Brasher in action for Footscray. Image: Maribyrnong Sports Academy

Young Bulldog Dylan Brasher is a star on the rise, as the Footscray batter prepares to make his Victorian 2nd XI debut on Monday.

A strong left-handed opener, Brasher has scored 562 runs in Victorian Premier Cricket to date this season, including an unbeaten 148* against ladder leaders Carlton, placing him fourth in the overall run scorers tally for the league.

“I was pretty excited when I got the phone call. It was a nice feeling” Brasher told The Inner Sanctum of his first state call-up.

“I was just in Tasmania for a few days and I got a call from Dave Hussey saying ‘you’ve been picked to play if you’re available’ and I said ‘yeah absolutely I’m available and I’ll be ready to go.'”

Brasher admitted the call-up was “pretty cool”, and “a reward for some hard work and effort put in over the last few years”, struggling to contain his excitement.

“As soon as I saw his (David Hussey’s) name come up I kind of got butterflies in the tummy,” he said.

Hailing from Taylors Lakes Cricket Club, Brasher displayed his dominance with the willow through his junior cricket, playing in Victoria’s Youth Premier League at Under 14, 16, and 18 level, while scoring a century for the Victorian Schoolboys Under 12 side in 2014.

“I’m a Taylors Lakes boy through and through,” he said of his junior club.

“I had a lot of really good coaches as a junior so that kind of helped push me along.”

While Brasher would consistently go on to higher honours through his progression in the sport, representing Victoria Metro’s Under 15, 17, and 19 sides, including three centuries, he admitted he “never really expected” cricket to become a full-time pathway.

“As a 12-year-old you dream about playing in the Ashes and playing at the MCG but I just loved playing cricket,” he said.

It wasn’t until the end of his junior career that cricket “really took over” Brasher explained, as his selection in the Victoria Metro and Northern Territory’s Under 19 National Championships teams allowed him to evaluate his pathway options.

“I thought this would be a pretty awesome career and I’ve stuck with it ever since. I took it pretty seriously after that, and it’s still the dream to this day to make it as high as I can,” he said.

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Brasher’s rise has been apparent since his arrival at Footscray, racing through the ranks from the 4th XI to the 2nd XI in his first year at the club in 2016/17.

Attending Maribyrnong College, Brasher had a big focus on cricket alongside his studies with various “sports programs, gym and cricket training” becoming part of his daily routine.

His education pathway proved to be a successful one however, with the college conducting training sessions at Footscray’s Mervyn G Hughes Oval, allowing the youngster to experience a premier cricket environment for the first time.

Brasher in action for Footscray. Image: Maribyrnong Sports Academy

“I had a few training sessions at Footscray and sort of got to know the coach as a young kid. He said ‘if you want to come and play we’d love to have you’ and it started from there,” he said.

Although Brasher trialled with a few clubs, he said he “loved the atmosphere at Footscray”, making his decision an easy one.

The challenge of playing against an older competition was apparent however, with Brasher admitting “I think that was probably the biggest step when I first got to 1st XI cricket. It’s a hard-nosed competition with a lot of good players. It’s a lot different playing against men who have played for years”.

Following a rough 2021/22 campaign, the Victorian has ventured interstate to the Northern Territory in the last two winters, in an attempt to challenge himself and hone his skills over the offseason, plying his trade for Desert Blaze and City Cyclones in the CDU Strike League, and Darwin in Mid Premier Grade Cricket.

“I came off the back of a pretty average premier cricket year so I thought if I could go up there and train as hard as I could and then come back in a good mindset and be in a good physical state as well that I’d hopefully do alright this year and so far it’s working,” he said.

“I got a bit stronger and a bit fitter so I could hit the ball a bit harder and a bit further and came out every Saturday and just wanted to hit the ball as hard as I could. I got out of it what I needed.”

In addition to scoring a blistering century for the Cyclones, Brasher faced off against the Cricket Australia XI, and the Melbourne Stars and Melbourne Renegades Academy sides, partnering former Australian T20 all-rounder and fellow left-hander D’Arcy Short at the top of the order for the Northern Territory.

Meeting Short was “one of the cooler moments of my cricketing career so far” for the rising star who also shares a sponsorship with Icon.

“It sort of helps with the Icon sponsorship as well but I’ve always looked up to D’Arcy and how he plays in the Big Bash,” Brasher said.

“When we walked out to bat together in the first game I thought how cool is this, someone who I’ve looked up to is right here next to me. I was a little bit starstruck.”

Though he enjoyed batting with one of his idols, Brasher was unsuccessful in an attempt to nab one of Short’s bats.

“I tried to see if I could get one of his bats but it didn’t quite work out, I couldn’t weasel one out of him,” he said.

Brasher claimed it took some getting used to against a red ball after a two-day cricket hiatus in Victoria during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, it played an influential part in his decision to return to the Northern Territory, and certainly didn’t stop him from piling on the runs, with four 100s to his name for Darwin in 2022.

Footscray quick Jake Reed led the side, as Brasher was crowned the winner of the Ralph Wiese Medal, whilst also being named the Carlton Mid Premier Grade Club Cricketer of the Year and batting aggregate champion while playing for Darwin.

Ralph Wiese Medallist: Dylan Brasher. Image: NT Cricket

“I hadn’t played red-ball cricket for a few years because of COVID so one of my biggest focuses up there was to play as much red-ball cricket as I possibly could knowing that we were going back to it this year,” he said.

“Seeing a red ball come down in front of a white sight screen was a bit different to seeing a white one out of a black (screen). It took a few games to adjust but I feel like I’m seeing it ok now.”

Brasher said he wasn’t sure of his plans for the upcoming offseason but thoroughly enjoyed his time in Darwin, with his sights set on a stint in England.

“I don’t know if I’ll go back this year, I’ll definitely go back there in the future. I was hoping to maybe get across to England but I think that might have to wait another year. England is probably the next place I’d love to go,” he said.

Since his 1st XI Footscray debut in 2018/19, Brasher has cemented his place at the top of a strong Bulldogs lineup, led by fellow Victorian and Sheffield Shield winning captain Travis Dean.

“I’ve got a lot of good role models at Footscray like Dan Sartori, Dean Russ or even Trav Dean. Guys like that are unbelievable at Footscray and I probably wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t have the input of those guys and others as well,” he said.

Cricket Victoria officially placed Brasher on their radar for the first time in 2020/21, selecting him to play in a state intrasquad match, where he has since not only grown as a player but has also developed leadership capabilities, captaining the Cyclones in the Strike League.

“I did a bit as a junior. Building it up in Darwin and worrying about sort of 10 other people instead of worrying about yourself, I really really enjoyed it, more so the fact that it always keeps you in the game when you’re out on the field thinking about tactics and changing bowlers and changing fields,” he said.

“I’m a pretty big stress head when it comes to batting, so I found that it took my mind off my own game, which I guess can be good and bad sometimes.”

Brasher has put his new skills through the paces in his capacity as captain of Footscray’s T20 Super Slam side this season, looking to Carlton captain Evan Gulbis for guidance.

“Dale McDonald who’s our coach at Footscray said to me ‘would I like to do the T20′ and I said ‘yeah absolutely it would be an honour’. Watching how guys like Evan Gulbis captains, I try and learn as much off him as I can. It’s something I’d love to do in the future, so it was nice to get some practice at it,” he said.

With a golden summer drawing to an end, the 2022/23 season has been a career-defining one for Brasher, earning selection in the Victorian Invitational and 2nd XIs, as well as playing his 50th 1st XI match for Footscray, however, the young Bulldog conceded “it’s probably taken me to this year to feel like I belong there and that I’m good enough to play.”

An unbeaten match winning 148* against powerhouse and ladder leaders Carlton, provided the confidence Brasher needed to push forward and “feel comfortable” at premier level, “going in each week knowing that I can do it”.

“It was more of a maturity thing coming back this year with so much time to bat in cricket. The longer I can be out there the better it is for our team. Just knowing that I’ve trained hard enough during the offseason and during the week, I think my best is probably as good as anyone’s in the competition,” he said.

Brasher was also looking forward to a pair of appearances for the Melbourne Stars Academy against Scotland and Namibia in their preparation for the ICC T20 World Cup last year, however, the Wangaratta weather, unfortunately, prevented these matches from going ahead.

The 21-year-old has credited his “clearer” mindset this season to his time in Darwin and training standards during the week, believing in his ability to match it with the best.

Brasher’s Victorian 2nd XI debut against the Australian Capital Territory will coincidentally be played at Mervyn G Hughes Oval, the ground he has made a name for himself on.

“Being able to play on that wicket and that ground for so many years will hold some advantage I hope. I’m sure I’ll be nervous come Monday but at least I’ll be in a familiar changeroom and on a familiar ground so that will definitely help as well,” he said.

With Footscray currently sitting 2nd on the Victorian Premier Cricket table, Brasher has enjoyed a positive season both from an individual and a team perspective, while he is in for a busy end to the season with finals and higher honours on the horizon.

“Footscray are doing well so it’s a nice feeling,” he said.

The Victorian didn’t want to get ahead of himself when it came to any potential future endeavours however, “I think that’s kind of what got me into a little bit of trouble last year or in previous years trying to think about too much of what happens after the season and what squads I might get into. I didn’t really want to think about that this year, all I wanted to do was get a bit more consistent and try and put my name up there as much as possible”.

“At the start of the year if you had said I’d be playing a 2nd XI game I would’ve been absolutely stoked so I think I can sort of be really proud of that this year but I don’t want it to end there, I’d love to go as high as I can and whether that’s in Victoria or wherever else I just love playing cricket so any opportunity that comes up, I won’t turn it down for sure.”

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