There are two near certainties in Gunnedah sport: Cameron Milne scoring runs consistently, and Cameron Milne speaking his mind consistently.
Some 15 years after he relocated to Gunnedah, the South Australian-born farmboy has blossomed into one of the town's premier sportsman, as well as one of its most colourful - a tells-it-like-he-sees-it character who doesn't seem to mind ruffling feathers.
Take this week, for example. When the 44-year-old married father of four girls learned that the Namoi Valley Independent had described first-placed Albion and second-placed Court House as the competition's two dominant side, he responded in typical Milne fashion: "I reckon we're the front-runners; I don't think Albion and Court House are. We've only lost two games."
He added: "We're the reigning premiers: they've got to catch us."
There are not too many sportspeople in the region who would speak so boldly. But, then again, there are not too many sportspeople like Milne in the region.
He was initially reluctant to do this interview, recommending his Kookaburras teammate Paddy Paul as an interview subject. But after some convincing, he agreed to have a chat. Over the next 27 minutes he delved into his memory bank, in what was a wide-ranging discussion.
The topics touched on included his childhood on his family's cropping and sheep farm in the tiny South Australian town of Wirrabara (it was purchased by his great-grandfather around the turn of the 20th century); his family's history of military service (his grandfather spent more than four years in a German prisoner of war camp); his father telling him and his younger brother to leave the farm and "have a look at Australia"; him selling his Gunnedah farm after becoming disillusioned with the industry; and his loathing of "rules being changed" to give cricketers a leg-up.
Milne and his wife, Roxanne, moved to Gunnedah mid last decade. They settled on a cropping farm, located between Boggabri and Mullaley. While living there, the couple - who met when Roxanne's family moved to Wirrabara, or thereabouts - welcomed two of their four daughters, Kadence, 12, and Zahlia, 11. Their other daughters are Tneesha, 17, and Dakota, 15.
They had bought the property in case the family's Wirrabara farm was hit by drought, even though it was located in "some of the best country in Australia" for farming, Milne said. He fondly recalled growing up on the farm, where he learned to play cricket in front of his house because there was no junior competition.
The Milnes sold their farm about four years ago, before the worst of the drought hit. They had grown tired of the extensive travelling required as they ferried their children around. Also, Milne had become disillusioned with farming. He said that "at the time it wasn't the best environment for anyone ... people raping and pillaging farmers at that stage. That's how I viewed it. As per always, the farmer was always takin' the risk, and then you had blokes making a fortune off 'em."
I had six months off, went a little bit insane: started talking to trees because I had no outlet.Cameron Milne
After selling the farm he didn't work for some six months. Unlike his childhood, he doesn't recall that period fondly. "[I] went a little bit insane: started talking to trees because I had no outlet ... you're not dealing with people like you are in work life. It's actually a very strange thing. I've talked to a lot of people who are about to go through it, or are going through it, and I said: 'You've gotta get back out there.'"
He is currently employed at Narrabri Underground, where, for the past several months, he has been working towards his directional driller ticket. "To be that, you have to be the driller's offsider. So at the moment all I do is throw rod and do what I'm told."
He works seven days on and seven days off, meaning he can only play cricket every second week. That's not good news for Kookaburras, although he has previously said the reigning premiers are not a one-man team.
However, on day one of Kookaburras' clash against Mornington at Kitchener Park last Saturday, Milne again showed his worth to the side - opening the innings and scoring a 130-ball 102. He is clearly the competition's best batsman. He said that was the case because he was "probably the one who's stuck his head down the most". He is "there to win".
"If you're gonna play sport, and this something people don't understand, my philosophy is it doesn't matter what sport you play, you play with the rules that are provided for ya. One thing I can't stand, and I see a fair bit of it, is people adjust the rules for people who aren't as good as the other team - and I hate that. Because what are you teaching them? 'Oh, well, I don't have to be that good because they'll compensate for me'. And that's society at the moment.
"I watched kids come through the cricket system, that everyone gets a bat and everyone gets a bowl [but] they don't play senior cricket because they don't get a bat, they don't get a bowl because they haven't proven themselves. Back in my day, when I first started playing first grade, guess where I batted: No 11, No 10. You had to prove to the rest of the side that you can make runs, and you slowly work your way up [the order]."
The first club Milne played for when he arrived in Gunnedah was Albion. He left the club under acrimonious circumstances and joined Kookaburras, who beat Albion in last season's grand final. He described winning the premiership as "one of my driving forces".