ACT well represented in inaugural Over 70s World Cup Aus team

The ACT often punches above its weight when it comes to veterans cricket, but a recent announcement that revealed four local players had been selected in the Australian Over 70s team was an historic moment.

It’s the first time that more than two ACT players have been selected in a National team.

The ACT’s Murray Harrison, Vince Bulger, Asoka Wijeratne and George Preston will tour England in late July/early August as part of a 17-man Australian squad to contest the inaugural Over 70s World Cup.

Murray Harrison – who captains the ACT Over 70s side, is President of Veterans Cricket Australia and on the International Masters Cricket Committee – said it’s a proud moment to have four local men in the team.

“It reflects the fact that we played off in the final of the last Over 70s Nationals in Bunbury late last year,” the allrounder (and wicketkeeper for this tour) said.

The reward of those efforts is something Murray is very much looking forward to.

“I was lucky enough to be in Chennai earlier this year to see our Over 60s team win that World Cup, beating England in the final.

“Our Over 40s team came third in their World Cup in Cape Town in February.

“This is a fabulous opportunity for us to carry on the great form of our fellow Veteran Australian teams at World Cups,” Murray said.

Representing his country playing cricket beyond 70 is something Murray said he has only ever dreamed about.

“To be given that opportunity at our age is something that we still find a bit hard to believe.

“I first played for the Over 60s team in a ‘Grey Ashes’ series in the UK in 2015 and have since played over 80 games for Australia including the honour of Captaining the 60s team in 2017.

“I still get goosebumps singing the national anthem and wearing the Australian blazer before our international games.”

Veterans Cricket ACT's Murray Harrison on tour with Australia Over 70s team in the UK, 2023

Off spin bowler George Preston is beyond excited about his selection in the team.

“It’s an unexpected event for me to be doing this in my seventies,” he said.

“Even in my teens I didn’t think there was any way I would play for Australia – even though there was the dream, there was neither the ability nor the pathway.”

George has been playing cricket since he was 8 and started playing in the men’s competition when he was around 14.

“From there I played each season until I was 44 and I started veterans cricket when I was 63. I took up off spin bowling when I was 69 and, at 74 I’m still learning.”

When asked what he was most looking forward to about the tour, George is keen for some strong competition.

“I’m looking forward to bowling against good batsmen and hopefully tying them down, and getting some of them out.

“I look forward to the team doing well and hopefully winning the cup.”

A familiar name in the team is that of Wiradjuri man Vince Bulger. Vince, like Murray, has toured previously in Australian teams, with the inaugural Over 70s World Cup another feather in his cap.

“It’s great to be over 70, be able to play cricket at this age and be able to play in this first World Cup,” Vince said.

A well-known allrounder, Vince has been playing cricket since he was 14. His cricket network is wide and long, which is why he’s excited about the tour.

“I’m looking forward to meeting up with people I have played with over the years and to meet up with other teams from different countries.”

Veterans Cricket ACT's Vince Bulger on tour with Australia Over 70s team in the UK, 2023

Equally honoured to be named in the Australian squad is Asoka Wijeratne.

“It’s always exciting to play cricket in England,” he said. 

“I am also excited to play with some of those I toured England with back in 2017.”

Asoka took up cricket when he was 12, and while there was a gap in playing later in life he has no regrets picking up a bat again to play veterans cricket.

When asked what brings him back to the field beyond 70 years of age, Asoka’s response is simple.

“Catching up with like-minded people, keeping relatively fit and of course the social side of the game,” he said.

Veterans Cricket ACT batter Asoka Wijeratne batting for UNSWCC in his younger years.

And it’s a similar story for Murray, George and Vince.

This will be Murray’s 10th overseas cricket tour with the veterans.

“I’ve always loved the game of cricket itself but there is no doubt that at the veterans level, the most enjoyable aspect is the camaraderie that exists between the players.

“This is true for all levels of veterans cricket, local, national or international and there is an understanding by all of us that the spirit of the game is sacrosanct.

“That's not to say that we don't play to win, particularly against England, but we all know what's really important is just the fact that we are out there doing it.”

George jokes that perhaps it’s vanity that keeps bringing him back to cricket.

“I’m just pleased that I can still play and play well,” he said.

“Each game is a story that unfolds over the day, each player does their best on the day, and each game has performances to celebrate.

“One of the things I celebrate the most is the efforts and achievements of my team-mates and opponents. They, like me, are defying the odds and proving sport is not just for the young.”

And for Vince it’s pretty simple.

“I do it for the love of the game, to keep in some sort of fitness and not to be a couch potato!” he said.

“You can always string up a conversation have a laugh and enjoy a drink after games meeting all sorts of people along the way.”

When asked what advice they would give to anyone interested in picking up a bat again or for the first time later in life, the message was ‘get in and have a go’.

“If you love cricket, there’s no stopping you,” Murray said.

“We all have doubts about our fitness, and we all have some physical limitations; but whatever your level, there's a game waiting for you.

“One of our sayings is that ‘you don't stop playing when you get old, you get old when you stop playing’.”

George agrees.

“Put any doubts aside and give it a go,” he said.

“You’ll find you’re much better than you thought. Your body will be OK if you do some fitness work and net training.

“Whatever your capability there is a level of veterans cricket for you and the camaraderie is great.

“Old cricketers never die, they just get run out.”

The Over 70s World Cup gets underway on 28 July with the final scheduled at Wormsley on 11 August.

For more information about cricket for Over 40s and beyond in the ACT, please contact the team at Veterans Cricket ACT.

L to R: Asoka Wijeratne, Murray Harrison and George Preston training at the Indoor Centre at Phillip.


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