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Opinion

The AFL's cricketing first XI

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22nd April, 2020
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During this COVID-19 period, I have used some of the time to research forming an AFL cricket club.

A range of current and recently retired AFL players have been selected based on their cricketing experience and achievements. In the coming week, a first, second and third XI will be revealed along with a club committee.

To begin, here is the first XI in batting order.

1. Marc Murphy (Carlton)
Murphy was in good company when he represented Victoria in the under-17 state team with Aaron Finch and Brett Deledio. In that 2003-04 under-17 national championships, Murphy’s team set the record of 506 runs for the highest team total. Despite only contributing three runs to that, he was a solid batsman as a teenager. Impressively, at the age of 16, Murphy was awarded the best first-year player at Victorian Premier Cricket club Melbourne University – another indication of the value that he will offer to the first XI team as an opener.

Marc Murphy

(Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

2. Shannon Hurn (West Coast)
Hurn left behind a South Australian rookie contract to pursue a career in the AFL. Nowadays, with athletes only able to participate in one sport professionally at a time, Hurn’s honour of being involved in both sports at the top level is a commendable achievement. Hurn is welcomed into the side as an opening batsman with Murphy.

3. George Horlin-Smith (Gold Coast)
As a co-captain of the Australian under-16 cricket team, Horlin-Smith quite comfortably receives a position in the club’s first XI. While his cricketing skills come in handy for the team, his big build throws him straight into the fielding position of short cover. With his large frame, he comes across as a worry for opposition players.

4. Jess Duffin (captain) (North Melbourne)
As the only player on a current AFL men’s or women’s list to have played in Test matches for Australia, Duffin is clearly one of the best cricketers at the AFL cricket club. On top of that honour of owning a baggy green, she has 50 ODIs and 64 T20 internationals to her name. Duffin is a danger for opposition players because of her accomplishments in cricket. She has won a T20 World Cup, Ashes in England and several domestic awards with Victoria. Overall, with these accolades, Duffin is a standout choice as captain for the first XI at the AFL cricket club.

Jess Duffin

(Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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5. Alex Keath (vice-captain) (Western Bulldogs)
Similar to Duffin, Keath is a rarity in the modern era having represented AFL and cricket both as full professions. In Keath’s cricket career, he played in the Big Bash League for the Melbourne Stars, Victoria in first-class domestic cricket, and travelled to England to play in the Birmingham Premier League. On the field, Keath was recognised as an all-rounder, a position highly valued by club recruiters, especially when they are investing heaps into the player. With Keath’s experience and achievements in the game of cricket, he receives the honour of vice-captain in the first XI outfit.

6. Nathan Murphy (Collingwood)
Murphy represented Australia in the under-16s while dominating state and club cricket as a teenager. There was a moment when I once clashed with Murphy on a cricket field. It revealed his competitiveness and desire to win as a cricketer. With a combination of his character and cricketing ability, Murphy fits suitably into the side as a batting all-rounder.

7. Stephen Coniglio (Greater Western Sydney)
West Australian product Coniglio has represented his state twice, in under-15s and under-17s. His incredible knock of 106 not out in the under-15 state final earns him a spot at seven in the first XI batting line-up. While this performance seems convincing, his grade cricket average of 22.20 will need improving if he is to maintain his spot in the first XI. While his cricketing numbers might need some work, the financial figures at the club are in good hands with Coniglio as club treasurer. He once served his school, La Salle College, as a head boy, which provides him with the right credentials to serve the club as a treasurer. This is one of the most important off-field roles at any local sporting club.

Stephen Coniglio

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

8. Brent Daniels (wicketkeeper) (Greater Western Sydney)
GWS small forward Brent Daniels was probably the first AFL grand finalist to have been recognised in every role that is possible as a cricketer. In school cricket, he scored hundreds, took five-fors and put on the gloves for his Geelong Grammar first XI team. He was the heart of the side, which featured current AFL footballers Jarrod Brander, Lochie O’Brien and Giants teammate Jye Caldwell. Daniels was a tremendous cricketer who represented his state Victoria in the under-15 national cricket championships. Considering that he is the only recognised wicketkeeper on a current AFL list, Daniels takes the gloves as wicketkeeper in the first XI.

9. Caleb Serong (Fremantle)
First-year AFL player Serong was a very handy sportsman at Geelong Grammar. He – along with all others in the AFL first XI side – has represented his state. He managed to do it twice in the under-12 and under-15 age groups for Victoria. The spark about Serong is that he will give it his all for the duration of any game, as I explain below. When his school was announcing a sportsmanship award, Serong was a clear winner. With accolades like these, he is a certainty in the AFL first XI side.

10. Brett Deledio (Greater Western Sydney and Richmond)
As a Victorian under-17 representative alongside Marc Murphy, Deledio finds himself a spot in the first XI side as a bowling all-rounder. In the record game where his Victorian under-17 side scored the highest team total of 506, Deledio made a whopping 85 runs with 13 fours and a six, batting at eight. With an innings like this, he certainly is a great option as a night watchman in the first XI. If his state teammate Marc Murphy falls short of runs as opener, there could even be a straight swap between them in the batting order.

11. Emma Kearney (North Melbourne)
AFLW Kangaroos captain Kearney is another dual sporting professional who currently plays cricket for the Melbourne Stars in the women’s Big Bash League. This feature of Kearney makes her a big-name player in the first XI. She will particularly lead the team well with the ball that has been prompted by her professional career wickets tally of 29, bowling fast. Kearney is also teammates with Jess Duffin at AFLW club North Melbourne so they will bring some valuable chemistry to the side.

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Now, here is my experience of playing alongside Serong.

Having played with him at school, I can assure you that he will certainly bring his best effort to the AFL cricket club first XI. In our last game of school cricket in 2019, we were in the middle of the second innings needing another six wickets to bowl St Kevin’s out a second time so we could bat again to try and secure an outright victory and premiership.

As a little bit of a partnership was building for St Kevin’s and we were losing time to bat, we desperately needed a wicket. Putting tactics and strategy aside, I just asked Serong: “Can you please just get a wicket this over?” In response, we both grinned at each other as he was walking to the top of his mark to begin his over.

A couple of balls later, we were together in the team huddle celebrating one of his 28 wickets for the season. There is more to this story, though. To have him coming off the full run-up bowling as quickly as he could for a full season while in his draft year was remarkable. It was a showcase of his commitment and willingness to achieve something special for his teammates.

There was always a risk of injury in every game he played in but he would still happily bowl and give his full effort for the team. I recall in the last game of the season, his knee was swollen up on the Friday after a day’s play when we bowled St Kevin’s out for 103 and he took four wickets. The next day he bravely showed up without a glimmer of having any knee problems and bowled 11 overs and took three wickets. Serong will be a wonderful asset in the first XI.

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