I was speaking to a mate during the winter, checking on whether he was going around for a 23rd season in first grade, spread between Sydney and Melbourne. His response; "I still just love playing" , quickly qualified, "I love batting … and beers in the sheds." A fair summation of how most top order batsmen feel, at any stage of their career, but particularly as the end draws closer.
This weekend first grade return to Uni no. 1 for the first time in 2015/16. As much as locking horns with Randwick Petersham, who we have played so many big games against in recent times, I’m looking forward to being back in the sheds at no. 1 with the boys again. We share great celebrations, team songs belted out, and share the disappointment when we don't come up to scratch.
I’ve always sat in the same spot, the far corner on the left as you walk in. Cricketers tend to do that, we are superstitious creatures and the familiarity calms nerves and breeds comfort. As always this year there will be some changes, but I’m sure I will be remembering who sat where as I unpack my kit on Saturday morning.
Jonte is sitting where Moran used to. The most influential player of the last decade, four premierships. Messy kit, no fuss. Ready for whatever the game threw at him and a beer afterwards. Tim Ley to Jonte's left. He’s doing the heavy lifting now Scotty has moved on, powered by an array of gluten free snacks. Will Hay is on that side too. Assorted bits of his gear, and other people's, strewn across the floor. Old training tops that now resemble skins, and that questionable strategy of bringing both papers as an opening bat, just in case you nick one.
There’s space between Billy and me, Eddie C will move back in this year. Half obsessive compulsive routine, half preening. “The Poodle” is at his best when focused, with just the right amount of strut. More space to my left (it is good to spread out), then Faraday; organised, neat, gloves laid out in pairs. Lawyer like. The space to his left vacant, for now. Scooter Henry and his iPod used to be there, calm, relaxed, Mudgee like. Stu Clark was there too for a while, more nervous than he would like to admit.
Then a gap, no proper seats. Liam Robertson occupies the vast space Shane Stanton made his own amongst massage tables and left over rugby gear. Further around Nick Larkin unpacks a brand new Kookaburra kit where once there were hand-me-downs. He's steering the ship now, and his energy is infectious. In the far corner Somerville has Greg Matthews' old spot. Both wonderful off spinners, one slightly more eccentric than the other. MacGill used to be over there too, swapping war stories with Mo.
In another decade there will be another chapter to add to the many that came before the one I have described. It will be some else's corner, someone else's spot. The feelings will be the same and the song sung with the same gusto. Can't wait to get back in the sheds this weekend.