How a cricket team named after a ‘Simpsons’ character found success both on and off the field
In October 1997, Matt Young committed to get back to playing cricket following a seven year hiatus. With the season already underway, there was only a spot for a team in the local Churches Association competition. From there, the story of Brisbane’s most interestingly named cricket club – Ned Flanders XI – began.
“When we joined the Churches competition, there was no real unifying religious theme in the team so we thought we would stick with something that was fairly neutral and being the 90s, the Simpsons were quite popular,” said Matt.
Known as the neighbourhood Christian in one of the world’s most well-known animated TV series – ‘The Simpsons’ – Flanders is loathed by his neighbour Homer Simpson for his cheery and overly friendly nature, an attitude that was made to underpin the Brisbane-based cricket club.
Further tying into the Flanders aspect of the name, Matt said the true spirit of mateship demonstrated by the ANZACS in Flanders Field – a major battle site in the First World War – is a legend for Australians to live by.
“Cricket is such a phenomenal thing; the intense comradery and mateship that you learn from being a part of the game and a club, this is what we take to countries whose cricket culture is in its infancy,” said Matt.
The Flanders team has experienced immense success both locally and abroad, with Matt captaining the team of 180 players over the past 21 summers to win 19 titles in the Churches competition, 20 one and two day tournaments in Brisbane, as well as seven international tours, playing national teams from the Pacific Islands, Asia, Europe, Africa, North and South America and most recently Ireland.
A typical international tour for the Flanders team consists of running a series of training sessions for local children, before playing against a national team of the country they are visiting.
“As much as we’ve enjoyed playing cricket overseas and playing against some national teams, it’s the coaching of the children and immersing ourselves in the local culture that really drives us.”
“One day in Morocco we coached about 400 school kids in their national stadium before playing the national team under lights; it was one of the best days of my life.
“These kids absolutely loved the game and although cricket isn’t mentioned anywhere near as much as soccer in Morocco, we introduced a sport to them and encouraged them to get involved in a sport that can give in so many different facets of life.
“It’s not just about hitting balls, taking wickets and taking catches, it’s about enduring the good times and the bad times, it’s about getting into the concept of backing your mates no matter what.”
As a General Practitioner, Matt said he sees a large number of men who, due to a variety of circumstances, lose their way in life and become isolated as a result.
“They don’t have any friendships they can lean on and that’s the beauty of team sport and cricket; you make phenomenal friendships that get you through the bad times in life and enriches the good times.”
The future of the Ned Flanders XI looks bright with many of the core team members still involved with the club, but for Matt there is something else keeping him going.
“Now with my little kid, Andy, being eight, he comes on and fields for us, but there is a rule that you need to be 14 before you can bowl or bat. It will be the ultimate dream come true to bat with my boy when he’s 14,” said Matt.
Matt Young’s story is part of Cricket Australia’s Community Champion initiative that aims to share the stories of local heroes making cricket a great game for all.
Know someone whose story deserves to be told? Nominate your Community Champion here.