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JLT SHEFFIELD SHIELD 2017-18

Unbroken dream has new impetus for Stoinis

11 December 2017
Stoinis with his father, Chris // supplied
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Allrounder's push for Test selection this summer took a back seat so he could spend priceless time with his dying father

About the Writer:
 @LouisDBCameron

Louis Cameron is a Melbourne-based journalist. A former Victorian Bushrangers fast bowler, Louis joined the cricket.com.au team with assistance from the Australian Cricketers' Association's Internship Program in 2016.

Marcus Stoinis knew his lifelong dream was closer to his grasp than ever before, but the thought of achieving it without his father there to see it left him deeply conflicted.

An introspective cricketer who attributes his rise to a focused mental approach more so than any physical or technical quality, Stoinis has made no secret of his burning ambition to play Test cricket.

It was the reason behind his move across the continent more than six years ago after losing his contract with Western Australia. And it was a major factor in helping him work his way up from Melbourne's Premier Cricket ranks to Australia's limited-overs sides in the space of a few years.

Super Stoinis sets new all-round benchmark

With his father Chris fighting a long-running battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system, Marcus moved back to Perth when things took a turn for the worse.

Stoinis balanced cricket and the unfolding family tragedy for a time, being closer to his loved ones priceless before his father passed away aged 60 last month.

The loss saw Stoinis withdraw from Western Australia's JLT Sheffield Shield game at the WACA just days out from Australia's squad for the first two Tests of the Magellan Ashes being named.

Flags fly at half-mast on the WACA scoreboard // Getty
Flags fly at half-mast on the WACA scoreboard // Getty

The No.6 spot in Australia's Test team had been declared open to all contenders and while his Warriors teammate Shaun Marsh ultimately got the nod, the all-round capabilities of Stoinis undoubtedly had him in the mix.

Looking back, the 28-year-old admits the realisation of his dream at that point would have been crushing.

"It's not in any bit of a disrespectful way," Stoinis told cricket.com.au. "But I was nervous about getting picked.

"Dad had gone on so long fighting and longer than he probably should have. It would have probably broken me if I had gotten picked just after he passed.

"It would have been very tough for Dad to miss out on that so close after his passing."

In the same breath, he insists he would have "jumped at the opportunity" and Stoinis has been stoic in how he's juggled the passion his father had helped him nurture, and the loss of that same mentor.

He is grateful for the assistance provided by Cricket Victoria, who released him from the final two years of his state contract without issue, and the WACA in helping facilitate his move home that allowed him precious time with his father.

Stoinis and his sister Natasha with their father, Chris // supplied
Stoinis and his sister Natasha with their father, Chris // supplied

"Those couple of months that I got at home with Dad – it was hard to make those decisions at the time – but looking back, they were just moments I'll treasure forever," Stoinis said.

"As much as I love my cricket, looking back on it, I would not give that up for anything. You can't get those memories back.

"I'm so proud of how my old man dealt with it all. Taking a look back at some photos of us together, you can just see that bond we shared."

While he has since resumed playing, he continues to come to terms with the loss.

A hard-hitting right-hander and deceptively quick pace bowler, Stoinis contemplated taking a break from cricket.

But now, even while his loss has put him in a new frame of mind, it just feels right to be playing cricket.

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"I'm enjoying my cricket still," he explained. "I can't really describe what I'm feeling.

"Before Dad passed, I was thinking that I'm not going to play for a while. That's just the relationship we had and what he meant to me.

"But since Dad's passing, it just made sense to start getting back into things and see how you go.

"There's no blueprint. Every day you just see how you're feeling. Some days you're sad, some days you're OK."

WA coach Justin Langer has provided compassion, and the experience of his close friend Peter Handscomb, who lost his father John while he and Stoinis were playing for Victoria in November 2015, has also been important.

"We were actually at the WACA playing a Shield game together when he found out the news and it was at a very similar time of year to when my dad passed away," Stoinis said.

"We speak often. I've had great support from Justin Langer, he lost his mum a couple of months prior and he's a very genuine, big-hearted guy who has been a mentor to me for a long time as well.

"He's been there to talk to, guided me through things, I've spoken to him about his experience and my experience. I've had good people around me."

Australia's appetite for allrounders who can bat in the top six and deliver crucial overs – reflected in Mitch Marsh's recall for the third Test – means Stoinis's Baggy Green hopes would appear as close as ever.

Putting his ability to play a cover drive or bowl an outswinger to one side, few would argue he doesn't have the mental strength needed for the most prestigious form of the game.

"It's still the dream and I've got every plan to play a lot of Test cricket for Australia," said Stoinis.

"I've been quite vocal about it and I'm confident about it, but I think I also understand that the time's got to be right as well."

And whenever that times comes, Stoinis knows his father will be right there, watching him play.


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