Not having played club cricket previously I was nervous but excited when I answered the Ashwood Cricket Club appeal for junior players posted on a notice board at Essex Heights Primary School in September 1976.
The club's Junior Co-Ordinator for that season, the approachable Terry Millman, gave me my first insight into the club. Little did I realise that the six seasons I spent with Ashwood would influence my sporting and personal life to the extent that cricket would take me around the world many times, give me the opportunity to meet royalty, presidents, prime ministers and play with or against leading world players, including Border, Botham, Lara, Lillee, Tendulkar, Dev, McGrath, Warne and the Waugh twins.
As a 10 year-old, my first season was rather difficult: the Under-14 team, with the talents of the Flintoff brothers Anthony and David, Ian Hamill and Russell Stretton showing out gave me cause to believe I had a long way to go.
My participation for that debut season was minimal, playing only three games which comprised two innings, two ducks and on over bowled for no wicket. Nothing in those stats for Ashwood or myself to get excited about, but far from dulling my passion for cricket that modest season only served to inflame it.
In 1977/78, Ashwood introduced an Under-12 team, so I graduated from the Under-14s to the Under-12s and for the first time began having some sort of involvement in the game. Ashwood has always been a club that has promoted it's juniors. I was playing senior cricket at 13 and at 14 was playing for the First XI in the high-standard ESCA.
Thinking back, I probably did not deserve to, but Ashwood insisted on giving it's younger players a go. Junior coaches Russell Warren and Arthur Woodward encouraged the young players to proceed if good enough.
To play in a senior team - the Fourth XI - was for a 13 year-old quite an education. Captain Tony O'Hea made sure our fixtures were never dull. Some of the things I saw and heard in those early days - sledging, gamesmanship, competitiveness, call it what you like - makes Test cricket pale by comparison. In games without umpires almost anything goes and I remember a couple of games that almost finished in fist fights. Still, I have always enjoyed cricket with a bit of spice. Cricket at Ashwoodin the higher grades was played with less aggression but enthusiasm and desperation were always on show.
The club's committed captains and coaches, men such as Duncan Gates, Barry Morrison, John Priestley, Jim Rolfe and John Anstee, with senior players Graham Halbish and Jack Saynor tried to have my game improve gradually - with no fuss - and I thank them. In 1982, I left Ashwood to further my career with Richmond Cricket Club, but the memory of my younger days and the club's impact on my life have not been lost.
The commottee at Ashwood must be congratulated for their vision in putting this comprehensive coverage of the club's history in the hands of it's past and present players, with the general public. The efforts of author Max Tennison should be acknowledged and appreciated, his excellent work will give the club something on which to build the next 50 years.