ACT Cockies (a poultice) defeated McArthur Wombats (not a lot)
According to the NSW Department of Primary Industries, the Wingecarribee district, which includes normally (f)lush, bucolic, rolling-hilled Moss Vale, Bowral and Mittagong, is an area of intense drought. No kidding, said the 18 Cockies and 20 Wombats as they gazed at Mittagong’s bare Welby Oval, denuded of virtually everything, boundary, centre and goal square markings included. The hard brown plain seemed to be relieved by a largish green oasis running across the half forwards and half backs’ zone, but that just turned out to be the first of two cricket pitches, this one synthetic and accountably long, wide and positioned. The other pitch—rutted, abrasive turf and sitting traditionally in the oval’s middle—probably straddled the centre square, but who could be sure?
Skipper Steve Lewis sure was sure when he won the toss and went against all conventional (aka tired, out-dated, fake) wisdom, gravity and the wind, choosing to head west, uphill into a stiff breeze. The first few centre clearances to the Wombats seemed to question that call, but Shark (never stops moving or smiling) had taken account of all the elements, a blinding sun primarily, which made airborne entry into the eastern zone as easy to spot as a Zero dropping out of a Hawaiian dawn. (There’s a good reason cricket pitches run north-south).
Everything that came into the Wombats’ forward line was quickly picked off and run out by an attacking backline, led by Mal in deep defence, with nice dash from Mungers, Rob (very self-assured and accustomed down back), and Dicko. Then the midfield of Cuzzo (BOG, mainly cos he went where he wanted, which was where the ball was), Adam (many slashing, long balls into the open forward line), Shark, Harps, Stainer and Benny Howard ( lovely cameo from the Sydney dwelling ex-Cocky—lots of run, give and carry) quelled the ‘Bat’s (Wom’s, Womb’s?) opening little burst, took control of the game and never let up, so what was all the angst about?
It was all smiles in the forward lines, especially when Stu lost a sublime ball coming from Jock (partially part-time coach) and out of the sun. Perfectly weighted, into space, gone begging and unlikely to be repeated. Still the big, mobile all-terrain Gir-vans were great targets, demanding the ball and hitting it hard. Repetition was Shorty’s go—many, many kicks, twists and jinks, dishes off, and goals, eight all up ranging from a couple of goal-square toe pokes to languid lobs from a country mile out. Irish’s eyes were smiling, too. New starter Brian had a day out, getting into good space, doing tricky, clever things with hands and feet. Browny’s hands were terrific, too—lot’s of little, quick gives to release runners—and he used space with great skill, always open and rivalling Billy for A-grade lurking.
It was all guffaws (gufffives even) in the backline (even the opposition joined in). Up went the Wombats’ lament, ‘what’s he doing running free?’ as Billy sauntered into an open goal, countered by Dicko’s too true ‘what’s he doing running?’. You had to be there.
Harps’ comic turn (and turn, and turn…) had to be seen to believed, too. The ruckman/back had a great day out, and topped it with a beautifully flighted long pass into Stu, giving him every chance to beat the three on him. This was after Harps had dodged and weaved, assessed and dismissed the many options around him, and blanked out their extraneous, unhelpful screaming and gesticulating. The fact that Stu was last man out at full back detracted not all from the artistry, the command shown. Never to be repeated…or forgotten.
All in all a great day. A convivial outing with friends capped off with an ale at Berrima’s Surveyor General Inn, which is Australia’s oldest continuously licenced rubbity, apparently. Records-keeping is so important. Many thanks to the Wombats for the run and the laughs; and many more to BG, who umpired solo and did a great job.
Get down to training.