600 not out

Kevin Vernon during game 600. (Supplied)

Tara Murray

There was plenty of emotion on Sunday as Kevin Vernon played his 600th game for his beloved Melton Cricket Club.

Playing 600 games is remarkable for anyone, but for Vernon the trip to the milestone hasn’t been easy.

Vernon was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in June last year and is now in a wheelchair.

But that hasn’t stopped the man, who is the heart and soul of the club, as he turned out for one of the club’s all-abilities sides.

On Sunday, just days after coming out of hospital, he played game 600 in front of a massive crowd.

Vernon said he had never thought about playing 600 games.

“I feel proud to have reached 600 games, and pretty relieved, especially after my MND diagnosis during the off-season last June,” he said.

“I never really thought about it [playing so many games], I just took it weekend by weekend, day by day.”

Vernon said he had played cricket for at least 60 years, starting playing as an 11-year-old at St Albans in the under-16s playing both juniors in the morning and seniors in the afternoon.

He would later find his way to Melton Cricket Club, where he has made a massive impact both on and off the field.

For Vernon, there’s plenty of highlights along the way with the club meaning community and culture.

“Playing 598 games for Melton Cricket Club has been a major highlight,” he said. “I’ve been able to serve the club for over 40 years and contribute to something bigger than myself.

“I retired from sub-district cricket only last season and captained the fourth XI to a win that day; that was a great day.

“But each premiership the club has won over the decades has been a major highlight.

“Seeing the facility-upgrades at MacPherson Park last season has been extremely satisfying. I reckon we have the best facilities this side of the MCG.

“Serving as club president for 33 years has been a privilege and getting to work alongside a mighty bunch of people, like Anthony and Ivanka Gale, Mick Simpkins, and other greats has been very special.”

Another highlight for Vernon has been establishing the all-abilities program, which until recently he had been coaching.

He said the club’s commitment to ensuring the all-abilities crew had a place to belong and enjoy the great game of cricket has been a key priority.

“Five or six years ago when we got the team together and entered “MACCA” [Melbourne All Abilities Cricket Association], I couldn’t have foreseen I’d be bringing up my 600th match in the squad myself.

“I am deeply grateful that because of our all-abilities’ team that I was able to reach the milestone of 600 and play alongside a great bunch of people.”

Lions president and long time friend Anthony Gale said it was a pretty special day for the club.

“Going into last year, we would have thought it was a walk in the park this time last year,” he said.

“He was captaining the fourth XI, but the way things have developed we didn’t know if he would get there.

“To have played for something like 46 years is phenomenal achievement. To get himself fit to play the game was pretty special.”

Gale said Vernon’s presence at the club was unmatched and said that he was determined to make game 600 no matter what.

“He loves the game and he loves the club,” he said.

“His pride and joy is his family, but the cricket club is a close second. Up until recently he was at the club every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.”