I Took A Hat Trick Once

It was low tide on the Cairns esplanade. The mud flats glistened in the early morning sun, the first of the boats carrying tourists to the Great Barrier Reef, made their way out of the inlet.

Small crabs and mud skippers entertained themselves chasing each other as the trumpet shellfish, left their zigzag trail in a slow march across the mud, like backpackers in search of themselves.

As I observed these low tide activities, my attention was drawn to an “old mate” sitting under a huge mango tree, reading the paper and enjoying the freshness and early morning sun. “Gonna be a hot one today he said”.

I looked down and noticed that he was been reading the story about the unveiling of statue of Shane Warne at the MCG. Warnie, I said. Yeah! “he was the best said old mate”

You know, he said. “I took a hat trick once” I know the feeling of taking a hat trick and making a hundred. Did both he said.

I remember the day I made a 124 not out. It was here in Cairns. I was playing in the schoolboys competition, it was great to get out of school on Friday afternoon to play cricket or footy.

I will always remember the day I made my first hundred. As I was walking off the ground, the captain held his players back and all the kids clapped as I left the ground. I will always remember that, he obviously had a good knowledge of the sportsman ship of the game. 

When I got to school on the Monday morning, the principal had everyone on to the parade ground. Everyone listened as he went on a long address about sport and the participation of sport. He then went on about the Friday match and how there was a special presentation to me because I had broken all previous school records in making 124 not out. He then called me up and presented me with a new cricket bat. It was a real shame job standing there in front of the school and making a speech, I cant remember what I said.

It made me well known, in the school and I was made a house captain the next year. When I took the bat home, the old man got out the linseed oil and oiled it up every day for a week. That bat was my prized possession.

What happened after that? Did you play first grade cricket? No I said I was doing an apprenticeship and other things took over my life.

Tell me about the hat trick, I asked. Well he said, it was in Mount Isa. I was working out there on construction of the No 4 copper concentrator, there were some boys from Victoria who played cricket and asked if I was interested in playing.

I had not had a ball or bat in my hand for 15 years and I went down to training more to keep me off the grog and get some fitness. After a month of training, I began to get a bit fit and was bowling a mix of spin and some swing, just like Sir Garfield Sobers he could do that, and he was a hero of mine.

I started getting a few wickets and making a few runs. I was playing on turf for the first time and it took some getting used to, we used to also play on concrete matting wickets.

The day I took the hat trick was like yesterday. We were playing on turf that day, the opposition batted first. They started well and they began to get on top belting us about.

There was a couple of barrackers in the stand that day and they were a bit worse for wear, having a sip and thinking they were in bay 13 at the G. They began this chant. Give Bert a bowl. A few more over’s and the skipper was worn down by the spectators calling for me. He threw me the ball, and said bowl some off spin see how you go. I bowled a couple of over’s getting onto a good length and moving the ball.

At the start of my 3rd or 4th over, the skipper came running up from first slip, he reset the field and said. Pitch it up outside off stump its moving about a bit, let it drift in he may get a snick. I pitched it up and to my surprise the ball spun about half a meter and bowled him.

The wicket keeper came racing up and holding his hands apart said that ball moved this much indicating about half a meter. The boys in the crowd went off, they got their wicket. The next guy came in took his line, backed away and looked around all confident.

With a glint in his old eyes and gesturing with his hands he said. I bowled him a beautiful off spinner, plenty of air drifted it in and bowled him. Well everyone went off, same thing the ball spun of the turf and bamboozled him he looked around at his stumps and his bat like it had a hole in it and walked off shaking his head.

The thought of a hat trick never even occurred to me.  When the next guy came in he took his mark and came down and spoke to the other batsman and said to him, he is bowling off spin mate, nothing really its fruit. I thought well what can I bowl now. I had been practising my “wrong un ” and now was the time to try and bowl one.

 I ran in and bowled a wrong un which is easy to pick if you are a off spinner, but he did not know where to put his feet and I caught him right in front for LBW, that was it hat trick at Mt Isa  It felt so good, a hat trick to a cricketer whether school boys first grade or at the MCG is something you remember all your life.

We won that game easy I went on and got 7 for not bad. Getting clapped off again bought back memories of my school boy 100. It was a great season and I have never played competition again. I played social cricket for a while in Cairns. We used to go out to Fishery Falls and the rules were play 8 over’s on and then go off for a beer. Everyone used to like that.

What do you think about the Warnie stature. I asked? Well he said, I do hope that the pigeons stay away. Warnie deserves better than having pigeon crap over him, after all the mainstream press have crapped over him for years, and no doubt may have cost him the captaincy.

I watched it on TV. I thought Mark Taylor was great, and also entertaining. However that guy the president of the MCG, made a “smart ass” comment when he said that Liz Hurley, was now an honorary Australian because of her relationship with Warnie and that he was pleased that she did not come via Christmas island.

There is no need for a cheap shot at refugees, by the president of the MCG and shows there are still people in high places in our cricketing hierarchy that have an obvious leaning towards players with the right school tie.

 It sends the wrong message to refugees, don’t play cricket, we don’t want your kind here. You won’t get selected or get into the hall of fame or have a stature in MCG park. Not for a couple of hundred years anyway and only after we have assimilated you, into the “aussie” mainstream and of course you must listen, to cricket on the ABC.

Well that’s Australia at that level, he said.  I didn’t have to contend with that when I took my hat trick or made my hundred. That kid who led his team in clapping me in after I made my hundred, the principle from my school, and the skipper in Mt Isa, in a way, they helped shaped my outlook on how to p lay the game for the good reasons of sportsman ship, mateship and equality.

All would have been more gracious, than the president of the MCG, and that was in 1956!!. The MCG has been glacial in its move to the mainstream of Australia’s multi racial society.

Cricket Australia would surely been very disappointed in the shadenfredue remark, after all they have put a lot into grass roots cricket, in remote aboriginal communities and into competitions like the Imparja Cup in Central Australia. 

Comments said in jest to get a laugh at someone elses expense, have been commonplace in Australias history. Laws are now in place to counter discrimination, but it appears that that there is still that underbelly of raceism in the Australian makeup that lingers on to this day.

The president should have stuck to the script. Sometimes it’s better to not open your mouth and be thought a fool, than to open it and leave no doubt.

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