by Nathan Dennis
People that don't know much about our club will often say that "Latrobe is just a glorified MVCA club - you don't care enough". This statement couldn't be more wrong. This article is a reflection of my love for a club that has helped to shape me as a person and given me purpose in my life.
I started playing cricket competitively in 1993 in the Latrobe 7/8 Cricket Roster, organised by Bob Dickson. I had been going pretty well with the new ball and 3rd Grade Captain at the time, Peter Bonney, father of my team-mate Luke, invited me down to training and gave me a few games in the 3rd Grade team that year. At the time I lived closer to Sheffield and was going to play there, but the fact that someone had shown some interest in me sealed the deal, I was going to be a Latrobe Demon.
I was given the opportunity to rise through the ranks as a fast bowler, receiving great advice from legends like Grant Astell, Peter Bonney, Gary Spillane and Kevin Pearce, eventually getting a 1st Grade game. I had gone from being a raw teenager with not much idea of where the ball was landing to an 1st Grade cricketer. As a quiet teenager known as "Rowdy" I never had to ask for help, it was just always given.
Times got tough just as I felt I was entering my prime. I had just bowled my best ever 1st Grade spell in a Kookaburra Cup game in Hobart on the weekend, hurrying up Tasmanian Squad members and getting my rhythm back. Three days later I was in hospital fighting for my life and looking like I would lose an arm.
Many of my friends found it difficult to come in and see me in hospital as my injuries were quite horrific. My first visitors outside of family were four representatives of Latrobe Cricket Club: Grant Astell, Darren Nicolle, Paul Dickson and Steven Adkins. Not once did they say anything negative or even look overwhelmed, despite the fact I was swollen up to twice my size and with a limp, mangled arm. They talked to me about cricket and other things in general and left me feeling great. All of my other visitors had really struggled seeing my like that. I will never forget the composure they showed. How can people say that Latrobe people don't care?
After a few months in hospital I was able (after bribing all my doctors) to attend the club's Annual Dinner, still with a paralysed arm and being quite ill. To my surprise I had won the 2nd Grade Bowling Award, despite only playing half a season. The people in attendance gave me a standing ovation when I received my award, and I still choke back tears thinking about it now. I wasn't sure if I'd ever play cricket again, so that award and the response meant a lot to me. Do you still think Latrobe people don't care?
At the end of that year I was missing cricket a bit and my brother was playing at Latrobe, so I came down to training. I was still wearing a sling as my arm was weak and I was told that I would never be able to move it much, but I was sending a few balls down to batters in the nets. Third Grade Captain at the time (and former LCC Coach) Stewart Ashdown said to me that if I could get out of my sling I'd be able to play 3rd Grade. Well, this one statement gave me the greatest impetus I could ever have had in my rehabilitation, working twice as hard, and true to his word, when I got out of my sling he gave me a game in 3rd Grade. He didn't have to do this, as I could really only bowl half rat-power, struggled in the field and couldn't bat, but he did. In true fairytale style we won the 3rd Grade Premiership that year and I was on a real high. Stewart didn't have to give me a game, but in true Demon style, we love a battler.
The cricket bug was now back with me. I continued to work really hard, making my way back into 2nd Grade and taking the new ball once again. In Season 2002-2003, coach David Squibb approached me and said I'd be playing in 1st Grade against Burnie-Yeoman and you could have knocked me over with a feather. I was a player with only one good arm, but he gave me a go and I took wickets in the games I played that season. He didn't have to do this, it was a risk, but I defy anyone to say that this could happen at another club.
Since then I have been able to coach the club, win two 2nd Grade Premierships, another two 2nd Grade Bowling Awards and play a number of 1st Grade matches. My shoulder has given me some trouble in recent years, but I am still as passionate about playing and Latrobe Cricket Club as ever.
I owe a lot to this club. I have tried to give something back by taking on coaching roles, enjoying this immensely. The mateship that is around our club, the willingness to give battlers a go and people going out of their way to help you through tough times; I haven't seen that in any of the other sporting organisations I have been involved with. Through accidents, injuries and depression the Latrobe Cricket Club has been there for me, and I love the club. So the next time someone says or even thinks people at Latrobe don't care, I'll give them a copy of this story, as if you knew the club as I do, there couldn't be anything further from the truth.