After packing their bags and boarding a plane to half-way around the world, South African cricketers Ewald Roberts and Wian Van Zyl have settled into life in Cobram.
With the Cobram Cricket Club sensing it was on the verge of premiership success last season in the Murray Valley Cricket Association after making the semi-final but falling to Deniliquin, the Tigers decided to pull the trigger and recruit two players to help elevate them to the next level.
In came all-rounders Van Zyl and Roberts and, with their injection of class, the Tigers look a serious threat.
The club’s batting now appears as deep as any side and the bowling attack has pace and variety.
How the pair actually ended up in Cobram shows how technology connects people in all corners of the globe.
‘‘We uploaded our profiles onto a cricket exchange website where clubs all over the world can have a look at your profile and try and recruit you. We were talking to Cobram for at least two months before we came over,’’ Van Zyl said.
Roberts was persuaded by Van Zyl to give Aussie cricket a try despite the two being in different countries at the time.
‘‘I heard about Cobram from him. We were speaking about it all the time when he was in England and he told me he was coming to Cobram and he asked me to come as well — so I did,’’ Roberts said.
Before arriving, Van Zyl spent time playing premier league cricket for Crawley Cricket Club in Sussex, England, where he made 1005 runs opening the batting.
While Van Zyl has carried on his good form from his stint in England, Roberts has had a slightly rockier start.
He spent time in Northern Ireland before coming out, but had trouble getting into the country after issues with his visa, meaning he missed the opening two matches.
‘‘I had two wait about 21⁄2 weeks for mine to come through. I also copped a ball in the forearm from Wian while he was batting and I was down the other end, which was a bit of a freak accident,’’ Roberts said.
For the mates from Bloemfontein, a four-hour drive from Johannesburg, coming to a foreign land to experience a new culture and new type of cricket has been a positive experience.
‘‘We love it here, we absolutely love it. The people are so friendly and everyone at the club has been so welcoming,’’ Van Zyl said.
You would not know it from his first six scores of 83, 32, 274 not out, 112, 51 and his most recent mammoth score at the weekend of 210, but Wian said the Australian conditions had taken a little bit of getting used to.
‘‘The cricket here is a bit different; we are used to wetter wickets, so the harder and quicker wickets here are a nice change for us.’’
Speaking on his phenomenal start to the season, Van Zyl had not come with any set goals.
Roberts said despite a more challenging start to his career as a Tiger, it had been exciting to watch his mate put opposition bowling attacks to the sword.
‘‘I’m proud of him. It’s nice watching from the sidelines and seeing your mate do so well,’’ he said.
Not just content with scoring big runs in the MVCA, Van Zyl has set his sights on something much bigger and hopes to stay in Australia long-term.
‘‘The next step here is to play Shield cricket, which I want to try and break into. I want to play at the highest level I possibly can,’’ he said.
In the meantime, the pair has its sights firmly on delivering the Tigers a coveted premiership.
‘‘The team is on a high, there are good vibes around the place and I have to say there are young guys here like Lachlan Hyde and Izac Artavilla who are really talented up-and-coming players who can really take the club forward as well,’’ Van Zyl said.
‘‘They’re all young and really hungry,’’ Roberts said.
‘‘We try and spread our knowledge in terms of what we’ve gathered over the years playing cricket and pass it onto them.’’
On top of the playing commitments, the pair also spends time coaching the club’s under-16 side.
They have also found work at Cobram Panel Works through owner Mark Haberfield, who is hoping to make a comeback with the Tigers later in the season after suffering from a back injury.
Starring roles: Cobram Cricket Club’s South African recruits Ewald Roberts and Wian Van Zyl.