Howzat! Hundreds join Yeppoon man's national cricket tribe
OVER a few beers at a Tuesday night BBQ, former Yeppoon man Tommy Watkins started the glorious cricket cult that was never meant to explode in popularity.
After five years of donning matching kits and questionable sunglasses, the one-time boys trip has turned into the annual Smack My Pitch Up cricket trip with more than 400 members.
What started as a group of close friends from the Capricorn Coast taking advantage of cheap flights to Brisbane, has now become a family of men.
People from all over the country flock to the The Gabba for a weekend of cricket, sun and beers.
Tommy, brain child and organiser of the event, describes it as "an organised boarding trip" celebrating mateship between people who all have one love in common, one-day cricket.
"It's just been this epic snowball that was formed completely accidentally," the 28-year-old said about the SMPU trip.
"There's members from every state in the country coming on this trip and of all different cultures."
He credited close friend, Jay Stafford, for helping organise the trip which would see more than 200 people fly into Brisbane on Thursday for the inaugural introductory ceremony to christen the new recruits before watching Friday's Australia v England clash.
In previous years, the crew gained mass media attention standing out from the crowd in their colourful zinc and manicured moustaches.
As part of membership, Tommy explained each person was provided with a match ticket, sunglasses, custom white cricket shirt, decked out in their nickname and member number which started at $130.
Accommodation and flights were additional costs but hadn't deterred any keen cricketers.
Each shirt had stripes on the sleeve depending on how many tours they had attended.
For the five year anniversary, Tommy explained each member who had been there since the start received a respected gold stripe and received the "goldy" title along with a green tie and unique SMPU pin.
Tommy said there was a strange level of respect among the veterans of the crew which he could never quite get used to.
"There's this weird ranking among us all with a high level of respect for the people who have been there from the start," he said.
"It's all a joke and is the funniest thing to experience.
"I think everyone is just happy to be apart of something like SMPU."
Famous faces like Ben Hunt and Corey Oates were also among the members who lapped up the eventful weekend in previous years.
But SMPU had a serious side as Tommy explained on the last day they raised money for a charity, with this years' being Soldier On.
This year a range of memorabilia would be auctioned off at their "recovery day" with all proceeds going to the service personell and their families to build successful futures.
"The whole appeal of this event was really sparked from the recovery session where people get to meet up with friends and meet new people," he said.
Although tickets had sold out for this year's match, Tommy said he was already excited for next year.
"We are getting pretty good at organising this now so we'll see how many more years it goes for," he said.