Michael Vozzo – TC People of Cricket

Over the years we’ve all been privy to the constant battle between AFL and Cricket for the best young talent in Victoria. Recently Will Sutherland chose Cricket over Footy. We’ve  also heard about Luke Hodge and his exploits down in Colac, and Jimmy Bartel’s request to play in his cricket clubs grand final. On this Topline’s ‘People of Cricket’ we look at how a man who was part of 281 AFL Games including the 2006 and 2008 Grand Finals and his relationship with cricket.

Michael Vozzo is known as one of the best whistle blowers in the business. But his cricketing career is nothing to be sniffed at. Like many of us, Michael spent his childhood summers hovering around the changing rooms of senior cricketers.

 

“My brothers and I used to spend most Saturday afternoons at the club[East Box Hill] (after playing in the morning) and watching guys like Trevor McGary, Andrew Gill and Steve McDonald who were club legends, ironically I ended up playing with them years later. The people at the club, made me love the game!”

Michael’s love of the game seems to have been repaid. According to MyCricket his 98 career games (since MyCricket’s inception) Michael has made 2895 runs @38.6 and taken 40 wickets @19.08. Michael believes he owes a lot of his success to a 1995 East Box Hill recruit.

“I never really achieved a lot in my cricket during the early days, but when former Australian Under 19 player Chris Dalkin joined EBHCC in 1995, he helped shape me as a cricketer. Walk tall with your chest out and be confident. That season I made 68no against Heatherdale in the semi and 52no against East Burwood in the GF when we won. That GF win was just a great moment and lasting memory.”

Due to his umpiring commitments Michael never really found out how far he could take his cricket, or where it could take him.

“Not sure really if I was good enough. Undoubtedly my umpiring restricted the amount of cricket I played and trained, I wanted to go to England and play but obviously was unable to.”

Michael’s modesty about his cricketing ability should be admired, as clearly there were suitors from the ‘next level’ who tried to lure the umpiring veteran to commit more to cricket. They were to be disappointed with both Michael’s answer and his next innings.

“I will never forget Hawthorn Monash CC ringing me to play with them and when I told them of my umpiring commitments they told me I wasn’t required! Two weeks later in a practice match against their twos, I made 70 odd!”

Although umpiring may have stopped Michael reaching his full potential as a cricketer, cricket has helped him in other aspects of his life. Cricket provided a release from the mental rigours of umpiring and the physical stress of pre-season.

“Cricket is my release from work and stress… Jeff Gieschen didn’t seem to mind me playing throughout my umpiring as he just lived and breathed all sports, he liked umpires doing something during the summer. For me, cricket kept my fitness at a good level so I didn’t have to do too much extra off season training.”

Of course there were disadvantages to being an AFL umpire whilst on the cricket field. Every man and his dog would have their cheeky dig at the 281 game veteran. However Michael can only remember one instance where an opposition sledge has had a negative effect on his batting.

“The late Anthony Dunning, when playing for Wheelers Hill gave me some crap when I came into bat one game and it worked, I reckon I didn’t score! He was a funny guy and got on great with him off the ground. But I learnt from that and ever since, any sledging I’ve copped has made me dig in and more determined,I actually love it now.”

The desire to coach led Vozzo to move clubs on a few occasions and thus create more lasting memories across the local competitions of the eastern suburbs. During his time as South Warrandyte’s batting coach he made a career high 159* to dig his side out of trouble against Lilydale, before making 80 in the clubs grand final win a few weeks later.

Michael then took a three year hiatus from cricket, before returning to captain-coach East Box Hill in 2011. They won a premiership with Vozzo as the 12th man. Why was the captain-coach left out of the side? He had to umpire Collingwood and Port Adelaide on the second day.

Michael then took the head coaching job at Box Hill Cricket Club(a role he stills holds) where he made an immediate impact.

“Probably my best knock at Box Hill CC was in my first season as Coach. We were 4/50 chasing 152 and a win would get us into the finals. Captain Paul Gloury got 40 odd and I was lucky enough to get 60 not out, that win meant a lot to us.”

Michael’s best experience as a coach is like many others, watching players develop throughout his five years at the helm. Box Hill house around 25-30 players under the age of 24. Vozzo is proud of the home grown talent that will hold the club steady for the future.

“Some of the players I have coached for four to five years and have risen from playing in the 3s and 4s and are in great form in the 1sts and/or are on the verge of first XI selection.These guys will be the backbone of the BHCC firsts for many years to come.”

Evidently Michael can not talk in more positive terms about Box Hill. When asked to promote the club to possible suitors. He rattles of a list of appealing aspects.

Box Hill is home to Australian Women’s Captain Meg Lanning and has a terrific women’s program that has included a very successful period over the past few years. Whilst on the men’s side of things, they have a solid coaching structure and competition superstars including 1st XI captain James Pearson who has played first class cricket, and ex-premier levels players Paul Gloury and Justin Lampard.

Michael is adamant that this is not the main recruiting tool of the club.

“The clubs stable environment, full of young and enthusiastic players makes Box Hill an attractive proposition for players.”

As for his own cricketing future who knows. He may be in the twilight of his illustrious career, but his competitive edge may extend his stay at Box Hill.

“I’m not sure about my future, probably retirement at my age! I still love playing the game. I had a go at vets a couple years ago and didn’t really enjoy that, so we will see what the remainder of this season throws up before thinking about the future.”

For more information on Box Hill Cricket Club check out their website : http://www.bhcc.com.au

Or their Facebook page. Both are kept updated regularly and replies to any messages are done in a very professional manner.