The annual event, played for he Slasher McKay Trophy, was again held at Coogee Oval in March 2019. Old Boys from various years now join in, and the 1983 team came out on top for the second year in a row. Captains were Andrew Ackerman (‘82) and David Scribner (‘83). It is always great to see ‘cricket tragics’ as well as observers come along every year to catch up, bowl, bat and connect.
We all left school some weeks ago. Over 1800 of them in fact. Count em and weep. Yet somehow we still find ourselves turning up to play this one game of cricket. The stars of our school sides are mainly absent. Our later day heroes tend to be the yeomen of yesteryear, men content as kids to bat at 8 in thirds and take 1-27 then boast about it to their folks over a Filet of Fish medium meal at Kensington Maccas. But in the eternal unfolding present of middle age it’s the Donaldsons and today the Pericas who tend to turn it on. The ruthless balancing of life’s long-run ledger in action.
Frankly the cricket is now essentially beside the point, as cricket is rapidly becoming in our broader culture (for god’s sake, our prime minister is a rower, how’s that even legal?). You turn up for the banter, which is delivered with far more energy and accuracy than the fare in the centre. At the other end of the spectrum Proco gave me a primer on defence contracting and the dire implications of our government’s ‘best endeavours’ commitment to local material procurement. Elsewhere, Harry gave me the heads up on his firm’s commendable contribution to the lowering of CTP premiums in the premier state. More than I bargained for when I turned up today, to be honest. This is why we play. To laugh and to learn (Powerpoint slides available through the week).
The day began with a mob of us removing the covers in a display of brotherhood unmatched since the barn-raising scene in Witness. What happened to Kelly McGillis by the way? To be fair she’s probably producing kombucha on an organic farm in the Napa Valley, teaching her kids the harp in the nude. Anyway, 1983 batted first with Milne and Arnall wandering out. Crispin smacked his free hit to the fence before making a breezy 10 or so while Scotty batted properly – he found runs by the simple method, hitting it straight to every fielder, and was going so well it was a surprise when he went for 28. Hirsty came and went, still bemused that his daughter rang him late last night asking him download an app so she could have some instant cash while out on the town. Turned out her boyfriend’s family had also invited Ms Hirst to Hawaii and dad said ‘no’. We asked why she needed permission seeing the girl was now 18. His reply: ‘because she does’. Arguably line of the day, for the delivery alone. Anyway, Ando now managed to hit a ball from Scotty D that pitched at least 3 yards outside leg with a kinda leading edge back onto the stumps. As our entire plan, as we’d ‘discussed all week’ in long late-night video and whiteboard sessions, had revolved around Ando getting 30 and returning to get 80, so 1983 looked a little sick at this point. Swivel got a run-a-ball 11, noteworthy for a hurdler, before Harapin decided Albert was asleep rather than actually still a pretty good fielder well able to pull off a run out. Paul went on to get his SHOBS high score of 16 before falling to the pitiless Ackerman. Branny cracked a few sending a few tremors through the fielding side. Skouf showed a bit but perished no doubt distracted by having the kids all day and parking his flash Merc just so everyone could see what a truly nice car it was and mutter ‘Pete’s done well for himself’. But somehow we were 8-82 before Scribo got a sparkling 30 to right the listing vessel with the able assistance of those redoubtable salty sea dawgs C Russell and J Perica. Their partnership was a masterclass in running no harder than was entirely necessary. How many each man scored is tricky to say because as they pressed on we all noticed that Chris and Jace were now remarkably similar in physique, technique and silhouette. Indistinguishable. So much so some thought we were watching the slowest forming pair of Siamese twins in human history. By then end of the 2025 fixture the men might be conjoined. Stay tuned. Jeez they batted well. As did the returning skipper Scrib who will be feeling the 17 threes he ran in getting a sterling 49 not out – so selfless – to fatten our score to a very defendable 200. A captain’s knock and then some. Ackerman’s men were left to ponder what the bloody hell had happened. Like the test Ponting threw away in Cardiff in 2009 by bowling Hauritz to Panesar and Anderson … seriously, Ricky must have been bitten by a rabid greyhound at some point. Or that afternoon in the late 70s when Safraz Nawaz bowled unplayable mullygrubbers on the MCG to earn the chockies for Pakistan. Mysteries for the ages that help explain why we play a game that never made much sense and increasingly causes actual pain for a good 10 days after the fixture.
Lunch was put on by 82. Or by Ack and Albert. Andy got up at 4.27am to par boil the sausages before grilling them at the ground on a Harvey Norman hibachi. Albert brought his killer garlic sauce to go with his chicken. That’s not lunch, that’s love! We all enjoyed it and drank beers we didn’t really need to drink but it was a warm day and lo it was good. Even the Dr Tim’s or Dr Jim’s. Or Dr Tim-Tam, Jim-Jams whatever the fruity stuff was.
So 1982 set about their chase. An intense selection process of aimless practice balls resulted in Perica and Swivel taking the new ball. What? The game seemed to slip into an obscure dimension of String Theory, the one where exceptionally little happens. The same zone in which Sunil Gavaskar is forever getting 38 not out in that 65 over World Cup game or Picnic at Hanging Rock is screened every night, twice. Seriously if Anne Louise Lambert wasn’t so ethereally beautiful would anyone give a flying nectarine about that flick?!? Albert went early as did Jim Hope and after 10 overs or so 82 were 2-20 odd. Proco injected some verve and went aerial showing he’d just come back from working the Avalon Airshow. Scott D struck the ball well before falling to a screamer from Ando, possibly the only man playing today who could catch one below knee height. Arnall was turning destroyer. Brann returned to get his second caught and bowled, as Reitmans could not believe he’d hit a return catch. Nabil also perished too soon, to Harapin, expecting movement and getting a dart. The barrister Price having his case dismissed for 9. Run out! The father and son combo Dennis and Peter V who’d make the short trip from the UK for the sole purpose of playing this fixture and having a Filet of Fish at Kensington Maccas also walked out and shortly thereafter walked back in.
The river of fate was running against 82. Last year it was Aikman’s miracle catch that won the day. But this year, the surprise of 83 getting to 200 and the accumulated impact of beer and sausages, chicken and onion, white rolls and Lebanese bread seemed to undermining their ascent to the summit. Yet 82 were not quite done. Birthday boy R Cirillo who’d earlier disclosed he repeated Year 12 only for ‘the rugby and chicks’ (a um er massive surprise) … to which the grandstand said ‘wasn’t that combo behind all key life decisions?’ … Rich batted really well, especially against Ando who came on in over 28. Of course, Stu D – who must top the aggregate and averages for this event which stretches back to at least 2003 – got his mandatory 30 and returned to give his side a faint glimmer. Ack, who’d bowled so well, classiest player in the game by some distance, holed out to the bucket hands of The Skouf. The game ended duly when Hirsty put aside his reservations about his daughter’s life choices and rattled the Donaldson stumps.
1983 won by something like 25 runs. Maybe 30. No one cared. An excellent day, superbly conceived, effortlessly executed.
As time ambles on, the simple pleasure of this absurd game reminds of what counts in this brief life.
But where the bloody hell was Howie?
See you next year.
Author: Mark Swivel (83)