NO NEED FOR THE KEY TEST: Farmers Andrew and Geoff Gray have been preparing the Morkalla Cricket Ground for its first taste of sporting action since the 1950s. The farmers and families of the drought-stricken Millewa will play a friendly cricket match and host a family day next weekend to help liven the spirits of those affected.
By MITCH RODD
A CRICKET game 70 years in the making may just give the struggling farmers of the Millewa a much-needed morale boost.
To forget their troubles and the crippling drought for an afternoon, farmers and families will play one of the most remote Twenty20 matches in history at the Morkalla Cricket Ground, the first time it will be utilised since the 1950s.
Affectionately dubbed the ‘MCG’, many residents of the Millewa didn’t even realise an abandoned cricket oval lay at Morkalla, some 100 kilometres down the Sturt Highway from Mildura.
The venue, however, will define the term ‘bush cricket’ next Sunday, November 10.
In the midst of a crippling drought, the farmers and families from here to the South Australian border could do with some cheery action.
Third-generation Morkalla farmer, Geoff Gray, had the idea of a community cricket match and family day swirling in his mind for “a few years”, and it will come to fruition next week.
“This will be the biggest thing to happen in Morkalla in 100 years!” he said.
“This year was the ideal opportunity to get everyone together, only a few handful will be out on the harvesters.
“This is the worst conditions I have seen in my 50 years of farming.
“Some farmers up near Pirlta didn’t get a crop last year and might not get another one this year. We have to do something to keep a bit of spirit up.
“It’s amazing that word is getting out and people are talking about it, and it will take their mind off a few things.”
NOT a single blade of grass can be found growing at the MCG.
The blowflies (Douglas Jardine’s best mates) can be ravenous and remnants of the old changing rooms, that were used in the Western Millewa Cricket Association, are still visible.
Incredibly, however, the old concrete pitch, believed to be in the vicinity of a century old, is still relatively in one piece. Geoff said a mat will cover the surface, much to the chagrin of any bowlers that want an extra bit of surprise spin.
There is also arguably less dest than can be found on Test cricket surfaces in India.
Only the bravest of souls would dare to dive in the outfield, which consists of dirt, sticks, dirt, prickles and more dirt.
Geoff admitted there wouldn’t be too many quick singles taken either, and a defibrillator will be on hand for those who need it!
The idea had been discussed over cold stubbies of ‘Vitamin B’ at the Morkalla Tavern, an old silo repurposed into a home-made bar.
With Werrimull farmer Kieran Kelly coming on board to help as well, overwhelming support started rolling in.
Not only have fellow farmers pitched in to help, but companies and organisations on both sides of the border were quick to donate whatever they could muster.
Players will be divided into East Millewa and West Millewa sides to compete for the ‘Dust Bowl’. It’s fair to say there is already some banter flying between them.
“People only 20km away, when I said let’s play a game at the Morkalla Cricket Ground, they said ‘Where’s that?’,” Geoff said.
“There were locals at 50 years old that didn’t know. We’ll put Morkalla on the map. We’re talking about having a members section, maybe a hill and a Bay 13 as well.
“I’m just absolutely blown away by the support. It’s a chance for us to put our worries away for a day.”
The free event will also see the inaugural Hauslers Morkalla Big Bash, a long hitting competition for men and women similar to the Willowfest Whack.
There will also be a multitude of other activities, including bocce, a children’s sand pit and wading pool, and a portable coolroom will be on site.
Those attending are asked to wear enclosed shoes, and to bring any chairs or shade structures you may have.
WHILE Geoff said supporting farmers and families will be important, so is the need to pass on the history of the area.
Much like the layers of dirt that sweep across their properties in the wind, the Millewa is covered in history that is in danger of being lost if not passed on to the next generation.
The early Western Millewa Cricket Association contained six teams; Morkalla, Pine Tank, Karween, Tunart, Malloreen and Meringur.
“We’re trying to encourage the old Millewa people to come out, and people who have been involved in cricket and can bring out old memorabilia and photos,” Geoff said.
“We don’t want the stories and the history to be lost, so anyone who has been out in the Millewa is encouraged to come out and share their stories.”
The ‘Dust Bowl’ at Morkalla Cricket ground will take place on Sunday, November 10, from 2pm. For further information contact Geoff on 0427 283 235.