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Waratahs in History – Matt Cranney

This fortnight Howzat Building Waratahs in History Q & A is with Matt Cranney. Matt (“Son of Errol”/Loose) played 19 seasons for the Tahs from 1992/1993 to 2011/2012. A local junior who started his career at the club when he was only 14. In the clubs 146-year history Matt sits in the top 20 of the highest run scorers for the club with over 6000 runs. He is also a top bloke!

How did your love of cricket come about as a child?
Simple, my Dad Errol. We were always a cricketing family. My two older brothers and I would play backyard cricket all year round. We had a great backyard for cricket and would have friends over for backyard competitions. Future club legends like David Gainsford, Geoff Tucker and Dave Gardiner who were my eldest brothers age would terrorise me with a half-taped tennis ball, but this put me in good stead for when I came down to grade as a 14-yo and would face them in the old Grahams reserve nets.

Who were your cricket heroes growing up?
Dean Jones was one of my first heroes. Loved his attitude to batting. He never got bogged down and was always busy at the crease. I look back now and realise that I did try to bat in a similar fashion. Ian Healy and then Adam Gilchrist were big influences also.

Tell us a bit about your junior journey on your way to playing at Manly?
Played all my junior cricket for Cromer cricket club. We were a dominant team winning the comp most if not all seasons so very lucky really. It was always Cromer vs Wakehurst Redbacks in the final each year as both these teams had all the rep players. Played lots of school cricket with Cameron Lawes, Forrester and Elliot Leahey. David Ford was our teacher and school team coach during the week and then we would play together on the weekends. Opened the batting for all the Rep age groups from U12 Cawsey shield right up to winning a Simon Couch captained Green Shield comp (Undefeated) as a 14yo.
I switched it up a bit in juniors and wasn’t always behind the stumps – at one stage I was a leg spinner.

You debuted for the Waratahs in 1991 at the tender age of 14. What do you remember about your grade debut?
One to forget (but haven’t ha ha) It was at sunny Raby in Campbelltown. Nonny was my skipper (and next-door neighbour at the time). I remember opening and I was really confident having been on a run scoring blitz in school cricket. But this was adult cricket and after I spent my entire innings stuck at one end as I couldn’t hit the hooping outswingers from an ex 1st grade opening bowler, I was finally put out of my misery and snicked one to be dismissed in the 10th over for 0. Little did I know we had our own 1st grade opening bowler Warren “The Rock Dog” Evans in our team who was playing as a batter and decided to bowl off spin that game. With me up to the stumps Wazza had been slogged for a few rank boundaries and decided to let one fly. I cowered behind the batsman who didn’t even see it as it whistled past us to the boundary for four byes. Big eye opener that game.

Who were some of the well-known cricketers who you came through the system with, and who was the best player coming through the Manly ranks during your juniors?
In Junior reps I played against future state and Australian players like Graham Rummins and Nathan Bracken. Played Green Shield with Mark Higgs who also went on to play for Australia. Played with some wonderful players in the local competition. Gaetan Juul was the skipper of my Cromer and Rep teams and was seriously talented in every facet of the game. Guys like Scotty Fitzsimmons, Barnaby Wilson and Rishard Contractor were all dominant players in my age group.

Your top score was 145 in 1993/94, what do you remember about that innings?
Against Parramatta (Don’t recall the ground name, it was on the other side of Parramatta river from Old Kings ground), Tony “Nonny” Scanlon was skipper. Don’t remember too much about the innings itself but remember raising the bat for the hundred as it was my first in senior cricket (I was around 16yo).

What do you think your strength was as a cricketer?
Through the first half of my career I wasn’t a very patient cricketer. I was always in a hurry to score. As I got older and somewhat wiser I became much more patient which lead to more consistent runs. A consistent run scorer at the top of the innings is what I strived to be and I hope that I provided that more often than not.

Do you remember your first-grade debut?
It was against Sutherland at Glen McGrath Oval. Their bowling attack was headed up by Test star (and for a brief time Manly star) Stuart Clark and a firebrand Dan McLaughlin. I was nervous when I went into bat and remember completely fishing at my first ball which was well wide outside off stump. I think I scored about 13 odd and then departed after driving a half volley straight to short cover. I was just glad I didn’t get a golden duck like Nathan “Dot-ball” Dodd had in his 1st grade debut the previous week.

What do you consider the best innings & keeping from yourself?
Batting – Personally my best innings I remember was not a tonne. It was against Mosman at Allan Border Oval in 3’s around 98/99 season. Opened up with Graham (Hooch) Turner and we put on around 180 run opening stand. I just remember every shot hit the middle of the bat and went through a gap that day. Shamefully I missed a sweep shot on 90 and was given BBW (Box before wicket) which actually split the box in half…Ouch.

Keeping, I did manage a good number of 5 dismissal hauls but one in only my second first grade game was very memorable. Also, as a keeper I really relished all the wickets I took when given the chance to roll the arm over. My teammates always enjoyed educating the batsmen about being dismissed by a wicketkeeper.

Who was the best player at Manly that you played with?
So many amazingly talented players over the years – I did get to bat with Michael Bevan once and he really made a quality 1st grade bowling attack look pedestrian, me at the other end… not so much! Brian Clemow was also ridiculously talented with the bat.
Bowlers… Loved keeping to guys that bowled heat – Mark Cameron and Jamie Heath come to mind. Andrew “Billy” Lindsay had a habit of making batsmen look useless on his day. I’m sure caught Cranny bowled Youell & caught Cranney bowled Evans appeared in the books a heck of a lot over the years (although so did stumped Cranney bowled Youell & Evans but so called fast bowlers don’t like that much). Also loved keeping to spinners that gave it a big rip like Ryan (Monkey Magic) Bonner and Adam “Inzamam” Parkinson once he figured out how to turn it.

Who drove the standards at the club during your playing time?
Driving the standards were some of the best senior players in the State at the time – Shawn Bradstreet, Craig Glassock, Matt Phelps, Johnny Moss and Tim Cruickshank. These guys were not only super talented players but really loved to win and drove that passion through the club. Also, guys like Rowley Alexander and Greg Hill. In the lower grades we had guys like John Borzi and Alex “Supercat” Haigh who played to win but also made it so much fun each week. Tony and Ken Pitcher are absolute club legends and week in week out showed us youngsters what grade cricket was all about.

Who was the person/people who really drove the on-field and off-field culture at Manly during your time?
When Mike Pawley came back to Manly as Director of cricket he had a wonderful effect on the clubs culture. His energy and insights not only on cricket but on life in general really created a great culture on and off the field. His legacy will live long with the Waratahs and has been carried on by the likes of Andrew Fraser, David Gainsford, Joel Mason and many others.

Who was the best Captain you played with and why?
Craig Glassock was one of the best captains I played with. His knowledge of the game and the ability to work out a batsman after just a few balls was amazing. His fielding drills at training were brutal – He would slap balls at us for hours until our hands were red raw but come Saturdays we were a fearless fielding team and that gave us an edge over our opponents. As a keeper I would have bruised hands before the first ball was bowled but would get through the (back then) 100 overs.
Craig “Jeanie” Little was an extremely enthusiastic and driven captain with a strong passion for winning. Loved finishing my career with what was my third premiership for Manly but first in the 2-day comp with Jeanie as skipper.

Who was someone that you loved to captain that you loved seeing succeed?
In all my years of playing for Manly I only captained twice. Once was Green Shield and the other 2nd grade. In two’s I was lucky to get to captain some great young talents who went on to become club legends and beyond. Guys like Ben (Burger) King, both Shane and Mitch Cleary, Michael (Franky) Cozzentino, Cam Merchant and a young lanky Jackson Bird.

What is the best innings you saw at Manly from a fellow player?
So many classy innings over the 20 years I played at Manly but one that sticks out was far from classy (sorry Fitzy) but Scotty (Frozen Chook) Fitzsimmons with a double tonne at Grahams in a preliminary final was one to remember. Anyone meandering around Atmosphere park got to witness some very interesting and inventive shots that came out of the woodwork that day.

Who was the funniest player you played with at Manly and why? Do you have any clean stories you could share with us?
Too many to mention – As far as stories go I will mention the 1st grade Limited overs final against St George at Manly Oval. As the match went on one of our lower graders decided to take the entertainment to the next level and in front of a packed grandstand and the hill which was full of all the Manly lower graders (who were also getting full…) began appearing any and everywhere all over Manly as Wally from Where’s Wally (Red and white stripy outfit, beanie and all). He appeared on the church steeple, on the Whistler street car park, on the big blue building, sticking his head out of a passing bus on Sydney road and even talked his way onto a nearby neighbour’s back balcony opposite the ground. Of course, I’m talking about Jay Travaskis and everyone at Manly oval that day will never forget those scenes. The result of the game we can forget but the spectacle he put on will live on in our memories.

In 2000 I was lucky enough to be in side that toured Sri Lanka. That was an amazing experience with a great bunch of blokes that played well on and off the field on that tour. The cricket was great but I think the shenanigans were more memorable. Andrew Fraser and David Ford had their hands full trying to control that side of young loose cannons but most of us made it back in one piece.

Best Nick Name?
Ha ha….. ohh so many good ones: Captain Squid Ink, Pedro Pieburn & Party Pieburn, Andrew Refshauge, Inzamam, Cerebral Lawesy, Frank Crabmeat. These guys all know who they are. For me, I had quite a few over the years but “Son of Errol” and “Loose” were the ones that stuck.

What does your life involve now, and do you keep abreast of how the Waratahs are faring?
These days revolve around my wonderful family, my wife and two young men who are heavily into their sports so always carting them all over town all year round. Currently Supply Chain Manager for a very busy Global Orthopaedic company which I’ve been at for the last 16 years and going strong. Still love my music and am playing in 2 bands currently so yeah – a busy life.
I still keep a keen eye out on each grade’s results each game. Did manage a long awaited (12 seasons long…) comeback match last season. The hands and eyes were still good and got a few runs but I remember batting for longish periods being much easier!!

You have some young kids that are very into their cricket as you have said. How is cricket travelling on the Northern Beaches from what you see through the eyes of a parent?
Junior cricket has changed since I was playing – for the better really. There is a big focus on safety and fun and all in all the standard on the northern beaches is still very strong. I like that everyone gets to bat and bowl as opposed to the old days where the good batters batted each week and others felt more like a number filler than a player. There are definitely plenty of future top-level cricketers to come out of our local area.

Do you ever see yourself getting back involved in the club in the future?
Time permitting, I would like to get back involved in the club in whatever shape or form that is.

What are some of your predictions for Manly in 2023 /2024?
Predictions… All men’s and woman’s teams into the finals would be amazing. Maybe a few more top graders pushing for higher honours? 4th grade to get the Three-peat.