OVER the past decade, he's become the heartbeat of the Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemens Cricket Club and now Daniel Gleeson has been rewarded for his commitment to the club.
At the club's 2020-21 season presentation, Gleeson was unveiled as their 15th life member, joining the likes of Ted Regan OAM, John Bentley, David Linting, Roy 'Dig' Aldous, Bill Kerr, Graham Dickie, Hayden Drexel, Ian Bice, Peter Harvey, Gary Bridge, David Sloane, Wes Macpherson, George Dickie and Darren Beckett.
"I'm very honoured and humbled to receive this because of the process and who has been named before me over the 60 years since the club was established," Gleeson said.
"The process takes close to 12 months and needs sign off by our parent body/board of Shoalhaven Ex-Services Group - not just the Cricket Club.
"We have 14 other life members who have done not only a lot for Ex-Servicemens Cricket Club but some who have done a lot for Shoalhaven, Greater Illawarra Zone (formally Southern Zone) and Country Cricket in NSW.
"Life memberships are awards that are generally given to club legends 5-10 years after they have retired from playing, not still playing at 35 - so to be recognised by others in the club, I'm very appreciative."
Gleeson's association with the Shoalhaven District Cricket Association club started as an eight-year-old when the side was known as St Michaels Ex-Servicemens Cricket Club.
"Since starting, I've played almost every season with the club with the exception of two junior seasons where I played with other clubs because we didn't get a junior side," he said.
"One of those years was in the under 16s with Nowra where we won the competition - playing alongside a good mate of mine Trevor Thomason."
He admits the club has changed a lot during those 27 years.
"I can recall training as a kid in the car park opposite the St Michaels school," he said.
"At the time, there were nets there. We would also utilise the recreation area near the Nowra Showground and hospital.
"When I started playing seniors, we trained across from the Ex-Servicemens Club in town and our home turf ground was at Artie Smith Oval in Bomaderry.
"It wasn't until Hayden Drexel Oval was built in the early 2000s, that we moved out to Worrigee and were lucky enough to be presented with the facilities we have now.
"20 years on and they are still the best in the Shoalhaven.
"I can also recall our first ever playing strip with coloured shirts. They were full cotton and generally oversized, for me anyway.
"I also remember the introduction of full colours and white-ball cricket for first grade one-dayers and the Twenty20 competition - that was pretty exciting."
During that time, Gleeson, who has been the club's president for the past three seasons, has been on the committee for 10 years and first grade captain for 12, since he took over from Warren Ganderton.
On the field, Gleeson has become the second-leading scorer in the club's history (5254 runs including four centuries) - while also claiming 108 wickets (including two five-wicket hauls) and 127 catches (second all-time).
Those statistics have helped club be extremely successful, with Gleeson guiding the first grade side to three two-day premierships - plus one drawn, two lost and two washed-out grand finals.
He has also won five one-day titles (four as skipper) and two Twenty20 crowns, both as captain.
"I've got plenty of fond memories, most of them come from the premierships we have won but certainly the four against Berry-Shoalhaven Heads were highlights," Gleeson, who also cherishes playing in England during the 2009 summer (in Sussex) and touring New Zealand, said.
"We had some unreal celebrations - there are not too many better feelings than winning them with 10 of your good mates.
"On top of that, seeing some of the juniors come through the ranks such as Lain Beckett, Brady Spetla and Nate and Luke Jones.
"I really have enjoyed watching these kids grow and develop into very talented first grade cricketers over the years and we have some more kids coming through which is fantastic."
As such, the club has been a big part of shaping who he is today.
"I've never really sat and thought about how much the club means to me however looking back, it has been a big part of my life," he said.
"Since becoming first grade captain, I have felt a lot of responsibility to ensure we are successful and I guess a lot of that comes from a strong desire to win personally.
"Since becoming president, a lot of attention has been focused on our junior base and ensuring we have good people around our junior teams to help the club grow.
"It's given me a lot of responsibility and extra workload but I'm lucky to have and wonderful fiancé who is very understanding of my sporting commitments and passion for surfing.
"I've only ever played rugby league for Gerringong and senior cricket for Ex-Servicemens, so maybe I'm afraid of change or new surroundings, I don't know, but I do know the club has given me a lot of lifelong friends and that I'm very grateful for."
Moving forward, Gleeson hopes there is more success for Ex-Servos on the horizon.
"It's a tough question [to where I see the club in five years], as I have some concerns about senior first grade cricket numbers in the Shoalhaven," he said.
"We might get to a point over the next few years where there might be some changes.
"However if all things remain as they are, ideally, we have four competitive teams in each of the grades but more importantly, have at least one junior team in each of the stages.
"I hope to see a new wave of Ex-Servicemens juniors come through the ranks and fill the spots in first grade in the near future.
"We have had a golden 10 years at the green and gold but most of us are in our 30s now and have other life commitments, so we need these kids to come through and that's a priority of mine."
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