Rising to the cricket challenge
IN the centre of a whiteboard opposite Oliver Cronin's bed is a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "Strength doesn't come from physical capacity, it comes from indomitable will.”
It's this will that has seen Cronin, along with fellow local cricketers Caelan Maladay and Charles Mitchell, selected to play in the annual Under- 17 national championships in Queensland from next week.
Cronin (Billinudgel), Maladay (Bangalow) and Mitchell (Lismore) have been pushing each other and sharing the highs and lows in various representative teams for many years.
So it is a great thrill for the trio to have made the NSW Country / ACT team, drawn from eight regions across the state.
Maladay is following the path of his brother Lewin Maladay, who is involved in Cricket Australia's National Performance program as a wicketkeeper-batsman and now plays first grade in Brisbane.
Mitchell, who recently won the Warren Smith Medal for most outstanding country player in the Under-16 State Cricket Challenge, said all three players "aspired to go all the way” and were proud to represent the strong culture of cricket on the Far North Coast.
He has been "hooked and obsess- ed” since the age of nine and practises five days a week.
While it was a challenge keeping up with the school work, his teachers were all supportive and "time management was all part of it,” he said.
Coach Greg McLay - who is based at Wagga Wagga - has steered the boys through an off-season Cricket NSW Academy program that has involved training camps in Sydney.
"Oliver, Caelan and Charles deserve their opportunity to showcase their considerable skills at a national championships level,” McLay said.
"Oliver and Caelan will be the cornerstone of our fast bowling attack and Charles will lead the way at the top of the batting order.
"Full credit to the boys and their coaches in the North Coast region.”
Their Lismore-based coach, Peter Ford, who has been "pivotal” to supporting the boys reach their potential, is delighted they are carrying on the North Coast region's "strong and proud history in providing players to the pathway system”.
"For some time now we have been developing playing, coaching and training structures to maximise our players' potential,” Ford said.
The North Coast area extends from Taree to the Queensland border "and the road to success is literally very long”, with training sessions and carnivals across the state.
Even within the North Coast region, regular off-season training can involve a six-hour round trip just to get to the field.
Ford acknowledges that the success of young players is also "directly attributed to the contribution of their parents, who make many sacrifices along the journey.”
But rather than seeing geographical isolation as a disadvantage, the substantial travel "contributes to a hardened readiness on game days”.
At club level, all three boys play in the Far North Coast LJ Hooker League, the highest level of senior cricket locally.
Cronin and Maladay play for Lennox Head and Mitchell for the Casino Cavaliers.
Cronin attends Mullumbimby High School (Year 10), Maladay is at St John's College Woodlawn (Year 11) and Mitchell is at Trinity Catholic Collge in Lismore (Year 10).
NSW fields two teams in the championships - NSW Metro and NSW Country/ACT - representing 27 per cent of participation in the sport across the country.
The Under-17 national carnival will be played in Mackay and Brisbane from October 1 to 11.