BAGGY BLUES: Former and current players to spread awareness about mental health in regional NSW.
BAGGY BLUES: Former and current players to spread awareness about mental health in regional NSW. Harrison Astbury

Cricketers batting to battle the blues

LIGHTNING threatened the event the whole night, but that could not stop the Baggy Blues cricket tour in Lismore from wooing the crowd.

Held at Oakes Oval last night, teams comprising of past, upcoming and current Australian cricket stars played a 20-20 match, with the Country side chasing down 121 runs to beat the Coast side in 18 overs.

The final score was Country 5/121, with particular standouts including local quicks Oliver Cronin and Caelan Maladay.

The tour is designed to raise mental health awareness in rural areas, which Baggy Blues Director Phil Marks knows is vital for the region.

"We know that the mental health figures are getting worse - particularly in rural communities,” Marks said.

"In the world today it's a lot faster... nowadays with modern technology it's putting a lot of pressure on kids, particularly the social media side of things.”

A former test cricketer himself, Marks knows the mental struggles that both people in country towns and sportspeople alike can face, with cricketers having the highest rate of suicide in professional sports.

"When you're playing at the highest level, you're playing for your life,” Marks said.

"Particularly nowadays, cricket is unique in that it's an individual sport played in a team environment, and your teammate is potentially your competitor.”

Baggy Blues was two years in the making, as Marks and his team fought to get $120,000 in funding from the state government to run the program.

The T20 match on Thursday night suffered a rain delay, but it provided young and upcoming talent from the region to play alongside some stars of the game.

Stars in attendance included:

Matt Nicholson - Australia, NSW, WA

Chris Green - Thunder BBL

Nick Bertus - Parramatta Captain & NSW transition squad

Jordan Gauci - NSW Rookie contracted player

Liam Hatcher - NSW contracted player

Henry Thornton - NSW contracted player

Former greats included Jeff Thomson, Phil Emery, Steve Rixon, Gavin Robertson, Wayne Mulherin, Len Pascoe, Phil Marks and Steve Small.

Regional Development Manager for Cricket NSW, Jared Seiffert said: "It is important for players to come and support country cricket”.

"The opportunity to see Chris Green and other pros, it gives the young kids locally something to dream about.”

However, the day was not all about battling the blues, as before the match the stars of the game held a coaching clinic for kids aged 8-17.

Activities included throwing, batting, bowling and catching practice, where all kids went home with a prize.

"70 per cent of cricketers who have represented New South Wales have been from rural areas, it's our way of giving back,” Marks said.

Kids from around the region enjoyed rubbing shoulders with the old boys and current stars, and learned a thing or two about how to swing a ball.

"It's hopefully something the young kids will never forget,” Marks said.

In their tour, the Baggy Blues visit Dubbo next, with the full schedule available at http://www.ramhp.com.au/projects/baggy-blues-cricket-tour/

If you, or someone you know, needs crisis support phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For local mental health services call 1800 011 511.



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