Jul 222020

In a further contribution from former Pro Geoff Lawson he takes a look back on the glory days of international overseas players, some of the great West Indians to play league cricket, and some of his former teammates at Crimble:

"Henry" in full flow

“Henry” in full flow

The CLL has had a long history of employing current and former Test cricketers as professionals. Sadly the progression of the international  program and mutated visa regulations has put an end to the best players in the world gravitating to the Leagues all across Britain not just in Lancs and Yorks. and more’s the pity (I recall Rishton of the Lancashire League employing Viv Richards in 1987 when he was at his peak of batting ability).

Of course Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Franklin Stephenson, Curtley Ambrose, Andy Flower and a host of others have been integral to the CLL being a competition that beckoned those from across the cricket playing globe.

Competing  in the Leagues was seen as an integral ingredient for any aspiring players education, on and off the field. When I was a 12 year old catching the bus from my relatives house in the Sydney beachside suburb of Maroubra with my older brother to watch the 1969 Sydney Test match, the thought of ever playing against any of the West Indians was beyond fantasy.

My Dad had driven up from Wagga Wagga (about a 7 ½ hour trip in those days) to pick up our new Pontiac from the Holden factory – the old man loved his Yank tanks (and as the owner of a service station he could afford the petrol) and the opportunity to go to the SCG was irresistible.

Wagga is  actually closer to Melbourne than Sydney by a couple of hours but the SCG was always seen as the home of cricket for us New South Welshmen. As we rushed onto the forecourt of the old Sheridan Stand I took up a possie on the fine leg fence (I could only just see over it because the concourse was set below the level of the playing surface), Allan Connolly was bowling from the southern end (which as an SBC commentator I was to rename the “UNSW End“ almost 30 years later) and Rohan Kanhai was facing up. Allan Connolly gave me his autograph which I still have. A decade later the same man was facing up at The Crimble and it was GF Lawson running in – such moments are not lost on me.

I’m not sure how old Rohan was in 1979 but it would be fair to say that he was not at his peak, (he did top the averages and aggregates that year!) nevertheless his innings in the Wood Cup semi final was the difference between  a win and a loss in a very tight game (catches win matches lads …..I’m almost over that one as well). Some great players do not lose their class and he was one of those.

Colin Croft was at Royton that year and fortunately for most batsmen in the League it was a wet (wetter than usual I was told – hate to see a really damp season!) summer and the pitches were very slow and the footmarks often bog holes – Crofty had that significant splay of the front foot and needed a firm purchase as he delivered to generate his full pace. I faced him on some hard Australian tracks and he was nasty indeed with the angle in and the seam away.

‘Franco’ Stephenson was having his ‘gap‘ year at Littleborough before commencing a long and fruitful carer at Notts – his slower ball was the forerunner of much of what we see in contemporary T20 cricket. To that time Rohan Kanhai was the ‘greatest‘ player I had ever been on the same field with or against, I can honestly say that it was an honour then and remains so to this day.

Of course the ‘local‘ pros knew the conditions well and knew how to make the most of them with clever seam bowing D V Parker or craftily playing the ball late like Albert Ross and Stewart Wales

One lesson to be learned as a young aspiring professional is that here must be respect for the opposition and in particular the amateurs that turn up every week from their places of work to play a very competitive sport.

I loved playing club cricket at home and competed just as hard for UNSWCC as I did for NSW or Australia. When asked what I thought of the standard of Australian Club cricket my response was “they are amateurs playing with a professional attitude“. And that’s what I also saw in the northern Leagues. Skill has its place but attitude commands the performance.

Having a drink or three Friday night is the club cricketers way of preparation that was denied him (or her, Kate) due to work commitments during the week. It was never my place to ‘tut tut’ Fare or Lamb or Hall or McLellan or “insert Heywood players name here“ if they chose to take the tension out of their minds and bodies at weeks end.

Graddie of course saved his celebrations until given permission by the road manager at the conclusion of each fixture – a real amateur with a pro outlook! Fare of course needed little incentive to commence his relaxation theory after Tuesday nets. Colin Gradwell was a quality player, you could see by the footwork and ease of timing that he was a serious batsmen at his peak, his catching at slip, when Wally Devine let them go, was outstanding and went a long way towards our many victories. Pros do appreciate when the edges get taken.

Peter Devine in action for Heywood

Peter Devine in action for Heywood

Wally was a youthful, bounding, effective presence with the gauntlets and not afraid to appeal whenever the occasion marginally presented. Bowling pros also appreciate ‘keepers who shout loudly and often. Fare could catch too. Championship success is so often built on the quality amateurs and we had our share.

Perhaps with the nation polling to leave the EU (seriously you people??!!) the cricket leagues of the UK may find a way to get promising young players returning from the dominions to learn their trade and add value and entertainment. I will always advise young Australian cricketers to do so, and if the play at Crimble then all the better.

 July 22, 2020  4 Responses »
Jun 202020

Jimmy in familiar pose in 2012Another article that was done a few years ago but forms a perfect part of this series as club legend Jimmy Porter spoke to Scott McHugh in 2012 to look back on his own Crimble Memories: “You could really hear the ball fizzle when Duncan Carter bowled.” It was just the sort of thing I Click here for more ….

 June 20, 2020  3 Responses »
Jun 182020

Mikey in the runsMikey Grogan has played junior cricket at Heywood, progressed into the senior sides, played first team cricket and captained the 2nd XI. He has also become a junior coach and been a fixture throughout the winter months in the social side of the club, he looks back on his Crimble Memories: Do you remember your Click here for more ….

 June 18, 2020  1 Response »
Jun 172020

Paul has watched plenty of cricket at his favourite venuePaul Hamill has watched cricket at Heywood since the early 1970′s and has been a passionate supporter of the club over that time. Whilst there is no cricket at the club this summer Paul has taken the chance to send in his memories of many years of cricket at Crimble: Do you remember your first Click here for more ….

 June 17, 2020  No Responses »
Jun 162020

John in full flowJohn Heywood has played both youth and senior cricket at the club as well as being a key volunteer as a coach, administrator and a supporter over the years. Still very much involved in club life, John has taken the chance to look back on his own Crimble Memories: What were your earliest memories of Click here for more ….

 June 16, 2020  6 Responses »
Jun 152020

Tom, back centre, in the 2010 side with Rajat Bhatia as ProTom Blundell is another player to have come through the ranks at Heywood from junior cricket to first team. A T20 cup winner, U18 trophy winning captain, junior coach and all round good club man, Tom has looked back on his experiences at Crimble so far: Do you remember your debut? My first taste of Click here for more ….

 June 15, 2020  3 Responses »
Jun 142020

HeywoodGeoff Lawson looks back on his favourite game for the club: My favourite was definitely not the final game of the season against Walsden when we were “ rained off “ needing 2 wickets to win the Championship! Walsden were 8 down when a steady trickle that failed to halt any other game during the Click here for more ….

 June 14, 2020  1 Response »
Jun 132020

Joey and Dave Fare on tour in Worcester at the scene of JoeyA product of the Heywood youth system who went on to senior cricket and played in the remarkable 2009 T20 cup final victory where Heywood played with no Pro or overseas and all 11 players had played youth cricket for the club, Joey O’Neill has been a big part of Heywood life for many years. Click here for more ….

 June 13, 2020  4 Responses »
Jun 122020

The Sheriff lifts the Burton Cup in 2013Roger Smethurst has been involved at Heywood from junior cricket all the way through and is currently Cricket Chairman as well as one of the most reliable volunteers and club people around. A Burton Cup winning captain in 2013, The Sheriff has taken time to look back on his own Crimble Memories: Do you remember Click here for more ….

 June 12, 2020  9 Responses »
Jun 112020

Hamish formed a great partnership and friendship with HumzaThe older of the two brothers who came over to play for the club from Melbourne, Hamish Paterson was a strong opening bowler who could hit the ball a long way towards the end of an innings. Hamish spent two summers at Crimble in 2011 and 2012 and was then replaced by younger brother Riley Click here for more ….

 June 11, 2020  2 Responses »
Jun 102020

Craig, back row second from left, still playing some cricket in March this yearCraig Sugden had played in the UK prior to his one season at Crimble in 2002. A prolific batsman who was on course to break Steve Wundke’s record for runs in a season; Craig ended with 1,296 runs at an average of just under 65 despite having to return to South Africa missing the last Click here for more ….

 June 10, 2020  1 Response »
Jun 092020

Steve with some familiar faces in the Knibbs Trophy winning sideOur club steward Stephen Cromarty has had a long involvement with the club from junior and senior cricket, to passionate supporter and more recently the popular figure behind the bar who has made a hugely positive contribution to club life. The Cromarty name has been a treasured one for Heywood CC, the practice nets carry Click here for more ….

 June 9, 2020  2 Responses »
Jun 082020

Steve McHugh and the patio braving a chilly day at CrimbleSteve McHugh has seen more cricket at Crimble than most and has been a fantastic contributor to club life as a supporter, reporter and committee man over the years. Steve looks back on some of his fond memories of Heywood CC: Do you recall the first game you watched? My memory is not too hot Click here for more ….

 June 8, 2020  4 Responses »
Jun 062020

Chris in action against LittleboroughA former first team captain and the club’s all time leading wicket taker with a remarkable 949 wickets to his name, Chris Kaye has been a fixture in the Heywood first team since the late 1980′s. One of the most decorated players in terms of silverware for the club, Chris has 6 Wood Cup winners Click here for more ….

 June 6, 2020  5 Responses »