There’s nothing like the emergence of ‘another Warnie’ to get the heart-beat of the average cricket fan racing…….
Even Kerry O’Keeffe, an old leggie of repute, tweeted excitedly a couple of weeks ago: ‘….There’s white smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel……cricket has a new Pope…..Lloyd Pope…..a Jaffa-headed 18 year-old leg spinner from Adelaide…….just took 8 wickets to beat England in an Under 19 World Cup quarter-Final….and his wrong-un accounted for six of them !…….’
Josh Mangan felt a sense of déjà vu when he read this news. Fourteen years ago it was he who was being lauded as a possible successor to the ‘Sheik of Tweak’. He had bowled superbly in successive National Carnivals and acquitted himself well at the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh.
The considered opinion was that, at youth level, he was the best leg-spinner in Australia…………..
“He loves a chat; he’ll talk to you all day,” says Jon Shaw when I mention about doing a story on his old team-mate. And yes, he seems the same chirpy, happy-go-lucky lad that he was when I first spotted him as a WDCA debutant.
‘Shawy’ had not long arrived in Rutherglen, hoping to broaden his cricket experience, and escape another English winter, when he came across Josh Mangan.
“I’ve seen two kids in my life, at that age (11-12 years old ), and before any ‘proper’ coaches have got hold of them, who you could confidently predict: ‘That person will play professional cricket,’ he says.
“Josh and the English Test player Samit Patel had the God-given talent, the passion for the game and the willingness to train hard.”
“Josh would train twice a day down at the Rutherglen nets. Once in the morning before it got too hot, then, again in the evening when it was a bit cooler. That was beside all of the other team and rep training he had to do.”
“He used to bowl blindfolded at one stump sometimes, and very regularly bowl a ripping leg break that would hit the single stump.”
“The Rutherglen selectors felt that he was too small for men’s cricket, and that he wasn’t physically ready for C-Grade. I said: ‘Well, that’s great. If you don’t want him in C-Grade, I’ll take him in A-Grade.’ He was 13……..“
Josh reckons he was lucky that ‘Shawy’ arrived in Rutherglen at just the right time. “He helped to impress upon me how the cricket system operates……how, if you keep getting wickets, you can go from being a 12 year-old at Rutherglen and work your way through the grades. He invested a lot of time into me, that’s for sure……………”
He was slightly-built, confident and a popular team member and was, in no time, being ushered through cricket’s Pathway program.
The story goes that his dad Chris – a musician – would often take Josh to gigs that he was playing at…..and he would happily jump up on stage and sing along with the band. He became a dab hand at the piano, and loved drawing and sketching.
In short, he was multi-talented. His parents, he says, didn’t have much of a cricket background. “But they were super-supportive of me.”
Rob Worthington, one of those who came into contact with him in rep cricket along the way, recalls someone who was perpetually active: “Whilst the other kids were sitting down watching the team batting, Josh would be twirling a cricket ball around, with those long fingers of his……or sketching his team-mates.”
“He was an excellent bowler in Junior ranks, of course, but also had a solid batting technique. You could see that he had something special.”
He rose through the North-East Knights, represented Victoria’s Under 17 team and took a total of 47 wickets in three Under-19 Carnivals, overtaking a record held by Matthew Innes.
This led to Australian Under-19 selection. It was heady stuff indeed, for the lad, who seemed destined for the top – with a bullet.
He moved to the city to begin an Architecture Degree at Melbourne University, and landed in Melbourne’s First XI team, aged 17.. His performances in 64 First XI games in four seasons were hardly spectacular, but sufficient to attract the attention of the State selectors, who rewarded him with a Rookie contract in 2005. His apprenticeship included 8 or 9 games with the Victorian Second XI.
“I was looking forward to getting a game for the Bushrangers, but the reality was that I had ‘Warnie’, Cameron White, Bryce McGain (who was still going around) and John Holland ahead of me in the queue,” Josh says.
“Then West Australia approached me with the offer of a Rookie Contract. Their leggie, Beau Casson was leaving the West to play with New South Wales, so I thought it was a great opportunity.”
He was just 20, and was still recovering from a knee injury, when he made the move for the 2006/07 season; also transferring his Architecture course to the University of W.A.
“I was fortunate to join the University club, and come under the influence of some terrific people. Neil ‘Noddy’ Holder, a batting guru, was, and still is, a great mentor. As was Martin Tobin, who was the coach at the U.C.C.”
In his first season in the WACA, Josh took 27 wickets and scored 177 runs ; in the second, his contribution was an impressive 39 wickets and 561 runs. He was surely nearing that elusive first-class appearance.
In the winter of 2008, he headed to England to re-join his old Rutherglen mate, Jon Shaw, playing with Kimberley, in the Notts Premier League, as the senior professional. It was a dream season. His 950 runs and 47 wickets was a major factor in the club’s successful season, although the League title was just out of reach.
In late 2008, they named him for the Sheffield Shield clash against Victoria, at the MCG. Despite a limited spell at the bowling crease, promising knocks of 24 and 10 whetted his appetite.
He made two further Shield appearances, with limited success that season, followed by half a dozen games during a brief spell at the AIS, in the winter of 2009.
It was generally felt that the slightly-built all-rounder was still a work in progress.
“It’s about being patient,” he said at the time, as he prepared for a vital Shield encounter with NSW. “Being exposed to State cricket last year helped me realise that success at that level is more than just turning up and landing the ball in the right spot.”
‘Spin Hopefuls To Show Wares’ was the newspaper heading, previewing the spin-off between the two emerging stars on display – NSW’s third-gamer Steven Smith, and the WA tyro, Mangan.
What Josh Mangan needed to progress his career, was a healthy slice of luck. Unfortunately, it had begun to abandon him, as he’d already received cortisone injections for a nagging shoulder injury and a degenerative wrist complaint.
He underwent surgery a couple of months later, for a damaged rotator cuff, had some bone shaved out of his shoulder, and some floating bone removed from his wrist.
The State selectors elected not to renew his contract the following season, despite his determination to fight his way back into the side.
His First-Class career was over, and his spells at the bowling crease became less and less frequent.
Josh continued to pile up the performances in WA Grade cricket. His eight seasons and 141 games with University yielded 3922 runs, 4 tons, 166 wickets and included a stint as captain. He ranks in Uni’s Top-10 for runs scored and wickets taken, and has the most catches in UCC First XI history, as a fielder.
He spent two years with another WACA club, Willeton, accumulating 534 runs and a century, before stepping down this season to play with Wembley Districts, in the WA Suburban Turf competition.
He’s scored 340 runs to date, and is still hitting the ball well. “It reminds me a bit of English club cricket. I’m playing with a lot of good mates and enjoying it thoroughly,” he said.