Manor Ground Memories from Blayne Cornford

A slight departure in our Manor Memories this time as we catch up with one of our most memorable overseas players, Alice Springs native, Blayne Cornford, who joined Worthing for the unforgettable Ashes summer of 2005. A former attendee to the Australia Cricket Academy (together with Shaun Marsh amongst others), Blayne was a player of the highest pedigree and part of an outstanding group that came to us from Adelaide Grade/Turf Cricket in the 2000s.

He will be remembered for the many scrapes he got into and for his sense of humour……but Blayne’s playing stats that summer were outstanding. He scored 3 centuries and was comfortably the most accomplished batsman in Division 2, from which we only missed out on promotion on the last day of the season. He bowled useful leg-spin, with a mean quicker ball (read on!) and was an outstanding fielder.

More than that though, he quickly became a favourite at the Manor Ground, especially amongst the juniors for whom he always had a lot of time. For those that were around the club in 2005, he is a character who made a great impression leaving his imprint on the club long after he left. Here’s how Blayne remembers things…..

How did you come to be playing for Worthing in 2005?

I’ve had a huge amount of people ask me over the years (by huge I mean at least 4 to 6) how a fella from Alice Springs came to be playing cricket for Worthing. Well I had played a little against previous Worthing Aussie; former 3rd change bowler Ben Cameron and expert cocktail maker, and occasional cover field genius Brett Weinert…….. and it was through Brett that my name came to be thrown up to JK and the committee at Worthing CC. Reluctantly, Brett talked me up (under duress obviously) and as the committee had no other real options available, they decided to up their bar takings and get me over to play!

What’s your earliest memory of the Manor Ground?

My earliest memory of the MCG would have to be going to the clubrooms one afternoon, shortly after arriving from the Australian desert. I was with JK and Lutters (heavy ball bowler); I remember seeing the size of the place, and couldn’t understand that it was as big as it was.  All I’d heard about English grounds were that they were tiny and surrounded by trees and greenery.

I was ushered into the bar and without any hesitation, quickly decided this was the place for me. Where I came from in Alice Springs there weren’t as many tap beers in the whole town as the Manor had by itself; I was in love.

What do you remember of your Worthing debut?

Ha-ha, my Worthing debut! Wholeheartedly underwhelming by any standard! We played St. James’ at their place and there were a few things that stick in my memory from that day. Not all good that’s for sure…

I remember us batting first and it wasn’t a terrible start but I was in reasonably early. I was also dismissed reasonably early. I had no idea what I was doing going out to bat. I remember scratching my mark and the turf was so soft, it was like mud compared to what I was used to. So fairly early I tried to flick one of my pads and was caught off a leading edge for single figures (it was 3 but saying single figures I thought maybe people might’ve given me 8 or 9). I had absolutely no idea; a theme that would stick with me for my Worthing experience.

We ended up making a competitive total thanks to the Rogers’ boys and Lutters (heavy ball bowler). We made 202 and felt with the soft wicket we were definitely in the game.

Probably the most memorable thing from that innings was a fella named Zubin, one of St James’ pie throwers (I am allowed to say that because I made single figures and he didn’t get me out). This bloke was one of the mouthiest idiots I’ve ever come across, and the level of sledging he threw our way (especially towards Dave “Barry Chuckle” Marshallsay) led everybody to believe he was a lot faster/better bowler than he actually was. He carried on like a total goose and I definitely had it in my head to invite him into the car park at the conclusion of the game…. more to do with me looking like a fool when I batted more than anything else to be honest.

I only really remember a couple of things from their chase – the first being one of their opening bats hitting some of the hardest cover drives I’ve ever had to stop. Seriously, I was a little fat Aussie there for a good fun time and this bloke keeps murdering cover drives at me – flippin’ eck, I could’ve sworn some of them had broken some bones in my hands but I didn’t want to whinge too much….  save that for later.

Ha, and the next one was when JK tossed the ball to me fielding in close and I wasn’t watching. It cracked me right in the head.  Geez that hurt and I explained that it had done so, to which JK pondered the question as to whether I had a problem with him.  I politely replied that there was definitely no problem with him at all – I just had a problem with his %*#$ing throwing!!!!  One of my favourites for the summer!

Oh, and the sledger, Zubin, arrived at the crease, collar pulled up Viv Richards style and was deceived 1st ball by a cleverly disguised slider by yours truly for a globe….  it was actually a completely obvious medium-paced delivery that should’ve been dispatched but the idiot missed it, his middle stump went cartwheeling and we proceeded to let him know all the way off the ground!!!  Great result, 1-0 for Worthing, now I just had to work out how to contribute without making runs and being useless in the field. Maybe I could have an impact on the bar takings I thought….

What was your favourite game/s for Worthing?

I had a couple of favourite games for Worthing in 2005.

The first one was when Ollie Rogers made a ton against Stirlands at the Manor Ground against an attack that included future Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal (otherwise known as Chucker). That was awesome to see him get his hundred and although I didn’t bat with him for long we had a ball out there together. I’m pretty sure we laughed the whole time, just watching him slog Ajmal everywhere!!!! Champion.

The second was when we played a game away at Chichester Priory Park and they had an ex-Pakistani test “medium” pacer playing for them.  His name was Fazl E Akbar and this bloke bowled rockets.  I think Ollie top edged a hook shot against this bloke and it went for four or six and I remember watching him add another dozen steps to his already impressive run to the wicket… Ollie was out soon after and I had to face the music.

JK met me mid-pitch and told me he was going to try and hook the next bouncer this bloke delivered…  Bad idea I protested, wait for the nuffys to come on I said. Nope, one of JK’s strengths and scoring areas involved the short ball so he was keen to have a go. Enter ex-Pakistan rocket man with an even quicker bouncer and it pinned JK right on the forehead.  I thought he’s gotta be dead after that and ran to the striker’s end to say Ï told you so….  The big fella bravely stopped his eyes from rolling into the back of his head and got up and got back into it, only to be given out to a dodgy, extremely high lbw decision to the rocketman soon after.  I hadn’t faced someone bowling that quick for a long time and I think we all had Ollie to thank for that….  Cheers mate.

Who were your favourite team-mates?

I had a few favourite team mates that year. I spent a lot of time with Hatch (Alex Harris) and Ollie (Rogers) and they provided constant laughs throughout the season. Especially watching Hatch and his throws from the outfield/infield/slip cordon/couch/bar.  You never knew where they were going and that was half the fun – I would’ve thought a wicketkeeper’s worst enemy old Hatch.

Lutters (heavy ball bowler) was also a favourite. Watching him sulk in the outfield on occasions was pure gold to me – so much fun!!!

Who was the best overseas you encountered that year?

I would have to say the best overseas player that year would be rocketman from the game mentioned previously. He was properly sharp and hit me for some big sixes as well (not that taking candy from kids is anything to boast about).

Who was the best English amateur?

I don’t remember too many of the English guys from the other sides we played to be honest. But I thought on his day Chris Mansell was fairly well unplayable with that natural outswing.  If he had another few yards of pace available who knows where he would’ve ended up….

What are your best and funniest memories on the field?

Best memories on the field…  There were plenty of great memories on the field that year but unfortunately one of the ones that sticks in my head was a result of a fair old flogging we copped at Haywards Heath….

I remember just getting belted everywhere after they chose to bat on a wicket that could best be described as an outback Aussie highway. There was a big fella just following through all of his shots and most of them went to the fence.  Hayden James was his name. I’d had enough of this flat track bully (aka smashing us everywhere – a lot!) and decided to take action.  As my bowling was now totally disrespected by even the Worthing juniors, I thought well the big fella can’t smash us around without his 3lb 11oz bat.

So I snuck out of the huddle early from one of the drinks breaks and grabbed James’ bat and stuffed it down one of the legs of my trousers.  Great plan I thought, nobody will ever think of this!  The only problem was that I hadn’t planned on the bat being so bloody long and my little wombat legs being so bloody short!  Nevertheless, the search for the bat went on for a little while and had everyone wondering what was going on…  I decided to come clean once I realised it wasn’t going to enable us to draw the match so I reluctantly headed over to him and handed his bat back (cue fee-fi-fo-fum music).

He at least had a laugh and it gave us something to think about other than the Duke balls sailing over our heads that day.

What are your best memories off the field?

Best memories off the field???!!!! Ha-ha, there were a few!

The trip to Heywood near Manchester with JK, Ollie and Hatch – that was great fun.  We all had a great time on the way up, plenty of music and laughs! It was even more fun watching JK’s brothers side play in a cup final and even more fun on top of that were the beverages after the game and well into the night with the boys. As the saying goes though, all good things must come to an end – and did they ever!

It was, apparently, the hottest day of the summer that day on the trip back and JK had neglected to inform us that his lovely Mother was travelling back with us that day. That was fantastic news we thought – until we realised it meant Hatch and I sitting in the back seat with one Ollie Rogers aka refrigerator aka radiator aka big hungover, sweating, smelly mess of a lad.  Strewth, I still remember JK looking in the rearview mirror saying that he could only see Ollie’s big smiling mug – pity about the two little fat blokes either side of him struggling for breath!

By the way I still have nightmares about that return trip and informed my therapist that she should probably send Ollie a thank you note for her substantial new home renovations….

There was also a certain night at the Manor Ground when everyone was having a few beers and Kevin Punter (god bless that man) had challenged anyone to put him down in a game of red rover or whatever it was. Well I had sampled a few Manor Medicines and proceeded to line him up beautifully and dropped him with a perfect hip and shoulder (old school AFL style).  I proceeded to make my way back to the bar after that trying not to let anyone see the excruciating pain I was in! I had stuffed my AC joint and didn’t want anyone to know that I had hurt myself. I’m glad there was plenty more Manor Medicines to soothe away the pain….

Where did life take you after the end of the 2005 season in the UK?

Once the season had finished JK talked me into doing a bit of travelling through Europe…and I even came back for the annual dinner at the golf club in the Autumn. However,  I was desperate to head home and back into the waiting arms of a lovely lady named Celeste, whom I’d met briefly prior to my departure for the UK.

I returned to Australia and to Adelaide airport so excited to see the girl that I had already decided to marry! Life was going so well I thought….  Well Celeste took one look at me on arrival and proceeded to look at me with possum like wide eyes. I thought beauty!  She’s in love!  She proceeded to tell me that I had turned into a big fat mess and that if I was to have any chance with her I should take a good hard look at myself!

I moved back to Alice Springs with Celeste and made her the happiest woman in the house when I agreed to marry her in 2009.  We now live in Adelaide with our three children (I hear Lou Lutwyche laughing uncontrollably!) Mila 7, Billie 5 and Fred 2.

I’m a Firefighter with the South Australian Metropolitan Fire service and have been for a number of years. I played a bit of cricket when I returned from the UK, involving a 3-peat with our club in Alice Springs. I didn’t really play in Adelaide once we moved as it wasn’t the same not playing with your mates. I decided to hang up the boots before I made a complete fool of myself!

Could you sum up your one summer spent in Sussex in a few paragraphs?

I could only describe my time in Worthing in 2005 as awesome. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I am truly thankful I got to meet and be involved with so many fantastic people. I thank each and every one of you guys that I had anything to do with, it really was a fantastic club and place to play cricket.  The quality of people involved in running the club was second to none and it really epitomized the definition of a Cricket Club.

Apart from Australia losing the Ashes, 2005 was a fantastic year and an experience I will never forget.  I loved every minute of it!

Special mention for my time in Worthing must go to my landlords JK and Debs and of course Lou Bates (now Lutwyche…..Mrs Heavy ball bowler).  She made me feel so welcome in her house even though I was probably a lot worse than the average drunk on the street.  Lou I really appreciated what you did and will never forget that. Love ya x

To everyone involved with the Worthing Cricket Club – I hope that you enjoy your time there and don’t take it for granted. A lot of hard work goes into making a cricket club as fantastic as the one that you guys are a part of. Please try and get your hands dirty and get involved in the running of the club, as it so often left to so few to do way too much.

Be sure to thank those people who are always there doing the work behind the scenes – without them the club wouldn’t exist.

— o0o —

Comments

  • Tim Dunn

    Great read Blayne, thanks for the memories, very funny. Can’t wait to hear the reply from our ‘heavy ball bowler’!

  • Stewart Rogers (David & Ollie’s dad)

    Great player and a great character, my dad, Ollie’s Grandad, (remember him Blayne? 100 in September) often mentions you in the best possible way, take care Blayne.

  • Lutters

    Great guy and player, plus a superb reader of a bowler…
    A great read!

  • Kevin Punter

    Mate you knocked the wind out of me was funny though

  • Ollie Rogers

    Cracking read, by far my most favourite cricketing year! Top bloke

  • JK

    Thanks for putting your heart and soul into the piece Blayne. At times like these, it’s so uplifting to hear what we are trying to do makes a difference Whatever you got from your trip over here, there’s a huge group of people who got just as much if not more. These years were tough times for the club and your presence lifted everyone- including players like Ollie and Hatch who we leaned on too early. I can tell you your name comes up at the manor on a very regular basis and it’s all positive. 👍

  • Blayne

    Gday gents!
    Thanks for taking the time to have a read, thanks JK for the invitation!!!!! Seriously some of the best times in my life so far, i didnt realise at the time but they will stay with me for ever!
    Stewart how are things???!!! Great to hear from you and hope you and Mrs Rogers are well! When is your Dads birthday? 100!!!??? Wowee thats awesome! Could i please have his postal address so we can send him our love from Aus!
    Love you blokes and Lutters – i couldnt read a book let alone a bowler, i just went on what ever you told me 😉😁
    Love yas

    Ps – JK i was only a cleaner at the academy sorry

  • David Rogers

    What a year that was, my favourite season by a long way! Brilliant. Thanks for everything you brought to us and the club. I’d forgotten about the S.H.U.(Sentral Heating Unit!) on the way back from Manchester. 😂
    Great memories from a great man! Thanks mate 👍