Friday was Good, and Saturday had the potential to be great as the Students played off in Qualifying Finals in the First and Second XI’s over the Easter weekend. Instead, University was defeated in both grades, seeing the season come to a grinding halt. Never an easy pill to swallow, Saturday’s was a particularly bitter one, as some of the club’s favourite and longest-serving members called stumps on their glittering careers.
A word on those who topped the class…
From Mark Stafford to Charlie McQuire, there was not a dry eye in the Toorak Park change rooms on Saturday afternoon, as the First XI – and club as a whole – tried to come to terms with the fact that James McNeil, Liam Scammell, Jarrod Martignago and Steven Reid had all just played their last games as MUCCers. Truly the lifeblood of the club, the quartet have been the constant feature in a rapidly evolving First XI across the last six years. Not only four of the most skilled players in Victorian Premier Cricket – dazzling and entertaining from Parkville to the Peninsula, they are some of its highest quality people. Having made MUCC a better place every day since their respective arrivals, it is desperately difficult to see each of them go.
Rarely has an individual made such an impact on an organisation as James McNeil on MUCC. In just six years – and five as captain – McNeil has brought the club from the tail-end of the ladder, to perennial contenders. Setting and maintaining the highest standards, his outstanding on-field record is no surprise. One of the most electric and complete batsmen in the state, it has been a thrill to watch him play. To that end, such is his dominance at the crease, that when he batted well, he would usually lead the Students to victory. Comfortably the best fielder in the business, James truly has been an outstanding all-round performer. More than that, however, it has been his strength of character, personable nature and leadership that will forever be remembered at the Main. Driven by a deep care and affection for each of his teammates, playing with James has been a privilege. Selfless, humble and unquestionably determined to get the most from himself and his team, MUCC has been blessed to have you, James. Thank you.
If the task of an all-rounder is to perform regularly with bat and ball, then to categorise Liam as such would be reductive. So much more than his match-winning performances on the field (of which there are many), Scammell has become the heartbeat of the club in just five years. Blessed with the unique ability to put everyone around him at ease, Scam is quite simply an invaluable asset to any team or organisation – particularly a cricket change room with its inherent predisposition towards tension and anxiety. Floppy cap in the cordon, tight shirt made tighter by constant adjustment and ice-cool nature under pressure, Liam has become a staple of the University First XI. The man for every situation, his departure will leave a triangular-shaped hole, and one not easily filled. On a personal level, Scam gives top-two cuddles, so get one while you can, I can assure you you’ll feel the love from Big Scamma – so strong, so noble!
To play with Jarrod is like playing with a caring and far more talented older brother. For the entirety of his 221-game career as a Student, Jarrod has stood by and up for his teammates at every turn; allowing them to play with the freedom and confidence that facilitates team success. Truly a great teammate, he has also been one of the club’s most valuable batsmen for more than ten years now. One of those players who makes batting look enviably straightforward, Jarrod thrived at the top of the order. With deft touch and devilish creativity, Jaz has delighted his teammates for 17 years, his century just two weeks ago a poignant reminder that his cut-shot remains just as valuable as when he unwrapped it on his thirtieth birthday. A leader without the title, it has been a privilege and a heck of a lot of fun to play with Marty. Sadly, we won’t have our big brother out there on the field any more, but thank you for showing us the way, Jarrod.
The most complete fast bowler in Victorian Premier Cricket, Steven Reid has led the Melbourne University attack with a remarkable level of skill and consistency. Having put fear into the hearts of opposition batting line-ups for more than thirteen years, we have been blessed to have Reidy as a Student since 2013. Ever-reliable, it has been Steven’s commitment and dedication that has allowed him to perform, even as an increasingly demanding schedule has seen him able to spend less time at training over recent years. That he has remained as consistent and indeed dominant as he has (typified by his receipt of Team of the Year honours last season) is a testament to his steadfast application. Three times the club’s leading bowler, Reidy also has a unique ability to perform on a Saturday morning after a night shift. Saving lives on Friday night before ruining weekends with a vicious leg-cutter on Saturday morning – how’s that for juxtaposition? Thank you for everything, Steve and congratulations on a remarkable career. Just make sure you take your in-ducker in fading light on a Thursday with you, please.