A Name Change and a Return to Club Cricket

///A Name Change and a Return to Club Cricket
A Name Change and a Return to Club Cricket2018-07-23T21:30:09+00:00

The 1956-57 season marked the start of a new era with a name change and a return to club cricket.

At the 1956 Annual Meeting it was decided to change the name of the Association from the "Hunter River District Cricket Association" to the "Maitland & District Cricket Association". The term "Hunter River" was considered to be confusing in that it could refer to any one of a number of Associations on the Hunter River, whereas "Maitland" was much more specific and gave a clearer identity to the Association.

The wheel turned full circle again with the abandoning of district cricket and a return to club cricket. The change was largely brought about by the 1955 flood that led to a population redistribution, making it very difficult for clubs such as Central to draw upon sufficient players from within their district boundaries.

With the return to club cricket and the lifting of the district residential qualification, players were now free to play with the club of their choice. A number of leading players took advantage of the opportunity to transfer to other clubs - Mick Hinman and Max Callaghan moving to Central, Robin Cotton to Northern District, Charlie Bridge and Charlie O'Connor to Western Suburbs.

Thirty-eight teams from twenty-four clubs entered the competitions that were conducted in three grades. There were 6 teams in first grade (Northern District, Marist Bros., Western Suburbs, Central, Weston Kurri and Eastern Suburbs); 12 in second grade; and 20 in third grade. Police Boys and Masonite were two new clubs to enter teams in second and third grades respectively.

Western Suburbs won the club championship and its first first-grade premiership. Its first-grade team was a well-balanced one with promising young players such as Richard Gilmour, Bob Frazer and John Hayward, blended with the experience of players such as their captain Eddie Hill, Charlie O'Connor, Charlie Bridge and Don Thrift.

In his best ever performance Keith Smith of Northern District took 75 wickets at 7.84 to head the first grade bowling aggregate and averages. Including representative matches, he took over 100 wickets for the season to equal the previous achievement of Roy Oakes and Mick Hinman - a remarkable performance, particularly by a fast bowler! Other first grade bowlers to take 50 wickets for the season were John Fort (Eastern Suburbs), Ken Bromage (Weston Kurri), Richard Gilmour (Western Suburbs), Bert Coffey (Marist Bros.), and Max Callaghan (Central).

Ray Allen had an outstanding season for Eastern Suburbs scoring three centuries and making 623 runs at 57.54. In representative matches, he scored a further 503 runs to take his combined aggregate for the season to over 1000 runs. In one of the trial matches leading up to his selection for Combined Country, he "carried his bat" to score 165 not out at Grafton.

Another to be selected for Combined Country was Royce Levi, a stylish wicketkeeper with Northern District, who made 41 in the match against Metropolitan.

Two exceptional performances in third grade were by John Brown (Methodist OK) and Les Brown (Beresfield), who both took over 100 wickets.

Bob Frazer and Dave Rutherford were selected from the JS White Carnival for the second Emu Colts tour of NZ. Bob Frazer was also selected for the Country Boys Coaching Class.

Two young prospects who were beginning to emerge on the cricket scene were the Elliott twins - Colin and Allan - who played in the Saturday morning junior competition and turned out for Northern District in third grade in the afternoon.

At the Annual Meeting, a protest was lodged with the NSWCA about its ruling that players, regardless of their place of residence, could transfer from one Council area to another, provided that they were financial. Fears were raised that this would lead to an exodus of players to Newcastle and that this would sap the strength of Maitland cricket.