JOSH BEAN - Goes The Tonk
A Coach's Memoir The flights were booked – leaving for Adelaide the day before the first ball is bowled to give the squad a full day to get to know each other a little better (and half a day to sleep it off before the first match). First things first: upon arrival collect the biggest “here we are” hire van to fit all the boys and their kits comfortably whilst taking in the views of Australia’s most basic city where its hard to find a good beer, decent bar (because they wouldn’t let us in anywhere good) or anywhere to park a massive long wheel base, hi top (all chosen for maximum player comfort) van. OK... maybe I’ve started off a little negatively about what was a memorable tour, but yes West End bitter is worse than Boags and I’m glad they never found the scratches on top of the van roof. We’ll get back to the van later. But let me be clear; this is a story of defiance. Defiance against the city of Adelaide, and against the other Universities that did their best to mute us both on and off the field.
Day 1: Player familiarity day - Glenelg Beach
After driving around looking for car parks for over an hour it was time to get our bags to the hotel, put on our best beach and yacht attire and head to Glenelg. It was well worth the 45 minute Ubers.
Upon arrival it mirrored a poor man’s Santa Monica Boulevard. This was perfect for me as coach. Some went and loosened their limbs with some beach cricket, but the other more confident squad members, elected to participate in the first of many ‘coach’s meetings’ over some buckets of beer.
An hour later the rest of the squad returned from the beach with mild sunstroke that would thwart their consumption capabilities early. As a coach I was hoping this would be the last of the bad decisions made on tour. After a quiet word to those involved, I shared with each player the top secret dossier, titled "Trust the Process". All about the importance of the task ahead, what this means to their University and their state of Tasmania, which included a message from the Premier and of course, Tim Paine.
The get-to-know-each-other day was a success. I sat back a little and got a good idea of the persona of the group and what makes each individual tick (i.e. basically checking if anyone would be sent home and, if so, what it would be for). One squad member stood out on day one; Damien ‘Boomer’ Harvey from Wynyard, with any queries about his footwork answered as he tore up any available area to dance and, as much as this hurts me to say, had the hand of many a lovely lady lured in by his stunning choreography. There was no curfew as our first game was a mid-arvo start the next day.
From what I saw it was evident that the squad was here to win and we would hit the ground running. I ducked off early that night with star batsman Chris Brown. We shared some Burger King, watched a doco on the moon landing, enjoyed great discussion and the first of many one-on-one coaching sessions. (important - landing was filmed by Stanley Kubrick in a desert somewhere)
Day 2: GAME DAY!
Match One – UTAS v UNI SA Here we go! Game on. We arrived at the University of Adelaide’s grade cricket headquarters only to be waved away from the number one wicket – which looked superb – and shunted on to an adjoining oval. On first inspections the wicket is incredibly soft. Wet? But how...? There had been no rain the days before so we chalk it down to lazy grounds-keeping. Well at least this would make the toss easy, right? Bowl first and hope it dries out a little for when we chase down the total. After convincing the Captain that that was the plan, it didn’t matter – we lost the toss. Oh well. “Boys, we’ve lost the toss. It’s going to be tricky early but, hey, they just all warmed up in their full kits, how hard could this be?!”
UNI SA didn’t seem like they’d be much of a threat, but they gave our boys a cricket lesson. They adapted to the conditions perfectly and handed us a hiding. The match was flawed by bad individual decisions and lack of understanding of the capabilities of our own players in their chosen disciplines.
Oh, and our Captain, Jack Di Venuto’s decision to learn how to bowl leg spin mid-innings.
A dashing 32 (25) from Jack di Venuto and 23 (11) from Liam McLaren scraped us to 106, leaving UNI SA to cruise to the total 2 down (Dom Rawlings 1-16 off 4). During the match I kept a keen eye on the very high standard affair next door between Monash and UNSW....... the two teams we were set to play next. Oh dear.
UNI SA 2-106 d UTAS 105
Not a great start, but hey it’s done with now. Back to the hotel for the first of our home truths sessions and off to the University of Adelaide for some free beers and a meet and greet. It became pretty evident that night that there were issues. Maybe we didn’t know each other that well? A Captain under pressure after a dressing down from Richard Baines about not being handed the ball. Was Bainesy a secret weapon? Anyway, first game, wet wicket, lost the toss – no biggie. Go out together, stick together and refocus for a massive double header tomorrow (one very nervous coach).
Match Two - UTAS v Monash After our morning debriefing at Bang Bang café the equation was simple: we need to win our next two to stay in the big dance - Tier 1 - what we came for. A nervous coach. Worried. But never show your weakness.
We arrive to our ground (the same park with heaps of ovals) and get chucked on the shitty No. 2 ground. And guess what... it’s wet. What do we need to do? Win the toss and bowl first....toss lost. Seriously. We’re batting first on another damp one. Coach killer – FML. A Gutsy 68 by South Hobart’s Kayden Hine and absolutely nothing from the rest allowed us to scrape to 118, which proved to be clearly not enough as Monash arrogantly piled on 3 – 123, with plenty of loser banter across the way.
We looked the best team in our full UTAS cricket reds, but we had become a laughing stock after two games. Senior Assistant Paul McNamara’s fruit, lollies and refreshments seemed wasted on us. I made certain players vomited up what they’d consumed.
This is the point when things got real. The first of many phone calls I started to receive. The Mercury, “Is it true Uni are pulling you out early to save cost and their brand?”. But the most memorable was from UTAS Cricket Club’s President, Charles Rose, a key organiser of the trip. Charles, a Doctor also, had just come off emergency department night shift and his fitbit stated that the most stressful event of the day was finding out the recent scorecard. I could hardly get a word in as he interrogated my processes and scrupulously analysed my team and their performances. When eventually allowed to speak I stood by the group and told Charles to TRUST THE PROCESS. Would I put a curfew in place? , No. I couldn’t lose the group completely, could I? Next up - UNSW. They just chased down UNI SA’s total of 98 in 8 overs, one wicket down with a bloke hitting sixes with a broken leg and not running (true story) and yes, against the team that beat us first. Interesting...... We had a bit of time before the next game so Richard Baines and I headed off to a swanky pub where we were greeted by the owner manager who informed us that his place had the best food in Adelaide and talked about his love for Tassie. Two semi-raw chicken salads later and I was in the dunny, and I’d just been informed that the Captain was missing. Seriously, Adelaide?
Monash 3-123 d UTAS 9-118
Match Three - UTAS v UNSW I arrive back to the ground as soon as my bowel muscles retracted, sending Chris Brown out to toss the coin.. we win, we choose to bowl. Finally, we are on centre stage. A proper, dry(ish) ground with pace and, most importantly, a nice big stand for me to huddle up into the corner of. This could go one of two ways: was it to be Silverchair’s ‘Pure Massacre’ or Placebo’s ‘Pure Morning’? Well, what happens next will go down in UniSport National’s history. Given the hours had clicked over, it was a ‘pure afternoon’. A pumped up Dom Rawlings took the new ball and, with some tweaking to his field, he had a licence to attack and that’s exactly what he did, removing both openers and their number 5, to take 3 for 23.
Mister Fix It Dan (WG) Whittemore took 2 for 7 off 4, UTAS’ s most frustrated quick – Richard Baines – snared 3 for 16 off 4 backing up his bullish off field demands to have the ball at any cost. But the killer blow was delivered by the mysterious George “The Ripper” Cripps with 1 for 6 off 1, knocking their big dog off in single figures with a superb back-spinning seaming delivery which seemed to die on him. So....Wowwee. All out for 96.
Great wicket that seemed to get quicker.. no excuses for our lads surely. Perfect wicket. Experienced Premier cricketers Kayden Hine 51 not out and captain Jack di Venuto 38 (yes, he returned!) steered us home comfortably with five overs to spare! And weren’t we carrying on! But the real highlight had to be Will “all hands on” Deck who sub fielded for the opposition, especially his involvement in the mid-over pep talks and our own wickets celebrations!.. Yep, he got smashed in the home truths meeting that night and took the yellow jacket. The boys were back. Even the umpires joined us for a beverage after the game. I was saved (for the time being), but most importantly the group was excited and I was going to make sure we all stuck together and found the best night spot in Adelaide.
UTAS 2-100 d UNSW 9-96
After showering back at the hotel (and being duly dished out) I fulfilled my coaching responsibility and headed to the trendy bar on the corner and asked the bar manager where can I take the boys tonight, somewhere special.. Before I had finished speaking he stopped me “Mate, there’s only one place”. “Really?” I replied. “Yes, trust me – you need to get to The Edinburgh”. Yep, one happy coach. I rounded up all the boys, tapped enough times to get us in three Ubers and 45 mins later we had arrived – and it was closed. Hmmm.. We hoisted ourselves back to the bar on the corner and asked for a please explain?? A few of the boys ordered pizzas – and they were a no show also.. First and only time I will ever see the great WG angry. Typical Adelaide. It was pretty much then that I realised the whole of SA hated TAS. Ok, Glenelg was ok, their bars could have had better water frontage. But, then again, we do have MONA, rainforests, and Putters Mini Golf so I can understand why they’re pissed.
Match Four - UTAS V La Trobe Uni Ok, we missed the top tier, but we had just destroyed the UNSW campaign, and that was very satisfying. So, the message from me was to keep winning and keep enjoying our time away. Our bar hopping didn’t improve but we destroyed every team in our path from here on.
UTAS batted first and posted a very competitive 6 -155. The stand out was a brilliant 52 (25) from Chris Brown, along with cameos from Hine 22 (24), Greenwell 27 (32) and Dan “WG” Whittemore 13 (11). The bowling was clinical. Richard “give-me-the-ball” Baines took another 2, Deck, WG, “Boomer” Harvey 1 each. But the stand out was Taej “Mahal” Bhonagiri who took 3 for 21 off his 4. UTAS 6-155 d La Trobe Uni 112
Match Five - UTAS v AUS College of Physical Education Same day, same ground. We all piled into the bus and went on a beautiful tour around the beaches looking for a place to eat. No luck. We found a cafe that didn't do food. We ended up at a Maccas on the freeway tailing onto the end of long lines comprising of the other cricket lads. Message from coach was this: sugar free coke and no sundaes. Lucky enough to stay at the same ground and having familiarised ourselves, we batted first. Not a great start as we lost three quick ones. Chris Brown and Liam McLaren chimed in with 20’s but the saviour, once again, was the quietly spoken Taej Bhonagiri. His 35 not out at number 7 got us to a respectable 141. It’s fair to say that as a coach we left a bit in the shed with Taej - I thought he was a bowler! He must have been sitting there watching the first two games thinking, these guys are really shit, I want my money back. Apologies to Taej.
Ball in hand, job to be done, discipline and that’s what we got. Deck, Bhonagiri, Baines 1, and George “The Ripper” Cripps 2 wickets did the job containing them to 5-123.
UTAS 141 d AUS College of Physical Education 5 – 123
Three from three was a great feeling and we had soon become the kings of MAC Boutique Hotel, and that was important. We ventured out for another interesting night, featuring Will Deck snuggling up to yet another female patron, in another interesting establishment.
Day 5: Match Six - UTAS v Monash Uni Last day of cricket and, just like it started, we had a game that allowed us to have a solid afternoon/night session. This was like a minor league final and it was very comforting to see Monash fall in a heap after missing the topflight finals. Were they worried about playing us? Yes. Did they pretend like they didn’t care? Yes. Did they say they weren’t playing their best team, but did? Yes...and yes. They had humiliated us in game 2. We batted first again and it’s fair to say the boys went out and had fun. Chris Brown, again with 52 (26), was a pleasure to watch with his lap sweeping. Cameos from Damien Harvey, di Venuto and 32 from WG Whittemore, along with a capitulation from Monash allowed us to pile on 184. Enjoyable viewing. The bowling was even more impressive. Singles to Greenwell, Luke “Business Class” D’Alessandro, Baines another 2, and three a piece to Deck and McLaren ensured a complete routing. Monash all out for 118.
UTAS 184 d MONASH 118 The highlight of the day was from our always impressive team manager, Bob Cotgrove. Big Bob was wandering around under the stand at the adjoining Karen Rolton Oval looking for a toilet when he happened to come across one of the female strikers’ players in an ice bath. She was friendly and greeted Bob with a smile and pointed him to the cubicle. The simple things.
THE WRAP UP The tour was DONE! Did we go out? Yes. Did I organise another pub and get there before a massive line up only not to be let in because I had no ID? Yes. (Note: I am 41 and thank you team for also boycotting). So, FU Adelaide and well done lads on destroying every team in our path after finding our feet in the two warm up matches. It was perceived initially as a bit of a fun trip but after the first two losses it was apparent that there was a lot of pride at stake (and an acute awareness that losing and being mediocre wasn’t much fun). When you put on the UTAS strip there are no excuses. I am certainly excited for next year (if I can hold my position). I absolutely loved the group of guys that toured and I’d like to push harder next year for greater success. If that means an extended squad, I’m happy with that.
Bring on Perth* (Due to COVID-19, the next Nationals T20 Div 1 will be in the Sunshine Coast between 9th-12 August, 2021).