Peter Hatzoglou’s light-bulb moment came in the form of a few stern words from his local coach.
If the talented leg-spinner ever wanted to realise his full potential, he had to start bowling with greater energy.
And with that sage advice from his then-coach at Sunshine Heights, a club in Melbourne’s western suburbs, a BBL cult hero was born.
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“From those beginnings I started bowling faster leg-spin and it just morphed into what it is now,” Hatzoglou said.
“It’s such a crazy journey and I’m really committed.
“I’m investing in my game a lot and I’m excited to see where I can end up and where we can end up with the Scorchers this year.”
Hatzoglou was never touted as the next big thing as a junior.
He was so far off the radar, he wasn’t even involved in the Western Spirit — the regional catchment which takes in the suburb he grew up in.
Instead, he charted the same path so many ambitious local juniors have before, toiling in the lower grades at Sunshine Heights with no ambition greater than an eventual First XI debut.
He canned cricket for a full summer while in Year 12, realistic his future would be in finance or international relations, which he studied at university.
Hatzoglou could hardly have been further from the BBL when he debuted in Melbourne Uni’s Fourth XI team in 2017.
But with Fawad Ahmed as a mentor, he won plenty of admirers at the Students and Hatzoglou’s life-changing moment arrived in the Vic Super Slam T20 tournament two seasons later.
He has never heard the full story, but knows Cameron White recommended him to state scouts after he took 0-22 from four overs bowling to the former Victorian skipper and Renegades wicketkeeper-batter Sam Harper.
Two summers on, Hatzoglou was Harper’s teammate after South African Imran Tahir and fellow leg-spinner Cameron Boyce were ruled out of BBL10.
Hatzoglou took two wickets in each of his first three games in red and in little over a week, ‘Peter’ had been transformed from an unknown to one of the BBL’s new cult heroes.
There were Instagram pages in his honour, signs at games featuring his name and as quickly as he became a key cog of the Renegades’ bowling attack, Hatzoglou had become an overnight sensation.
“It’s crazy and I will forever be grateful for it,” the 22-year-old said.
“It’s funny how it all sort of came about.
“To better understand it all, I actually caught up with one of the guys who instigated the Peter stuff over this winter in Adelaide. It’s really funny.
“I am so grateful for all the support I have gotten.”
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Hatzoglou believes those who created the social media pages “liked my story” of emerging from club cricket to the national stage.
“One of my aunties follows all of the pages and lets me know whenever they’ve posted about me,” he said.
“For someone like me who came from club cricket, it all started after a season at Sunshine Heights Cricket Club where the club coach Luke Simpson just told me to bowl with a bit more energy.”
The BBL is no stranger to overnight success stories.
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Think Craig Simmons, who plundered the fastest hundred in BBL history and is still giving bowlers headaches in the west at 38 years of age.
Or Jofra Archer, who emerged as one of the world’s most feared fast bowlers in a brutal summer for batsmen visiting Hobart.
Hatzoglou is determined not to be remembered as a one-season wonder.
His breakout campaign with the Renegades led to interest from overseas T20 franchises and he will play with title contender Perth Scorchers this summer after inking a deal to move west.
In the space of a few months, cricket went from being a hobby he loved to a genuine career option.
And it is the ultimate opportunity Hatzoglou is determined not to waste.
“I am here to stay and I am really investing in my game to set myself up for hopefully a long career in red-ball cricket or white-ball cricket,” he said.
“Whatever cricket is being played around the country and around the world, I want to be involved in it.”
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Hatzoglou is part of South Australia’s Emerging Redbacks squad and has been playing grade cricket with Prospect Pirates.
Such is his ambition to make the most of his whirlwind rise, Hatzoglou spent the off-season working on his fitness, batting and fielding.
He estimates his skinfold reading dropped from 103 to “in the 60s”, just reward for his diligence.
“I will forever be grateful to the Renegades for picking me up,” he said.
“They gave me my opportunity and they really didn’t need to do it. It wasn’t as if I’d had 10 years of really good, solid Premier Cricket numbers backing me up.
“I had only played seven first-grade games and although they were good games, it certainly wasn’t a real consistent run of form or anything like that.
“I guess they saw the potential in me, picked me up and took a bit of a gamble on me, which I guess paid off.”
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11 BIGGEST BBL CULT HEROES
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1. Brad Hogg
Even though this isn’t a ranked list, No. 1 had to be the BBL’s ultimate cult hero.
After announcing his retirement from international cricket in 2008, it came as a welcome surprise when Hogg signed with the Perth Scorchers in 2011 for the inaugural BBL season. He quickly became a cult figure in the BBL, thanks to his infectious personality — which included his comedic off-field media announcements and trademark tongue poke while bowling. Hogg’s longevity in the game added to his cult status, playing on well into his 40s, and in his final game in the BBL in 2018, he finished his career as the oldest T20 player to feature in a domestic competition at the age of 46 and 350 days, a record that will stand the test of time.
2. Clive Rose
Rose tarted his career as a batter and bowling slower mediums. At the age of 15, he took six wickets after being a late call-up as a spin bowler for Melbourne Premier club Casey-South Melbourne. Within 12 months of starting to bowl spin, Rose was representing Australia at the national level for his age. And by 2013, he was in the BBL, completing one of the fastest rises for a grade cricketer you’ve ever seen. As time wore on with Clive in BBL, so too did the confident hairstyles, which added to his cult hero status, by appearance if not by results.
Rose is a cult hero in a sense that you never know what’s around the corner, and who’s watching what you do at any level. He became something from very humble beginnings.
3. Craig Simmons
There’s never been a story quite like that of Craig Simmons. He first burst onto the scene as part of the Australia U-19 World Cup squad in 2002 when he topscored with 155 in a match that also featured future Australian stars like Shaun Marsh, Dan Christian, George Bailey and Cameron White.
Unfortunately for Simmons, he didn’t follow the same path, fading into obscurity and playing only seven first-class matches for WA and NSW over the following 10 years. But then out of nowhere, Simmons was signed by Perth Scorchers ahead of BBL03 after impressing in the local WACA district grade competition.
The rest is history. Four games into his BBL career, Simmons scored the fastest BBL century in history off an astonishing 39 balls against the Strikers in Perth, etching his name into BBL folklore and becoming one of the game’s great cult hero stories.
4. Peter Hatzoglou
Social media has propelled many fringe cricketers into the spotlight and Hatzoglou is no exception. In the space of two years, Hatzoglou went from a Melbourne third-grade cricketer to playing BBL cricket for the Renegades and social media blew up over it.
Shortly after his debut, there were already numerous social media pages in his honour including a page solely dedicated to posting a picture of Hatzoglou every day until he was called up for national duties.
But his cult status came from one simple comment on any social media post that he featured in, “Peter”. The attention certainly did wonders for Hatzoglou as he went on to become Renegades’ leading wicket-taker in BBL10.
5. Tim Ludeman
Aside from hitting 50 off 18 balls to make the fastest BBL half-century in history at the time in 2014, Ludeman’s best moment came when he was asked to show his wares as an impressionist.
While mic’d up during BBL05 against the Sixers, Ludeman was called upon by the commentators to show off his famous impressions, and he reluctantly obliged, starting off with former prime minister John Howard and then teasing that he could then mimic David Attenborough. A few overs later, they asked him to demonstrate his Attenborough, which may be the one of the funniest mic’d up moments in BBL history.
6. Ben Rohrer
Not even Rohrer would have ever seen the fanfare coming when he signed with the Melbourne Renegades in BBL02. A consistent state cricketer, Rohrer was hardly the household name but became an instant fan favourite in Melbourne with his dashing stroke play and gritty performances in the middle order.
So popular was Rohrer at the Renegades that he even had his own fan club, the “Benny Rohrer Fan Club” that was visible at every home match at Marvel Stadium.
His cult status in the game was cemented at the Melbourne Renegades v Melbourne Stars derby at Marvel Stadium in BBL04 when Rohrer joined in the pre-game entertainment, performing a backflip on a motorbike stunning the crowds.
7. Liam Livingstone
Social media has helped Livingstone’s rise to BBL cult status for various reasons.
Against the Renegades at GMHBA Stadium, he got hit where nobody likes to get hit. Twice. And it became an instant internet sensation around BBL social channels. Luckily, he was OK and was able to complete his innings, but both reactions were caught on microphone and it sounded painful.
Livingstone always lent his time to the broadcasts by being mic’d up in the field regularly, and his quick-witted humour charmed audiences and BBL fans quickly.
He also is a fairly active social media user, and interacted quite regularly with BBL related posts on Twitter, making him a fan favourite.
8. Trent Lawford
Chris Gayle, Shane Warne, Kevin Pietersen. These are some of the biggest names to play BBL, but arguably Trent Lawford was the biggest of them all.
Coming in at 195cm tall and weighing 125kg, he was an instant cult hero when he was plucked straight from a building site to play BBL for the Adelaide Strikers in an SOS call from coach Darren Berry.
Lawford’s run in the BBL was fleeting as he only played five games over two seasons, but his cult status lives on in grade cricket with his big hitting and impressive bowling.
Lawford still holds the record for the most sixes in a grade cricket match with 28 when he scored 265 runs for Adelaide in the SACA Premier Cricket in 2014.
9. Jofra Archer
Archer’s cult hero status only grew with the more time he spent in the BBL. From collecting two wickets on debut for the Hurricanes, he went on to take multiple wickets in BBL games 11 times over his BBL tenure.
No wicket was more impressive than his catch while bowling to Ben Cutting against the Heat in BBL07 – Archer caught it like it was an apple being thrown to him in his own kitchen. No reaction, just a cool, calm grab.
If not for his incredible rise in the past 18 months, Jofra would’ve returned to the BBL, and still could, to continue his stardom in the Apple Isle.
10. Mitchell Schibeci – aka Watermelon Boy
No BBL cult hero list would be complete without mentioning Schibeci, who captured the nation’s heart back in January of 2016 with his amazing demolition of a watermelon – skin, rind and all – forever becoming known as Watermelon Boy.
Mitchell’s father, Tony Schibeci, was on radio duties at the match, leaving Mitchell with an entire watermelon to enjoy while watching a BBL double header between Melbourne Renegades and Melbourne Stars.
Over the course of the day, #WatermelonBoy was trending across social media as the nation watched on as a seven-year-old kid had the time of his life.
The entire moment then went viral in the days following, being picked up overseas by BBC, Daily Mail, US Weekly and the Bleacher Report.
11. Rana Naved ul Hasan
Rana helped put the BBL on the map in its first season with his majestic locks, leading to the nicknames of ‘Flying Doormat’ and ‘People’s Mullet’. The Pakistani quick was a huge hit with fans, particularly in Hobart, and backed up his fan favourite reputation on the field. He was the leading wicket-taker in BBL01 with 15 wickets in only eight matches, including 4-22 against the Sixers.
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