Scored 2393 runs at an excellent average of 19.6
The most amazing part of these statistics is that they don’t include the many seasons he has played senior cricket in lower grades for Rydalmere. Nor does it include the countless contributions he has made in junior cricket. Matt has had a stellar career which must rank in the top 5 NDCA bowling performances in the 108 year history of the NDCA.
Matt’s good mates will know him as a fiercely loyal friend who sticks with you through thick and thin. He has many great mates. It’s a pleasure to say I’ve played with and seen these mates play in the same team for over 25 years. Cameron Rawding, Ash Flint, Steve Holland, and the list goes on.
He is a talented sportsman, but what most don’t fully appreciate are his more enduring qualities – his intelligence and unbridled creativity, his passion for writing, his musical prowess and his obvious sporting talents. Matt is someone who could be anything he wants to be when he puts his mind and effort to it.
On the field he is supremely confident, a born leader who inspires team-mates, a brutal competitor, an antagonist, a skilful bowler with intelligence to work a batsman out. He doesn’t bowl quickly but is deceptively sharp due to his height and heavy balls bowled into the deck. His bowling action is impeccable for an outswing bowler, left arm pulls down hard and held tightly by his left side of the body, high right arm and near his right ear, eyes fixated on the pitch, effortless run into the stumps.
His consistency of line and length and subtlety of variation through the air and off the seam are his strongest attributes. His batting has won many games and his batting position down the order misrepresents his true batting talent. Technically correct, patient, a classical stroke-maker hitting the ball into the “V”, full face of the bat always presented.
His hands are sublime – a fantastic slip fielder with the safest pair of hands. He always appears to have time to take a sharp chance at slips.
He is a courageous bowler who inspires others in his team to do better, who makes opposition batsmen try harder, who instils a culture of winning in his team-mates.
Baptism of Fire
Those that know Matt will know him by a thousand nicknames – most notably ‘Fingers’ or ‘Duddy’. I’m not sure of the origins of Fingers but I can definitely vouch for the nickname ‘Duddy’ – it was when he was about 10 years old facing much larger teenagers on the infamous Gladys street wicket.
This was truly a ‘baptism-of-fire’ as well as a ‘right-of-passage’ for almost all Rydalmere players – no sympathy given, maximum pain inflicted, you faced the gauntlet of a four pronged pace attack batting on Gladys street, Rydalmere.
Streets were cordoned off from car traffic each afternoon after school, the pitch marked and the rules confirmed – six and out over the fence, bonus runs for hitting parked cars of neighbours you hated, and the mandatory ‘drop the bat and run’ if you broke a window.
As a batsmen you faced the impossible – a half taped up tennis ball which swung prodigiously both ways and often late and at right angles, supplemented with a one inch high seam made of 20 or so layers of electrical tape. The ball would be pitched 3 feet outside off stump, swing back viciously and crash into leg stump. Sometimes you would be really unlucky and the same ball would swing in 4 feet, pitch in line with leg stump, hit the one inch high seam, and cause a leg cutter so devastating it would cut at right angles cannoning into your brittle off stump. If you were lucky you’d get a few supersonic short balls that blasted past your head before your stumps were unceremoniously ripped apart. At least you spent some “quality-time” in the middle facing a few balls you didn’t see or get anywhere near with the bat.
Needless to say, a 10 year old Matt Kennedy didn’t perform that well again teenage bowlers 5 years his senior. After several disappointing performances with the bat we quickly branded him a ‘dud’ batsmen, hence the name ‘Duddy’. A harsh but completely fair nickname when you grew up cutting your teeth in the Gladys street cauldron.
Unbeknownst to Matt at the time, this savage initiation into the world of cricket provided lessons that would serve Duddy well later in his career. The lessons were how to build character, to become resilient, to face tough opposition and stick it out, and to win!
Matt played plenty of junior cricket at the Wrens. I don’t have a strong account for his talent back then but we did start to notice Duddy as a young 17 year old with long black hair. Back in the day, Matt was inspired by Kurt Cobain of Nirvana fame. Duddy was a tall, lanky, slow outswing bowler who would lumber in and bowl a “good length”. He was nothing spectacular to the eye, except a remarkable ability to beat the bat very regularly.
His early performances playing 4th grade NDCA were nothing extraordinary but his talent was bubbling beneath the surface. He was more a developing batsmen who progressed quickly up the order to fill the always vacant opening batsman position. I think Yoda may have muttered these words but “the Force was strong in this one”.
Matt’s rise to dominance came a few years before he made his first grade debut for Rydalmere in the 2000-2001 season, the Club’s first season in first grade. The team was young and raw with no turf experience. The Wrens team struggled to make a score above 80 each week but, whether it was youthful arrogance or misplaced confidence, we knew it was probably enough to defend and win the game. Unfortunately, the other NDCA first grade teams (who had well established teams and seasoned, experienced first grade turf players), vastly under-estimated our ability.
Matt was always at the forefront of our bowling attack, always at the cusp of the verbal barrage, always willing the team to victory. We made the grand final in our very first season and lost, but Matt’s credentials, bowling stock, and reputation grew from then on in that first season. Matt was to spearhead the Wren’s formidable bowling attack for the next 17 years.
It’s also important to note that he was successfully selected to play 2nd and 3rd grade for Parramatta District Cricket Club in Sydney grade cricket. He loved playing grade cricket but yearned to play at the Wrens with his close mates. He simply loved the Wrens culture.
If the 2000-2001 Grand Final was symbolic of “firing a shot across the bow” of the NDCA first grade competition, then the 2005-2006 Grand Final heralded the start of sinking the entire NDCA fleet of teams in battle. This was our maiden first grade premiership, and in reality the start of a dynasty led by Matt from the front.
His captain, co-conspirator and partner-in-crime was fellow Life Member Ash Flint, who was the mastermind behind the Wrens dominance on the field. The two formed a formidable partnership – Ash was the battlefield strategist; Matt was the ruthless executioner who operationalised the plans to precision. There is no coincidence that Matt’s rise as a dominant NDCA bowler also culminated in 8 grand final victories and 3 additional grand final appearances for the Wrens. Matt also made several stellar performances in Martin Shield.
In summary, and these statistics are phenomenal, over the 12 seasons (2004-05 to 2015-16) the mighty Wrens first grade team won 8 grand finals, Matt’s achievements included taking: