The United Nations of Warrion

by | May 10, 2024 | Journalism Scholarship, News | 0 comments

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Women in Cricket
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Our next luncheon – at William Angliss Restaurant, 550 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne on Friday, 31st May, commencing at 12 noon fill be a feature [...]
Events on May 31, 2024
Women in Cricket
31 May 24
Melbourne

By Liam McCullagh, incoming ACS Journalism Scholar (mentored by The Footy Almanac‘s John Harms).

We may not have won a game but playing the 2018/19 season with the ‘United Nations of Warrion’ was the funniest season of cricket I have been part of.  It also features the heaviest defeat I have been handed in a cricket match, which is a story within itself.

Coming off a good season in the Under 14s where Warrion made the semi-final, only six were top-agers that would move up to Under 17s. At the time the club didn’t have an Under 17s, and many players questioned whether Warrion could form a side, and would it be at all competitive.

I went on a recruiting spree at school, but all the people who played cricket knew it was going to be a horrible side, so no one wanted to play.  This meant, to fill a side, I branched out to people who hadn’t played in years or who had never played before.

The first two who agreed to play were Luke Frith and Bailey ‘Robbo’ Robinson, two of my very close mates who I signed up at an Irrewarra-Beeac football grand final night, two months before the cricket season started.  They at least at some cricket experience playing juniors at Alvie and indoor cricket, but still hadn’t played in two years.  Frithy and Robbo continued on with their cricket, Frithy is still playing in the Division 3 for Warrion, and Robbo is still watching and supporting the club.

The next was John, or his full name John Garang Milual Archegang Duot Deng, who had played footy at Irrewarra-Beeac and is one of my closest mates.  John was a Kenyan born, South Sudanese refugee who has played soccer, and came to Australia having a crack at Aussie Rules and cricket. He would have excelled at baseball due to his cannon of an arm.  He said he had developed his strong arm from throwing rocks at pigeons back in Africa.

The next fella recruited was a kid new to our school called Nevin.  Nevin had just moved to Colac from Thailand and had never played any organised sport before.

It was a weird blend, having Frithy and Robby who were very handy footballers, John who had raw ability and Nevin who needed to be taught the basics, like learning to put his bodyweight on his left foot when throwing with his right hand.  Nevin ended up really enjoying the sport though, he took his first wicket in a game against Birregurra in a game we lost by 150 plus runs.

Nevin came on to bowl the last over of the match and bowled a loopy, slow delivery where the batsman (and good mate of mine) Toby Permezel spooned it to mid-off.  Frithy took the catch and we erupted. So much so that Toby ended up celebrating his own dismissal with us. Toby joined our huddle as we jumped up and down as we celebrated Nevin’s first-ever wicket by patting him on the head and scuffing up his hair.

The final recruit which is added to this puzzle is Will Roberts. Will is Australian born with Italian grandparents but for the sake of the story – he is Italian.  Despite Will’s dad (Steve) being a very handy cricketer for Colac West, Will had never taken to the footy-cricket path, opting to play soccer instead.  But seeing we were short weeks in advance, I lined him up to fill in this particular week.  I think his dad thought this could be the beginning of a prosperous cricket career for Will, and organised net sessions with Will and I.

Given Warrion’s batting was so frail, teams would send us in to bat, try to roll us and then make the runs on the night just in case there was rain the next week, due to the fixture requiring each 40-over innings to played over two Friday nights.

There was a rule however though, if a team was bowled out in (let’s say) 10 overs, the other team would have another 20 to bat, meaning at least 30 overs had to be completed on the nights play.

We started the season getting bowled for totals like, 38 against Irrewarra, 38 against Colac, and 52 against Birregurra. But Stoneyford was our worst defeat. Stoneyford stuck to the bowl first philosophy that other teams had adopted.

Opening the batting I was bowled for two and Brodie Kilfoyle was the highest run scorer with 6, batting at number 4.  After being 3 for 7, every single team member padded up, right through to Will Roberts who was number 11.

Feeling the nerves before his first ever innings, Will asked for some throwdowns in the nets. I lobbed them up, hoping to feed his confidence.  He was smacking them – he had all the shots.  “I’m gonna go out there and do a Bradman I reckon,” Will said.  After five ducks in a row from the previous batsmen, it was Will’s chance to shine.  He was bowled first ball, by Stoneyford bowler Jeremy Carbury.  Warrion was all out for 25. The extras top scored with 8 runs.  We were bowled out in 15 overs, and while most of the lads were packing up their kit bags, Stoneyford brought up the rules permitting another 15 overs of play and wanted to bat.

Stoneyford ended up 1/134 after their allotted 15 overs.  Clay Jenkin made 55 retired, and opening batsmen Charlie Grist was the only dismissed batsmen on 34.  This was when I still bowled leg spin, and I got absolutely smacked around, 1/25 off 3 were my figures but in his fourth ever cricket match, John was Warrion’s best bowler with 0/20 off 4 overs.

It was a hard slog that season, and the season after wasn’t much better remaining winless, this time in a combined team with Apollo Bay Cricket Club.  I look back on it now with much fonder memories than I probably realised I was making, mainly because losing and getting smashed sucked. The winless drought eventually ended in the 2020/21 season when an influx of juniors come through the Under 14s and the bottom age kids had matured and were playing against kids their own age. Warrion then went on to make the Grand Final that season, such a drastic change considering the two winless seasons beforehand.

Australian Cricket Society’s literary scholar Liam McCullagh is mentored by writer John Harms. His pieces are also published at www.footyalmanac.com.au .