Young Aussie cricketer learns the hard way in the backyard

LIKE fellow South Burnett superstar Holly Ferling, Jared Sippel had to learn to play cricket the hard way.

And that is why he will be a vital part of Australia's under-15 team that will tour Sri Lanka next month.

Murgon farm-raised kid Jared is only 14 and is the youngest member of the team.

It is a minor miracle he will even be there after a fundraising drive drew an overwhelming response, following stories a Brisbane publication ran recently on his family's financial struggles.

The Sippels, who live on a farm in Redgate, just outside the small township of Murgon, have been hit hard by Mother Nature in recent years.

First it was last year's floods, and more recently it was the drought which was so severe, the sports-mad family was even considering an unthinkable Plan B.

"We were thinking about no longer milking - we had until mid-May before our feed would run out," Jared's mum Leanne told APN.

"But we've been so lucky in the past two weeks, with so many people contributing money to our cause.

"We've even had five inches of rain since, which has livened things up a bit."

It was the slice of Lady Luck the Sippels deserved because, according to Jared's grandfather Nev Kratzmann, the youngster has worked hard on his game.

Nev is a local sporting hero himself - at 70, he still represents Australia at over-60s cricket competitions.

And he is the face of the South Burnett's Relay for Life cause, after continuing to fight prostate cancer, since being diagnosed over six years ago.

Nev's sons Andrew and Mark also played tennis for Australia, meaning Jared was always destined for big things.

Like the Kingaroy-raised Ferling, who is now a key part of the Southern Stars' cricket team, Jared's moment of truth came last summer, when he faced up to grown men in the South Burnett's A-grade competition.

He passed with flying colours, scoring a 60 and a 40, and taking 6-85 with his off-spinners in one game … off 24 overs.

Ferling first burst on to the scene in the 2009/10 summer, making national headlines, after taking a hat-trick against the boys … with her first three deliveries at senior South Burnett level.

She was just 13 at the time.

Jared's mental toughness when standing up to guys that can bowl 120km/hr was first honed on Nev's tennis court on his farm in Windera, about 30 minutes from the Sippels' farm.

"He was probably about four or five when he first started facing up to the tennis ball machine," Nev said.

"My other, older grandkids Jake and Sam would have the machine going at a good rate, and they wouldn't reduce the speed for Jared.

"It toughened him up - the boys are so competitive.

"But if it hit him on the shin it wouldn't hurt - they were only tennis balls."

Jared would not only develop his batting skills there.

"I've got a funny story - Andrew had one of his cricket teammates over from England, who was playing with him up at Noosa," Nev said.

"They were all playing in the yard and I heard him yell once, 'don't let Jared get his hands on the ball - he'll run me out'.

"Jared was four at the time."

Leanne has some of her own stories to add.

"The day after Jared was born, Sam came to visit and asked his mother 'when can he bowl to me?'" she said.

"Sam was three at the time."

There is also the prized video clip Leanne owns, showing Jared belting tennis balls under-armed to him at a brisk pace, in the family home, with the cricket on in the background of course.

"Going by the date in that video, I think Jared was almost three at the time," Leanne said.

"What amazes me most about it is how hard he watched the ball in that clip.

"He wasn't watching where the ball was going; he'd just focus on hitting the ball first before looking up.

"I've never seen anyone so young do that."

But maybe that shouldn't have surprised Leanne so much - Jared was not even one year old before he first started hitting a ball which would dangle from a stocking.

After taking the South Burnett competition by storm last season, Jared is set for more runs next summer.

He scored 112 for a combined Wide Bay/Toowoomba team against some of Wide Bay/Darling Downs' best young kids at a training camp back in October.

That same month, Jared scored three tons from four innings against representative bowlers his own age, his highest 144 not out.

His Murgon Crusaders team will take on Kingaroy Services in the South Burnett grand final this Saturday, and maybe Jared is set for another wicket haul - he has taken the most scalps for his team this season.

What really blew Leanne and Nev away was a recent coaching clinic held in Kingaroy, which Jared participated in.

Former Aussie Test star batsman Greg Blewett ran it.

"After it finished, Dad (Nev) asked Greg 'what do I need to do to help Jared improve?'" Leanne said.

"And Greg said 'nothing at all - he's going just fine'."

Nev also said Blewett told them Jared's technique reminded him of the gracefulness of former England Test star, fellow leftie David Gower.

Adding to the family's extensive list of achievements, Nev's grandson Sam, Jared's cousin, is doing tremendously well for Brisbane Grammar.

He scored his first GPS ton in the summer that just went by, and was the team's highest overall run maker.

And, also not to be overwhelmed by age, Nev's wife Anne recently won an Australian Shorinjiryu Karatedo Black Belt of the Year Award, for her tireless work at Leanne's Murgon dojo.

Anne is 69.

Sam has also excelled under that program, with top Brisbane school cricket coaches noticing his karate skills have given him fast feet at the crease.

Jared's sister Courtney has a similar no-fear attitude.

"Courtney is 12, and she and Jared played for Wide Bay teams in the Queensland Junior Championships before Christmas," Leanne said.

"Courtney was the only girl at the under-12 carnival out of 12 teams.

"She took 4-5 off 8 overs in one game against Brisbane North while opening the bowling."

A few weeks later she played for the Queensland 12 and under schoolgirls' team, where she made her first national-level 50.

Nev had a simple explanation as to why his grandkids, and Australian star Holly Ferling, have become the South Burnett's latest sporting stars.

They are continuing the legacy that former Australian greats from that region, Carl Rackemann and Matthew Hayden, set out for them.

And that's not to mention Kingaroy rugby league products Matt Ballin and Chris McQueen playing State of Origin for the Maroons in recent years.

"Our region's junior cricket competition only goes up to under-14 level, so after that you have to play in the senior competition," Nev said.

"I don't think that hurts them. It toughens them up and gives them a good attitude."

Leanne said the lack of sports to choose from, when compared to the South Burnett's city cousins, is a blessing in disguise for talented juniors in the area.

"There are less sports to choose from out here, so most of the girls play either soccer or rugby league, against the boys, or netball," she said.

"We have a good number playing cricket too.

"That makes it so tough for the girls, but it gives them a really good grounding, and it makes them work harder to compete against the boys.

"Then of course, we have the wide open spaces out here which encourage you to get outdoors and run around."

If you would like to donate to Jared's cause click here.



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