Mark's Story

Mark Weinert, a life-member, multi-premiership winner as captain, player and coach, recently penned his memories from playing one hundred matches for Para Vista Lutheran Cricket Club:

 

As a young bloke who was dragged up in the heart of Port Adelaide country, it’s fair to say that I was an unusual ‘fit’ amongst the players of Para Vista Lutheran Cricket Club, many of whom were members and regular attendees of the resident Lutheran Church.

                 

Coaxed out of two years of ‘retirement’ by my good mate Trevor Jarrett, I played my first match for the Club a few months prior to my 23rd birthday in the season of 1992/93. Coming from Port Adelaide district cricket club, where my last match was in their B-Grade, the expectations of my then-teammates were fairly high.
 
I marked the occasion with a 4-ball duck batting at #4 and followed that with scores of 1, 5 and 4! I found myself dropped to the B’s and thought that I must’ve acquired ‘Ian Baker-Finch Syndrome’ at some stage of the previous two years and had somehow lost all of my cricketing ability. The archives will show I made 43 and 26 in those following two B grade matches, re-appeared in the A’s in the opening spot thereafter and played in my first PVLCC A-Grade premiership – the second in a row for the Club. A sheet-anchor 69 in the semi-final was followed up with a duck in the grand-final against Enfield, but winning the flag soon overshadowed the disappointment of personal failure. I lifted my form however, and duly disgraced myself for the post-match celebrations at Dave Oldman’s house - adding some truth to the adage ‘You can take the boy outta The Port....”.


I got a lot fitter leading into my second season which resulted in a far better personal output - 600+ runs, including three tons, one of which (113) was made in the grand-final against our club-mates (Para Vista B) where Trevor Jarrett smacked 131 in the B’s total of 213 during week one. We had everything to lose in the run-chase, but managed to chase down the total just 1 wicket down, with certified club legend Graeme Tscharke and yours truly adding 189 for the second wicket. Ironically, it would be TJ who would dismiss me with the final ball of the match, and I don’t think he’s taken a wicket since...


The next four years would see another four A-Grade flags head our way, with some of those premierships won with our backs against the wall at various stages of the finals series, including one outright win against Edwardstown in the semi-final of ‘94/95 when we had lost on first innings. But this club has something special about it, which every successful sporting club possesses – the self-belief in the individual, and indeed the team, to win from any position. We expect to win. That’s what separates PVLCC from the others. The club would go on to win no less than eight A-Grade premierships in a row between ‘91/92 and ‘98/99 – a record in this Association, and a feat that will most likely never be eclipsed.



 

My first taste of representative cricket occurred during the Christmas/New Year break of ‘93/94 when Western Suburbs travelled to Adelaide in a ‘non-Championship’ year to play two matches against us at Prince Alfred College. We won match #1 in a canter, with (then) Clayton United’s John Buchan and myself (60-odd) adding 130-odd for the first wicket. The curator forgot to turn the automatic sprinkler system off and we arrived at P.A.C. with the centre wicket under water the next day prior to match #2. We started several hours late and even offered to bat first on the wet deck. My old Goat Herder team mate Greg Hassold and I opened the batting and put on another 100-run opening stand, with Greg going on to make a magnificent 106, including 2 sixes that landed on Dequetteville Terrace! Greg was an incredible talent.


I was fortunate enough to earn selection at two National Championships during this ‘golden era’ (in ‘94/95 and as captain in ‘96/97) and lucky enough to be rewarded with All-Australian selection at both of those carnivals. Unfortunately we were unable to claim the title, having gone within a whisker of it in ‘94/95 (lost to NSW by 13 runs in the last match – whoever won the match won the title) and we haven’t been as close to the prize since.


I was lucky enough to play in the middle six premierships and in the last of them in ‘97/98 I was able to fulfil a dream by captaining a PVLCC A-Grade side to a premiership. In a year that was somewhat ‘compromised’ by just 4 teams in A Grade, I topped off the season by collecting my one and only association batting trophy, scoring 716 runs in the minor round at a tick over 102. I was lucky enough to share an opening stand of 220 during one 40 over match against Plympton with my ‘protégé’ that same season, as we both racked up a ton each – his being 100no and his first ever A-Grade century. It’s a record that still stands today. My batting partner was some young, painfully-thin, brash lad by the name of Marc Cossens. You may have heard of him...?


 

An offer to captain/coach the Walkerville cricket club for three years, whose A-Grade side competed in Premier Grade of ATCA at the time, came unexpectedly that following off-season. I was performing secretarial duties for the Association on the organizing committee that was planning for the ‘98/’99 National Championships at Flinders University, and was pencilled in to captain the SA side again when this proposal came out of the blue merely months before the carnival, and the regular season proper.


I sought advice from PVLCC Patriarch, John ‘JD’ Dolling, my rep’ mentor, former Association coach Bob Lisle, and my lifelong coach, my Dad, and after a lot of deliberation and mixed emotions I accepted the gig. The over-arching factors were the great challenge of the task and the chance to test myself again at a level that was saturated with ex-grade & state cricketers, many of whom I played against in juniors and in grades.


In my discussions with ‘JD’, I told him I wanted to desperately still keep involved in the club in some capacity, and after my decision was made he allowed me to be an official ‘patron’ of the club in my playing absence. I told him matter of factly that I would be back at PVLCC once I had finished exploring this higher level of cricket and he replied with, “Everyone says that, but they never do.” I would revisit these words with the Great Man a few years later.


An old basketball injury caused issues for me in the latter part of my four year stint in ATCA, but managed to more than hold my own in Premier Grade over that time. After four failed attempts to surgically remove a cyst from behind my right knee, my surgeon told me I’d be stuck with it. My last season, played with Ingle Farm CC, was riddled with injury and it was clear that I was up against it to continue competing at that level. There was only one thing to do. I called ‘JD’ and asked him if he remembered our conversation four years earlier. He did. I wasn’t “everyone” and I proved I was good to my word by telling him I’d be returning to my beloved PVLCC once again.


Yet another club legend and former teammate, Simon Janetzki, had decided to retire from cricket altogether, in doing so vacating the captaincy role. I was thrust back into the role and set about implementing my succession plan by making Cuz vice-captain. I also took on the Association captaincy, vacated once again by Simon, and Cuz, Jonno MacKenzie, Micky Spry and myself toured Sydney in 2002/03. The team and myself performed miserably and was without a doubt the lowlight of my rep’ time in C&CCA, but that was soon overshadowed by the immense pride I felt as Cuz was awarded the first of his two green baggy All-Australian caps. I knew this would be my last National Championships as a player.


To add salt to the wound, we were defeated comprehensively in the grand-final by our then arch-rivals Adelaide Lutheran at the Goat Paddock on our home turf. It was the first defeat in a season decider that I’d experienced at PVLCC and was a bitter pill to swallow as skipper of the unfamiliar runners up. One highlight though was the first-up season by some bloke called Richard Marshall, who collected the Association bowling trophy with 42 wickets (2 x 10-wicket match hauls) and worked hard to elevate himself from #8 in the batting order up to #5 by season’s end....but many of you probably wouldn’t know who this bloke is!


 

To complete the succession plan, the captaincy reigns were handed over to Cuz for the 2003/04 season, where once again we met our new arch-rivals Adelaide Lutheran in the grand-final, this time at their ground, ‘The Sandpit’. Unfortunately the result was the same, with their opener Jarrod Semmler going on to make a whirlwind 90-odd following a simple caught & bowled that was grassed in the opening over of the match before he has scored. In our innings I was given out caught at cover off a bump ball and took quite a bit of ‘coaxing’ to depart the arena. In fact, I made a complete ass of myself despite the monumental umpiring stuff up and we never got close to seriously chasing down their total.


With my other half working weekend evenings, my two step-daughters were still quite young and required me to be around to look after them. Throw in a dodgy knee that was giving me quite a bit of grief and I decided to step away from the cricket pitch to ensure the kids were looked after while Janie was at work. And the next nine years can be best described in three words – eating, drinking and resting.. LOTS of resting....!!


After stepping in to coach the South Australian ‘Gold’ side at the 2006 National Championships, Cuz (who was PVLCC President by this time) got in touch with me shortly after and asked if I was interested in coaching the Club. It was a role I had briefly performed for a season or two prior to moving to Walkerville and I eagerly accepted his offer to become involved in the Club once again.


 

Across the next four years I was lucky enough to be a very small, background part of four consecutive A Grade premierships – sides that were every bit as good as the Para Vista sides who claimed eight in a row in the ‘90’s. I continued to coach the Association side at the 2008 and 2010 National Championships, but after struggling to find the time to get to training & matches in the latter part of my four year PVLCC coaching stint, I stepped down from role. At presentation night that year I was awarded Life Membership of PVLCC and was humbled and honoured by the kind words of our Patriarch, ‘JD’, who handed the award to me. It was an immensely proud occasion.


An ember still burned inside me however. I was significantly overweight, my knee had continued to deteriorate and I hobbled by arthritis in my joints, particularly my wrists, but I would’ve done anything to tread the sods with my PVLCC teammates again. There was just no obvious, visible path to achieve that goal. I was resigned to the fact that I would be nothing more than an avid spectator and Club relic, who’d drop by the grounds and fire off a few photo’s for the Club newsletter, ‘On The Spot’. My ego reasoned that it was probably best in any case that my teammates and opposition alike remember me for when I was a more than capable A-Grade cricketer.


I was cleaning out my walk in robe one day and came across my bags of cricket caps, collected across many years way back to U16’s at Port Adelaide. The caps had been sitting there that long, that the plastic shopping bags they were in started to disintegrate when I grabbed them, so I started re-packaging them into large snap-lock bags. As I did, memories started flooding back. My Walkerville cap, Berri (country carnivals), my two green baggys, Country carnival team of the week caps, my first SA churches cap & caps swapped with my mates from other states across six National Championships and of course my two PVLCC caps – a navy blue baseball style cap stained with sweat and a 30 year anniversary one that hadn’t been worn. By the end of it I was a blubbering mess. But still, I was resigned to the fact that playing again one day was merely a pipedream and would never eventuate. I was destined to be stuck on 82 matches forever, with my parting gesture from the game remaining a petulant, expletive-laden act of defiance in the 2003/04 grand final.
 
Sometimes you need a good kick up the arse to sting you into action, and that’s exactly what happened. I found myself laying in a Queen Elizabeth Hospital bed with a leg infection, no doubt in part due to my unhealthy physical state, staring at the white, dimpled tiles on the ceiling for five days. Early on during my hospital stint I had a ‘light bulb’ moment and I set about putting steps in place to overhaul my lifestyle with better eating and exercise. My mind went back two weeks to my traumatic cap re-packaging event, but now I had complete clarity as to how I might be achieve my goal of one day being able to play cricket again. It would be a hard road, but I was up for the challenge. This was February 2012 and I was aiming for the start of the 2012/’13 C&CCA season.


The day I got discharged (14/2/12) I sent Cuz an email and boldly told him he better have a spot for me the following season, as I was coming back to PVLCC to play. He probably didn’t believe me, and I wouldn’t have blamed him, but he kindly entertained my pipedream nonetheless. I’d already started a strict eating regime while I was in hospital (no small feat in itself!) and a week later I tackled my first gym session, which I look back on now and have a bit of a chuckle to myself. I was a pathetic physical specimen and when I returned to my brother’s gym two days later I ached in every single muscle imaginable, but it was a start and I was determined to succeed.


 

September rolled around and I trotted out for the first pre-season training of 2012/13 weighing in 25kgs less than when I was hospitalised some seven months prior. However, after my first few hits it was clear that many cobwebs needed to be cleared of nine years of inactivity. I didn’t miss a training session and I was selected in our B-Grade team to play Seaton at the Goat Paddock for Round 1 of 2012/13 under the leadership of the legend Steve Vines. I’d also managed to coax my best mate Anthony “The Don” Donnon (pictured) out to PVLCC, so as I took to the field with my Goat Herder teammates for the first time in the best part of a decade, you fair dinkum couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.


 

 

History shows we won that forty over match and I contributed very little – a catch at first slip off of the bowling of Aaron Burgess and a whole 9 opening our innings (Greg Kells 74no and Brenton Starke 61no) – but it marked an ambition I never thought I’d achieve. Little things, like just the smell of the freshly cut grass; walking out into battle with your teammates for this great Club and just the thrill of facing up again along the 22 yards with willow in hand. All of it seemed impossible less than a year ago. That smile I spoke of stayed with me for at least a month.


Somehow (certainly not on form) I was selected in the A-Grade in Round 3 against Adelaide Lutheran and again in Round 4 against Fitzroy for a return of 0 and 2. It felt like I’d never held a bat before in my life. In fact, it was the same feeling I had 20 years beforehand when I first started playing for PVLCC, racking up batting failure after batting failure. Round 4, I was back in the B’s and fronting up against an old foe in Magill-Morialta and my old sparring partner, Craig ‘Crackers’ Balneaves, where I bored the heck out of everyone present for 36 in over two hours. It was what I needed to sort myself out – time in the middle!


Round 5 was against another old foe, this time Enfield United. I made 63 opening the batting and finally I felt like I’d played the game before. We ended up making the semi-final and succumbed to the eventual premier, Magill-Morialta, with one standout highlight being an unexpected call up to the A’s against Fitzroy in the one-dayer before Christmas. We batted first and our star-studded top order folded early and I found myself walking to the crease with the score 5/31. That soon became 7/38 as Simon ‘Sarge’ Wilson joined me in the middle with the Fitzroy lads chirping away loudly with their tails up. We put on 20 and Aaron Burgess and I added 22 for the ninth wicket before I was dismissed for 25 to lead all scorers. We were dismissed for a paltry 83, but a magnificent effort by all bowlers and fieldsman alike combined to dismiss the ‘Roys for 75 to clinch an amazing win. If Round 1 signalled my return to PVLCC, this win, in the presence of many of the guys who played in the famous ‘5-in-a-row’ side was the icing on my comeback cake!


 

Fast-forward to Round 6 of the 2013/14 season and I’ve just played my 100th game for this great Club and marked the occasion with a win against Central Mission in B-Grade. It’s a milestone I never thought I would reach and one that gives me great satisfaction from where I was in February 2012 laying on that hospital bed in the QEH. To join the true greats of this Club who appear in the 100+ game club is incredibly humbling, as too the quality of blokes and cricketers  that I’ve had the privilege of playing with across the journey. I’ve been blessed to be a part of six A-Grade premierships as a player and four A-Grade premierships as Club coach (although the last two years I can only claim tenuously) when my only other cricketing premiership ever was a lower grade flag at Port Adelaide back in the mid-80’s when the entire match was washed out!


Cricket could’ve quite easily have been lost to me had TJ not coaxed me out to PVLCC some 21 years ago now, and I probably would’ve thrown myself into basketball coaching if things had panned out differently. I’d lost my passion for the game before I lobbed here. I have this great Club and its members to thank for not only allowing me to rediscover my passion for the game of cricket, but the many opportunities that have arisen as a result. From the chance to represent our Association & State at three National Championships as a player and four as a coach, my three year stint at Walkerville, the many number of PVLCC premierships, and finally and most importantly, mateships that will last a lifetime.


 

I owe the Para Vista Lutheran Cricket Club far more than I can ever repay it. That’s why reaching the 100 game milestone means so much to me. I am a Goat Herder for life, and mighty proud of it.

Words: Mark Weinert. Photos courtesy Mark Weinert and Scott Brown.