It is October and cricket is back.
Although the international calendar runs all year round, there is always something special about the start of an Australian summer.
All of the senses are stimulated, as childhood memories come flooding back.
Memories, past and present, remind me of why I love the game so much.
By now, the footy boots have been thrown to the back of the cupboard and the nights of running around in the rain and cold are gone, as the winter is replaced by the beauty of spring and the promise of summer.
The smell of cut grass, the taste of PK chewing gum, the feel of a new pair of batting gloves and the sight of a brand new cricket ball make these months addictive.
My first memory of the cricket season is of my next door neighbour Don Lee pushing the lawn mower down to the local park in the northern suburbs of Perth. He would cut a fresh cricket pitch into the grass and invite all of the local kids down to play on a Saturday morning. The smell of the grass and the adrenaline of facing the big kids from around the streets still brings a smile to my face.
Then it was listening to my uncle Robbie's stories of playing against the kings of world cricket during the World Series Cricket days. The colours and the crowds and the joy of watching cricket, day in day out during the summer holidays was what life was all about.
Before, during and after every one-dayer and Test match, my brothers and I would play backyard cricket for hours. If we weren't sitting in front of the tv watching we would be in the back garden, or hallway, playing cricket with a tennis ball or balloon.
By October the ball and the sock would be hanging from the patio and I would spend the time away from my brothers, hitting the ball back and forward dreaming of being AB, Kim Hughes or Viv Richards. I can still hear Mum and Dad sighing at the constant clunk, clunk of wood and leather; a noise that must have driven them crazy, but one we all laugh about now.
In 1981, Dennis Lillee bowled the great Sir Vivian Richards on the last ball of day one of the Boxing Day Test.
Things got serious from that point on for me as an eleven year kid. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to be an Australian Test cricketer. The crowd, the ecstasy, the camaraderie, the whites, the buzz, the passion of Australians and cricket, oozed from our small tv set. That moment was like the first hit of a drug for a future drug addict. I still remember it vividly.
When I scored my first ever official century for the Sorrento/Duncraig junior cricket team the addiction was growing. Dad had bought a bat at an auction used by Kim Hughes. That SS Jumbo sat in his study, teasing us like chocolate in the fridge. We were allowed to look at it and pick it up, but the prospect of it leaving my Dad's study was incomprehensible.
That is, until that fateful day when I ran the gauntlet and slipped the SS Jumbo into my cricket bag, taking it down to Marri Reserve to show her off to my teammates. Not only did I show it off but I used it to score my first hundred.
If the great Kim Hughes could score a ton with it, then I owed it to my childhood hero to replicate the feat. The nervous nineties followed by the adulation of raising that SS jumbo to the sky was another part of the addiction. The first taste of personal triumph helped program my body and mind to score hundreds until the day I retired from playing the game.
I can still taste the zinc on my lips, the juicy fruit chewies and the lemon/barley cordial that are synonymous with my junior cricket days. The red stains of shining the ball on my pants and the green marks of grass on my knees was a nightmare for my Mum's washing machine but all a part of the adventure.
Leading into the season Mum and Dad would take me down to the local sports store and then eventually Meulemans cricket shop to pick out a new bat or pair of cricket shoes. The smell of the shop and the stories of great days past, made those visits the favourite shopping trip of the year.
On October 4, 1987, that adventure was blossoming as I was selected to play my first A grade game. Playing with another childhood idol Dennis Lillee, we were photographed and placed on the front page of the Sunday Times newspaper. The master and the apprentice. Imagine the joy, and nerves, of playing with the great DK Lillee during the first game of the cricket season.
The first ball I faced was from Terry Alderman. Kim Hughes was standing at first slip. Cars driving past, were shouting 'HOWZEE' from the windows and my family were sitting on the hill proud of their son and brother.
Every time I drive past a game of grade cricket at one of the local parks, I too want to shout out 'HOWZEE' because the act makes me laugh every time. So far I have restrained, but maybe one day I will give it a go.
Sitting in the changing rooms with the men listening to past feats and laughing at old stories was another part of the addiction. Cricket wasn't just played on the grass but also in the confines of the changing room and club house. Many lessons were learned in these spaces and I wouldn't be the person I am today without them.
From junior cricket though to Test cricket there was, and is, a common theme. Regardless of whether you are playing, coaching, scoring, umpiring or supporting, the start of the season is always special. The smell of the linseed oil, cut grass and new leather gloves is intoxicating. The sight of the stumps in the turf, the opening bowler's long run up or batsman playing a hook shot is exciting. The taste of PK chewing gum, cordial or a cold beer at the end of a hard day's play are all part of the great journey and memory. The sound of a loud appeal from the bowler, or passing car, is infectious and the feel of a new cricket bat or ball in your hands is comforting.
Whether you're at the beach, in the car, cooking a BBQ, swimming in the pool or sitting at work, the commentary of the ABC, purring in the background is like a friend traveling with you wherever you go throughout the summer.
The channel nine coverage is better than anywhere in the world and while we don't have to sit and watch every ball, the vision of Test, ODI and T20 cricket can be mesmerising.
Cricket offers something for everyone.
Our women are world champions, our men entrusted with upholding a very proud history and tradition. Kids can play on the beach, in the parks or in the own backyard or driveway. Parents can take their families to watch 20 over, 50 over, Sheffield Shield or Test cricket. We can watch or listen from the pub or the office and we can be proud that cricket has the highest participation rate of any sport in the country.
It is no wonder, I, like you, am excited that the new season is back.