New faces bring fresh energy to CRCA rep side
REPRESENTATIVE cricket has been a sorely missed afterthought in Grafton since the North Coast Inter-District competition was last played in 2017/18.
When Cricket NSW abandoned the Country Cup, Shield and Plate competitions after 2016/17, some proactive members of the North Coast Cricket Council put their heads together to fill the void by replacing the Inter-District competition – which consisted of three rounds played sporadically across the season – with the North Coast Premier League.
The aim was to pit the best club players from the four associations in the region against each other week-in week-out, much in the same mould as the successful LJ Hooker League on the Northern Rivers.
But the concept was generally snubbed by the Grafton-based Clarence River Cricket Association. NCCC representative and senior umpire Rob Pye said at the time:
“It felt like Grafton had their Grafton hat on, they were just concerned about the coming season and not about the future of cricket on the North Coast.
“It is hard to drive the positives of this joint league when people have already written it off as nothing.”
Of the CRCA clubs, only Coutts Crossing formed a composite side with Coffs Colts in the inaugural season, leaving some of North Coast’s best players languishing in a second tier competition which regularly yielded lopsided results.
In the meantime, a solitary Cotten Shield match against arch rivals Lower Clarence has provided the only representative action for Clarence River’s best players to test themselves in each of the past two seasons.
However, that quest from the region’s brightest cricket minds to bring the region’s best cricketers back together took a major step forward on Sunday, when a young, fresh-faced CRCA representative team took the field at McKittrick Park to take on Harwood – the inaugural winners in 2018/19.
This season the North Coast Premier League consists of a mix of two-day, one-day and twenty20 matches, and the NCCC agreed to allow CRCA and a North Coast Development Squad to play in the one-day component only, in what doubles as a stand-alone six-team competition with a final on February 7, while also counting towards the overall points tally for the four clubs competing across all formats.
CRCA made a winning start to its campaign with Jake Kroehnert back in the helm as captain of the side and top scoring with 90.
He said the squad enjoyed the opportunity and were hoping to be highly competitive.
“It was a little bit of a flashback playing Harwood, and good to come up against them again and knock them off,” Kroehnert said.
“We all really enjoyed it, we’re all really keen and everyone who played on the weekend is definitely looking forward to the next one.
“There’s a fair bit of motivation to make that final. It’d be good to play that.”
Batting first, CRCA got off to a shaky start at 3 for 29 with new Harwood recruit Bailey Engler (2 for 6 off 8) proving impossible to get away. However, Kroehnert steadied the ship in a 93-run 4th wicket partnership with Rohan Hackett (44) followed by a 69-run 5th wicket stand with Jamie Firth (37no) to build a competitive 40-over total of 6 for 205.
“I gave a couple of chances but you take them when you can,” Kroehnert said.
“It was good to get up over 200 to give us a competitive total to defend. After we lost a couple of wickets, it was always our intention to stick it out and get a few at the back end of the innings.”
Harwood made a steady start in the run chase with Nathan Ensbey (22), Hayden McMahon (23) and the explosive Troy Turner (27) all making starts. But a young debutant by the name of Ethan Lucas turned the game back into CRCA’s favour. The left-arm quick took 3 for 18 off 6 overs including two maidens to ignite a collapse from 2 for 103 to be all out for 140 off 33.2 overs.
Lucas was one of two players making his senior representative debut, along with fellow quick bowler Matt Dalton (1 for 40 off 5), whose expensive figures were exacerbated by Turner’s clean hitting early in the innings including two big sixes.
“(Lucas and Dalton) both bowled at crucial times when Harwood could’ve gotten away from us,” Kroehnert said. “They both exceeded expectations and bowled with a lot of maturity, and we were able to set fields and put a lot of trust in what they were doing.”
The innings was book-ended by more seasoned campaigners Shannon Connor (2 for 17 off 8) with the new ball and Jake Weatherstone (2 for 1 off 2.2) at the death sharing in the spoils.
CRCA’s next match will be at McKittrick Park on December 6 against Northern Districts, consisting of mostly unfamiliar faces to the CRCA contingent, apart from former Coutts Crossing top order batsman Luke Cox.
“It will be different again and a test of character playing against people we’ve never seen or heard of before,” Kroehnert said.
NORTH COAST PREMIER LEAGUE SCOREBOARD
CRCA v HARWOOD
K Lawrence lbw B Engler 5
S Connor c C Lewis b B Engler 15
E Fahey lbw J Allen 0
*J Kroehnert c C Lewis b BG McMahon 90
R Hackett b BG McMahon 44
J Firth not out 37
JS Weatherstone run out 0
A Ellis not out 0
Extras (nb 1 w 6 b 4 lb 3) 14
SIX wickets for 205
FoW: 1-21 (S Connor) 2-21 (E Fahey) 3-29 (K Lawrence) 4-122 (R Hackett) 5-191 (J Kroehnert) 6-202 (JS Weatherstone)
Bowling: TN Turner 4-0-20-0, B Engler 8-5-6-2, J Allen 5-0-19-1, BG McMahon 8-0-56-2, JT McMahon 5-0-30-0, L Richardson 4-0-26-0, D Causley 1-0-7-0, C Lewis 5-0-34-0.
MJ Farrell b S Connor 11
TN Turner c JS Weatherstone b S Connor 27
N Ensbe y c S Connor b EA Lucas 22
*+HJ McMahon c JS Weatherstone 23
BG McMahon c S Connor b EA Lucas 11
D Causley b A Ellis 1
A Bancroft c & b JS Weatherstone 9
L Richardson b M Dalton 7
J Allen b JS Weatherstone 0
B Engler not out 0
JT McMahon run out 0
Extras (nb 2 w 14 b 12 lb 1) 29
FoW: 1-13 (MJ Farrell) 2-103 (N Ensbey) 3-103 (TN Turner) 4-108 (HJ McMahon) 5-115 (BG McMahon) 6-119 (D Causley) 7-132 (A Bancroft) 8-136 (L Richardson) 9-140 (J Allen) 10-140 (JT McMahon)
Bowling: R Hackett 4-0-14-0, S Connor 8-1-17-2, M Dalton 5-0-40-1, AJ Kinnane 3-0-15-0, EA Lucas 6-2-18-3, A Ellis 5-1-22-1, JS Weatherstone 2.2-1-1-3.