Maybe I’m biased, but I think there’s something pretty special about teams from the Canberra region. The people really embrace them, whether it’s the Raiders or the Brumbies, and I remember the same thing when the Canberra Cannons were there.
There’s a strong sense of community, being a one-team town. Everyone gets on board. Always on a Monday, people would be in schools or at work talking about how the local teams went.
My early memories of feeling big pride about Canberra sporting success was watching the mighty Raiders teams that played at Seiffert Oval. They were my first experiences of being exposed to elite sport other than cricket.
My idols were Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley. You had your Meningas and the others. But I would watch Stuart and Daley a bit differently.
Each game I was at, I’d look out for the moment when Daley would turn it on. They talk about ‘don’t wake the beast’, but the influence he had on games was amazing to see. I loved how Daley and Stuart made the players around them better.
Seeing guys like that win premierships, be influential in NSW Blues games and go on Kangaroos tours, it inspired you to see if you could influence games like that and make the people around you into better players.
In Queanbeyan, you’d see people like Ricky around quite a lot, Dave Furner, Mark Webber – it made you proud of your community.
There was definitely a rivalry between Queanbeyan and Canberra – people would say, ‘Oh, you’re from Canberra’ and you’d say, ‘No, I’m from Queanbeyan’ – but national sporting events like the NRL, or Super Rugby, would bring everyone from the region together.
We could sit and talk for ages over a beer or coffee about whether Canberra should have hosted a Test match sooner. But I think it doesn’t really matter now. The main thing is that, by the end of this week, people walk away thinking, ‘Wow, what a great venue for Test cricket’.
It’s a lovely boutique ground and there’s so much potential. Maybe if they think, ‘Why haven’t we played more Test cricket here?’, that would be a great result.
One thing I’m sure of is that the future of cricket in the region looks healthy. A huge boost would be to have a local team play in the Big Bash League, if or when Cricket Australia looks to expand the competition.
All the infrastructure is there, we have a high-performance department, and Manuka Oval is perfect for Twenty20.
Like the Raiders and Brumbies, people would embrace it. There would be a walk-up supporter base.
We’ve made the case to CA that, whether it’s in three years or five years, we’re ready to go. I think it’s a really strong case and I’m confident it will happen.
For the moment, it’s all about the next few days of Test cricket. Being in town and having a coffee, having people come up to you, wanting to chat about it, I know how excited they are about what’s coming up.
It’s nice to remember the feeling I had about watching those early games when they came to Canberra, but it’s a really great thing that kids now in this area will be about to watch an Australian team play a Test match. I know, with my hand on my heart, how important it is to everyone here.