Spend a bit of time in Tamworth and talk will inexorably turn to tales of a tall lad from Bendemeer. It’s destined to happen. When Josh Hazlewood’s precocious talent for cricket materialised in the form of a baggy green cap, feelings of joy and pride abounded through the countryside, but a sense of surprise was scant. It was destined to happen. Hazlewood has since cemented his place in the Australian line-up and his star continues to rise. Tonight we look back at when Hazlewood made his test debut in 2014.
YEARS of toil will culminate in Josh Hazlewood fulfilling every boy’s dream today when he becomes Australia’s 440th Test cricketer.
The towering Bendemeer paceman will receive his long-coveted baggy green cap in a ceremony before the second Test in Brisbane.
The 23-year-old, who carried the drinks after coming agonisingly close to making his debut in Adelaide last week, was told of his selection yesterday.
“I’m obviously pretty excited,” he told The Leader.
“I’ve been close a few times, but I feel more ready now than I ever have been.”
Proud parents Trevor and Ann, as well as siblings Aaron and Casey, will all be in Brisbane to cheer Hazlewood on from the stands of the Gabba.
Trevor conceded he might have to wipe away a tear or two if he was to actually see his son deliver his first ball in Test cricket.
“As long as he just does his best, I’ll be happy,” he said.
“He’s used to playing in front of large crowds in one-dayers and Twenty20s, so I think he’ll be right.
“I just hope he enjoys it and has fun and does his job.”
Hazlewood’s talent with the ball was obvious to all followers of Tamworth cricket, even before he hit his teens.
But Trevor said it was his son’s work ethic and determination that distinguished him from his peers.
“Attitude, that’s the major thing with Josh. If you’ve got a bad attitude at that level, you won’t last,” he said.
A tall, simple action that produces speeds upwards of 140km/h and late swing away from the right-handers is the same model that was engineered as a schoolboy, according to Josh Hazlewood’s former coach John Muller.
“What impressed me is that he listened carefully and I said to him take it nice and easy when you run in, keep your arm by your side and don’t throw your arm around,” recalled Muller on his first memories of the young Oxley High student.
“He listened really attentively and the action I see today is not that much different. I’m very proud he’s held onto that action.
“I have always maintained when a bowler releases the ball in a truly upright position then he can follow through, and he is a great example, as is Ryan Harris.
“It hasn’t changed from what I taught him and it’s very pleasing to see.”
Muller, a former left-arm spin bowler who played against the 1960 West Indies touring party, taught at the Ken Falkenmire Academy in Tamworth where Hazlewood learned not only the skills of the game but also the etiquette on the field.
Standing nearly two-metres tall, Hazlewood can generate steepling bounce and express speeds, a talent that presented itself early to Muller’s delight.
“He had a nice pace for his age. We concentrated on that and accuracy. With that action, it really helps you maintain a good length.
“He certainly had a bit of pace and did very well here in the local competition in Tamworth.”
Those prodigious physical gifts coupled with his quiet, respectful temperament earned him a NSW rookie contract while he was still in Year 12, despite not having played a single game in Sydney grade cricket.
At 17, Hazlewood became the youngest fast bowler to represent NSW when he took the new ball for the Blues against New Zealand in a tour match at the SCG, claiming 2-53 in his first innings including the wicket of future Black Caps captain Ross Taylor.
With first-class experience under his belt, the spearhead outclassed his opponents for Australia in the 2010 ICC U19 Cricket World Cup, taking out man of the match honours in the final with four wickets to finish with 13 for the tournament.
Muller has a mantra he tells all cricketers that come through the academy: “The harder you work the luckier you get.”
Yesterday Josh Hazlewood’s hard work was rewarded with a Baggy Green cap and two wickets.
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