For a club that’s been around since 1933, managing to bring the joy of cricket to young regional Queenslanders during a pandemic was just another score it managed to score.
The Wanderers Queensland Cricket Club has been running an annual 12-day regional tour and captaincy for more than 40 years, and President Brad Murphy said the option to cancel this year was simply not in its DNA.
“It was difficult, but our sponsors kept up with us,” he said. “I think people just want a sense of normalcy.”
Not only did it go on, but this year’s August 12-23 tour brought the most cities ever visited, thanks to requests from some new places to visit.
In addition to their time at Yeppoon, Mackay, Proserpine and Home Hill, the 27 staff members moved inland to coach and play at Charters Towers, Clermont, Blackwater and Roma.
Country names on the squad included Greg Chappell Cricket Center Scholarship recipient, Emerald’s Byron Gale, who now plays with Valleys, two Warwick players Caleb King and Tom Morris, as well as central Queensland veteran Rick Jones, and Emerald’s Robert OKeeffe.
With the help of Queensland Cricket area managers, they played a total of eight matches against local sides and held free coaching clinics before each match.
The tour’s opening match, against the Capricorn Coast at the Yeppoon Showgrounds oval, saw longtime Wanderer and former Test wicket-keeping legend Ian Healy in a match with friends.
“Back to the site of his last hamstring strain, Heals always enjoys his time with the Wanderers,” said Murphy.
Despite his cameo at the fold and then speaking in front of an avid audience, the Wanderers started their tour on the field with a loss that was described as a “good opportunity to get to know teammates” in preparation for the next seven games.
Also on the trip was former Queensland Bulls fast bowler Luke Feldman, who played three games before work beckoned.
He and former Australian Test fast Geoff Dymock both helped promote cricket and coaching juniors in the cities visited.
Geoff was also tasked with entertaining the locals with stories from his previous playing days.
Prior to reversing their form for the match against a Mackay XI, former Toombul player Luke Jackson helped run a junior representative cricketers’ clinic in that town.
Visits to historic pubs in Giru and Mingela marked the day off of the tour party, along with a round of golf at Charters Towers or a bus into the hills to visit the gold city’s tourist attractions.
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A combined Charters Towers / Townsville XI, which included several country representatives and also played for them with Wanderers tourists Luke Feldman and Tim Agapow, saw the Wanderers be defeated the next day by three wickets in a very good game.
They then had a win over the Clermont Bulls, led by former Wanderers tourist Matt Hicks, in an afternoon / evening game under the lights on the Clermont Rugby League site, organizing an in-inning coaching session for a large group of Clermont’s junior cricketers plus a group from neighboring Capella.
The opposition in Blackwater, led by local sportsman Chris Johnson, was ready for the Wanderers, who went down in a good game.
Roma was a last-minute addition to the program, where the Wanderers won against a team led by Scott Hilton, setting a 5-3 win-loss record for the tour.
Mr. Murphy said they enjoyed the camaraderie of each of the country centre’s host clubs and it was both those benefits and the coaching that the tours would continue in the future.
The club was founded in Queensland in 1933 by then Queensland Governor Sir Leslie Wilson with the aim of encouraging young people to play and enjoy cricket.
Previous tours have helped young tourists such as Matt Hayden, Stuart Law, Mike Kasprowicz, Jimmy Maher, Joe Burns and Wade Seccombe, Sam Trimble, Carl Rackemann and many other well-known Queensland cricket names introduce themselves to the rural hospitality as they get ready for the summer.