By Nick Creely
He’s one of Casey-South Melbourne’s favourite sons and one of the south east’s greatest ever cricketing talents.
And now he’s back where it all began.
Damien Fleming, widely known as the ‘Bowlologist’, will return to the Swans in an official capacity in 2020/21, signing as high performance consultant, which will see the ex-Australian swing bowler work closely with the club’s pace bowlers and conducting small group training sessions as well as maintain his ongoing commitment to the club’s Damien Fleming Academy.
The 50-year-old originally from Springvale South, who took a total 209 international wickets for Australia across 20 Tests and 88 ODIs, is now one of the most loved cricket media figures in the country, appearing for the Seven Network in the Big Bash coverage while also hosting the Bowlology podcast.
But he’s also an extremely talented coach having been involved with the Australian Cricket Academy after retiring from ongoing injuries in 2003.
Fleming – who was in the club’s team of the 20th century alongside some great names such as Lindsay Hassett, Keith Miller and Graham Yallop – said he was excited to be back involved officially at the club after staying in touch with the club regularly over the years.
“I’m delighted to be back involved at Casey South Melbourne in what are exciting times for the club,” he said.
“Having played for the Bloods for 17 summers I’m very passionate about getting stuck into my role and helping the next generation of CSM cricketers.
“I’m thoroughly looking forward to working with all players and coaches , and passing on all the knowledge I’ve learnt playing in successful Australian and Victorian cricket teams as we strive for success across all our teams.”
Swans president Shaun Petrie said to add someone of Fleming’s calibre was a major boost for the club.
“Damien has always been very generous with his time in the past. He has regularly appeared at club functions in guest speaking roles and he’s always been available at training sessions with our own Damian Fleming Academy (the club’s Junior Development Program),” he said.
“We’re so lucky to have ‘Flem’ involved. He’s a very generous guy, this just shows the passion he has for CSMCC and the development of young promising talent.
“Imagine being a young up and comer at our club and getting to talk cricket, tactics, and keys to success with someone of the calibre of Damien Fleming.
“He’s not just a famous name, he’s an extraordinarily good cricket coach. Flem also knows what’s required to get selected for Victoria.
“He’ll be an amazing resource for the club and our players”.
Swans coach Brian Keogh told Star News that the addition of the Australian great was going to benefit the club greatly not only on the field, but off the field as well.
“The first thing about Flem is that he’s just such a likeable guy,” he said.
“We want to create a high performance environment, but we want to create an environment where people enjoy coming to training. He’s fantastic with that balance.
“Technically, he’s as good as anyone in the country, and he knows Premier Cricket as well. The beauty of him is that he started out at Springvale South, to South Melbourne, to Victoria, to Australia.
“He just knows how to push to that next level, and he’s just so invested – I’m catching up with him again on Thursday to go through the list.
“He knows the first XI guys already, but he wants to know the players from the other grades too.”
Keogh said that the club was looking to do things differently and invest heavily in each grade to try and bring the club as a collective into a strong position, not just the first XI.
“This is no knock on any other club, but it can be difficult getting across to player one and player fifty-five, it can be difficult,” he said.
“But because we’ve got such great depth in our coaching panel, we feel like we can coach right across the entire group, and give every player the coaching expertise they need.
“When we sit down with Flem and Will (Carr) on Thursday, we’re not going to just go through the top five or six bowlers, we’re going through the list and give him a real insight into the playing group.
“Someone like an Evan Allaway, who is 16 and come through all the state-pathways, can spend some quality time with him, so it’s brilliant to have him around.”
The Swans’ coaching panel was finalised over the weekend, with ex-Sri Lankan star Thilan Samaraweera – who scored 5462 Test runs at 48.76 – re-joining the club as a specialist batting consultant, while highly-regarded coach Bathiya Perera has signed on as full-time batting coach and will help mentor the current wave of Swans batsmen as well as some of the emerging players, such as rising opener Ashley Chandrasinghe.
“The thing about Thilan that people might forget is that he played 80 odd Test matches, he was an absolute jet,” Keogh said.
“After he left us, he went and coached at three national teams, and its likely at some point when things open up he’ll go back to doing it, so we’ve locked him in for pre-season and then we’ll reset.
“As for Bath, he’s just really well known and people speak extremely highly of him – he played 160 first class himself, he was a serious player.
“But the most important thing about both of them is that they’re both just great people and good fun to be around, and hopefully they can help contribute to that high performance but fun culture we want to bring.”
The three new signings caps off an impressive coaching group for the rising club out of Casey Fields, who will work closely with head coach Brian Keogh and senior assistant and coach in waiting Will Carr this season, as well as development coaches Mathew Pearson, Stu Fairley and Brett Lewis, while ex-State player and Berwick cricketer Nathan Pilon is also locked in once again to do some work as a batting and keeping coach.