A Sporting Chance 2

NO TALENT WINNERS

David vs Goliath in which the small, ignored and supposedly no talent runt defeats the ultimate champion of pedigree and reputation.

Whether this fable is true, it does not matter. The moral is that if you battle for the right cause, and your heart and resolve are true, then many obstacles can be overcome no matter how big the mountain is.

The year- 2001/2002 Junior cricket Perth Western Australia. Me, the coach of Tuart Hill Cricket Club Under 17’s Junior team. The team – couple of the boys were natural talents in the bowling and batting department. The rest? Absolutely loved their cricket, but to be honest were not so good. They were committed though and all turned up for practice and the games early on weekends. They just loved being out on the paddock even though the lack of natural talent saw us regularly getting thumped. Many comedians and practical jokers and all in good fun. We were almost to the end of another losing season, vying for the ‘wooden spoon’ and taking on ladder leaders Ballajura Black.

The suburb of Ballajura out east was new and the housing low cost. At that time it was breeding kids like rabbits. Such a huge pool of potential sporting greats to the extent that they fielded two teams in our competition – Ballajura Black and Blue. Conversely, Tuart Hill was a long term established inner suburb that was becoming gentrified, with most of the kids grown up. THCC depended on a trickle feed of children from local schools where cricket was well down their list of sport.

Both their teams were laden with talent throughout. Both teams loaded with parents that treated every game as a war. There was no communication with these parents. From their scorer, coach down to attending parents, it was just scowls and crossed arms greeting you every time we played. Before the start of every season, the Junior Association committee met to review the rules and revise if needed. Ballajura worked hard to try and stack the committee in their favour, to ensure their win at any cost formula and growing silverware collection was not diminished anytime soon.

I attended these meetings and was advised by certain people both inside and outside the building that if I didn’t vote a certain way, that there would be consequences. Bizarre indeed at Junior level.

The Association rightly was interested in all players getting a go and introduced the rules across the Junior age groups that batting and bowling order from previous game must be reversed for the next. This was how most teams had been playing so that all 11 players would get opportunity. Not Ballajura though. Every game, the same opening bats who were very good. But if you were number 6 bat or further down the list, you would rarely get out to centre wicket due to the openers dominance. Same with their bowlers – all big and very quick and tore through opposition teams. No problem with that – if you have the firepower use it, just that remember that this was juniors. Others did not get opportunity.

Parents, usually the Coach umpire the games. This particular Ballajura coach was terribly biased. I witnessed (being the other umpire) their batsmen being declared not out from massive snicks off the bat that our wicket keeper had to dive for (great catch!) , to one particular runout, which I adjudged out from square leg umpiring position, with their opening bat being at least a metre short of getting home. Next second, Coach is in my face screaming at me that he wasn’t out, when plainly the kid was. He insisted the boy come back. The young chap started to, thought better of it and left the field. Turns out it was Coaches Son…..

Nothing pleasant when we came off for drinks, one parent sneering at me and stating F*&%ing cheat! Everything about Ballajura I detested as an approach to sport. Extremely ugly parents who encouraged their children on the field to be extreme sledgers (for those not of cricket – please google), who disputed just about every umpire decision. They would even give our worst batsman who happened to have Cerebral Palsy, a massive and ugly send off including the word “Retard”.

Game day at their home ground. Normal scowls and crossed arms great me from parents and officials from their side. I make a point of smiling, being pleasant and stating “a good game is a close game”. Not one response apart from a couple of glares as if we are just gnats to be squashed by the predators at the top of the food chain. Cannot remember who won the toss, but more than likely them as we batted first. Memory not good enough for the statistic, but it was a modest score – maybe 90 odd for them to chase down.

Between innings the boys talked about how much they hated this team and I tried to be diplomatic. They had rubbed our noses previously in their excreta many times previously. I focussed on our passion and suggested that you never know. Due to the rules we had to upend the bowling order.

Our opening bowler was the Cerebral Palsey sufferer. To a certain extent he was a secret weapon. He bowled at half rat power, but had a beautiful run up and bowling action, a bowling delivery that was a good length just about every time he bowled – almost metronome like. Accurate too, generally that line on or about off stump. That length that has the batsmen deciding – do I go forward or back? In practice, many of his team mates had underestimated him, only to be bowled many times or popped up what would be a simple catch in live situation.

Their opening batsmen stroll out. These same two had been the nemesis of just about every other team in the Competition. They were seriously good. Metronome boy bowls. The batsman thinks he can cart him over the fence for 6. Big shot, but lifted his head at wrong time and misses. Next ball – batsman caught in two minds to go back or forward. Chooses to go forward too late and literally spoons the simplest catch to our cover fielder. Out! 1 for none! Much mirth and back slapping. The batsman just stands there in disbelief that this ‘retard’ (as stated by them previously), could get him out. I am smiling.

By the end of his compulsory 3 overs, he has the figures of 3/9, having got a caught, bowled and LBW. Their top three bats back in the pavilion with the score 3/20. The boys are pumped, none more so than our now ‘Demon’ half rat power fast opening bowler. He has become so loud in the field! Had to quieten him down a bit. Fantastic!

From there on it was a steady progression of wickets with their lower order bats being exposed to our normal opening bowlers for the first time. We Won! I cannot remember exactly what their score was, but they fell about 10 runs short. The roar from the boys at the end was worth more than anything. All the shellacking and nasty sledging from this Black team was washed away in our euphoria.

Their coach and umpire for once was humble, even though it was just a grumbled head down “well played”. Their parents were silenced. They could not even look up from their now intense observation of the blades of grass under their seats. I walked to the sidelines and made a point of stating- “great game, the boys plan worked!”, and headed over to our parents who were almost as happily and noisily euphoric as the boys were.

Into the Change room and the boys launched into the Club song for the first time in a long time. It is worthwhile noting that we had a sanitised Juniors version of the club song and a more risqué seniors version, with a few swear words and it goes like this sung to the tune of “My old man’s a dustman”. –

Tuart Hill are Magic, we wear a magic hat, and when we saw Charles Veryard (Reserve), we said we fancy that. We could have played for (insert team you have just played against) Ballajura Black, but they are shite! We play for Tuart Hill because we are F#%^ing Dynamite!!” Repeat as many times as you want.

The boys were extremely loud. I reckon all of Ballajura heard them. They sung the Seniors version!!! I didn’t know what to do, except be a bit embarrassed about Juniors swearing, but in that moment it was the most wonderful feeling and I joined in as well. This happiness of defeating this arrogant predator Goliath team was all that mattered.

We deserved our victory. The Black team, their dark coach and parents underestimated us all with much disdain. The fact that our ‘retard’ inflicted the most damage just made everything that much sweeter!!

Coming soon – Part 3 “Ave a Go ya Mug”.

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