This year is well and truly the Year of the Tiger after more than 140 people packed the community centre for the Katamatite Cricket Club’s sportsman’s night on Saturday.
The crowd was a sea of yellow and black and attendees travelled from across Victoria to Katamatite, where Richmond immortal Matthew Richardson, as well as former coach and host of The Bounce Danny ‘‘Spud’’ Frawley headlined the evening.
They reminisced about their illustrious careers at the elite level before placing an emphasis on the importance of supporting local grassroots clubs.
‘‘It’s extremely important to get out here and support local clubs,’’ Richardson said.
‘‘Both Danny and I are from small towns and we know how hard it can be for small clubs to survive.’’
A roast dinner was served before Frawley spoke of his teenage years where he won the only two premierships of his career, interestingly both on the same day, before giving the crowd an insight into the AFL environment in the 1980s.
Tales of AFL Hall of Fame inductee and all-time leading goal-kicker Tony ‘‘Plugger’’ Lockett dominated talks before Frawley paid homage to the strong farming community that surrounds the area.
‘‘It’s great to see so many people here in Katamatite,’’ Frawley said.
‘‘It’s not a big town, but it’s great to see a lot of people from around the area working hard during the week on the farm and coming to enjoy a big night here with the cricket club. It’s fantastic.’’
Frawley had more than one job on the night, with the former St Kilda captain taking time away from speaking to locals and signing autographs to shave Katamatite resident Steve Skehan’s beard, which has been growing in anticipation of a Tiger premiership.
‘‘I started growing it at about Christmas time (last year) and everyone kept saying, when are you going to shave your beard? So I said when Richmond win the grand final,’’ Skehan said.
‘‘I hope we win one in 2018 as well.’’
Earlier in the week in an interview with the ABC’s Matt Dowling, Richardon said crowds at events similar to this often asked about his kicking woes and troubled former star Ben Cousins.
The Katamatite crowd did not disappoint, quizzing the 800-goal veteran about everything from set shot routines to the 2008 Brownlow Medal.
Those hoping for the three time All-Australian to one day put the whites on for Katamatite were quickly disappointed as Richardson shut down any ability with the cricket bat, implying that some athletes should stick with their preferred sport.
‘‘I can’t bat,’’ Richardson said jokingly.
‘‘In my day I used to think I had a bit of pace with the ball, but I am a very ordinary cricketer.’’
The sold-out crowd was treated to a memorabilia auction, where locals swarmed over everything from prized premiership pieces of the Tigers and limited edition Carlton Draught ‘‘Premiership Cans’’ signed by Richardson and Frawley, to limited edition frames commemorating the incredible feat of thoroughbred Winx, following the mare’s record-breaking third Cox Plate; raising more than $5000 for the club.
The night finished with a Q&A where Frawley discussed his on-going battle with mental illness, as he urged the audience to speak up and break the stigma associated with depression.
‘‘Any sign of weakness is too often seen as a bad thing,’’ he said.
‘‘The only way to get rid of that stigma is to open up and talk about it.’’
Katamatite Cricket Club president Catherine Poole was delighted with the success of the evening, commending the Katamatite community for making the biggest event the club had run such an astounding success.
‘‘This was the biggest event we have possibly ever attempted at Katty cricket club and to have so many people turn up to enjoy the night with us was amazing,’’ Poole said.
‘‘Not only were Richo and Spud absolutely fantastic, our club volunteers did a phenomenal job of putting the night together.
‘‘The support we continue to receive in helping us rebuild our small community club has blown us away once again.’’
The club is rapidly rebuilding and boasts an impressive junior academy, after being forced to field two under-12 teams due to the influx of young boys and girls eager to learn the game, and hope to spend the funds raised from the event on providing more opportunities to its junior cricket teams.
If you are interested in playing cricket this summer, or just want to learn, phone Catherine Poole on 0413692515.