Dr Mark Tronson is a retired Baptist minister who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis, Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books. He is married to Delma and they have four children.
Although Mum and Dad were foundation members of Mackay Baptist Church and I was raised in a Christian home, I didn’t become a Christian until I was 16. We relocated to Canberra in 1961 as my parents wanted to give us three children an education I began my working life as a government railway locomotive driver in NSW, remaining there for 10 years. I have now written 16 books of train driver’s anecdotes.
During that time I was called to become a minister and as an elite athlete (hockey and triple jump) wondered why there were not chaplains in Australia’s major sports—without realising this was the seed idea from God that led me to initiate the Sports and Leisure Ministry in 1982.
Ordained as a Baptist minister, I attended the second world congress of sports mission in Hong Kong and on return Australian church leaders saw the potential of chaplaincy to meet the needs of the players and their families.
In 1984, I was appointed the Australian cricket team chaplain. My time started during the Kim Hughes era, prior to Bob Simpson as the first coach. At that time he asked me what I knew about cricket, to which I replied, ‘very little’. It was apparent he didn’t want interference in cricket issues. That was an important lesson in professional sport chaplaincy appointments; coaches did not want a pseudo second coach on board.
My last tour alongside the Australian cricket team was to New Zealand in March 2000 and in November of that year I moved sideways to ‘Life after Cricket’—a ministry to retired cricketers, including bi-annual newsletter that features the value of respite—which continues today. Allan Border, Greg Chappell, David Boon, Kim Hughes and Cricket NSW and Cricket Victoria Phil Emery and Jason Bakker make up my editorial team. Keeping in touch with many retired cricketers is the real essence of the ‘Life after Cricket’ ministry.
As an older guy now, I can reflect back on my 17 years as the Australian cricket team chaplain, where I was divinely directed by the ‘Christian intuitive’. There have been innumerable occasions when I sensed God’s touch and responded.
I remember an occurrence when speaking with Professional Sports about the placement of chaplains in the Sports and Leisure Ministry. During the negotiations I was overwhelmed in my spirit as to when and where to lead the conversation.
For me, it was like an inner conviction, I just knew, I knew, I knew. I simply knew at what moment in time to ask the appropriate question or make a comment, but it can also display as an assurance of direction, a spiritual rightness of moment, an alarm of caution, concern or watchfulness.
At the end of the 17 years with the team I was tired and tired of being away from my family too much. I visited many of the cricketers in their homes, work or somewhere else. It is a different kind of conversation away from cricket. Now, I have a broader ministry when I see them at social occasions, such as Basil Sellers’ functions, parties and or at Festival of Crickets. I have the occasional privilege of being on a panel with former cricketers.
God opened many hearts. I thank him for gifts for our faith, finances for family and ministry, along with the daily prayer of five elderly ladies over these 30 years, all of which are very precious to me.