TAMWORTH’S cricketing powerhouse Josh Hazlewood’s Test cricket debut looms today in Perth, elevating him to new heights in the game and a special status in his home town.
He joins an exclusive club of Australian representatives who hail from Tamworth that has only a few members.
In its ranks are Australian female cricketer Erin Osborne and John Gleeson, who played 49 tests for his country in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
And as Hazlewood waits to learn whether he is in the starting 11 today against South Africa at the WACA, the fast bowler will probably feel the love and the pride from right across the country.
The boy from Bendemeer has put his hometown followers in a spin with his naming in the Test side.
While he has played for Australia at one-day international level, his elevation to the Test team secures him one of the most cherished items in Australian sport – the baggy green.
His high school cricket coach, Gordon Rae, said he could tell Hazlewood was something special from the first time he saw him bowl in Year 7.
“I had watched him bowl in the nets, but to see his first over in competition was phenomenal. I could not believe the pace and bounce he was getting at that age. His action was sublime then,” Mr Rae said.
In more than 20 years of coaching cricket, Mr Rae said he had never seen a batsmen or bowler with more natural talent.
“The kid was unbelievable. I’ve never seen someone with his height and athletic ability.
“He has always had his feet firmly planted on the ground, always very mature, determined, well spoken. He is so down-to-earth and always knew where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do.”
Hazlewood played seniors when he was in Year 9, so his physical education teacher took on a mentoring role, advising him not to be overawed or feel daunted by older boys, telling him: “Don’t be afraid to put a few short balls and chin music in. Put a bit of the fear of God in them.”
Mr Rae said he was a very level-headed captain and led the high school team to a state title when he was in Year 12.