2022 Sports Journalism The Locker Room

“I had no idea who it was”: the puzzling phone call that changed Blake Macdonald’s cricket career

A cricket player in red hits the ball in front of the wicket
Blake Macdonald on his way to scoring 144 for St George against Hawkesbury in round one of this season. Photo: Hamish Solomons (St George Cricket Club photographer)

An interruption to a casual game of golf for Blake Macdonald ended up being an influential moment in his cricketing career.

The then-17-year-old was in the middle of a round when he answered a call from Trent Copeland. The former test fast bowler, who was also the club captain of St George in Sydney, had an opportunity for the teenager from Canberra.

The problem was Macdonald was unaware who he was talking to.

“I had no idea who it was. And I had to look it up afterwards and I realised I’ve just been talking to Trent Copeland who played for Australia,” Macdonald said.

A trip up the Hume Highway from Canberra the following week and a meeting with the club would forge an instant connection with the St George hierarchy and its culture.

“I went up and met with him [Trent Copeland] and some of the people at St George. I just got a real good vibe from those guys. I was very lucky to get the opportunity and I’m very happy with the choice I’ve made there,” he said.

Founded in 1911, St George Cricket Club has a history that is rivalled by few clubs around the country.

Claiming 105 premierships in all grades throughout the club’s history, the club can boast Josh Hazelwood, Moises Henriques, Kurtis Patterson, Kerry O’Keefe and even Sir Donald Bradman on its honour roll.

Recent centenary celebrations for the club allowed Macdonald to reflect on the privilege associated with being a first-grade cricketer for the Saints.

“We just recently had an event for 100 years in first grade and every first-grade player got a picket on the fence with their number. So, it’s something that is pretty cool to see that you’re part of the history of the club,” he said.

Playing in the Sydney competition has provided the top-order batsman with opportunities to rub shoulders with some of the nation’s best cricketers.

Macdonald has lined up in club colours alongside Patterson, Henriques and Copeland, and played against some of the best cricketers in NSW on a weekly basis.

A case in point was at the start of this season when St George played an invitational XI to mark the club’s first grade centenary, a line-up that included test spinner Nathan Lyon.

Macdonald got the chance to have an invaluable 20-minute conversation with the man who has taken more than 430 test wickets for Australia.

“I managed to get to sit down with him [Nathan Lyon] and ask him about spin bowling and how to better myself as a batter, and how I can play against a guy like him,” he said.

Macdonald says playing week-in, week-out against top quality opposition means he’s also had to work hard on the mental part of the game. He says the chat with Lyon only provided greater perspective on how to get over his opponents.

“He mentioned that he sees cricket as a bit of a problem-solving game as a bowler and I think it’s the same as a batter, especially in the long formats. How are they trying to get me out? How can I counteract that? How can I score?,” he said.

These opportunities to meet with the likes of Nathan Lyon are limited in Macdonald’s hometown of Canberra. 

“Our pathway is capped at the moment, there’s no professional team here for the men. You have to look elsewhere and then you’re going into other states’ programs and you haven’t been front of mind.”

This search for an opportunity came when the Sydney Thunder offered Macdonald a rookie deal in the 2018 Big Bash competition.

The exposure to the professional environment of a Big Bash franchise provided him with the first-hand experience of the standards that are required to make it at the highest level.

“It was really more about getting the experience and being around those players as opposed to looking to play in that tournament. So, it was really cool to get to go up and stay with the interstate and overseas players,” he said.

The changing landscape of T20 cricket has given Macdonald confidence that a more permanent BBL opportunity is within reach. He says the rise of former teammate Henry Hunt is providing the motivation.

“I think the people that inspire confidence in me are the guys that I grew up playing with and have gone on similar pathways. So, you look at guys like Henry Hunt, who came from country New South Wales, played for Queanbeyan here in Canberra for a few years [before he] went up to Sydney (and then on) to Adelaide and now has played for Australia A,” he said.

Macdonald acknowledges getting to that next level, locally and abroad, will require consistency and plenty of runs with St George at club level.

“Goals that I have at the moment are playing in the one-day comp and Sheffield Shield, that will mean having to play good cricket for St George.

He hopes phone calls with Trent Copeland in the future will be to talk about playing at that next level.