The only new club to affiliate with the Association in the 1897-98 season was Buchanan which entered a team in the junior competition. In the course of the season David Cohen & Co’s Club was to disband and withdraw from the competition.
At the start of the season the Mercury cricket reporter expressed concern that the Albion Club was “attracting all the best players” and that matches were “becoming one-sided”. He felt this was “going to ruin first class cricket in this district”.
One top class player attracted to Albion was Wally McGlinchey. He had started his cricket career with the Ironclads Club in Newcastle and had gone on to high representative honours. A talented all rounder, he played against the early English touring teams, represented NSW from 1885-93 and toured NZ with a NSW team in 1889-90. After moving to Queensland, he played for that State in inter-colonial matches against NSW as well as touring NZ and Tasmania.
On his return to the Hunter he played for the Albion Club. One of his most outstanding club performances took place in a match against Morpeth on the Albion ground on January 29 and February 2 1898. He scored 251 not out to record the highest individual score made in the northern district up to that stage. In this match the Albion innings ended up at 8 for 586 which still remains as the highest first grade innings total in the Association’s records. It was reported that even though the match on the first day did not commence until nearly 3 o’clock 464 runs were scored in a little over three and a half hours.
At the start of the season the Association had been confident of having a visit from the English touring team of AE Stoddart. A guarantee match fee of £120 had been raised by the Association to try and secure a fixture in Maitland. However, these hopes were not fulfilled as Newcastle was chosen as the venue for a match of the English XI against a Northern District 18.
The HRDCA was strongly represented in the northern team with the selection of R Lindsay, H Harden, EL Waddy, W McGlinchey, L Moore, A Cunningham and A O’Brien. R (Bob) Lindsay together with two other Albion cricketers, Alf Giles and W Lipscomb, had played against AE Stoddart’s previous touring team in 1894-95.
Stoddart’s team comfortably took the honours in the match by scoring 429 to the Northern District 18’s 189 and 9 for 211. The rather parochial Mercury reporter pointed out that the Newcastle ground was inferior to the Albion and on the first day “the Maitland men made 100 runs of 189, as against 81 made by the 11 Newcastle men”. The award for the outstanding Northern cricketer in the match was judged by Ranjitsinhji, the Indian prince who was a member of Stoddart’s XI – his choice was Wally McGlinchey.
During the season the Pearl Club carried out further improvements to their ground at Maitland Park. The pavilion was painted, water was laid on and “a bath and shower room” were added to improve conditions for the players. However, despite the purchase the previous season of a “pony lawn mower with a 21 inch blade” for a pound there were still complaints about the Pearl ground “being covered with a thick coating of grass”, which made scoring extremely difficult.
There were also problems with some “yahoos” at the Park. On December 20 1897 the Mercury reported: “The conduct of a number of persons who habitually visit the Maitland Park and annoy some of the players has been brought under notice. They howl and hoot and greatly disconcert the members of one particular team, who deeply feel this kind of conduct which is described as simply disgraceful. Perhaps the police or the Council can interfere”.
At the fourth Annual General Meeting of the HRDCA in September 1898 President Percy Waddy expressed his pride in the progress of the Association. He was “pleased to say the Association was far ahead of the other Associations of the Northern District and many of their players were worthy of a place in big cricket”.