Jon Shaw clearly remembers the first delivery he received in club cricket on Australian soil.
It was quick and explosive, rearing off a good length and heading for his throat. He swayed back and the Kookaburra seemed to follow him, whistling past his helmet grill as it sailed through to the ‘keeper.
The bowler snorted from mid-pitch : ” You better learn to handle the short stuff, mate. If you were that good, you wouldn’t be playing here ! “………….
This was a world away from the English county of Nottinghamshire – where he had been reared.
His original idea of escaping another bleak English winter and broadening his cricket experience, had led him to Geelong. It was early October 1998; footy finals had just wound up, the rain had hardly stopped pelting down since he’d got there – and the job he had been promised through a local club still hadn’t materialised.
“Where’s the hot sun and the laid-back lifestyle that people rave about ? ” he wondered to himself.
After yet another cricket wash-out, Jon accepted an invitation, to spend a week-end in Rutherglen. The gregariousness of the locals impressed him, as did the warm weather and the ‘feel’ of the rustic old town.
So when they said they’d tee up a job for him and plonk him in their cricket side the next Saturday, they didn’t need to twist his arm.
That’s when he was ‘sat in his arse’ and received some ‘advice’ from the fiery paceman……..
“I settled in straight away,” he tells me. “They were a good lot of fellahs and we got on well. One of our watering-holes was the Star Hotel. I glanced across the bar on one of the first nights I was there and caught the attention of a young girl. Three weeks later we became an item. It was Belinda, my future wife”
Jon enjoyed life in Rutherglen so much, he kept returning. Eventually, it became home, and he and Belinda and their two kids, William and Charlie are now firmly ensconced. Over the last sixteen years he has established a reputation as one of the greats of local sport……….
But let me take you back to the small town of Kimberley – population 6,500 – based about six miles from Nottingham.
It’s Nottingham Forest territory. Like most young kids in the area, Jon harboured dreams of one day running out in the Red and White strip of the famous old club which, in its most illustrious era, soared to European Cup triumphs in 1979 and ’80.
He was pre-occupied by soccer and cricket and showed promise as a goal-keeper with nearby Mansfield Town. But his thoughts of big-time future glory at the goal-front were bluntly scuttled by a realistic coach, who told him: ” If you’re not 6 foot tall when you turn 18, you’ll be wasting your time.”
No matter, his cricket talents were coming to the fore, as he moved through the ranks with Kimberley Institute, a leading club in the county.
He was firmly established as a leading all-rounder in the Notts Premier League when he began the first of his forays to Australia. The concept of playing continuously certainly did his form no harm.
When he returned home for the 1999 season, his 49 wickets and 447 runs for Kimberley earned him selection for the Notts Cricket Board in a Nat-West Trophy game against Scotland.
During the succeeding three years he played a number of games for Herefordshire in the Minor Counties Championship.
But it was for his ‘home club’ Kimberley, that Jon continued to make an impact. When he made his last appearance with them – in 2009 – he had played 260 League and 82 Cup matches, taken 655 wickets and scored 6492 runs.
It’s a pretty handy standard, and the addition of overseas pro’s adds to the quality of the competition. Andre Adams, the New Zealand medium-pacer had a bit of success with Kimberley in the early 2000’s. Jon’s former Rutherglen team-mate and ex-Shield leggie, Josh Mangan, took the job on in 2008.
With the 5’9″ Shaw bowling at a brisk medium-pace and making plenty of runs in the upper order, he made an immediate impression on cricket in the North-East. What won people over was his enthusiasm for the game. Thus, when Country Week, or representative games came around, he was always among the first selected.
In his five trips to Melbourne Country Week, he has been awarded the ‘John Welch Award’, as the Best-Performed player three times.
His most memorable performance in the ‘big-smoke’ came in 2000, in a riveting match against Kyabram. Wangaratta scrapped their way to a hardly-defendable 8/139 and, with 3 overs remaining, Ky were cruising, at 3/121.
They finished eight runs short, at 8/131, with the work-horse Shaw tightening the screws, and finishing with 7/40.
He has performed at a consistent level in WDCA cricket over the years, twice winning the competition’s ‘Cricketer of the Year’ gong and finishing runner-up three times.
What’s surprising is the lack of premiership success that he has come his way, which means that he can look back on the 2001/02 season with some satisfaction.
Besides playing with Rutherglen, Jon had been making regular appearances with Springhurst in the Wangaratta Sunday Association. In a thrilling climax to the season, they clinched only their second WSCA flag, after scoring 3/151 and holding off a gallant Moyhu, who were 8/149 at the completion of their overs.
To complement this, he shared in the WSCA’s Division One title win at Bendigo Country Week, a month earlier, when they lost just four wickets in passing Kyabram’s 183. His 18 wickets and 138 runs had been a contributing factor in the successful week.
When he had finished criss-crossing the globe to play cricket, and he and Belinda finally called Rutherglen home, Jon had a few seasons with Wangaratta City Soccer Club.
In his seven years with City he spent two as playing-coach and a couple as co-coach. He reverted to his role as Goal-Keeper for much of that time, but also played as a striker for three years.
The club’s crowning moment came in 2015 when they broke a 20-year drought to win the AWFA League Cup, downing traditional rivals Myrtleford in a nail-biter.
As captain – and the competition’s leading Goal-keeper – Jon played a vital role in the victory.
He was approached by fledgling National Premier League (Division 2) outfit, Murray United, when they started up, but a dislocated shoulder forced him out of the game last season. He has taken on the position as Goal-keeping coach for the 2017 season.
Considering that Kimberley was Jon’s only club throughout his cricket career in England, he jokes that he’s become somewhat of a journeyman in Australia.
After a lengthy stint at Rutherglen he crossed the Murray River to join arch WDCA rivals Corowa for two seasons, mainly to link up with a good mate, Rod Lane.
His next move was to Albury club St.Patricks, as he was eager to experience the slightly higher standard and different culture and conditions of Cricket Albury-Wodonga.
Now he’s domiciled at the W.J.Findlay Oval, as playing-coach of Rovers-United-Bruck. His ambition, naturally, is to take last season’s Grand Finalists to the top – and so snare his first WDCA flag.
He has managed to combine his cricket with a couple of Half-Ironman events this season. But there seems no indication of a heavy sporting schedule taking its toll on the frame of the 36 year-old, who looks trimmer than ever
Yes, he’s done alright for a Pom, has Jon Shaw……