Bowled over by community generosity

It was a cricket match that had everything — a big and boisterous crowd, next to no rules, live music by the Blue Mugs, commentary by 702 ABC’s Weekends team, a ransomed bat, plenty of loose deliveries and even looser sledges.

And when the captains of the Warrimoo and Valley Heights Rural Fire Service (RFS) brigade teams at a sun-filled Winmalee High School oval last Sunday answered “nope” with wry smiles to umpire Debbie Spillane’s question of whether they would play fair, everyone knew it was on.

As the runs and wickets began to flow, so did the laughter among bushfire-affected residents in the crowd — and the amount of money raised by 702 ABC listeners during its live outside broadcast.

An on-air auction of five canvas prints of John Donagen’s iconic photograph of Warrimoo RFS brigade members playing cricket during a rest break near the Norman Lindsay Gallery on October 23 raised $29,000 for the Blue Mountains Bushfire Mayoral Relief Fund.

More money was raised by 702 ABC listeners in the form of paying a “ransom” for the return of a cricket bat that “mysteriously” disappeared from a Valley Heights fire truck at the time of the Warrimoo brigade’s restful game. 

Highlights from Sunday’s clash included a powerful boundary hit by RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, a cheeky poked tongue at the bowler by Simon Marnie after being dismissed for a golden duck, and crash tackles in the deep and short spells by Australian bowler Pat Cummins and GWS Giants players Phil Davis and Steve Coniglio.

Meanwhile in the school hall local residents benefited from a mobile Blue Mountains bushfire recovery help centre, received Christmas hampers from the Hillsong Church and enjoyed beauty and family portrait sessions courtesy of Think Education Group. 

Valley Heights RFS brigade president Lachlan Joyner said, “It’s been a lot of fun — everyone played a bit dirty, there was definitely a bit of sledging and occasionally ball tampering.

“I started the odd two-ball delivery and got a wicket from it and before too long both sides were bowling three-ball deliveries.”

Warrimoo RFS brigade captain Brett Batten said, “This was a good way for the community to wind down after the fire and a great fundraising opportunity.

“We are all a big happy family in the RFS, especially here in the Blue Mountains and you could see that today.

“Yes, we did have Pat Cummins on our side, but really we should have given him to the Valley Heights team — they could have done with someone like him!”

Rob Hall, who lost his Yellow Rock house during the bushfires and is now living in his daughter’s home, spent Sunday grilling sausages at the barbecue stall run by the Lions Clubs of Winmalee and Springwood to raise money for the bushfire brigades.

At the next stall, volunteers at a Rotary sausage sizzle were raising money for the Blue Mountains Bushfires Mayoral Relief Fund.

“While I didn’t get to see much of the cricket, I was amazed at people’s generosity here today,” Mr Hall said.

“I would say more than half of the people who donated money into our collection tin gave notes instead of coins.”

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