Four years ago, eight-year-old Max Waight and his mother, Ali, hatched a plan.
Having watched Australia win the World Cup on home soil, Max declared he wanted to go to England in 2019 and watch his heroes take on England in their own backyard.
His father, Damien, told Max if he could raise $1,500 (AUD) he would match him and take him to the UK.
So, Max and his mum came up with the idea of wheeling their neighbours’ rubbish bins out on the weekend for the low charge of $1 per household.
Max wrote a letter to all his neighbours in his Point Lonsdale street on the south coast of Victoria offering his waste management services. He had 10 customers in no time.
Operation Ashes 2019 was underway.
For four years, Max hauled his neighbours bins out on Sunday evenings and hauled them back on Mondays, only missing his duties when away on camps or ill, and when he was unable to wheel the garbage bins to the curb for collection, his parents and younger brothers chipped in.
His ‘customers’ would pay Max by sticky-taping $1 coins to the bins or even handing over a $50 note for the whole year.
Over time, the funds slowly grew to the point where Max’s dream appeared a reality.
When Max hit his target – and later exceeded it – his father kept his word and booked tickets for not only Max, now 12, but his entire family to come to the UK for the fourth Ashes Test in Manchester.
“When I said it, I had to follow through,” Damien Waight told cricket.com.au. “If he saved up the money I wasn’t going to let him down.
“You don’t fast forward in your mind at the start and think you’re going to do it but it’s good that we are here.
“It’s an amazing experience, we’ve got our whole family and another close family that we’re friends with. We’re just making memories.”
In addition to attending an Ashes Test, Max got to rub shoulders with his idols.
Max and his two brothers traveled to Old Trafford on the team bus on Thursday, with Max sitting next to Australian Cricket royalty.
“I sat next to Steve Waugh, Justin Langer and Nathan Lyon,” Max said.
“Justin Langer showed me the plan book which was amazing to see all his notes and talking to Steve Waugh was amazing too.”
Max got to meet his two favourite players and watch one of them score his 26th Test century.
“Steve Smith and Pat Cummins are my favourites,” Max said. “I got to talk to them about how they prepare and play the game. It was very enjoyable.”
Mrs Waight is so proud of her son, his dedication and how his initiative has brought together their community.
“It’s really good that he’s had a goal and worked hard for it,” Mrs Waight said. “He’s gone really well. Four years, he’s pretty determined. He’s very well organised, too, Max.
“It’s been really good in the community. It’s brought us all together.
“A lot of our neighbours are holiday makers so we get texts saying ‘can the boys come water the garden? Get the mail? I’ll give them $20 to do the watering for a month’.”
At lunch on day two, Max was presented with a playing shirt signed by the Australian squad from fast bowler James Pattinson, who wished him well and congratulated him on his tremendous achievement.
Pattinson said Max’s work ethic might one day see him playing in the Australian team, to which Max replied: “Hope so.”
“I really enjoy playing and watching cricket,” Max said. “It’s just a passion of mine.”
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia won by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord’s
Third Test: England won by one wicket at Headingley
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval