Going into bat for Albany

Headshot of Liam Croy
Liam CroyAlbany Advertiser
Albany Advertiser editor Liam Croy.
Camera IconAlbany Advertiser editor Liam Croy. Credit: Laurie Benson

I was told this would happen.

Within a couple of days of arriving in Albany, I’d been propositioned.

What can I say? My reputation precedes me. It was flattering.

I politely declined — and even explained my reasons — but these rainbow coasters are persistent.

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I suppose stocks are relatively low 400km from Perth and I was fresh meat.

“So what if you can’t bowl or throw? You can still hold a bat can’t you?”

Yep, cricket’s big down here — and some clubs in the local competition bat deeper than others.

If you’ve played grade cricket in Perth, you could provide an X factor at the pointy end of the season.

North County Cricket Club stalwart Craig Tonkin certainly thought so.

“Tonks” has notched up between 30 and 60 centuries in a sparkling career that’s spanned decades.

A player of his longevity and passion probably didn’t think much of my complaints about niggling injuries.

Tonks works in a printing business out the back of Newspaper House on York Street, the home of the Albany Advertiser.

First published as the Australian Advertiser in 1888, it is WA’s second longest running masthead behind The West Australian.

I was lucky enough to be offered the job as editor in Albany in January, an opportunity I eagerly snapped up.

Seven reporters, a photographer and a small sales team put out five newspapers each week — the twice-weekly Advertiser, The Extra, Narrogin Observer and Great Southern Herald.

It’s a solid workload made easier by the fact some of our staff know the region inside out.

Thursday’s Advertiser is seen as the flagship edition — and a recent front page story was a great example of their local knowledge in action.

With deadline fast approaching, one reporter’s relationship with a local leader led to a tip-off about a woman who had been flown to Perth in a coma from the Rottnest Channel Swim.

A member of our sales team had a contact number for the woman’s husband and another reporter knew him well enough to get the details.

Yet another reporter was friends with their daughter, a connection which gave us a photo of Marcelle Cannon in hospital, out of her coma.

After a bit more legwork, we had a story which was picked up Statewide.

It was an incredible tale of survival but we couldn’t have done it justice without those local links.

It can be easier to develop stories in a tight-knit community, but there’s another side to that coin which I’ve already encountered.

In Perth, where two million people don’t know your name, you feel more comfortable writing something which will get noses out of joint.

In regional WA, it might be your nose that suffers in the end.

For now, I’m fairly anonymous as the blow-in who has only been here for a few weeks.

I’m still living out of a motel room — although it’s not much smaller than my unit near that other Newspaper House in Osborne Park.

I know Albany will seem more like home once I’ve found somewhere to live, but I’m surprised by how content I already feel.

On Saturday, I drove out to The Gap, where the Southern Ocean slams into granite and sends spray rocketing skyward.

The coastline down here — a mix of tranquil white beaches, islands and imposing headlands — is unlike anything I’ve seen.

The food culture and the local history, too, have blown my expectations out of the water.

But ultimately, it’s the people who can make or break a place — and so far, so good.

I’ve sat with a group of men singing sea shanties in a French-Vietnamese restaurant.

An old bloke named “Scruffo”, who used to work at the Advertiser, has promised to bring in scones with jam and cream.

I did a stint at the Kalgoorlie Miner in 2012 and it didn’t feel like this.

Perhaps the Goldfields capital was too transient, too packed with workers who wanted to make a buck and get back to Perth.

You get the feeling everyone here is proud to live in WA’s oldest colonial settlement, where so many young men farewelled a fledgling nation before they forged the Anzac legend.

I hear there’s a tourism guru making his way around the State, searching for the places that set WA apart.

Tell him to drop into the newsroom when he reaches Albany.

Tonks wants to know if he can bat.

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