Maxwell praises club volunteers
The story of Graeme and Ilva Woolard at Fitzroy-Doncaster Cricket Club underlines the value of passionate volunteers
22 May 2019, 03:00 AM AEST
With three formats to worry about and a burgeoning international career, Glenn Maxwell's opportunities to return to his Premier Cricket club these days are few and far between.
But whenever he does get the chance to walk into the clubhouse at Fitzroy-Doncaster Cricket Club in Melbourne, Maxwell knows he will be greeted by the familiar faces of Graeme and Ilva Woolard – two loyal volunteers who have been with the club for 23 years.
From behind the bar, Graeme will offer a reassuring nod and smile, while Ilva will be there with a warm embrace.
"Any time I go back there, those two in particular are two people who, I suppose, are excited to see me," said the Aussie allrounder, who spoke with cricket.com.au to recognise the country's cricket volunteers in National Volunteer Week around Australia.
"The joy that I see on Ilva's face – she's always worried about me, (asking) 'Are you OK? Is your family OK?' They're such caring people and they'd give anything for Fitzroy-Doncaster Cricket Club."
Graeme and Ilva have been married for 63 years and Fitzroy-Doncaster has become a mainstay of their lives over more than two decades. And just as Maxwell takes heart from their familiarity, they have considerable pride in his achievements.
"I've known Maxi since he first came to Fitzroy-Doncaster, I think he was only about 17, 18 at the time," said 85-year-old Graeme. "Well I've just seen him go on and on. We always said he'd make Australia.
"He's a magnificent fella – he gets ahold of the young ones and shows them different things to do. He's a very good team bloke."
The pair were made life members a few years ago and administration manager Wayne Stewart says they represent the lifeblood of the club.
"The life membership was long overdue," said Stewart. "They're there every week, Ilva was running the lunches, Graeme's behind the bar and they never miss a game.
"They'll do extra things around the place if we need it, too."
The summer gone was officially Ilva's last at the club, however the 84-year-old knows herself better than to suggest she won't be involved when things get underway at Fitzroy-Doncaster again next summer – be it making lunches or simply lending her wisdom wherever it's required.
"Last season was my last season doing it because I'll be 85 soon, but I said I'm still going to go to the cricket, and knowing me, I'll jump out of my seat and help – so it's no good saying I'm resigning," she laughed.
"I've had more farewells than Madame Melba!
"I love the cricket club. I just love it. They all appreciate what you do, and you never hear any swearing from them – they're just beautiful boys."
As well as a fondness, Maxwell also has a great appreciation for the selfless services the Woolards provide, with the veteran pair a fine representation of the thousands of cricket volunteers around Australia who play a key role in keeping the sport alive at the grassroots level and beyond.
"Going back to my South Belgrave Junior Cricket days, volunteers are so important, whether it be from coaches, team managers, just helpers around the ground, making sure the club is ticking over and can actually survive," Maxwell added.
"Whether it be putting out the cones around the boundary, or making sure there's some cordial there for the players, just those little jobs that go unnoticed and they're so important for a cricket team."