

“OK guys, we had a setback today,” surmises the Leader. “But we recovered well. Now, we just need to bowl better.”

At the end of the day, local cricket is as fun as you and your opposition make it. By that thinking, we’ve had an absolute ball.
“By the way, Johnny,” barks Rocky to Vesuvius in the clubrooms over a beer. “You owe us two bucks for that last dropped catch.”
“What?! I didn’t get a hand on it!”
“If it’d been a hot dog you would’ve held it.”
“Y’know, I reckon you blokes would have had just as much fun if we hadn’t turned up,” says Bronty to the Stars.
They briefly look at each other.
“Yeah, probably.”

Lower Plenty 9/247
AT 85
Jacko 52
The Benevolent Leader 40*
Griffo the Beleaguered 3/18


About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Sensational Callum the banter and crap which goes on in cricket is often the lighlight of the day ( I agree with you sounds like a bloody good end of season trip )

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