GROWING up in Ipswich, all Shane Watson wanted to do was have the chance to emulate the small city’s favourite sons, Allan Langer and Craig McDermott.
According to Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale he has done much more in a whirlwind 48-hours.
After blasting Australia to a much-needed one-day cricket win over England with a career-best 160 not out on Sunday night, Watson rose well before sunrise yesterday to catch the first plane out of Melbourne.
On returning home, Australia’s most valuable cricketer lifted the spirits of the flood-ravaged area with a fundraising barbecue, giving away cricket gear, signing autographs and playing street cricket with local youngsters.
“He hit the Brits for a six last night and he hit the floods for a six today,” Mr Pisasale said.
“It’s great to have him home at a period when the city needs him, and his presence here today will not only lift our spirits, it will also give encouragement that a lot of people are by our side.
“I was actually watching him last night and I could see in his mind he was thinking about the floods and the Brits were not going to stop him because the floods are not going to stop us.”
Watson, who grew up in Eastern Heights near some of the worst-affected flood areas, was fortunate no one in his family had their home inundated.
But he admitted there were many sleepless nights in the past week.
“It’s been very hard being away,” said Watson, whose parents and sister live in the area.
“My heart has been here since I saw the footage on the TV so it’s good to come back and try to help out and try to lift the spirits in some way.
“There’s no doubt when I first saw what was going on that I had to come home because my mind was here.
“I had a lot of sleepless nights, worrying.”
Watson’s first sporting heroes were former fast bowler McDermott, who took 291 Test wickets for Australia, and former rugby league halfback Langer, who captained Queensland and the Brisbane Broncos.
After serving snags at a barbecue, he played street cricket with youngsters on Booval’s David Street, helping put smiles on faces of families hardest hit in the city.
“Growing up in Ipswich, we’re very tough people,” Watson said.
“There’s no doubt it is a tough time but people will come together, and have come together, to help each other.”
CRICKET Australia has named its 15-man World Cup squad to tour India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from February 15. Victorian all-rounder John Hastings is a surprise inclusion while in-form pace bowler Peter Siddle has missed out. World Cup squad: Ricky Ponting (c), Michael Clarke (vc), Doug Bollinger, Brad Haddin, John Hastings, Nathan Hauritz, David Hussey, Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Tim Paine, Steve Smith, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson, Cameron White.
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