WHEN Dustin Elliott leads the Sedgwick Cricket Club out onto the field tomorrow, there’ll be a sense of relief for the skipper.
Not because the season has started, but because the season has started with him.
Last year, cricket left Elliott behind.
When the Emu Valley Cricket Association season hit off, Elliott was still coming to grips with the fact he’d just survived a horrific car crash.
It’s no exaggeration to say he almost died.
Paramedics still remember how much blood Elliott had lost and they are still counting their lucky stars that he was literally just around the corner from the Bendigo Hospital.
Had it been out of town, Elliott may not have lived.
That was in August last year.
The cricket season was six weeks away and Elliott had just been appointed captain-captain coach of Sedgwick – the first time he’d ever been asked to lead a cricket club.
“I was stoked,” Elliott recalled yesterday.
“Being captain-coach was something I always wanted to do.”
When doctors were forced to remove his spleen on the operating table, Elliott’s cricket dream was instantly shattered.
Sedgwick president Mick Purdon still remembers the phone call.
“I remember he was in hospital and he called me to say he wouldn’t be able to do the job,” Purdon said.
“You could hear the disappointment in his voice.”
Purdon said the club’s first concern was Elliott and his health, but the time eventually came to find a replacement.
“In the end we didn’t go for a coach – we just had the older guys helping out at training,” he said.
“Then Friz (Sedgwick batsman Alan Friswell) put his hand up to be captain, so it worked out OK.”
While pre-season training was on, Elliott was still recovering.
By the time the first game came around, he was out of hospital.
When the players called stumps against Maiden Gully, “Dusty” was at the bar – the first person to congratulate the Sedgwick players on their win.
There was no doubt Elliott was in a lot of pain last summer as he hobbled around at Sedgwick’s home ground in Junortoun, but he didn’t once complain.
Often his partner Rhiannon Cornish and their two daughters would also be down at the club, happy just to be spectators and enjoy the social side of cricket.
Being social wasn’t enough for Elliott, though.
He wanted to be out there with “the boys”.
Eventually Elliott caught the bug.
On November 19 – 10 weeks after his car crash – Elliott donned the whites again.
The first time was a one-day match for Sedgwick’s division four team.
Many A-graders would be too proud to drop back to such a level.
He knew the club was struggling for numbers in the bottom team and put his hand up to help.
He made an inglorious 15 runs that afternoon, but buoyed the team simply because he was out there.
In fact, it lifted the whole club.
Elliott then had a two-month spell from the pitch, returning in the new year, where he managed to play three matches in a row across five Saturdays.
The first two games were in the division two team, where he made two ducks.
Even though he was still walking around gingerly and in no real condition to be playing cricket in 30 degree heat, Elliott was still hard on himself.
“I’m better than this,” you could see him saying to himself. I should be making runs in the twos.”
The runs eventually came, though.
Elliott played the last two matches of the season in the division one team and, in the final game of the summer, managed to score 43 runs in Sedgwick’s big win against Golden Gully.
This season, the captain-coach is hoping to make up for lost time.
Elliott says he still isn’t 100 per cent fit – “maybe seven or eight out of 10”, but he’s desperate to lead Sedgwick with pride this summer.
“We’ve lost a few players in the off season, but this year isn’t about premierships for us,” the skipper explained.
“It’s about bonding and building for the following season. I’m desperate to lead Sedgwick to its first A-grade premiership – I know a lot of the guys want that – but we need to build a platform.”
With an inspirational skipper leading them, there’s no doubt Sedgwick’s players will give their all for Elliott and the club.