For the love of the game

In today’s busy, saturated, connected world, sport is such an important part of life. It brings people together from all works of the globe, all cultures and all backgrounds. The love of a game can unite the human race like very few other things. I was lucky enough to be a guest at the Adelaide University Cricket Club Dinner on Friday night at the National Wine Centre and was reminded of the reasons why sport is such a vital part of the world.

Those in attendance on Friday night were there because they loved the game of cricket. The age demographic was extravagant. Ranging from the players who represent the club today to the players of yesteryear who have a strong connection to the Club and who are a big part of its history.  Even if you were a stranger to them, there was always the question of ‘how are you connected to the club?‘ and ‘welcome along, we are so glad you are here to celebrate with us.’  From the moment you walked in the door, it was clear that these people were passionate and had attended year on year despite perhaps not playing a major role in the Club anymore. That in itself speaks volumes.

A prime example of the passion, love and commitment to the game came about halfway through the evening. This was the point where, despite needing to move onto other award presentations, the room just could not be brought to attention.  Everybody just wanted to chat, catching up on seasons past, sharing memories and enjoying themselves.

As award after award was presented, many of these named after siginifcant past and present figures involved at the Club, there was laughter, jokes and a sense of the history of the organisation on display. There also were more lighter moments with video questions to current players, which got a great response from the room too.

Interviews were conducted with key members of teams including the captain of a 2016/17 premiership side who spoke of how after a few seasons of frustration, he did not want the captaincy tag anymore. However, after a drive-way conversation with his father, he changed his mind and the rest, as they say is history. Or there is the girl who is studying medicine, but spends her weekends representing the University playing cricket, because she simply loves the game. Many a story was told throughout these casual chats, and another one that particularly stands out came from a premiership won twenty years ago. The end of season trip headed to South Africa and Zimbabwe. Something you would be unlikely to see at any level these days! These interviews and stories were the highlight of the night and once again outlined the enthusiasm and happiness the Club and the sport has brought to so many people.

I am told that legendary ABC sports broadcaster Roger Wills was the man who once conducted these interviews. Despite enjoying a quieter life in retirement these days, Wills was still in the room, chatting with anyone who came his way and sharing his passion and support for the game as well.

The debate about women in sport has never been stronger in media circles given the recent AFLW season and the more established WBBL . On Friday night, there was no debate, it was as if it was the most normal thing in the world for the girls to be presented their awards for the year next to the boys. It was a clear example of the way it should be, with no debate or discussion about gender diversity required. They say actions speak louder than words and there was no better example than this. There was a pledge to get more girls involved in the game as well to continue the Club’s strong legacy. Hopefully at higher levels, this is example will eventually be followed in coming years.

The sporting world of today is more commercialised and political than ever before, driven by money and the corporate dollar. While there is nothing overly wrong with that, every now and then it is worth being reminded of the reasons why people play the game in the first place, the stories that become memories forever and the bond between people who feel a connection for life. The world is better off because of it.

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