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  • Geoff Cordner

The Older We Get

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

In late September 2019 I was selected to play in a pre-season T20 cricket match for North Ryde RSL against Northbridge Cricket Club on the oval located within the RSL Club’s premises. It was intended to be a fairly low-key hit-out, the informality of which was highlighted when a member of our opposition wandered over to advise that, due to an oversight, his team had arrived at the ground without any stumps, and enquiring as to whether we could supply two sets.

As I heard this guy talking to one of the other members of our team I felt sure he was someone from my distant past, although initially I couldn’t quite place the voice. As I approached, and got a better look at him, I realised he was in fact an old teammate of mine from (exactly) 30 years before – that being the season in which I was part of a premiership cricket team for the very first time.

What I couldn’t possibly have known back then was that, despite multiple Grand Final appearances over the coming seasons, I would not enjoy premiership success again for another 22 years. (Happily that honour would coincide with Ben and I joining forces in North Ryde RSL’s 4th Grade team in 2011-2012, and participating, in the season decider, in quite probably the greatest cricket match I have ever been involved in).

My old mate had recognised me at almost the same instant that I recognised him, and we embraced warmly ‑ as only old teammates, especially those who have enjoyed success on the field, and each other’s company off it, can do. But there was more to the hug than just that. Though I had not seen him for more than 25 years, it was obvious immediately that Monty knew about Ben. And almost the first thing he said was, “Mate, I heard about your boy, and I am so so sorry”. Right away he had won my heart.

Firstly, because he had informed himself, somehow, even though we had had no contact since the last millennium, about my son’s death.

Secondly, because he had met that issue head-on. He had raised the subject straight away, even though he could not possibly know what sort of response it would evoke. (And I can say without hesitation, from my own personal experience, that what is infinitely harder than discussing the death of my youngest son is to talk about other mundane things with people who know about that event, whilst effectively pretending it has not occurred).

And thirdly, because I could see in his face and his eyes that he meant exactly what he was saying. I could tell he had been thinking about me, even though we had been apart for so long, and that he had been sharing some of my pain.

All of this registered in seconds, and it meant the world to me.

My assessment was confirmed when, at game’s end, Monty suggested we go into the RSL Club for a couple of beers and a chat, a suggestion with which I quickly concurred. I dare say had he not had to drive a couple of his teammates home from the game, we might still be there now, such was the pleasure we both derived from the reunion.

We covered plenty of ground during our time together ‑ our careers, where our lives had taken us geographically, our wives, our children, and of course, inevitably, we returned to Ben a number of times.

As I drove home after an hour or so spent reminiscing and catching up, I reflected on the fact that my old friend and teammate had made me feel better today than I had in a long time; a feeling that lasted for a number of days thereafter, even though we had spent at least a third of our time together talking about Ben, his tragic death, and its consequences. And as I pondered that curious and unexpected sensation, the reasons why became apparent to me.

Monty is a great listener, and he asked questions that he genuinely wanted to know the answers to. He wanted to understand what I was going through, and how I was coping; he wanted to learn about Ben, who he had never met; he wanted to explore the effect of what had occurred on the other members of my family; in short, without possibly even realising he was doing so, he made me feel understood and supported and appreciated.

And because he is such a positive person I couldn’t help but feel at the end of the day that there was greater cause for optimism in my life than there had been at the beginning. Not because he told me there was, but because he showed me.

And as a fitting postscript to this story, I am delighted to report Monty’s suggestion to me that day ‑ that the North Ryde RSL Cricket Club should formally adopt Ben’s mantra, “How Good’s Cricket”, as its motto ‑ was approved and implemented during the course of the 2019-2020 season.

How good's cricket indeed.


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