We are here again, another finals series. We have been here plenty of times before, we know how this time of year works. Three weeks of good hard cricket and we will be dancing on the tables at the Nags drinking out of another cup.
It is a given that we will be batting first, regardless of who wins the toss. So here we go again, striding out to the middle, expecting to see the boys at the lunch break after a wicketless session.
However this time it doesn’t go to plan as my opening partner nicks one in the first over. The next couple of overs are spent scratching around, then I play and miss. The opposition go up as one, bemused I turn around to see the umpire giving me my marching orders.
I stand there crestfallen, unable to comprehend how I had been given out. Then the red mist descends, audible mutterings as to my opinion of the umpires decision are made as I slowly trudge off, the gate is slammed, into the changing rooms I go, head well and truly gone by this point, my gear comes flying off in a rage, expletives are used and then silence.
Stewing on my own misfortune I sit and watch my teammates also struggle as we creep to a triple figure total. We were behind the eight ball from that point onwards and despite fighting our way back into the game gallantly it just was not enough this time. After four consecutive premierships this is a feeling unknown to many.
A few silly Sunday beers and one hangover later, I open my emails Monday morning to learn that I have been reported for my carry on post dismissal, ‘what? I wasn’t that bad was I?’ This is followed by a hearing down at CricketNSW headquarters where I sit before three gentleman who run their judgment over my case and after deciding to suspend me, have a conversation with me which all cricketers could probably do with having once in a while. Mainly pertaining to the spirit of the game and how we all have a duty to uphold it.
So now it’s time for the first offseason/preseason ever where I know I will not be playing the first few weekends next summer. The first few fitness sessions I cop the obvious jibes, “what are you doing here mate, shouldn’t you be starting next month?”
Then the start of the season rolls around and the question most cricketers dare not ask “what would I be doing on a summers day if I wasn’t playing cricket?” all of a sudden becomes a stark reality.
Well let me tell you it is everything you expect and more. Friday post-work beers don’t have to finish at 10pm anymore and you don’t have to ask for the cute brunette’s number and hope for a text back you can back yourself and stay the journey.
Ludicrous suggestions like ‘where can we go outside of the lockout zone’ or ‘let’s go to the casino’ are not so ludicrous anymore. Then when you stumble in at 7am and your roommates are up packing their lunch for the day ($1) and organising their kits (or small bag for Mortimer) the feeling of falling into bed is ever so sweet.
When the sleep in finally ends it is off to the local café for a coffee and eggs benny which is a pleasant change of place from sharing a change room with Will Hay where you trade the burning incense of the café for a face full of talcum powder as he unsuccessfully tries to ward off chafe again.
The hardest part is trying to pick what to do next. Coogee Beach sounds rather appealing, a bit of salt water to wash away the hangover, or some of the lads are headed down to the races at Randwick which could be an option (unlike Creepy Crowley these blokes won’t be constantly trying to tell me how ordinary I am on the circuit despite giving up the game years ago himself), I even saw a status on Facebook from someone trying to offload a ticket to a music festival. If feeling adventurous a trip north to The Greens or Wharfy in Manly could be on the cards for some afternoon beers, I might even get a look at the finger food with the Larkins not around.
For a fleeting moment cricket enters the subconscious, but is swiftly dismissed as I open Snapchat to see a selfie of Jack Holloway with the caption, “Kicked one. Again.” Or a pixelated video of McMahon being horned yet again, followed by one of Tom Decent trudging off forlorn after kicking one at Pauls off a 48 year old medium pacer.
However, no matter how many winners you back at Randwick or how many Swedish backpackers there are at the Coogee Bay Hotel nothing compares to coming off after a hard days slog in the field having bowling the opposition out in the 80th over with their last two wickets batting for a session despite the run chase realistically being over well before tea and bellowing out the SUCC song. Followed by getting back to the Nags (you can be assured Robbo will be first one back there if he was remotely involved in the day’s play) to share a beer with your club mates and hear how everyone got on.
A lot of players join Sydney Uni but not many leave for other clubs. It is this strong sense of mateship that goes with pulling on the baggy blue and gold that draws us back every year.
So my advice to anyone who has nicked a few in a row would be to consider slamming the gate really hard and take a couple of weeks off.