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.
‘‘They 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.’’