RIVALS TURN ON ANOTHER CLASSIC CONTEST…….

Joe Thomas, of Great & Little Trew Cricket Club – and occasionally Oxfordshire – made his debut on Australian soil yesterday.

And the rangy English all-rounder played his part in a classic encounter, as Yarrawonga-Mulwala and Rovers-United-Bruck, tangled at the Stan Hargreaves Oval.

It was a match that went right down to the wire – as most contests between the arch rivals generally do – and re-affirmed that both will be thereabouts at the business end of this WDCA season.

Hawks’ skipper Jordan Blades won the toss and elected to bowl in perfect conditions. He sprung the first surprise when Thomas was thrown the new ball.

It was obviously an opportunity for the left-arm finger spinner to settle in to his new surroundings and he immediately dropped onto a tidy line.

But after just one over, Blades reverted to the pacemen. Hamish Busk was a trifle rusty; Jacob Schonafiner, at the ‘Paddock End’, looked dangerous, and disturbed the stumps of highly-rated Shepparton recruit Josh Lawrence.

Ben Welsh and Matt Casey steadily solidified the Lakers’ innings before the game took the first of its several turns.

16 year-old Josh O’Donohue, playing just his sixth senior game, and with two A-Grade wickets to his name, found his rhythm in a terrific second over, to remove Welsh (25). Soon after he had the danger-man, Matt Knight, snapped up by a juggling Adam McNamara in slip.

Both wickets fell on 43. Suddenly the Hawks had assumed control.

It was an important spell for the lad, who tore in with zest and kept the ball up for the most part. Occasionally he dropped one short and was punished, but this was possibly through becoming a tad weary.

His eight-over spell yielded 5/25, and was a key factor in maintaining the ascendency of ball over bat.

But the bowling performances of Schonafinger (8/5/2/4) and Thomas (8/3/2/16) shouldn’t be discounted. ‘’Schona’ was always probing and gave nothing away, whilst Thomas proved what an asset he’ll be – particularly in the two-day format – with an accurate, tidy spell, which produced the occasional ‘fizzer’.

The Hawks had reduced the home combination to 9/98. But the next – and probably most important twist – came when James Irvine and second-gamer Will Sharp combined to defy their preying opposition in a 29-run last wicket-stand.

You just sensed that these were ultra-valuable runs. And it probably became apparent that the Hawks were a front-line bowler short, as the Lakers pushed their tally to a competitive 9/127 after 40 overs………..
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Rovers-United-Brucks’ progress was steady in pursuit of the target. Luke Whitten was watchful; Jordan Blades was his usual aggressive self. They didn’t really have much loose stuff to feast on, as left-arm opening quicks Angus McMillan and James Irvine were bang on target.

It meant that the Hawks were unable to push the run-rate beyond three-an-over. The introduction of young leggie Brock McCabe provided Blades with a couple of handy offerings which he despatched to the deep.

But, with the score on 48, Blades was gone for an enterprising 30, falling
to the newly-introduced Corey McIntosh ( Whitten had been dismissed 11 runs earlier).

Jacob Schonafinger was pro-active with the bat, but you could sense that some impressive bowling and plenty of yap in the field was conducive to tightening the screws.

‘Schona’ fell for 15 when Matt Knight made a surprise excursion to the bowling crease, but Adam McNamara, who is rarely shackled for long, took to the Lakers coach, smacking two sixes over mid-wicket amongst a 15-run over. Again, the Hawks had poked their noses in front.

With the total on 94 – and seven wickets to play with – Knight’s re-introduction of his opening quicks paid dividends. Jim Campbell was caught behind, Hamish Busk was clean-bowled, and the important wicket of McNamara fell to James Irvine.

It was now 6/94 and the weights had been applied to the visitors. Irvine snared another two victims in a team-lifting spell, which saw him finish with 4/17 and had the Hawks teetering at 8/106 – still 22 runs shy of victory.

Enter Joe Thomas. Reports had indicated that he preferred to bat in the middle-order, ideally at about number 7.  Some local experts preferred to think that, after watching him in the nets on Thursday night, he could be pushed up a little higher.

After getting a couple of effortless early shots away, it was obvious that the game now rested in his hands.

The big fellah looked composed, and whittled the margin down. He needed to continue throwing the bat – and keeping the strike – as time was of the essence. He had scored 21 and appeared on the verge of becoming an instant hero when sprightly young left-armer Will Sharp brought the home crowd to its feet by disturbing his hardware.

9/121. Seven to win; one wicket in hand. Wicket-keeper, and another debutant, Damien Kelly, was at the crease, and was joined by Josh O’Donohue.

He scrounged a single to maintain the strike. Six to win with an over from paceman Ben Doyle remaining, to settle what had been an absorbing contest.

Kelly straight drove the second ball for four. Two to win.

He attempted an identical shot next delivery, but it wasn’t there……He heard the sound of the death rattle behind him. The Lakers had triumphed by one run……

The crowd at Hargreaves Oval rose as one – after they finally realised that there was a tiny glitch on the electronic scoreboard – celebrating a famous Lakers triumph.

In a game that stood out for its excellent bowling, as well as its scratchy batting, it was also proof that WDCA cricket is alive and well ……..

‘THE SNOWMAN…..’

Ben Derrick’s sole cricket premiership came in March 1990.

He was just 16 when he and his twin brother Chris played starring roles in Rovers-United’s C-Grade flag win over Magpies.

As his sporting career veered off in a completely different trajectory from that point on, it would be understandable if his passion for the game had dwindled.

“Far from it,” he says. ” I’ve always been a cricket tragic. In fact, when you rang I was logged onto Cricinfo, catching up on Australia’s opening tour match against the Indian X1.”…….

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Competing on the world’s most famous snow slopes against the cream of international skiers, seems light years away for a lad who was once making his way as an all-rounder in the lower grades of Wangaratta cricket.

But in truth, Ben’s family heritage decreed that his future lay in skiing.

The Derricks have been long-term farmers at Boweya – a tiny hamlet which is negotiated via a brief 15-minute jaunt over the Warby Ranges. It’s renowned as good sheep and cropping country – but hardly, you would say, the archetypical launching-pad for the career of one of Australia’s finest cross-country skiers.

Ben and Chris were brought up in and around the Wangaratta Ski Club.

Their inspiration was an uncle, Charlie Derrick, a dual Victorian Langlauf champion, who is still commemorated for his deeds and – in particular – for a feat of endurance which he undertook 50-odd years ago :

He headed off at 5 o’clock one morning, in an attempt to become the first person to ski non-stop from Mt.Bogong to Mt.Hotham in a day.

It was a monumental challenge. He needed to cover a 62km course that climbed almost nine thousand feet.

Disregarding the notoriously fickle weather and the blinding rain which began to pelt down about midday, Charlie’s determination was such that he decided against seeking shelter. What was turning into a blizzard became progressively worse, making visibility poor and the snow sluggish.

Near the top of Mary’s Slide – in darkness – and only 10 minutes from the inhabited Rolla Hut on Mount Hotham, he collapsed.

When his body was discovered the next morning his skis were found 400m away.

He had missed his goal by one kilometre.

The Charlie Derrick Cross-Country event was instituted in his honour the following year . Ben is chuffed to have taken it out on several occasions…………

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“Skiing’ s an individual sport,” says Ben. “In fact I’m a little bit envious of Chris, who was able to pursue his cricket ambitions and played in the Canberra A-Grade competition for many years.”

“He developed into an accurate medium-pace swing bowler and, although he never actually got a game, was a member of the Canberra Comets squad which contested the Mercantile Mutual national one-day series during the nineties.”

“The level of work that’s required to reach the top in skiing is mind-boggling,” he explains. “I was probably a bit fortunate that my body could cope with the physical requirements and that I was able to recover well.”

“Cross-country skiing is brutal. I’d liken it to competing in one-day bike races.”img_2791

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Ben was recognised as Australia’s number one junior in 1992, and competed in the World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic the following year. He broke into the Australian Senior team in 1994 and held his place for the next 12 years. From 1999 onwards, he was ranked the nation’s top skier.

He must surely have been at his peak in 2000, when he cleaned up Australian titles in the 10km Classic, 15km Freestyle and 42km Freestyle events. He also won his first Kangaroo Hoppet and finished a close second in Canada’s Keskinada Loppet, the first time an Aussie had placed in a Northern Hemisphere Loppet event.

It earned him the gong as Australia’s Cross-Country Skier of the Year.

Surely, I ponder, he must have been dead unlucky to miss selection in at least one Olympic Games squad.img_2790

“I was pretty close a couple of times,” he says. ” I finished 57th in a field of about 100 in the World Titles in Finland – three spots behind the reigning World champ. Had I beaten him, I would probably have been selected at the 2006 Turin Games. It was really an antiquated selection system and it has now been changed.”

Being named in two ‘Shadow’ Olympic squads was some consolation, but his overall record is pretty darned impressive.

With 16 National titles to his name and having contested four World Championships, he has skied in around 25 countries.

“I missed out on Japan,” he says. “I’d have loved to compete there.”

One of his career highlights was his performance in the 50km Konig-Ludwig Lauf marathon at the German resort, Oberammergan in 2004.

Here’s a brief excerpt and a fantastic insight to the race, through Ben’s eyes:

“……I have prepared well for this, even pedantically….For about a week I have been thinking of little else ……I just want the gun to go and get out of here……Finally -BANG! The gate goes up and I move as fast as I can……The race is a mass of sprinting skiers………..”

“The first 5km undulate slightly up and down the valley. The pace is on. The lead pack becomes 30, then 25, then 20……….”

“We rotate the lead for the next 10km. The pack becomes three and I’m feeling pretty strong…..”

“The last 15km are dead flat and skiers require a high threshold. This is my forte and I crank it up. My entire focus becomes the two skiers in front of me……..With 6km to go – ‘trouble’!  Cramps in my legs. I move to the front and try to look strong. Luckily the cramps ease a little…….”

“One km to go. We are all getting edgy because we have all busted ourselves for 50km and know the race will be decided a few metres from the line……Roelli moves ahead with 300m to go. We are near the stadium, the crowd is going crazy and we are smoking. I can’t look behind but I know Stitzl is there somewhere. Everything starts to burn. We turn into the final straight. Four lanes and 100m to go…..”

“I move as fast as I can…..Roelli isn’t getting any closer. I think he’s got it. I can sense a skier on my right….Noooooo….There’s the line, come on hamstrings and luuuunnnngggggeee……Second. Yeee-haaaa!!!!……”

“All three of us are mobbed by people…It seems like the last two hours of intense focus and determination are over in a heart-beat with one mad sprint…………”

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Ben has also taken out 4 Kangaroo Hoppet titles. The race, which is held annually at Fall’s Creek is a 42km test of endurance, and is part of the Worldloppet series. He is now the Race Director of the event.

“I can tell you, it’s a lot easier to win it than organise it,” he says.

He is now employed as the Director of Economic Development and Land Management at Fall’s Creek – a role which manages to combine his love of the environment and ties in with his sporting passion.img_2792

Ben has managed to sneak in a few games of cricket in the Wodonga Association ( now CAW) with Mount Beauty, but, with a lot of time constraints, has been unable to commit regularly.   Chris, who moved to the town seven years ago, has also played on and off over the years, and appeared in a couple of A-Grade games this season.

It’s been a fascinating journey for the boy from Boweya. I’d vote for him as Rovers-United’s finest sporting export…………..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘DEANO’ – THE MASTER OF DEFENCE

Many uncomplimentary barbs have been hurled in the direction of Ian Dinsdale during the course of his marathon, 48-year cricket innings.

‘Deano’ cops them all with good grace. Making runs has been his ‘go’ and it has never really fussed him to hear people scoff at his unorthodox batting style. He just puts his head down and tries harder.

It has stood him in good stead. Over the years, the best and fiercest bowlers in the area have attacked that resolute defence. He has treated them all with suspicion and met them with a broad bat which resembles a barn door. A back-lift, which is minimal to say the least, offers scant chance of the ball sneaking through.

To describe ‘Deano’s’ technique in any detail is difficult. Most strokes are of his own invention and fancy footwork is not part of his repertoire.

Folklore has it that he played a rash shot about 30 years ago and made a pact with himself that it wouldn’t happen again !

He is cricket’s great survivor……….

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I suggested to him that kids in junior cricket must have regarded him as a pest. “Didn’t play”, he said, explaining that he grew up on a farm near the Three Chain Road and getting to junior matches was a trifle difficult.

Instead, he belted a ball against the back wall of the house, incessantly. And coaxed his father, Jim, to bowl over after over to him. ‘”Dad played with Lake, in the Rutherglen Association and I tagged along,” he says.

The inevitable happened ; they were short one day. 12 year-old ‘Deano’ came in at number 11 and held up an end for quite a while.

He liked the feel of it. A run-machine was born.

It’s a pity there’s not a calculator handy, as we start to tote up the number of games that this cricket nut has played. We arrive at a figure of over a thousand – and that’s being conservative.

He has held centre-stage on grounds all over the North-East, central Victoria, the metropolitan area and even overseas, utilising his trademark assets – concentration, determination and the eye of an eagle – to drive irritated bowlers to distraction.

The clubs of ‘Deano’s’ youth were Lake, Chiltern, West End (WSCA) and Tarrawingee.

He had already become the ‘face’ of Sunday Association team, Springhurst, and was in his early 20’s, when the WDCA relaxed eligibility rules, which allowed him to play in both competitions. He joined WDCA club Bruck and so began his irrevocable link with the two clubs.

Springhurst joined the Sunday comp in 1974. ‘Deano’ opened the batting and bowled plenty of overs. He could swing the ball both ways, which earned him plenty of wickets, even though he bowled at such a pedestrian pace that the top batsmen had plenty of time to check their shots.

His team batted around him and his early dismissal was a celebration for the opposition. He won 7 Chronicle Trophies. The last of them came in 2002/03, his 28th season with Springhurst and the final year of the WSCA.

It was  Springhurst’s fourth successive appearance in a Grand Final and they were chasing a hat-trick of flags. The fact that they were defeated by Tarrawingee in a tight game was met with a shrug by ‘Deano’, who was playing his 418th – and final – game with his beloved home club.

He joined Bruck in 1979, along with his mate – and neighbor from a nearby farm – Russell Robbins. After a couple of years at the tail of the ladder there was considerable improvement and in 1983/84, Bruck took out their first WDCA flag in 21 years.

It was a trademark ‘Deano’ performance in the ‘big one’. Whorouly were dismissed for 165, a target which can sometimes prove tantalising in finals. Bruck lost three early wickets. Nerves set in…..

“…..A solid Ian Dinsdale-Russell Wood partnership set up the victory. Dinsdale batted cautiously and ensured the side consolidated. He made a valuable 50 before he was caught behind……..” was the ‘Chronicle’s’ summary of his innings. Bruck passed the Whorouly total for the loss of six wickets.

It was another 19 years before they tasted premiership success – in 2002/03. ‘Deano’ was the sole link with the bygone days, as a new group of players proceeded to lead the club to 5 flags in 11 years.

The WDCA selectors came to the realisation that this fellow – depicted as a painstaking, dour, overly-patient opening bat, who valued his wicket – had something to contribute at representative level. Additionally, he was the safest of safe slips fielders.

He became a regular member of the North-East Cup team and played in 4 winning title teams. His first trip to Melbourne Country Week was in 1984. Two years later, he enjoyed a dream week, with scores of 65, then 107 against Horsham. He followed this up with 81 the next day.

He had earned the respect of every cricket follower. Only 17 individual players have scored centuries since the WDCA started playing at Melbourne Country Week. Hundreds have tried.

It’s important to keep your wickets intact early in Melbourne, to pave the way for the lower order. ‘Deano’ proved ideal in this role in his 10 trips to the ‘big smoke’ ( 8 with the WDCA, 2 with the WSCA).

He was equally at home at Bendigo, where his performances over 20 Carnivals (9 WDCA , 11 WSCA) earned him induction to their Country Week Hall of Fame.

He was a stalwart of the Sunday competition in the ‘Golden City’, and in 2001 his scores of 86, 57, 80,63 and 73 were a significant reason for their title-win. An innings of 119 two years later, capped his final trip to Bendigo.

He has played in 10 Masters Festivals at Cobram-Barooga and twice headed to England as a member of the Australian Wattle Sprigs touring team.

Most of his old adversaries have long since ‘gone out to pasture’, but vividly recall the arduous task they faced in removing the bloke they once called ‘The Rock’.

Gary Lidgerwood, who played against him and was his representative captain, said bowlers would think they were on top of ‘Deano’, when he was in his vigilant mood.

“They would become agitated and try to bounce him out. Taking advantage of his baseball background, he would just lean back and square-cut and hook and escalate the run-rate. The quicker they bowled to him, the further he hit them.”

“The other thing that endeared him to us was that he always made himself available for selection. He has a passion for cricket.”

It’s a credit to him that, nudging 61, he’s still seeing the ball well enough to be a consistent run-getter in the WDCA’s B-Grade. He stepped down from the top level in the mid-2000’s and played his 400th game with Bruck towards the end of last season.

His 285  A-Grade games included four centuries – the first and last of them 22 years apart.

When the new entity – Rovers-United-Bruck – was formed this season, ‘Deano’ handled the transition with ease.

“I still love playing and practicing and enjoy the company of the young fellas”, he says.

So the ‘Rock’ continues to roll on.  With his cricket career showing no signs of ending, and after 41 years of baseball with Tarrawingee, Saints and Rangers, he has found a new passion – Golf- which he plays a couple of times a week.

‘Deano’ has never had much of an eye for stats. I suggest to him that his total of games will never be matched in local cricket and that his tally of runs must be nudging 25 thousand.

“Got no idea”, he says.

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