Outback cricket club hosts first home grand final in more than 30 years

The game should have started by now, and the home team casually jokes that if their opposition doesn’t show, it still counts as a win.

But there’s some leeway in the outback, where your opponents are traveling hundreds of kilometers for a match in the local league.

The undefeated Tambo Eagles are preparing to host the reigning champions of the Charleville and District Cricket Association, the Charleville Railways.

The last time the outback township of about 400 people had hosted a cricket grand final was in 1990, a day that 61-year-old wicket keeper Andrew Turnbull remembered all too well.

The town’s recreation grounds buzzing with life for the grand final.(ABC Western Qld: Dan Prosser)

“It was the year of the 1990 floods, and they gave us a fair touch up,” Andrew said.

His older brother Hume Turnbull will also be joining him on the field once again, and knows how important days like today are to a small town.

“This is the lifeblood of the country, if we don’t keep working on these things, we’ll have nothing in the country,” Hume said.

A crowd in the stands of a cricket match, eagerly watching.
Dozens of Tambo community members turned out to support the home team.(ABC Western Qld: Dan Prosser)

In the stands, 80-year-old life member Neil “Buddy” Donaldson is not taking this moment for granted.

“It means a lot to me,” Buddy said.

“And it means a lot as far as getting players next year, and getting support.”

Portrait of elderly man watching cricket match
For Tambo cricket club life member Neil “Buddy” Donaldson, the day was about more than sport.(ABC Western Qld: Dan Prosser)

History repeats as Railways run over Eagles

The last time Tambo hosted a grand final in 1990, the Eagles were defeated by Blackall, and 32 years later the result is much the same for the home team.

Charleville bowler Brad Steer claimed five wickets and best on ground honors, while batsman Damian Watts was almost unstoppable, scoring 75 runs.

A cricket team celebrating while drinking beer
The Charleville Railways took out the cup for 2022.(ABC Western Qld: Dan Prosser)

But even the victors feel that there was more to the day than catches and wickets.

“We’ve had a few more rock up this year, and lost a few,” said Railways captain Charlie Aitken.

A man in a red and green felt hat holds a bugle in his hand with a grin.
Former Charleville Railways player Graham “Wattsy” Watts can still be seen (and heard) supporting his team.(ABC Western Qld: Danielle O’Neal)

It’s a tough loss for Tambo’s captain and president of the Charleville and District Cricket Association Alex Turnbull.

“Just got outplayed by Railways, hard to compete when they’re having a day out,” Alex said.

But he’s optimistic that his hometown won’t be waiting another three decades to host a grand final.

Woman smiling near the cricket stand
Tambo Tavern owner Kerri Ryan sponsors local cricket to boost morale in the town.(ABC Western Qld: Dan Prosser)

Stumps on another cricket season

On Friday night in a central-west Queensland town 3 hours from Tambo, the Longreach 20/20 cricket season wrapped up with a showdown at the showgrounds.

There’d be no home field advantage there either, with the local Birdcage team being defeated by the visitors, Wellshot.

Two cricket teams hand in hand following a grand final match
The Longreach cricket competition sees three teams named after local pubs duke it out for the Emmott Sellick Shield.(ABC Western Qld: Dan Prosser)

Wellshot’s stand-in captain Cameron Nunn was proud of his teammates.

“We might travel 250km one way to come play and turn around and drive home that night, everyone’s all about the team,” Cameron said.

But it wasn’t just players that made an effort to come to the game. Cheering them on was a large crowd, drawn to the showgrounds by a strong sense of community spirit.

A crowd sits in grandstands and underneath a tree on the edge of the field at night.
Spectators support their teams and raise funds for a local family.(ABC Western Qld: Dan Prosser)

The night was dedicated to raising funds for Longreach man Luke Miller, who is being treated in Brisbane following a serious truck accident last year that left him severely injured.

“This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen here at the cricket, and I’m really happy everyone turned up and it’s going towards a good cause,” Cameron said.

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