Having batted through to stumps the evening before, Ferguson was set to resume his knock on day four, with a remarkable victory still within the Redbacks reach. His 235th innings was to be his last at Shield level, having announced his retirement earlier in the week.
As players and officials prepared for play to get underway, two figures could be seen industriously arranging South Australian cricket branded clothing on the south eastern hill of ACH Group Stadium. A closer inspection revealed that this was lifelong Redbacks fan Jim Congdon and his daughter, who Jim is proud to say was the creative inspiration for the project.
Using the pieces of kit collected through years of passionate support, Jim and his daughter were spelling out ‘Thanks Ferg’ on the hill, large enough to be read from any vantage point in the ground. Possessing even more attire that first thought, Ferguson’s squad number 12 was then added beneath the message.
Featured on the live broadcast and photographed by those in attendance, professional and amateur alike, the tribute to a legend of South Australian cricket was a touching reminder of the effect our sporting heroes can have on us.
When Ferguson notched a half century before the lunch break, it was no accident that in addition to saluting his teammates and the fans in the stands, he turned to face the south eastern hill to offer some gratitude of his own.
This gesture would be repeated when Mark Steketee bowled a delivery that Ferguson was unable to keep out, causing the officiating umpire to rule that the right-hander had been trapped in front of the stumps. Ferguson saluted all in attendance while receiving a standing ovation as he departed the playing surface, but again he made a point to tip his red cherry-stained bat in the direction of Jim and his daughter.
But it was what happened next that fully illuminates the character of South Australia’s second-highest capped player of all-time. Well within his rights to sit inside the dressing rooms and reflect, Ferguson instead gathered a match-worn playing shirt and, alongside Will Bosisto, began walking around the ground towards where Jim was still glued to the contest.
Placing the shirt, signed beneath the bright red number 12 on its back, onto the white picket fence separating the field from the stands, Ferguson and Bosisto spoke with Jim for several minutes. It is a something that Jim says he will never forget.
“For someone who has given me and others so much joy to take the time to give me this top, I am incredibly humbled. I just wanted him to know how much he means to Redbacks fans and for him to come and say thank you to me… Wow.”
Despite living in Port Pirie, more than 200km from Adelaide, Jim says he tries to make it for at least one day of every Shield fixture during the summer to show his support. Hearing him speak, there is no doubting not just his love of the Redbacks, but his love of the beauty of sport and the power of positivity.
“I just want everyone to do well. It might sound silly to some, but I want our team to do well, I want Queensland to do well, I just don’t want to see anyone hurt. Our game has experienced a real tragedy in recent times and that should put things into perspective.
I know we haven’t had the best run of late but there are so many positives. Look at players like Hunt, Scott, Pope; all these young guys that have done some really good things. Hard times just make the good times feel even better.”
The Redbacks didn’t get the result they wanted in Callum Ferguson’s final first-class fixture, but Jim and his daughter’s act of kindness, deeply appreciated by the retiring champion, is a timely reminder that there are more important things than the final score. When all is said and done, fans and players remember much more than the wins and losses; they remember the moments that reached them on a personal level.
Day four of the clash between the Redbacks and the Bulls in Glenelg was a special one for many reasons, not least of all the connection that Jim and his daughter made with one of the greatest cricketers in South Australian history.
15 November 2020