Phil Emery learns the ropes at Gordon
I had just left school and it was nearing the end of the 1982-83 season when I was called up for my first match against Manly at Manly Oval.
For me, it was a very special moment being selected in First Grade. It was a part of my 20-year, one-club stint with the Gordon Cricket Club.
I remember that game much more clearly than a number that have followed since.
I was 18 and had worked my way up from Fourth Grade to First and left my gloves at home when I was selected as a batsman, after scoring runs in the seconds.
We had New South Wales reserve and future Western Australian 'keeper Michael Cox and England A and English County batsman Paul Romaines in the side.
We batted first and I was due to come in at six with the wicket zipping around a bit.
I was facing older guys that had played a lot of Grade cricket and were giving me a hard time. All I could do was put my head down, shut up and show them I could play. You heard everything, you listened to everything but tried not to react.
I copped the usual 'I'm going to knock your head off' but there wasn't a lot of it, just an experienced old bowler here or there. To be fair, none of it was rude or personal and was meant to be a 'welcome to the big time' type thing.
You learnt your place and if you acted the right way, you were actually never put in your place.
After spending a bit of time at the crease Mark O'Neill tried to bounce me and I was caught at square leg for 16 in my first knock.
I went on to play 10 years of Grade and Shield cricket with Mark, we hold the Gordon run partnership together and he was the best man at my wedding.
I made some of my closest mates while playing Grade cricket.
Me knowing the skipper Rohan McGregor meant I was sent to second slip where the older guys did well to pick on the younger guy by asking me a bunch of questions to help take those nerves out of the game.
In the second innings I watched Paul Romaines hit the first four balls of their off-spinner's over for six and I knew that was due to come in at any moment.
I knew of Paul and after the game I spent a long time chatting to him. He explained to me that my 42 was much more important than his bigger score.
All of the blokes that went hard at me came up to me after the game, shook my hand and congratulated me on a good game.
I think Grade cricket is enormously important. It's your step between playing with kids and playing with men. I played for Gordon until I retired.
I grew up believing that if you can play First Grade cricket, you can play.
Phil Emery played one Test, an ODI and 195 matches for New South Wales.
Stars align for Dools
Hailing from Launceston, I made the trip down to Hobart for my debut with Sandy Bay against Newtown back in 2004.
With the calibre of players playing in Hobart, I can remember thinking how hard it was going to be. During the drive I thought to myself, 'this is a big step-up for me and I need to be on my game', as the nerves began to settle in.
The first week was washed out which meant the nerves only grew while I waited to finally get out there.
I was batting at no. 7 in the rain-reduced one dayer, with Travis Birt and George Bailey batting ahead of me. It was wet and the first time I had worn spikes so I can remember being stuck in the crease as I came to bat!
A lot of the guys had to make the same trip, so I knew a few of my teammates but everyone was very welcoming.
We won the match and it was nice to start with a victory.
That's a great memory but it was my T20 debut that really sticks in the mind. We played North Hobart in the city's first-ever T20 to be played for competition points, at Queenborough Oval.
There was a big fuss made of it, with press, a big crowd and a DJ playing walkout songs. I would have chosen 'Danger Zone' from Top Gun, but the boys thought 'Every Rose Has It's Thorn' suited me more with the nickname 'Thorn'.
Adam Polkinghorne walked out to the Foo Fighters’ hit 'There Goes My Hero'.
We were at full strength with George Bailey, Xavier Doherty, Travis Birt, Adam Polkinghorne, Andrew Downton and myself. They had Dan Marsh, Michael DiVenuto, Michael Dighton and Adam Griffith.
I'll never forget the six Travis Birt hit Adam Griffith for! Birty walked out to bat in a cap, Griffo bowled one back of length and Birty hit one that is probably still going.
Trav got a really quick 40, George got some runs and I didn't even get a bat.
George Bailey managed to take a hat-trick including a stumping down leg side – wearing a headband.
Once we got Michael DiVenuto out, we marched to victory.
It was a hot match, we managed to win and was one of the most memorable matches I have ever played in.
Alex Doolan has played four Tests and is a current batsman for Tasmania and the Melbourne Renegades.
The ACA Premier Cricket Program has been designed to support ACA members in their post-cricket lives via a program that retains and harnesses the skill, experience and knowledge of ACA Members to identify, instruct and inspire talent through the Premier Cricket pathway. Learn more about the Premier Cricket Program here.