“The best cricketers come from the country, there could be future Australian cricketers out here and they didn’t even know it,” Australian fast bowler Liam Hatcher said.
This is why the Sydney Thunder player and his team mate Ryan Gibson were in Parkes on Tuesday and why they believed their presence was so important.
“There’s great cricketers out here, so we’ve come out to [encourage] them to stay involved in the game,” Gibson added.
The duo, accompanied by Cricket NSW far west development manager Matt Ellis, visited students at Parkes Public School, Parkes East Public, Holy Family Primary, Parkes Christian School and Middleton Public.
The visit was part of the annual statewide Country Blitz tour involving the best male and female players in NSW.
Country Blitz saw 31 players divided among 15 regions all this week, with school visits a priority.
Eleven of these players have represented Australia.
Hatcher and Gibson have been part of the Country Blitz for three years but it’s the first time they’ve headed west.
Their visit at the schools began with Ellis interviewing the players about playing with Sydney Thunder and in the Big Bash League, training sessions and why they chose cricket above any other sport.
Gibson told the children at Middleton Public he didn’t start playing cricket until he was 10, when his mate asked him to play because they were short on numbers.
The floor then opened up to the students and teachers to ask their own questions – these ranged from how many trophies the players had, the furthest they had travelled, ambitions to be a coach or commentator and best bowling figures.
Youngsters even asked if they had ever hit themselves out – with both men laughing and saying yes – and other students going as far as asking if they were rich and if they were “good children” when they were young.
“Absolutely! Naughty kids don’t get to do anything,” Hatcher laughed.
Gibson told the curious crowd that spending time with his mates was what he loved about cricket.
Hatcher adding, “Ryan wouldn’t have started playing cricket unless his friend asked him and look where is now”.
Hatcher and Gibson then took time to sign autographs for the students.
Middleton Public School captains Alana Folau and Marty Davies stood up and thanked the players for visiting their school before shaking hands with the stars.
The pair said they loved travelling out to schools and seeing the kids.
“We want to get as many kids involved in cricket as we can so they can have as much fun as we did,” Hatcher said.
The aim of the tour is to promote the game of cricket and encourage more kids to get involved.
“We know there are so many Thunder fans out here but we don’t get the opportunity to come out here,” Gibson said.
“There have been trials held in Orange – trying to bring trials and games to areas like this is something the Thunder is looking into.”
One of the biggest standouts for Hatcher and Gibson during their visit to the Central West is that most towns like Parkes are big sporting towns.
“Kids aren’t as into sport in the city as they are out here,” Hatcher said.
“They seem more interested...and so welcoming.”
Gibson said he loved seeing the smiles on childrens’ faces.
“They actually know who we are,” he laughed.
Cricket NSW General Manager of Community Cricket, Ivan Spyrdz, said regional and country NSW had always been a vital part of the NSW cricket family.
“The Cricket NSW Country Blitz is an annual event that we all love being part of. Players from the Sixers, Thunder, Blues and Breakers are all involved and it’s a great thrill for us, and for those cricket communities we get to visit,” he said.
“With much of NSW experiencing drought and hardship, we hope the Country Blitz and the players can provide some joy to those communities by spending some time with them, talking and playing cricket.
“The Country Blitz is the first official program for Cricket NSW in what is shaping to be a massive summer of cricket.”