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.
“THIS WILL BE WARNER’S SIXTH SEASON ON THE BOOKS AT RANDWICK PETERSHAM … HOWEVER HE’S BEEN RARELY SIGHTED AT CLUB LEVEL DUE TO INTERNATIONAL COMMITMENTS.”
Dave Warner has a full season in store for his club side Randwick Petersham, and he scored a ton in his first game.