I’ve known plenty of cricketers who enjoy a punt. And plenty of punters who love their cricket. There’s a nice fit between the two.
Most cricket is played on a Saturday. That means there are plenty of chances to check the racing results. At the change of innings. The tea break. Or, in our case, between overs.
I’ll get to our slightly dysfunctional team soon. But first, let’s applaud some of the game’s most famous racegoers.
One of our greatest ever batsmen is nicknamed Punter. God Bless Australia. Ricky Ponting loves the greyhounds almost as much as a juicy full toss.
Listen to the wonderful Kerry O’Keefe on ABC Radio, and you’ll often hear references to a decent plonk on the nags. Better still, read one of his books. What things used to be like in the Australian dressing room.
I’ve seen the great Ritchie Benaud at the track a few times. From all reports, he has loved a flutter for years. He is a journo after all. Goes with the territory.
Once, at the Gold Coast, I saw the crowd part like the Red Sea for him. And we all wanted to know what he was about to make favourite.
Pippa Middleton could have been modelling shorts under the interstate monitors, and they wouldn’t have stepped aside like that. Well played Rich.
Most of the major cricket stadiums have a TAB these days. Who would have thought. The Saturday I found the betting terminal at the Gabba was one of the great days of my life. Aussies taking wickets, and me with a double alive.
It wasn’t always that easy. The lads in the famous Woy Woy Fifth grade side of the late eighties had to be much more resourceful.
The side had an interesting mix. Most of us were hacks, keeping busy until the footy season started. There were a few younger blokes, keen to progress to a higher grade. And then there was our skipper.
Smithy loved his cricket. Took it extremely seriously. And expected us to do the same.
He was also a bouncer at our leagues club. Every Friday night. Which meant he saw most of his beloved team, destroying brain cells at an alarming rate just hours before the first over.
In the harsh light of day, we would be a collective mess. There would be a plea to bat first. The young blokes could kick things off in the middle, while we napped under a shady tree.
But our fearless leader would have none of that. Because he happened to be our opening bowler. And he enjoyed seeing us suffer.
I was our wicketkeeper. The skipper would be charging in, wondering if my bleary eyes could in fact see him at the other end of the pitch.
He had similar problems in slips, and at mid off, and in the deep. The Leagues Club crew, all in need of painkillers and quiet time.
What kept us going, was the punt. We’d have had our bets on the way to the ground. Whenever someone could slip away, they’d check how we were faring. No i-phone apps back then.
Our best days were when play finished early. Win or lose, we would rush to the nearest pub, and get some team trifectas going.
As much as we loved him, Smithy got sick of our shenanigans. And my dropped catches. He moved up a grade the following season. And we took our limited skills back to beach cricket.
Of course, cricketers still love the races. How do I know? There are some simple signs for those in the know.
Keep an eye on the Aussies at the Gabba. You know when they call for new gloves, or an extra drink? Forget it. They’re actually asking about the last at Eagle Farm.
It could be worse. At least Michael Clarke didn’t have to kick them out of the leagues club.