0A TALE OF TWO AUSSIES
As the season draws to a close, it’s almost time to bid farewell to our resident Australians Damien Mortimer and Luke Marshall. Both have made a big impact on the club both on and off the field in 2014. We look back on their time with Lymington Cricket Club…
Damien first discovered he was coming to England on the Cricket Australia and Hampshire Scholarship in February while he was in the United Arab Emirates representing his country at the Under 19 World Cup. His first impressions of Lymington Cricket Club were that it was, “a nice spot to play cricket, not unlike one of the little country towns back home, like Bowral where Sir Donald Bradman came from”.
Although Damien has scored more than 700 runs in league and cup matches for Lymington, by his own admission the first few games didn’t go as well as he would have liked. But instead of getting too depressed about it, Damien worked hard at turning things round. “You need to find ways to score runs and that’s what I had to do. No matter how I looked, I was simply just going to find a way to score them, and I managed to do that.” His upturn in fortunes did coincide with a visit from his girlfriend. “I would love to say the change in form was down to my girlfriend, and I’m sure she would too!” he laughed.
The Elite International Cricket Academy (EICA) programme has been predictably demanding on its graduates, but Damien has enjoyed every minute. “It’s been a long 18 months for me. I’ve played a lot of cricket and trained pretty much every day. To be honest I can’t remember the last time I had two days off in a row, but cricket is what I love to do and as much as it’s a game, its basically my job. It definitely beats sitting behind a desk in front of a computer”.
Damien’s amiable nature made it easy for him to gel with his teammates from the start. “I like to think I’ve got on well with most people I’ve been around at Lymo,” he said, “but I think Dazza, Cam and Beefy would be the ones I’ve bonded with the most though. The one thing I love about Daz is that he isn’t scared of getting out and just plays freely. To be honest, sometimes when I’m batting with him I’m scared I might get one hit straight back at me! Then there’s Ed Freeman. He has so many theories on things. Sometimes I think he’s talking absolute rubbish, but other times he sounds like Einstein”.
As well as being Lymington’s top runscorer, Damien has also been taking plenty of wickets. So will he be considered a genuine all-rounder from now on? “I’ve bowled a little back home before but coming over here and bowling more I think I’ll be able to add that string to my bow”. His best bowling performance came in the T20 final at the Ageas Bowl where he took four wickets and was probably the one Lymington player to emerge from the match with any credit of note. Despite the heavy defeat Damien acknowledges that it was quite an accomplishment for the club even to reach the final. “Considering that two weeks prior to the final we were in contention to get relegated, I think from the club’s perspective it was a good achievement. And to comeback from the disappointment of the defeat to win the next day against South Wilts was special”. In that match Damien produced his best performance for Lymington, scoring a brilliant unbeaten century and making the league’s best bowling attack look decidedly ordinary in the process. “I had great support from all the batters” he recalls modestly, “I believe that any total is gettable in cricket and we were good enough to knock them off that day”.
So, how much has a summer in England improved Damien’s game? “It has benefited me massively both on and off the field. With mum and dad not around you’re forced to grow up pretty quickly. But on the cricket side of things obviously the swinging ball and slower wickets have helped me with my batting. Cricket Australia and the EICA simply want runs and wickets as well as us to develop and learn. If I had to give any advice for the next intake it would be to enjoy themselves and embrace their time here. It’s great to have freedom without mum and dad nagging you all the time, but in saying that you’re over here to develop your game and you just need to know when to concentrate”.
Damien would definitely like to return to England in the future. “It would be nice to come for a holiday and get to see a bit of Europe. I got up to London a few times as well as heading to Amsterdam with my brother who came over for a few weeks. But cricket comes first so we will see what’s planned after my season back home”.
How does Damien see the future for Lymington? “I think Lymo have a couple of good young players coming through, and seeing the positive things this season I think starting the year off with a few more wins could see them being up there to win the comp next time”.
Which members of the current Lymington side does Damien feel would do well in Australian conditions? “I think Felix and Matty would find playing a season in Oz fairly useful. Felix looks like quite a good little batsman and Matty would enjoy the pace and bounce in the wickets back home to bowl his 32 overs from one end!”
Being the consummate professional he is, Damien has kept up a fairly strict dietary and (mostly) alcohol-free regime during his time here. However, on his last night at the club Damien promises to let his hair down. “I will be definitely be having a few on Saturday night with the lads and the rest of the club. It’s been a good time for me over here with the guys so it will be good to spend my last night having a few laughs. The flight home on the Sunday may be a bit rusty but there’s plenty of time to sleep on the plane, that’s for sure. I’ll have a couple days to get over the jet lag but then it’s back into training and games next weekend”.
What will Damien miss most about Lymington? “I’ll miss the support from the club as well as playing with the guys. They’re a great bunch of blokes and it has been good to play the season with them”.
Lymington First XI captain Simon Beetham was quick to acknowledge Damien’s part in what has turned out to be a highly satisfying season for the club: “Damien’s a great bloke. Willing to dig in and get on with whatever’s thrown at him. Everyone in the team has enjoyed his company and we’ll all be sorry to see him go. In terms of cricket, he’s been invaluable. His batting has gotten better as the season has gone on and he’s now showing us what a class above he really is. His knock against South Wilts was awesome, but some of his other innings have been very impressive. He was exceptional in the T20s. His bowling has been a highlight… we expected him to be a wicketkeeper when he arrived, as that’s what ESPN listed him as! My highlight of his bowling has to be when he clean bowled South Wilts’ number eight batter who was shouldering arms with an in-swinger! He’s been a great help to me as a young captain and he’s gelled with our team really well. We’ve been very lucky. That said, I’ve got to say that I hope he learns to hit more sixes and get the ball off the square a bit more, and stops displaying his finest Sydney Harbour Bridge impersonations when fielding in the covers! I wish him all the best when he goes back to Australia and I look forward to seeing him pull on the Australian canary yellow ODI strip or a baggy green in the future. If he comes back I’ll be happy to see him come back to Lymo”.
Club Captain Neil Trestrail was also full of praise for the young Australian. “Damien has made a huge contribution to the Lymington First XI and T20 team. He has also helped coach the youngsters on a Monday evening. He is a consummate professional, very disciplined with his approach to the game and his diet. He started slowly with some bad luck in his first few games, but in the last two months he has scored over 500 runs and taken wickets, as well as scoring valuable runs and taken wickets in the T20 competition. I cannot thank Damo enough for his solid and consistent contribution to the club. I really think he will be a First Class cricketer for NSW and further!”
Like Damien, Luke Marshall has made a massive impression in his short time with the club. He arrived at Lymington as a result of Neil Trestrail’s connections with Sussex side Wisborough Green, as Luke explains, “each year one player from my club (Mount Eliza) in Australia comes over to play at Wisborough Green where Tres happens to be the club president. My best mate is playing at Wisborough this year and we discussed how cool it would be if we could both get over here in the same season. Neil did his magic and here I am. So I thank Neil for everything that has resulted in me being here and for everything he has done for me!”
Luke was immediately made to feel welcome at Lymington. “On my second day in England, after a large night in Southampton, I woke up in Ollie Kelly’s apartment at 8.30am to Ed Freeman offering me a Budweiser before breakfast. Which made me happy”.
Luke felt equally at home when he made his Lymo debut for the Second XI. “To be perfectly honest, I was extremely impressed by the team. A side that bats down to 11, and with bowlers like Gregors who uses the seam to perfection and Guy Layman who makes batsmen look stupid with his pace and bounce. The side is way too good for the standard it’s currently playing in and I look forward to hopefully contributing this coming weekend into pushing them over the line and into the higher division where they belong”. Luke is equally full of praise for his skipper Ollie Kelly. “I absolutely love Ollie as captain. He compares with the best. I have 100% respect for him. Only once throughout the whole season can I think of a time I’ve doubted him or his game plans which was a friendly game we played for the Hogs. Ollie declared on 280 and we lost. But I suppose he didn’t expect me to bowl three overs for 60…”
Much like Damien Mortimer, Luke wasn’t considered as a bowler back home in Australia, but has impressed with his performances with the ball in England. “Even though I’m very inconsistent and well known for my loopy full-tosses, getting a good go with the ball this season has been one of the main highlights of my time here (well, that and the girls and music in Southampton on a Saturday night). It’s the first time I’ve bowled throughout a season since I was in the juniors”. As for his batting, Luke is still searching for his first century in England (his current highest score is 87) but is determined to reach that milestone this weekend at Ellingham.
Coaching the club’s youngsters has also been part of Luke’s remit at Lymington, and it was something he really enjoyed doing. “From the weekly training on a Monday night to the coaching week for Hampshire, I’ve loved every bit of it. There is so much young talent coming up the age groups, both male and female, which is great news for any club”.
It would be a bit of an understatement to say that Luke enjoys a good party. So what has been his most memorable night out? “Hmmm, there have been a few. 97% of them start with a Fosters on tap and then finish with me on my face in the clubrooms at 10am the next morning. The other 3% are when I let myself go. I loved heading into London with so much stuff to see and things to do. But Ibiza takes the cake. Woweeeeeeee, that place is ridiculous. No more said.”
Does seasoned drinker Luke have any advice for Damien Mortimer when it comes to Australia’s national pastime? “I hope I don’t get him in trouble, but I randomly went out in Southampton one night with Kieran and we saw Damien absolutely hammered to the point of being severely cross-eyed. I’m sure he knows how to drink, but I think in his situation, with so many opportunities ahead of him, it’s probably best if I do most of the drinking for Australia alongside Joel Sutherland who certainly loves a beer!”
Luke’s popularity with the ladies of Southern Hampshire was apparent from the very start, with one particular encounter on his first night at the club swiftly propelling him to legendary status. So how many broken English hearts will he be leaving behind when he flies off home? “I think the only broken hearts, if any, will be the ones of the people I sit next to each Saturday in the home changing rooms. I believe the away changing room relationships are only meant to last the one game and then you move on”.
Luke, who admits he would return to England at a heartbeat if offered the chance in future, will be travelling round Europe before going home to play for his beloved ‘Mounties’ on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. And although he won’t miss the horrible English weather which ruined the first few matches of the season, he will certainly miss Lymington Cricket Club and all its members. “I love rocking up each week and playing alongside my mates. The club really does feel like home. From the guys in the Fourth XI right through the club to the First XI, there isn’t one bloke I wouldn’t accept a Budweiser off at 8.30 in the morning. I’d just like to thank everyone who made my four months here a ripper. I appreciate everything everyone has done for me and I hope to get back here for another season or six!”
Second XI skipper Ollie Kelly was only too happy to return the praise. “If you were to build a prototype for an overseas player, the end result would be pretty close to Luke Marshall,” he said. “Luke has, indubitably, been the best overseas in our league. He is a destructive batsmen, a very good off spinner and a superb fielder. His stats going into the final game (371 runs at 29, 20 wickets at 20 and 10 catches) do not tell the whole story. Luke has been an absolute pleasure to play alongside. He is wholly committed, an ultimate team player who has been instrumental in creating a very special environment within the Second team. His support has been invaluable and hugely appreciated. Off the field, Luke has contributed an awful lot to the club. He has (in an unpaid capacity) coached the colts and has helped set the standard at training every week. He is also an absolute riot on a night out and will be hugely missed in that capacity. There are going to a number of very disappointed females and bar owners on the South Coast when he leaves. Enjoy Europe, and all the very best Luke.”
Neil Trestrail, the man who brought Luke to Lymington, gave a final accolade. “Luke Marshall… what can I say? The fact he is living with my stepdaughter is a concern. A larger than life, great personality who has fitted in to Lymington Cricket Club in all respects. As a cricketer he has been superb, as a coach he has made major contributions on Monday nights with the colts. He has assisted the bar profits, polished the opposition changing room floor with a friend, and generally been a fabulous character. My sincere thanks to Luke for his major contribution to our club”.
Lymington Cricket Club wishes both Damien and Luke a safe trip home and the best of luck in their future endeavours.