In the 1880s another club that was to become well-known in Maitland cricket came into existence. This was the Pearl Club that was set up in 1882. The club gained permission from the Borough Council to use part of Maitland Park for their ground (near the present site of Robins Oval). There they developed an oval with a railing fence around it. Their chief local rival was the Albion, With both clubs containing leading district players, matches between the Pearls and Albions were keenly contested.
Closely associated with the Pearl’ Club was the Moore family – a family recognised by Jack Pollard in The Formative Years of Australian Cricket 1803-93 as “second only to the Gregorys among New South Wales cricket families”. George Moore (grandfather of Charlie Macartney – the highly ranked Australian Test player) was born in Bedfordshire in 1820, and in Pollard’s words was to become “one of Australian cricket’s most memorable characters”. By 1880 he was a real cricket veteran and identity in the local district. He had played for HH Stephenson’s first touring English XI (1861-62); for NSW teams against G Parr’s XI (1863-64) and WG Grace’s XI (1873-74); and for NSW in ll-a-side inter-colonial match against Victoria. He had started his first class cricket career rather late – when he played for NSW against Victoria he was almost 51, and when he played against WG Grace’s team he was 52 years 325 days old, so that according to Pollard, he still “remains mainland Australia’s oldest active first class cricketer”. Even then, his cricketing days were far from over, for he continued to play with the Pearl Club in Maitland until he was 75.
George’s brother, James (Temmy”) Moore, was another experienced player with the Pearl Club. He was an all-rounder who played in the same two fixtures as his brother against Stephenson’s XI (1861-62). In 1864 he played for NSW in an inter-colonial match against Queensland, taking 11 for 14 in the second innings. Shortly afterwards, he was taken on as coach of the Brisbane Cricket Club for a year, before returning to play in Maitland cricket.
Cricketing blood ran strongly in the family, for James’ two sons, Leon and William, were two other leading players with the club who went on to achieve high cricket honours.
Leon Moore was an outstanding batsman who was a member of the Pearl Club from the time that it started. He was selected to play for NSW in inter-colonial matches against SA in the three seasons from 1892-95, and in 1893-94 toured New Zealand with a NSW team. He was to be a very prominent cricketer in the early decades of the HRDCA, and his name was to be perpetuated by the Association with the Leon Moore Shield for First Grade Minor Premiers being awarded in his honour.
His brother William (“Billy”) Moore was a first class wicket-keeper, regarded in his day “as the best in the colony”. He was selected to play for NSW in four inter-colonial matches in 1893-94. At the end of that season, much to the regret of his local club, he left the district to go gold prospecting in Western Australia, where he was later joined by his brother for a couple of years.
With such quality players in their ranks, the Pearl Club soon became one of the leading clubs in the north. At a dinner to the Pearl Club in March 1894, the Secretary of the Club pointed out that “no other country club could boast of the distinction of having had two members in the inter-colonial matches.”