Few local cricketers will achieve the feat of pulling on the whites for 11 clubs in their lifetime, let alone in a single season, and with the backing of legend – and West End Redbacks coach – Jason Gillespie.
Craig Dodson crafted the outlandish idea in the early hours of the 2019 Ashes Series, realising how much he missed the game after a number of years away. Despite quickly being branded as a ‘mid-life crisis’ by his wife, Craig was determined to make his vision a reality.
Between October 2019 and February 2020, Dodson travelled far and wide, joining local sides from Wagga Wagga to Narrandera, Pomborneit to Brisbane, raising much needed funds for mental health organisation Gotcha4life.
The 10,000km journey was one of highs and lows for Dodson, who faced a close encounter with the devastating NSW bushfires, enjoyed a career-first golden duck and overall was engulfed by the overarching sense of community sewn together by local cricket.
The unlucky first-ball feat arose while playing in South Australia with Payneham Cricket Club. Despite his on-field result, Dodson was overwhelmed by the support in Adelaide’s east. The player who bowled that fateful ball later made his own contribution to the cause on behalf of his team, the Prince Alfred Old Collegians. Payneham also managed to claim the points on the day, despite Craig’s best efforts.
South Australian Head Coach Jason Gillespie was more than happy to get behind Craig’s journey - as was Redbacks paceman Chadd Sayers - both sharing his story via their social platforms and helping to significantly drive donations for the cause.
“It really speaks volumes of the kind of people they both are, to jump onboard without knowing me personally,” Dodson said.
Gillespie and Sayers weren’t the only South Australian’s to show their support for the expedition, with Redbacks great Darren Lehmann writing the foreword for Craig’s book about the experience.
The journey was aligned with mental health organisation Gotcha4life which Craig raised close to $10,000 for, with all profits going directly towards providing mental health workshops.
Mental health is a cause close to Craig’s heart, having experienced his own struggle a decade ago. His mental health battle coincided with the time he stepped away from the game, although he admits times have changed since he was last at the crease.
“Sport and society as a whole have changed in these last ten years, and conversations (in the changerooms) about how you’re going are now encouraged rather than discouraged.”
A year on from the experience of a lifetime, Dodson has had plenty of time to reflect on the journey. Looking back, his number one takeaway?
“I wish I could do it all again.”
Craig’s book ‘A View of Australia From Fine Leg’ is available now, with all profits supporting Gotcha4life.