If club cricketers "go on tour" it's generally in a mini van, so when the lads arrived at the airport and were presented with their itinerary for the week in Sydney excitement was high.
It included details of four matches against First Grade sides, on two grounds that have recently been voted the "best club grounds in NSW". This was going to be a once in a life-time experience of what is often called the best club competition in the world.
The lucky tourists on the KCC President's Tour were:
We arrived Saturday the 16th of September and found our bearings around Surry Hills, where we would be staying for the next eight days. We managed to score ourselves some tickets to the AFL finals match up between GWS Giants and the West Coast Eagles at Spotless Stadium.
Vs St. George CC
Our first hit out on tour was at the picturesque Hurstville Oval against St. George. St. George was the home of none other than Sir Don Bradman when he played in NSW. The coaching staff at St. George was almost bigger than our travelling squad:
- Club Coach/PG Coach - Peter Jackson
- 1Grade Coach/Skills Coach - Dean Gilchrist
- Batting Coach - Steve Cazzulino
- Fast Bowling Coach - Ed Zelma
- Strength & Conditioning Coach - Jock Campbell
- Spin Bowling Coaches - Murray Bennett & Liam Zammit
- AW Green Shield Coach - Dave Williams
- Physio - Ciaran Williams (Fit & Flow Physio at Caringbah)
The boys were a little rusty in the field and could have done with some help from a "skills coach". Any delivery with the Kookaburra Turf ball that was slightly wayward was punished on what was a terrific pitch for batting. There opener "Hopkins" carried his bat for a chanceless 160* and they set us 337 off 50. It was too much for us in our first match but we scrapped through to 220 with partnerships between Harry Wright and Jarred Sewell and Dan Pile and Zank Desai providing most of the runs.
Vs Blacktown Warriors - Match 1
We were back to winning ways in T20 against Blacktown at Joe McAlee Oval. The bowling performance to restrict Blacktown to 80 odd in a T20 was the highlight. We batted out the entire second innings in what felt more like a exhibition game than a proper T20. No one told that to Ben Freeman-CAtley though, who chased a ball to the boundary and cannoned into the metal picket fence - spending the rest of the tour hobbling around!
Vs Blacktown Warriors - Match 2
More of the Blacktown First Grade team were available for the afternoon T20. We batted first and Jono Sole top scored with 40, hitting 4 bombs on what were rather large boundaries. He was ably supported by Sam Noster who was batting down the order. Their opener blasted 47 before being cleaned up by Henry King. This put the brakes on the Blacktown innings and Ben Freeman-Catley, now playing on one leg, kept us in it with 3 quick wickets through the middle. It wasn't enough though as Blacktown cantered home in the 19th over.
Vs Camden and Campbelltown (Ghost's) CC
We got better as the tour went on and the last game we played against Ghosts' was the game of the trip. Ghosts played their First Grade side which included Phillip Wells and Jarrad Bourke. Wells has scored 1000 runs in First Grade cricket in each of the last 4 years and Jarrad Bourke has dominated club cricket over the years with his left arm orthodox.
We bowled first on what was a low turner and watched as Wells went about his work, nothing flashy but very solid for the first ten overs, then clicked into gear with a few glorious shots down the ground. His retirement at 67* probably kept us in the game. The boys bowled well thereafter as Ghosts made their way through to 277 off their 50. The pick of the bowlers was Mitch Butler, who was economical and took one wicket.
Our turn at bat and the top order took the shine off the turf but the runs were hard to come by. Noster came to the crease in the 15th over and made batting look a little easier, sweeping the spinners well and manipulating plenty of 2's and 3's on what was a massive cricket oval. Zank joined him and made a well compiled 30, their partnership bought some momentum into the chase. The partnership of 60 between Sewell and Noster made sure we only needed tens of the last ten overs. Sam was dismissed in the 40th over for a well compiled 79 off 76 including nine 4's. That bought Johnny Fletcher to the crease of what was quickly becoming a dustbowl - just up Johnny's ally then! He swept and reversed from ball one and made a brilliant 30 off 21. There was plenty of running in the partnership of 89 between Sewell and Fletcher. A few lusty blows from Sewell meant 22 runs were taken off the 2nd to last over left us 18 to get off the last but when Fletcher was run out on the 2nd ball of that over the game was effectively over.
The boys shared a great evening with the Ghosts players and support crew. The facilities at Raby were "world class" for a club and the generosity of their secretary, Jason Ellsmore meant the boys came home with mementos that you will no doubt see about the practice facilities of Karori Park this Summer!
Our esteemed President took the lads out for dinner on one of the nights. We were lucky enough to have Club legend Simon Allen, who now lives in Sydney, join us along with ex-Blackcaps Darryl Tuffey (Penrith CC Coach) and Ian Butler (Knox College Sports Director). We enjoyed some red meat, red wine, plenty of cricket chat and Hamish Marshall's first international tour "challenge".
Sydney as a destination for a pre-season tour was epic. We certainly saw some sights being based right in the mixer of Surry Hills and even managed to score 17 tickets to an AFL semi-final.
Special mention must be made of Doug - the tour simply would not have gone ahead without his generous support.
The "President's Tour" was a remarkable success. The cricket was a real highlight. Playing on facilities like Hurstville Oval and Raby Rd will be remembered fondly by all those who got the opportunity.