Sugar’s sweet taste of success

In his two decades with the Morwell Cricket Club Mark Cukier has racked up an impressive list of achievements.

He has won junior and senior grand finals with the Tigers, been club champion, served as captain coach and has been club treasurer since 2010-11.

And next time he takes the field he’ll add 300 club games to the list.

Ahead of the impending milestone, the man known as “Sugar” to his teammates said it was the friendships made at the club and the camaraderie that kept him coming back.

“It’s very family oriented I suppose,” Cukier said.

“It has a great social side – we play pretty hard but we’re quite close off the field.

“We’re all involved and spend a bit of time down there.”

Cukier had his first taste of success with Morwell in 1996-97 when his team won the under 14s premiership.

At the time he was playing both under 14s and 16s and it wasn’t long until he was in the frame for senior selection.

Eleven games of third grade and four in second grade followed in the 1998-99 season and the next year he made his first grade debut.

By 2002-03 he was opening the batting in first grade – the year Morwell defeated Moe to win its 16th Central Gippsland Cricket Association first grade premiership.

Cukier described himself as a “bit of a passenger” in the side, who was dismissed for eight by Lions pace ace Matt Clarke in the finals.

But his slips fielding came to the fore the following week, with three catches, including league flag magnet Rob Phoenix.

“We won that… I suppose that was the best part of it, I got the final catch of the game,” Cukier said.

“I managed to snaffle the ball, I’ve got it still at home.”

That final catch removed the hard-hitting Clarke for 20 and ended Moe’s hopes of a come-from-behind win.

The Express at the time described the catch in the 22-run Morwell victory as Cukier’s “second screamer” for the match.

He said Phoenix hasn’t let him forget the catch which removed Moe’s then talisman.

“He always brings it up, he was the main batsman; we got him for a duck just before the day ended,” Cukier said.

“The last catch was one of the better ones.”

He went on to serve as coach for two seasons, in 2005-06 and 2006-07 and became club treasurer in 2010 after being earmarked for the role by long-serving Morwell treasurer Peter Smith.

It’s a position he still holds.

“He earmarked me for that role because he knew I was doing accounting at uni and I was going to go into that industry,” Cukier said.

It proved an eye-opener into what efforts were required to make a club work.

“A lot of people don’t understand what goes on behind the scenes,” he said.

“There’s a power of work that gets put in by volunteers.”

As for the future, he said he wanted to see the club enjoy more success while making more runs himself.

“I’m a pretty competitive guy… we haven’t had as much success as we’d like to have as a club,” Cukier said.

“(My goal is) just driving with the group of mates we’ve got now; we really need to push and break the drought.”

Correction: A previous version of this story said Cukier was approaching 300 first grade games. This has been amended to reflect the fact he is approaching 300 club games.