A winning spirit on and off the pitch


A winning spirit on and off the pitch

words Heidi HELBIG
>> Senior Players at Practice: Kane 'Sos' Materne, Ben 'Bristle' Teusner, Sayed 'Ed' Alawi, Will 'Recruit' Lindner, David 'Darling' Murray, Graham 'Ski' Nitschke, Jayden 'Woody' Birchard, Tom 'Chop' Birchard, Ben 'Highway' Thiel, Hudson 'Hut' Noack, Kyle 'Jenner' Noack, Dylan 'Pickle' Birchard, Ben 'Crum' Roennfeldt, Charles 'Chucky' Shaw, Campbell 'Glen' Noack, Jamie 'Parrot' Schultz, Charlie 'Big Rig' Poole, Ryan 'Hazey' Paley, Tom 'Ziggy' Saegenschnitter (obscured), Willem 'Prince' Schluter-Prouse, Sam 'Herschelle' Nitschke and Dan 'Lou' Roennfeldt.

Peek inside the inner sanctum of ‘The Schlungers’ and you’ll find a club as tight as the veil of secrecy that surrounds it.

The traditions and rituals passed down through the annals of Greenock Cricket Club are matched only by the creativity of those who invented them.

These rites of passage are not always easy to understand – even for insiders – which is just the way club “Shaman” Max ‘Cannon’ McClaren likes it.

Asked about his specific role within this secret society, Max is evasive.

“Club Shaman.” “A spiritual leader.” “A mystic.” “It’s not easy to explain,” offers Max.

The geographic boundaries that define Greenock Cricket Club are equally ambiguous.

“There is a Barossa Valley, but in geographical terms it’s called the Greater Greenock basin,” says a straight-faced Max.

“We suggest the Basin stretches as far south and as far north as we want it to go. That way we can get players, which we do, from anywhere. Very few people question it really.”

Adding to the intrigue is the Spike Milligan-inspired ‘club prayer’ that is recounted every Saturday before players take the field, and a club song, which is only sung at wins “or really, really bad losses.”

And The Schlungers’ questionable rewards system is a double-edged sword, whereby the ‘winner’ might in fact be the loser.

“You might go home and wonder, ‘why did I win that?’ It’s not always straightforward. It can be seen as a reward, or just a pain for the next 12 months,” says Max.

“If you’ve played 101, 202, 303, 404 or 505 matches, they all have a particular name and connection that’s celebrated, which is where the Shaman comes in. Some people think we’re cracked, but the guys who enjoy the humour, they thrive on it!”

>> Jayden 'Woody' Birchard (Senior Player).
>> Ben 'Highway' Thiel (Club Captain)

“It’s good to play cricket and win, but when you’re not winning, you still need to enjoy what you’re doing, and that’s something we do off the field as well.”

- graham 'ski' nitschke

According to club stalwart and president Graham ‘Ski’ Nitschke, it’s this camaraderie that transcends the on-field competition.

The club has led the way in promoting inclusion and diversity, providing a place to belong for people of varying ages, gender, ethnicity, disability and cultural identity, including their first indigenous coach, Jamie ‘Winx’ McCafferty.

A recent addition to the club is the Greenock Ladies of Cricket, overseen by Grandmaster GLOC Marina Teusner, aka Miss Marina, where fun and frivolity takes precedence over fundraising, sausage sizzles and baking.

“The one thing we pride ourselves on is our club culture,” says Graham.

“I’m sure there are other clubs with great culture but it’s probably the quirky things we do that set us apart.

“The cricket is still serious but that’s the catch – some people can take themselves a bit seriously and that detracts from the game.

“It’s good to play cricket and win, but when you’re not winning, you still need to enjoy what you’re doing, and that’s something we do off the field as well.”

>> Sascha Klingbiel
>> Jack Rolfe, Owen Hill
>> Cameryn Koch

With a history that dates from 1886 – or 1788 in Max’s account of the Portuguese landing at Port Parham to go crabbing – the club has enjoyed considerable on-field success.

“The club was on and off during the war, but it was in ’76 that Peter (Woolly) and David (Darf) Nitschke and a few mates decided to rekindle the cricket club,” recalls Graham.

Since then, names liked Obst, Kalleske and Stevens have taken The Schlungers to lofty heights. Their record includes 17 senior premierships, led by Peter Nitschke on an astounding 548 games, and three junior premierships.

A strong A1 side in the current season is complemented by players in two more senior grades who “may come out for a stubby on a Thursday night”, which is interpreted as “available to play”.

The Schlungers are also gracious in defeat and if the cap fits, they wear it – quite literally.

“We have the 9, 10, 11 cap,” says Max. “We played at Riverton and it was in the Advertiser as the lowest senior score SACA had ever recorded – we got nine runs, 10 wickets and it took 11 overs!”

Their oldest player took the field as a septuagenarian, earning the nickname Yabby because of his surname.

“Ken Adams; what’s in A dam? A yabby. Well, Yabby wanted to play senior cricket again;  he was 78 and no-one blinked an eye,” recounts Max.

“Before he passed away he asked that The Schlungers see him off in his ute. We wore our ceremonial jackets, the green and gold silks, and we sang him the club song and prayer.

“Over the journey, you realise how important this club is to people. It’s a significant part of their lives, and not (to) be taken for granted.”

>> Graham 'Ski' Nitschke
>> BBQ Master, Bruce 'Bubbles' Irving (of Bruce's Famous Kitchen).

Thanks to a strong administration – Graham, Max and Damien ‘Nuts’ Nitschke have notched up 30 years between them in the President’s role – the younger generation is also in capable hands.

“You need a couple of older heads at each level,” says Graham. “We talk about cricket and a bit of coaching, but they love it when we get together and reminisce about the past – they think it’s priceless, some of the stuff we did.”

“And we probably embellish the stories a bit,” adds Max, “like when the ute was towed back from Eudunda…actually no, we really can’t tell that one.”

One thing’s for certain, what happens at Schlunger Park stays at Schlunger Park, and those who come to play, stay.

“I would never leave; I couldn’t sleep, thinking of what I’m missing,” says Max. “I’m a cricket tragic. I am Greenock. I am The Schlunger.”

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