All-round per­form­ers

The Cobram Courier - - SPORT - By Patrick Tansey

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.

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