HONEST TOILER GETS HIS REWARD

Jacob Schonafinger has spent the bulk of his WDCA career with his back to the wall.

In the 80 A-Grade games that he has played since he first debuted as a 15 year-old in 2008, he has become used to striding to the crease in times of crisis ; the weight of expectancy always on him to eke out a few runs which might give his side something approaching a respectable score…….

….Or to take the ball when the game had started to drift away, in the hope that his accurate, wobbly, medium-pacers might snare a vital wicket to put things back on track.

Long before he began playing senior cricket, he was a familiar face to long-time personalities like Arthur Welch, Joe Pilkington, Max Taylor and Ken Stewart, who held court in the Hogan Stand and set it alight with their quick-witted repartee.

They gave cheek to the keen, inquisitive kid who would come down to watch the progress of the senior team – surprised and delighted as they were that any youngster would be enthusiastic enough to spend his Saturday afternoons in that way.

And when he was slotted in for a few games these hard-bitten old judges encouraged him, even though he was ‘pretty green’. They knew a good type of kid when they saw one.
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‘Schona’ became used to shouldering responsibility in his time at the Findlay Oval.

He was just feeling his way when the loss of a number of senior players left Rovers-United with a shell of a side.

At 18 he became captain, chief recruiting officer, motivator and secretary. Whenever anything went wrong, or needed to be done, ‘Schona’ was the man to contact. He maintained an optimistic outlook when things looked decidedly bleary, and celebrated the club’s meagre successes with gusto.

He was showing steady on-field improvement over the last couple of years ; so much so that I complained, under my breath, that he was grossly under-rated.

It was pleasing then, that when the Rovers-United-Bruck merge came about during the off-season, a few young players like ‘Schona’ would now have some of the pressure lifted off them and could play with a bit more freedom.

‘Schona’ finally made his Country Week debut a fortnight ago and performed consistently. When I rang to check the scores on the Tuesday, everything was going hunky-dory. Upon my subtle query as to how the young fellow was handling the lift in standard, the reply was : “Gee, he’s under-rated”.

I must divulge here that ‘Schona’ runs a close second to George Bailey, as my favourite cricketer…..

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So permit me, if you will, to talk about the role he played in another terrific day’s play at Stan Hargreaves Oval, Yarrawonga, yesterday.

The Hawks were chasing a challenging total of 188, which had been compiled thanks to fine knocks from Reed Clarke (45), Josh Vagg (40) and Matt Knight (50). The bowling honours had been shared by Mark Drage (3/22), Schonafinger (3/43 off 19) and Jeremy Wilson (3/82 off 31.3 overs).

But at 2/31, the Combine were on the back foot. Enter ‘Schona’ who, with a circumspect Jordan Blades, began to resurrect the situation.

Blades plays beautifully off his pads and began to drive the ball with some command. The pair had added 60 and put the Hawks back in charge when the impressive right-arm quick Ben Doyle enticed a nick from Blades to the ‘keeper, Reed Clarke. He had scored a solid 36.

Darren Petersen, struggling for touch lately, played a couple of trademark drives before falling in the same manner: caught keeper Clarke, bowled Doyle.

The visitors were 4/120 at tea and those in the packed rooms ( I’m sure that there is no more hospitable club than the Lakers) would have countenanced that the game was evenly poised.

Its fate, I felt, lay in the hands of the entrenched ‘Schona’, who was now 48 and well-settled.

Stylish Lucky Perera gloved one to be caught in slips (5/125). The pendulum had again swung. But ‘Schona’ was not allowing himself to become shackled. He contributed 28 to a 33-run stand with Luke Whitten, then saw 3 wickets fall for 4 runs – an all-too-familiar RUB collapse.

It was 8/162 and the star of the day looked like being left stranded. Rovers-United-Bruck still needed 27 runs. Victory seemed a fair distance away. The odds were now decidedly in the Lakers’ favour.

‘Schona’ was 78 and batting beautifully, when Mark Drage joined him.

Give Drage his due. He’s a very handy tail-ender and bats with a flourish. He played some decisive shots, to quickly diminish the target, which he and the co-captain overtook in a matter of 8 overs. The remaining interest in the game was to nurse ‘Schona’ to his maiden century.

He continued in decisive fashion and reached the milestone, to the roar of those in the Hawk enclosure.

Drage completed a good match-double with his knock of 19. ‘Schona’ chose to celebrate his ‘ton’ by trying to effect a couple of fancy reverse sweeps and when he finally fell with the score on 218, he had scored a memorable 115.

As the 207th individual to score a century in WDCA history, and the first for Rovers-United-Bruck, he would be hoping that it’s not his last.

 

 

 

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