How 'Peter' became the online sensation of BBL|10
The unconventional story of how a small community of satirical online cricket pages entered the mainstream and elevated a new BBL player to cult hero status
Those who follow the KFC BBL on social media would have seen the word 'Peter' a lot this summer.
Throughout the tournament, almost every post online about new Renegades spinner Peter Hatzoglou has generated hundreds of comments from users saying simply 'Peter' and nothing more.
Until now, only a handful of people have known exactly why, and how it all began.
It's a tale that is quintessentially Big Bash; born and fostered entirely online by a group of young cricket lovers who view the tournament as part of their summer entertainment, who worship the competition's lesser known players, and make heroes out of them.
It's a story that started long before Hatzoglou arrived on the professional scene, and with the makings of another Big Bash cult hero – former Stars and Hurricanes player, Clive Rose.
The bespectacled and dreadlocked left-armer had always enjoyed a small but dedicated group of fans online, who would joke among themselves that the steady finger spinner was about to take over the cricket world.
In late 2018, an Adelaide teenager named Mitchell Webber started a Clive Rose fan page on Instagram that falsely claimed (as a joke) that the spinner was about to be picked to play Test cricket. It started an explosion of mildly popular satirical pages online dedicated to other Big Bash fan favourites such as hefty allrounder Trent Lawford, swing bowler Dan Worrall and the GOAT, Nathan 'Garry' Lyon.
The teenagers who created these pages had never met but found each other to be kindred spirits who shared an irreverent sense of humour and a love of the game. So they connected in a group chat of 16 like-minded members from all parts of Australia as well as New Zealand and India, and began an online conversation that continues to this day.
As time progressed and the jokes amongst themselves continued, the members eventually met each other in person and became friends in the real world, even flying interstate to attend Big Bash matches together and starting the 'Big Swing No Ding Podcast' as another way to connect and talk about the game.
And as they looked ahead to the 2020-21 BBL season, the surprise signing of Hatzoglou as a replacement player for the Melbourne Renegades caught their eye.
Hatzoglou's rise from Melbourne third-grader to Big Bash professional in just two years has been one of the best stories of the season and it captured the group's attention even before he had made his debut.
"That idea of someone coming through the ranks that quickly, from absolutely nowhere, and now getting a first professional contract, it blew all of our minds," says podcast host Nelson Howard, one of the group's original members.
"The number one thing we said to each other is, 'We just want to get absolutely behind this guy'. We want to support anyone who can do that."
And as the leg-spinner made an instant impact in the competition with his unique bowling style and exuberant celebrations, his status as a new fan favourite was rubber-stamped.
On December 14, two days after Hatzoglou picked up the wickets of Test batters Mitch Marsh and Cameron Bancroft on debut, group member Emmett Clark posted an image of the Renegades spinner under the caption 'Peter' on the parody page he manages, which has fewer than 500 followers.
To this day, Clark can't remember exactly why he didn't refer to Hatzoglou by his full name, but says wryly it was 'probably because I didn't know how to spell his last name'.
Having also added the hashtag #peter to the post, Clark then used his personal account to post 'Peter' in the comments. Without explicitly saying so, the other members of the group saw this as a rallying cry to show their support for their new hero and within hours, all had commented 'Peter' as well.
A few days later, when both the MyCricket (48,000 followers) and cricket.com.au (1.5 million followers) Instagram pages posted about Hatzoglou, the group engaged again in what has since become known as a 'Peter chain' and left a stream of 'Peter' posts in the comments section.
To their amazement, more than 500 other users did the same.
As Hatzoglou continued to impress, the group and their ever-growing team of fellow 'Peter' supporters essentially hijacked every post they could find about the Renegades spinner, with Peter chains often extending into hundreds of comments.
And of course, they created a dedicated Peter Hatzoglou Fan Club page, which has since garnered more than 500 followers and sparked a handful of imitation accounts, including one that has committed to "posting a picture of Peter Hatzoglou every day until he gets selected for Australia".
By Christmas, the administrators of the official Renegades and BBL accounts were also on board, happy to foster and embrace often bizarre posts about 'Peter', even if they were unsure as to how the trend started, and why.
As of this week, the official Renegades Instagram account has posted about Hatzoglou 22 times in the past month and a half, sparking more than 3,500 'Peter' comments – by far the account's most engaging posts of the season.
"We could have never imagined this," Howard says.
"It was literally just a couple of us commentating on the post because we decided, 'that's a thing, we'll do that'. And now it's just exploded into a nationwide trend. It's just absurd to think about.
"Just the idea of someone being able to go on this magical stretch from the depths of grade cricket, it's just so awesome. And we wanted to play a part in getting behind someone like that and support him in the big leagues."
By the start of the new year, the 'Peter' trend had been noticed by players across the league, including by Hatzoglou himself, who fully embraced the outpouring of support even though he too was unsure as to what it all meant.
Having been teased by his teammates for needing to improve his autograph when signing merchandise for fans, Hatzoglou took a cap that had the signatures of his fellow players and added 'PETER' in large block letters just above the Renegades logo. And when an image of the cap was posted online, it started yet another Peter chain as well as offers from fans to pay top dollar for a rare piece of sporting memorabilia.
Having existed and thrived entirely online for most of the season, the recent arrival of the BBL in Melbourne for the first time in an interrupted season saw the 'Peter' trend finally enter the real world.
Group members Howard and Isaac Timms as well as four other friends bought tickets for the Melbourne derby at Marvel Stadium and came along with signs that spelt out P-E-T-E-R. The group was shown on the Channel Seven and Fox Cricket broadcasts and beamed right around the world, helping them gain even more traction on social media.
"I have no idea how these things happen," Hatzoglou says with a laugh. "But it's pretty cool and amazing to have people follow me and come to games with signs with my name on it.
"I'm no cult hero, I'm just happy to be here. It's pretty hard to not be happy when you've had the run that I've had, and everything has fallen into place.
"It's just been amazing and it's great to have people support me."
While blown away by the reach their 'Peter' trend has enjoyed, the group is still unable to articulate just how it became so popular, and why.
"I dunno," Howard says with a laugh. "Millennial humour is just really weird, man."
So grateful has Hatzoglou been for the show of support, he's reached out to the group with an offer to meet up at the end of the season, an opportunity Clark jokes would be "worth skipping school for".
And as strange as the journey of 'Peter' has been, a group of young fans being able to meet their hero is ultimately what the Big Bash is all about.