It’s the season of 2008/09, my first for the club. After a handful of games in second grade I am selected to make my debut (courtesy of the bracket, pun intended) in first grade, week 2 of the round against Gordon. I walk out to open the batting with Ed Cowan. Matt Nicholson will be bowling for Gordon. I look up as I walk onto University number 1 oval to see the unmistakable figure of Greg Matthews strolling toward me. He grabs my arm and says “You’re playing with the big boys now”.
Now Mo definitely said ‘big boys’, but a more commonly used phrase is ‘big dogs’. Urban dictionary defines ‘Big Dog’ as “one at the top of his game. Be it business man, doctor, sportsman, etc”. It’s safe to say that SUCC has had our share of Big Dogs grace the sheds.
MacGill, Clark, Casson, Cowan, Matthews, Mail, Henry, Cameron, Abbott, Carters, Moran…. You wouldn’t lose too many fixtures with that side… and that’s just since I joined the club.
In that list, they come no bigger than Stuart MacGill. One of Australia’s greatest spinners, he returned to the SUCC ranks in 2011/12 in an attempt to spark a T20 comeback. It has become an infamous event within the first grade side, but let me share a story of a time when I bit off far more than I could chew.
After an emphatic victory, the quorum of the first grade side slipped into the ritual ‘team tub’. Those who have been lucky enough to play at number 1 oval, will know the perils of arriving late to such an event. As the majority of us settled into our usual showers and soaping routines, we could hear Stuart rustling about with his towel on the periphery. Some knowing looks toward me indicated that the play was on. I reached for the one shower head that shoots in a powerful singular jet, and as he strolled through the opening he was meet with an intense stream of ice cold water to the midsection. Instantly seeing red at this show of disrespect, he headed back out to the sheds and swiftly scooped up my playing kit and dragged it toward the showers. The only thing that saved me from an expensive trip to Kingsgrove was the large naked frame of Ian Moran, as he blocked an increasingly agitated MacGill from throwing my kit under the shower.
In the ensuing minutes, amongst nervous laughter from the group and a hapless explanation by myself as to why I thought it was appropriate to take such action, I was firmly reminded by Stuart of exactly where I fit into the ‘SUCC hierarchy’.
Any new shed can be an intimidating place. A shed filled with Big Dogs even more so. But there is one thing you learn when you spend some time with these characters. They are just regular blokes, who happen to be very good cricketers. Once you find your place within the side, and settle into the team dynamic, you have an amazing opportunity to learn from guys who have been to the top levels of the game. The thing with Big Dogs is, their bark is worse than their bite.
The Uni Number 1 sheds are one of my favourite places. Some of the most valuable learning you can do at cricket is after stumps is called and you have a more relaxed opportunity to assess the day with your peers. Long may the traditions continue, and I hope to see you all in the sheds as we push for more success this season.