In 1846 Maitland pioneered the game in the local area with a match against a combined team from the neighbouring towns of Morpeth, Raymond Terrace and Paterson at Morpeth. The ground was described
as satisfactory “except the grass was too high for the bowlers”. Mr Dee of Morpeth, armed with the authority of a rule book he produced, insisted the stumps must be 22 inches high. Mr Honeysett was
compelled “to use the straight instead of the usual round-arm bowling” (round-arm bowling, as distinct from the earlier straight underarm variety, had been declared legal by the MCC in 1828, but for many years was still regarded with suspicion by many cricketers).
As an incentive to those participating to uphold their district’s reputation, the losing team was to “foot the bill” for a dinner. Maitland won the match by 106 to 50 and 53. A member of the combined team was reported as shrugging off the loss by saying, “Poor old Maitland, they were hungry to win!”
Another early match between a Maitland team and a team from a neighbouring district took place on January 10 1851. This was played between the Maitland Cricket Club and the newly formed Singleton Cricket Club. At first the Singletonians were wary about taking up the challenge. According to the Mercury report “rumour, with its hundred tongues, spoke highly of the play of the Maitlanders, and the bowling of Honeysett was so represented as to strike terror into the hearts of tile Singletonians”. However, the Singleton team surprised its more experienced opponents by beating them 73 and 153 to 36 and 76. During the day a booth was set up on the racecourse where “mine host of the Rose Inn kept the visitors in good spirits”. The match was followed by a dinner at the Rose Inn, “after which as tile wine went gaily round, toast, sentiment and harmony were the order of the evening, and the fun was kept up among the choice spirits until half-past two the next morning”. This match was to mark the start of a long cricket rivalry between Maitland and Singleton that was to continue on in later years in the John Bull Shield competition.
Keen rivalry also developed between teams from the Maitland district and Newcastle. Not all of these matches ended on a friendly note. At Easter 1862, for example, a Newcastle Club team travelled by a steamer to Morpeth for a two day match against the local club. Both teams completed an innings on the first day. However, play came to an abrupt end on the second day when a Morpeth player refused to leave the crease after being given out by the Newcastle umpire, Mr James Ellis. After heated argument “the Newcastle team packed its bags and went home”. The outcome of this match did not lead to a break-down in relations between the two districts, for matches between Maitland and Newcastle teams were to become a feature of the cricket season in the decades prior to 1894 and for many seasons afterwards.