Tiger Cam Vadlja smashes Victorian Premier Cricket debut Batting Record
By MITCH RODD
CAMPBELL Vadlja may finally have one over his old man.
As the son of Sunraysia cricketing legend Tom, Campbell was always determined to become a professional cricketer.
Despite not making junior State squads, the 20-year-old turned heads when he set the record for the highest ever debut score in Victorian Premier Cricket.
Batting at number three for the Monash Tigers, Campbell made 180 from 265 deliveries, including 24 boundaries and two sixes, against a strong St Kilda outfit.
Often regarded as the best competition outside of the Cricket Australia-sanctioned series, Campbell had officials rummaging through the record books, while simultaneously prompting Premier Cricket followers to ask, ‘Who is this kid?’
Tom Vadlja is the most decorated player in SCA history, having claimed a whopping seven Les Innes Medals as the SCA First Division’s best and fairest player. Add to that numerous Melbourne Country Week appearances for Sunraysia and multiple premierships, and it is one hell of a CV.
After Campbell’s innings, however, Tom said his son has him covered.
“No one is prouder than me at the moment,” he said.
“He’s got me covered and I’m more than happy that he has because this is what he wants to do.”
WHILE Campbell may have had appeared as an unknown blip on the radar of premier clubs, Tom has seen just how hard his son has worked.
From honing their skills together in their own backyard cricket net, the Vadlja’s would play in the Sunraysia Cricket Association (SCA) First Division for Mildura East once Campbell debuted at age 15. They played together for two seasons before Campbell accepted an offer from Caulfield Grammar to play cricket and complete his VCE studies.
As part of contract with Caulfield, school cricket came first, not allowing Campbell to play in the lower grades of Premier Cricket.
“When he came home during Christmas holidays we’d head down each weekend for training and to play (Premier Cricket),” Tom said.
“It was insane, but it was all to get him used to playing with the team.
“His ride has been up and down. He’s made State squads before but has missed out on the final cuts, but he’s used that as motivation. He’s worked really well with (Tigers coach) Shannon Young, who I think is one of the best coaches in Victoria at the moment.”
Campbell has played nine games in the thirds this season, and found himself selected for the top grade after making 92 the previous week for the Monash Second XI.
Campbell was presented with his First XI cap by Tom prior to the game, making him the 627th player to represent the club’s top side.
“We found out Tuesday that Cam was in the First XI side and they wanted to give us as much time as possible to get down,” Tom said.
“You get a bit emotional, it’s been a lot of time, travel and effort for him to get to that point.
“Shannon purposely held him back from playing in first grade. He has probably been ready for a while so the innings wasn’t a fluke, but Shannon got him to work on a technical issue in the lower grades.
“Having talked to him after games in lower grades, Campbell said: ‘I don’t want to go up and not be ready’, so he was comfortable working on a few things before going up.”
CAMPBELL’S display against a bowling attack that includes former Australian spinner Michael Beer was a surprise to his opponents, but a source of pride for his team.
St Kilda coach Glenn Lalor admitted he hadn’t heard of the young Tiger before the match, but was impressed by the left-hander.
“Listen, sometimes selection comes off I suppose,’’ he said.
“Credit to him, he batted extremely well. He’s compact. He’s got all the shots and he played all the shots. Played some beautiful drives.
“We let him get in early, unfortunately. Good find, for sure.’’
Monash captain Daniel Sartori said the change rooms were bursting with pride.
“Campbell would probably admit himself his performances leading up to the last couple of games, they probably haven’t been what we would have liked,” Sartori said.
“(The previous week) he took his opportunity and sometimes cricket or sport is all about timing and to get picked when you’re in form is a great thing.
“Batting with him and watching, it looked such a simple game plan and he knew where his scoring shots were. He cut the ball really well, drove the ball really well and his defence was rock solid.
“His innings was built around his defence, he just didn’t give the bowlers any opportunities to get through it. He just set up really well and did the basics very well.”
While continuing to score runs in this vein remains unlikely, Tom said another half century in the two remaining matches would be a fantastic result for Campbell.
“Campbell is a confident kid. Not arrogant, but confident, and he looked comfortable,” Tom said.
“As a junior Campbell wasn’t overly strong, so he based his technique around his defensive shots and would nudge and flick the ball around.
“Once he got a bit older he got stronger and found he could hit the boundaries and clear the ropes. I think he enjoyed that but he started to go too far away from the technique that worked for him. He’s got lots of ability, and now a strong mindset where he is mixing both his defensive and attacking capabilities.
“He might have changed the whole landscape for himself and others by making the highest-ever debut score in Victorian Premier Cricket, which is probably the best standard of cricket outside playing for your State.
“We still talk cricket but I’ve pulled away a bit more now, leaving him to his own devices and under the coaching of Shannon. From the evidence so far it’s worked for him.
“Campbell has intentions of making it as a professional cricketer. He’s set the bar high, and it would be extremely unlikely that he could continue at that level, but there are two games left and if he could make at least another 50, that would be a fantastic result. He’s always been a bit of a late developer but now he also has the mindset that could hopefully take him to the next level.”
– with Toby Prime and Paul Amy, Monash Leader
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