Big names head to grade this year, writes Corbin Mid­dle­mas.

Aus­tralia’s sus­pended Test stars will still be out in the mid­dle this sum­mer – for teams with which they have deep ties. Corbin Mid­dle­mas looks at the added spice to the grade cricket sea­son.

Aus­tralian cricket’s ban­ished trio will ply their trade in grade cricket this sum­mer, as the game’s lifeblood comes into fo­cus. Steve Smith and David Warner will take guard at var­i­ous pic­turesque, sub­ur­ban grounds in Syd­ney, while Cam Ban­croft will play in Perth.

The re­cent Test stars were banned from play­ing in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic matches for their role in the ball tam­per­ing fi­asco in South Africa, but have been en­cour­aged by Cricket Aus­tralia to play grass­roots cricket.

The three bats­men will all re­turn to the club sides they were pre­vi­ously aligned. Smith (Suther­land) and Ban­croft (Wil­let­ton) will play for their child­hood clubs, while this will be Warner’s sixth sea­son on the books at Rand­wick Petersham, after join­ing from neigh­bour­ing club, Eastern Sub­urbs.

So where ex­actly will the trio be play­ing, and what’s it all about?

The grade scene forms the foun­da­tion of a player’s crick­et­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s the recog­nised path­way for pre­co­cious tal­ent, from com­pet­i­tive un­der­age district cricket to first-grade level.

Syd­ney grade cricket, now re­ferred to as NSW Premier Cricket, be­gan in 1893 and has grown to 20 teams.

Warner’s Rand­wick Petersham was es­tab­lished in its cur­rent form in the early 2000s. But the ori­gins of the side, af­fec­tion­ately known as the Randy Petes, spreads through four sep­a­rate clubs: Petersham founded 1899, Rand­wick in 1900, Mar­rickville 1910 and Peter­shamMar­rickville 1951.

The col­lec­tive life­span cov­ers over 250 years. The club has been home to emerg­ing and es­tab­lished stars of Aus­tralian cricket, such as Nathan Hau­ritz, Si­mon Katich, Us­man Khawaja and cur­rent club pres­i­dent Mike Whit­ney. Warner’s first sea­son at Coogee Oval, home to Rand­wick Petersham, was 2013-14, how­ever he’s been rarely sighted at club level due to in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments.

Smith’s pres­ence will at­tract the most in­ter­est. The for­mer Test cap­tain is still in his phys­i­cal prime and ar­guably the world’s best bats­man. He will play for Suther­land for the first time in al­most four years, along­side for­mer Test team­mate Shane Wat­son.

Suther­land, founded in 1965, has been the home club to host of fa­mil­iar names such as Norm O’Neill, John Dyson, Len Pas­coe, Stu­art MacGill, Stu­art Clark and Phil Jaques. Glenn McGrath is ar­guably the most dec­o­rated fig­ure in the club’s his­tory, and the club’s home ground bears his name.

Bats­man Chris Wil­liams will cap­tain Suther­land in 2018-19. The phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher opened the bat­ting in third grade with Smith when the lat­ter was just 16.

Along with Smith and Wat­son, an­other for­mer Aus­tralian cap­tain Steve Waugh, will be a fa­mil­iar face at Suther­land this sea­son. Waugh’s son Austin, a mem­ber of the coun­try’s un­der-19 World Cup side, will fea­ture in first grade again this sea­son.

The most an­tic­i­pated grade cricket fix­ture in liv­ing me­mory will take place on Novem­ber 10 at Coogee Oval, when Warner’s Rand­wick Petersham host Smith’s Suther­land Sharks in a lim­ited-overs fix­ture.

Out west, Ban­croft will spend the first half of the sum­mer with Wil­let­ton in WACA Premier Cricket, be­fore his ban is lifted in the New Year. Wil­let­ton has ex­isted in var­i­ous in­car­na­tions, orig­i­nat­ing with Fed­er­als in the late 19th

cen­tury. After one sea­son, the club was re­named West Perth, and be­came a per­ma­nent ten­ant of the WACA Ground.

After an­other lo­ca­tion change, the club’s name was changed to South­ern Dis­tricts for five sea­sons, be­fore set­tling on the name Wil­let­ton, match­ing the sport­ing precinct in which they were housed. No­table past play­ers in­clude three gen­er­a­tions of the Ver­yard fam­ily (Charles later be­came the lord mayor of Perth), Al­lan Ed­wards, Char­lie Puck­ett, Jock Irvine, Mark Laven­der as well as Brad Hogg.


Dave Warner has a full sea­son in store for his club side Rand­wick Petersham, and he scored a ton in his first game.

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