Saker hon­oured

Benalla Ensign - - Sport - By Si­mon Rup­pert

Aussie cricket leg­end Ian Healy took a break from com­men­tat­ing to come to Be­nalla last week and hon­our lo­cal hero Trevor Saker.

Saker, who has been recog­nised as Aus­tralia’s Spec­savers Com­mu­nity Cricket Cham­pion, had the op­por­tu­nity to join Healy in coach­ing a group of lo­cal ju­nior play­ers last Fri­day.

Saker was se­lected as the na­tional win­ner af­ter be­ing in­volved in the sport for more than 50 years.

He cur­rently coaches the Be­nalla un­der-14 boys’ team and has coached the North East Re­gion un­der-14 girls for the past nine years into the state cham­pi­onships.

Saker also con­tin­ues to play cricket in Be­nalla and in 2017 trav­elled to Eng­land to rep­re­sent Aus­tralia in an Over 60s Ashes se­ries.

Healy said it was an hon­our to visit Be­nalla and be able to meet Saker and get in­volved in coach­ing lo­cal kids.

‘‘Spec­savers have iden­ti­fied Trevor as a com­mu­nity cham­pion af­ter re­ceiv­ing nom­i­na­tions from peo­ple in Be­nalla who were asked to iden­tify blokes and ladies who do great things in lo­cal cricket,’’ Healy said.

‘‘Win­ning the Com­mu­nity Cham­pion of the Year award en­ti­tles Trevor to a skills ses­sion with me.’’

Healy laughed as he added, ‘‘I think we could have held it a bit closer to Bris­bane or some­thing.’’

‘‘But it means a lot to recog­nise the work of our vol­un­teers. Our game’s never been wealth­ier but the top play­ers aren’t com­ing down to grass roots enough to play club cricket like they used to,’’ he said.

The group of young­sters ex­cit­edly waited for Healy and Saker to meet the press be­fore head­ing to the nets for some tips.

Healy said it was great that the group in­volved boys and girls.

‘‘It’s cru­cial for the game that both boys and girls are play­ing ju­nior cricket,’’ he said.

‘‘Our re­gional ar­eas have been so strong in Aus­tralia, and our ju­nior sys­tem and then our club sys­tem has been the back­bone of Aussie cricket for­ever, that’s what makes it very com­pet­i­tive,’’ he said.

‘‘The kids were just do­ing some field­ing drills out there, but it’s too easy to just look at field­ing. We want to look at them bat and bowl and re­ally work on those im­por­tant skills.

‘‘If you get the kids get­ting con­fi­dent about what’s com­ing out of their hand or what’s com­ing off their bat, that field­ing will look af­ter it­self. ‘‘If they can take one or two tips out of an af­ter­noon, they never for­get it.

‘‘When I was a kid the Queens­land Sh­effield Shield team came to our town and I can still vividly re­mem­ber that day.’’

Saker agreed with how im­por­tant it was for young­sters to be in­spired by a cricket leg­end and said he was proud to have won the award.

‘‘I’m ab­so­lutely flab­ber­gasted and so stoked to be recog­nised for my ef­forts. As they all say, you don’t do this stuff for awards — but when they come along it’s pretty spe­cial.’’

Man of the mo­ment: Trevor Saker looks on as cricket leg­end Ian Healy give some tips to one of Be­nalla’s up and com­ing play­ers.

En­cour­ag­ing young play­ers: Spec­savers rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ja­son Tan, Trevor Saker and Ian Healy with ex­cited young­ster Tom Hayes who got to wear an au­then­tic ‘Baggy Green’.

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