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In Loving Memory: Tribute to Christopher Charles Stone (24/02/59 – 24/11/23)

On 24th November 2023, Royal Brussels Cricket Club lost a great friend and stalwart club member in Chris Stone and we pay tribute to a life much lived.

Chris was born on 24th February 1959, in Hobart, the capital city of the southern Australian island state of Tasmania. He was weighing in at 4.5kg.

He went to Sandy Bay Infant School and then to Waimea Heights Secondary School. One of his early traits became evident here. At playtime, the girls would be separated from the boys and after school, the teachers would tell them that if Chris ever heard his sister cry, he would race over to care for her.

Life for Chris was, as the fullness of time would reveal, typically about limited sleep, a love of outdoor activities and getting up to mischief. As a child with his brother Jeremy, he often broke the rules irrespective of the consequences.

One time, while playing human hurdles inside the house, against their parent’s strict instructions, he tripped and crashed straight through a glass door, sustaining a significant arm gash and requiring his first trip to the hospital, followed quickly by another, when he pushed a handful of rice bubbles into his nose.

In 1969, his father was promoted and the family moved from Hobart to Melbourne. He attended secondary school at Caulfield Grammar, where he was a good student, but his focus was and he excelled in sports. He was Captain of Cricket & played First 18 Aussie Rules Football. Outside of school, he played Premier cricket for St Kilda, South Melbourne and Victoria Boys. He was a fast bowler and also a good batsman. His love of cricket was strengthened by the family’s close friendship with the great Sir Don Bradman’s family, a friendship that started when his mother found herself stuck in a hotel elevator in Melbourne with the great man, who was just 15 years old.

Faced with the choice of a chance at professional sport, he chose Australian Rules Football, believing he did not have the stature to be a top-flight fast bowler. At the junior level, he played for a local team called St Kilda City and then, at the age of 18, was selected to play in the premier competition for St Kilda – a team he had supported since moving to Melbourne. It was a dream come true. He was among the few to have kicked a goal with his first kick in the professional game against Collingwood. In a later game, he came off with a dislocated retina after being hit by a ball, an injury that kept him out for the next 9 months. Ironically, he did it again a few seasons later, this time fielding at point in a cricket match. Despite the initial hiccups, he was soon back in the side at St Kilda, now playing with squash goggles, and enjoyed a professional career for 7 years. His success was due to his skill, long hours of training, commitment and desire to succeed.

After secondary school (while continuing to play Aussie rules), he studied agricultural science at Latrobe University. This was also the disco period, and Chris, a part-time model, would hit the nightclubs with his mates dressed in white pants and matching white jackets, looking like John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever, not Pulp Fiction).

After graduation, he secured a job in sales at Pearl & Dean – a cinema advertising company. He had found his calling and was promoted with a move to Sydney in 1986, at the age of 27. He quickly integrated into local life, sport, work and entertainment. His circle of business interests and friends widened and when the opportunity of an assignment in London arose, he jumped. There, he made some lasting friendships playing premier league cricket for Esher Cricket Club. He also played a couple of matches for the MCC but, not planning to stay in London, did not complete the prerequisite for playing membership – a decision he later regretted. However, by now, his sights were set on Belgium, which would become his home for the rest of his life.

In 1994, he arrived at the Royal Brussels Cricket Club and was invited to play under the then 1st team captain & wicketkeeper, Colin Wolfe. Colin later recalled asking him if he had played much cricket. He said he’d played a bit. When he came on to bowl his first over, Colin asked whether he should stand up or back – “Maybe stand back for the first couple and see how it goes,” came the reply – he soon gained fame as one of the fastest bowlers in Belgium.

Chris brought all his great talent and colour to his cricket here in Belgium. He was competitive, but he could laugh at himself, as well as at his teammates. Bedecked in his wide-rim hat, full of Aussie wit and banter, he soon made deep friendships and became a big figure in the club and the last to leave the bar after a game. He reserved most of his sledging for his teammates but could be combative on the field. Once, when denied a clear LBW decision in a game against Antwerp Indians, he confronted the batsman, “Why don’t you walk?” and narrowly avoided sanction from the umpire. Later, he conceded that he would never walk since you get enough good decisions in life to offset the bad ones. On another occasion he was fed up in a match at Luxembourg having not bowled and not called on to bat until only 6 runs were required, he announced he would do it in one ball and duly dispatched it for six.

Always the showman, his speeches at club dinners were legendary, bringing both rib-cracking laughter and sometimes censure from the victim’s spouse. When asked to present the prize for the best batsman, he opened with the unforgettable line “I have been instructed that tonight I must on no account take the piss out of this fine gentleman, well ladies and gentlemen I beseech you, how could I possibly take the piss when nature has done such a magnificent job”.

He was not only a fine player, but he made the rest of the team feel good about themselves and play better. He was part of the dream team that won several Belgian national league titles in the late 90s – early noughties – and he became a hugely popular and respected figure in Belgian cricket, even if from time to time, he liked to discuss matters with the umpires.

It was during this time that he met Sophie Wilmes, who would become the love of his life.  Whilst some were initially surprised by the match, she was from a great Belgian family and he (in his own words) “a bit of rough from down under”, it was love at first sight and his life was changed forever. They were married in 2002 and made a home together with his son Jonathan and soon after their 3 daughters –Victoria, Charlotte, and Elizabeth. He was deeply attached to his family and inseparable from Sophie, who later became the first female prime minister of Belgium in 2019. Despite his busy life as CEO and husband of a premier politician, he was a devoted father who prioritised his family, never missed any of their hockey games and always encouraged them with their music.

By 2007, he had reached the end of his cricket-playing days. He devoted his life to his family while growing a successful business after acquiring an Advertising company, Dewez, in 2001. Instead, he took up hockey, as a goalkeeper and captain at Wellington Hockey Club. He loved mountain biking and joined a motorbike club of close mates who toured Europe and the deserts of North Africa. He was also a fair-weather golfer at Sept Fontaines and once hooked his drive into a swimming pool and then explained to the irate Englishman that it was, in fact, his fault for placing the pool there. Of all the adventures, he would recall his white-water rafting down the Zambezi River as the most extraordinary moment of his life.

Throughout his life, he remained passionate about his Australian heritage. He was President of ABIE (Australian Business in Europe) for several years which he used to strengthen cultural links between Belgium and his homeland. He was also passionate about art and held a substantial collection of fine Aboriginal Art.

Although Chris stopped playing cricket, he continued to give much to the club and the sport. He and Sophie would travel the world to attend former clubmates’ weddings. He provided ideas for the 200-year anniversary (of the battle of Waterloo, 150th of the club) celebrations in 2015, which included a tri-lateral tournament with the club, the Guards, and the MCC. He put on a tour to Belgium with 2 distinguished MCC members explaining the “history of The Ashes” in schools. He also helped bring more young people into the game, many from disadvantaged backgrounds and supported the club’s initiatives with young migrants, recognising the importance that sport can play in integrating into Belgian communities. His support was instrumental in cricket becoming recognised as an official sport in the French-speaking regions of Belgium in July 2023.

In the Summer of 2022, he was suddenly diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. Always a fighter, he fought it bravely and embarked on a bucket list of life wishes with Sophie, who stepped down as Foreign Minister to be with him, and their 4 children. He died peacefully on the evening of 24th November 2023. Our thoughts all lie with his family.

RBCC pays tribute to a great Australian sportsman, a distinguished businessman and a loyal and loving father and husband. Christopher, the world is a poorer place without you, but we are richer for having known you. May you rest in peace.

RBCC Women Display Exceptional Performance at BCF Women’s Soft Box Cricket Tournament in Mechelen

Mechelen, Belgium – On Sunday, November 19th, the RBCC Women showcased their cricket prowess at the annual BCF Women’s Soft Box Cricket Fest held at the Nekker Sportshall in Mechelen. The event, a dynamic 6-a-side tournament, is dedicated to fostering the growth of women’s cricket in Belgium, attracting six teams, including some newcomers to the game.

Despite a scheduling clash with the World Cup Final, approximately 60 women participated throughout the day, underlining the enthusiasm and commitment to advancing women’s cricket in the region. The RBCC team, albeit one player short due to an unexpected business trip, displayed remarkable cricketing skills, navigating their way to the semi-finals. Their journey ended in a closely contested match where they were narrowly defeated on the last ball.

The much-anticipated final witnessed a thrilling encounter between The Titans and Kortrijk Warriors (KWCC). The intensity of the competition reached its peak, culminating in a nail-biting finish as KWCC secured victory with a winning run on the very last ball. The entire event was a testament to the talent and dedication of the participating teams.

The prestigious awards ceremony saw Mr. Gohar Sakeel of Coco Group and Mr. Mazhar Iqbal, representing the event’s sponsors, and presenting prizes to the deserving winners. In a generous gesture, Mr. Iqbal promised a celebratory dinner in one of their renowned restaurants for all the finalists, further adding to the camaraderie and spirit of sportsmanship that permeated the tournament.

The BCF Women’s Soft Box Cricket Fest not only provided a platform for intense competition but also served as a catalyst for the promotion and expansion of women’s cricket in Belgium. The presence of newcomers in the tournament highlighted the growing interest and participation in the sport, promising a bright future for women’s cricket in the region.

As the event concluded, the RBCC Women left Mechelen with heads held high, having played an instrumental role in making the tournament a resounding success. Their exceptional performance and sportsmanship have undoubtedly contributed to the flourishing landscape of women’s cricket in Belgium.

Women Cricket in the Capital: A look back at the season 🏏

Women Cricket in the Capital: A look back at the season 🏏

The conclusion of this season was marked by the Women’s Day, a special event held unusually at the end of September. It saw the enthusiastic participation of more than 25 women from across Belgium, spanning a range of skill levels. The day commenced with a brief initiation session, enabling newcomers to grasp the basics of the game, from wielding a bat to mastering the art of bowling. Subsequently, we engaged in some exhilarating matches, only pausing to indulge in a fantastic barbecue generously provided by dedicated volunteers who contributed to the day’s resounding success.

Throughout this season, the RBCC women’s team actively competed in the Belgian League alongside five other teams hailing from Belgium and France. Our matches took us to various locations, including Antwerp, Wemmel, and Kortrijk, where we managed to secure victories in all formats of the game.

Notably, several of our team members had the honour of representing both the France and Belgium National teams at various tournaments in 2022 and 2023, thus significantly enhancing the visibility of cricket in associate countries. Also, members of the Royal Brussels CC took part in trainings for the Belgian National Women’s Team.

With great anticipation, we look forward to the upcoming 2023-2024 season, aiming to defend our title at the upcoming soft box cricket tournament scheduled for this November.

U17s win away at Antwerp

All smiles at Antwerp – U17s win doubleheader at ACC

Our U17s took on our friends at Antwerp CC in a T20 doubleheader.

First match: Having lost the toss we were put in to bat; the sodden pitch couldn’t slow our batters as both opener Ben and captain Afzal retired on 51. Atharva added 27 as we scored an impressive 174 for the loss of only 2 wickets.

ACC started slowly but accelerated in the middle overs and required only 9 to win from the last over, bowled by Dominic. He held his nerve and took wickets in successive balls (both stumped by Afzal) to lessen the pressure; a hat-trick went begging as a catch was dropped but it was a highly impressive example of death bowling. ACC finished short on 170/7.

Antwerp in October!

Second match: In line with our development philosophy Atharva took over as captain and we rejigged the batting line-up. ACC bowled well but Ben made another unbeaten 50 and Max B scored 21 as we posted 147/6. Again it looked as though ACC would run us close but Max R clean bowled their best batter and that took the steam out of their chase. A tight closing spell from Atharva (3 wickets in total) saw ACC subside to 133/8.

Special thanks go to Hossein for his work as the 12th man, to Antwerp CC for making us so welcome and especially to Manoj and Mike for umpiring.

All smiles at Antwerp

This was another good day out for our U17s, leaving us 3rd in the division, although we still need to work on our game management and our fielding. This squad has played some excellent cricket this year but a combination of factors, some within our control, others not, mean that we just missed out on the play-offs. Nonetheless, it has been a good season with the development of a number of new players and an excellent team spirit. Congratulations to Ben for finishing top of the league batting averages with Atharva and Dom not far behind.

Well played U17s!

The players would like to thank their parents for their support and to Alan for managing the team. See you next season!

1st XI finish with a flourish

1st XI finish with a flourish

A good crowd gathered at RBCC for the final match of the season. This was a crucial game against ICCB, had results not gone our way then we could have been facing relegation.

There was a fair amount of tension in the air as the match started; this was only exacerbated when our captain, Muneeb, fell to the first ball of the second over and Sudhanshu went with the score on 15. Mishi and Jawad steadied the ship, putting on 150 for the third wicket before Jawad was given out LBW on 48. Mishi went on to score 126 off only 124 deliveries, a fantastic effort made all the more special because he was using Sairab’s bat, the one given to him by our late coach Farrukh. The big man must have sent us his blessing!

The other innings of note was a brisk 31 scored by young Afzal. Agonisingly he was the last man out with only 2 deliveries remaining; this meant that we had missed the opportunity to score valuable batting bonus points and meant that our score, 274 off 49.4 overs, might not be enough to keep us up. The pressure was now on our bowling attack…

Our lads went hard at the opposition and wickets fell regularly. Muneeb rotated his bowlers and was rewarded as 7 different players took wickets, the skipper leading the way by taking 2 for 13 off his 6 overs.

ICCB realised that they were unlikely to match Royal’s score but knew that a batting bonus point would keep them above us in the table; however, if we could bowl them out within 40 overs then the situation would be reversed. In a tense finish, Afzal took a catch off Sudhanshu that saw us dismiss ICCB for 162 with only 3 balls of the 40th over to come. This was a fantastic victory and the joy on the players’ faces was great to see. This was a hard-fought victory and needs to be the template for all our teams next season. As Muneeb said afterwards ‘A perfect example of our team spirit is that last inning when we all fielded together. We played as one team and for each other. That is how I want us to play going forward!

A special mention for Afzal who, following the disappointment of getting out in the last over, took 3 smart catches and pulled off a stunning piece of fielding that will live long in the memory. He caught a certain 6 in mid-air and before his feet touched the floor threw the ball back in to play so that Mishi could take the catch. Well played!

Congratulations also to Dom, making his first team debut, big thanks to Channi as 12th man and also to Chris & Max for scoring.

And the crowd went wild…

It has been an eventful season; we have won trophies, suffered relegation and organised a successful tour. Through it all the players and supporters have stuck together in true RBCC fashion. See you all at the Club Dinner in a couple of weeks!

Match Scorecard

RBCC 2023 🇬🇧 UK Tour Report

Royal Brussels CC crosses the channel on a 4-day cricket tour

After a tour hiatus for a few years, Royal Brussels CC was back on the road and travelling to the United Kingdom. Here is the tour report by our very own Nick Revill, who was there to ensure the touring party was behaving well & brought back safely!

Day 1 With military planning and precision, the cream of RBCC’s crop packed up and rolled out of Brussels, destination Kent.

Such was the commitment to the cause that our lads didn’t let the terrible weather, the dreadful traffic jams, or the hated ‘No Ball Games’ rule stop their pursuit of cricketing perfection, managing to get a game on in the Eurotunnel car park and an empty train carriage while en route.

Not for the last time on this tour, some of the umpiring was a little too enthusiastic!

Despite the congestion, eventually, all the touring party managed to make it to the rendezvous in Sevenoaks, where dinner with Kumar proved to be a delight. There was one minor hiccup when one of our leading lights managed to lock himself in the toilet for half an hour. Happily though, after a thorough explanation of the difference between ‘push’ and ‘pull’ he managed to make his escape and rejoin the rest of the party. The evening was rounded off by drinks at our hotel under the expert guidance of Tipu and Jalal.

Day 2 Our tourists woke to two of the greatest things known to mankind, sunshine and a Premier Inn breakfast. Our younger players in particular showed a real commitment to preparing in a professional manner for the matches to come.

Having feasted and rested we headed into Sevenoaks, stopping off at an impressive Ferrari showroom on the way. Sadly none of the models on offer had sufficient boot room for a cricket coffin so we declined to enter into negotiations.

Poor weather forced us to take refuge in a grand old English pub, The Anchor, for a couple of hours.

Suitably refreshed we made our way to The Vine, one of the oldest cricket grounds in the world having been established in 1734. We were immediately made welcome by our old friends.

Despite the poor weather, our hosts were kind enough to suggest a pairs game. For some of the younger members of the party, this was their first game on a grass pitch; even so, our accurate bowling and tigerish fielding restricted our hosts to a meagre score.

As we opened our innings, RBCC decided to even things up with some comical cricket of our own. Young Ollie demonstrated that it is possible to lap your partner, running out Kumar several times in the process. Arun added to the frivolity by posting an individual score of -20. The latter was particularly hard to understand because he had prepared so assiduously beforehand…

Old hands Nick and Sudh showed all their class and experience by bringing us back into contention. Williams and Adam then showed the cool heads for which they are both renowned, seeing us home by a hairs-breadth, thus ensuring a 100% success rate for guest star Pradeep

.

Joyful after-match celebrations were paused briefly for the obligatory speech by Lord Compo but the beer was soon flowing again in a marvellous celebration of cricketing fraternity.

Some hardy souls then adjourned to the Miners Arms for refreshment, others took the more traditional route of partying with Jalal and Tipu.

Our diary, being faithful to the old motto ’What goes on tour stays on tour’ must draw a veil over subsequent shenanigans…

Day 3 We woke to glorious sunshine and set off for our match at Uckfield, our opponents being a couple of solid hangovers and a scratch Fletching XI that sounded worryingly young and athletic.

Big Al, captain of the official Fun Bus, struggled to adapt to local driving conditions and, after several near misses, gave up entirely and resorted to simply nudging other vehicles off the road. No one was hurt, though it should be reported that Pride, and the van, were both dented.

The pitch at Uckfield had clearly not benefitted from the tender ministrations provided by The Vine’s professional groundsman. Frankly, it was the sort of sticky dog that gives batters nightmares.

Fletching CC batted first and were soon struggling with Adam taking early wickets. Perhaps it was over-confidence that resulted in one of our umpires calling their captain back after a first-baller but it proved to be a mistake as he went on to top score with 36.

We couldn’t possibly comment on rumours that the responsible umpire and the Fletching captain are related. It should also be noted that at one stage we had three generations of the Compton family on the pitch; the eldest and the youngest performed admirably, the middle one not so much…

Williams bowled well and Arun was electric in the field as we restricted them to 122. Surely that wouldn’t be too much of a problem?

We were then presented with one of the finest cricket teas ever seen on God’s green earth, so much so that our host, Sharon, received a standing ovation from both teams as the lot was devoured.

Matt and Sudh started our reply in sparkling form against some sprightly bowling. The dodgy pitch did its work however and when some pretty ruthless umpiring saw Dom sawn off at the knees by his mate Max, the writing was on the wall. A defiant 26 by Ollie was insufficient as RBCC fell short by 14 runs.

Any grumpiness on the part of the visitors was quickly dispelled by a visit to the nearby Griffin, a marvellous old country inn with one of the finest beer gardens in England. We were joined by our hosts for a post-match debrief, young Ben leading the way with a few quick pints of Guinness.

All too soon we had to pack up and head south to Brighton. The evening took a sour turn when Al’s bag was stolen as we checked into our hotel but we reconvened at the Ephesus restaurant and it didn’t take too long for the big man’s smile to return.

We adjourned to the Quadrant a rare ‘old man’s pub’ near the seafront but it was clear that the young pups were struggling to stand the pace.

In the end only the GOATs – you know who you are! – had the stamina to go clubbing…

Day 4 With heavy hearts, we left Brighton and headed for Rye and the picturesque Church Lane ground of Iden CC. This pitch had considerably more grass on it and the groundsman told us that the ball would carry through at a good pace; always listen to the groundsman’s children, this chap was spot on in his assessment.

We batted first and posted a solid score of 192. Ben batted beautifully for an undefeated 67 and both Dom and Tipu scored 39.

Another excellent tea confronted us but, worried that the previous day’s post-prandial lethargy had been caused by one too many vol-au-vents, mascots Nick and Al sacrificed their waistlines by hoovering up most of the cake before the players could get any…

Our bowling was excellent. Williams and Ollie were quick and straight while Jalal was absolutely in his element and virtually unplayable. Special mention also to Max who toiled up the hill, despite being ill, and bowled an excellent spell. It was all too much for Iden and even some late-order slogging could only get them to 125. In part this was also due to an excellent cameo spot at cover from all-action South African fielder Jonty Rhodes Big Al; like a sausage roll, the ball never got past him!

We got on really well with the Iden team and we dragged ourselves away with promises of a reciprocal visit ringing in our ears.

Sadly the tour was over too soon. We had an excellent trip filled with laughter and camaraderie, met some great people along the way, and played at some lovely grounds. The whole party got on well and our thanks go out to Sudh and Compo for organising everything. Our drive home was bittersweet; sad that our adventure was over but with loads of happy memories…just as it should be on every good tour.

The End…Until Next Year!