A BRIEF HISTORY by Lindsay Wood
Northern Suburbs Cricket Club is not the oldest cricket club in the Maitland District but is the one that has the longest history of continued participation in the competitions of the Maitland and District Cricket Association (formerly known as the Hunter River District Cricket Association)
The origins of the Club date back to 30th September 1903 when the Northern Division Club was formally constituted at a general meeting held at Frank Drew's residence in Lorn. The foundation executive office-bearers elected at that meeting were John Rourke-President, John Kerrigan-Secretary and Harold Johnston- Treasurer.
The club was formed following the Association's decision to re-structure the local competition on a district rather than club basis which had operated since the foundation of the Association in 1894. This was done in an attempt to revive the flagging local competition which had declined to the stage where there were only three teams left in the senior competition. It was also hoped that this would even out the competition which had been previously dominated by the strong Albion and Pearl Clubs.
Under the new District format West Maitland was split into three districts- Southern, Western and Northern. The Northern Division was defined as comprising the area bound by the northern side of High Street from High Street station to the Rutherford Hotel, including Oakhampton, Lorn and Horseshoe Bend.
In its first season in 1903/04, the Club entered two teams in the competitions of the Hunter River District Cricket Association, an A team in the Senior competition and a B team in the Junior Badge competition.
It was appropriate that Northern Divisions first official competition match in the senior grade was against East Maitland- a Club which was to become an arch-rival over the succeeding years. The match was a two day fixture played on October 10 and 17, 1903 at the Albion ground on the site of the present Showground. Northern Division won the match by 95 runs on the first innings after scoring 186 and dismissing East Maitland for 91.
The Northern Division team for this match was W.Lindsay, R.Lindsay, B.Ross, J.Kerrigan, H.Johnston, A.Lindsay, A.B.Callaghan, E.Bowden, F.Norrie, L.Bowden and F.Wyborn. Seven of these players Robert Lindsay, John Kerrigan, Harold Johnston, William Lindsay, Alf Lindsay, Felton Norrie and Elias Bowden- were all former members of the well known Albion Club which disbanded shortly after the introduction of District cricket.
Norths had its first premiership success in the 1905/06 season when it won the Junior Badge competition. Its first premiership success in the senior competition came in 1908/09 when it won the Johnston Cup.
Since then the club has won numerous premierships and finals in all grades as well as Club championships (see premierships link). Two "Golden Periods" of success were the years from 1921/32 and from 1951/56.
During the period from 1921/32 Northern Division Club won every trophy that had been competed for in the first grade of the Hunter River Association. These trophies included three shields that were competed for over a five year period and were to be held permanently by the club with the most successes.
The three shields- the Irwin Shield, the O'Hearn Shield and the Waller Shield- now hang in the pavilion at Lorn Park. They are a little worse for wear- not surprisingly so, as they were salvaged and restored after a fire burnt out the old pavilion back in 1981- but they still serve as a reminder of the "Glory Days".
The Irwin Shield was awarded to Northern Division Club for winning the most A grade finals from 1921/26, the O'Hearn Shield for winning the most A Grade premierships from 1925/30 and the Waller Shield for the most final wins from 1926/31. After winning the three shields permanently, Northern Division Club followed up its success by winning the A Grade premiership and final in the 1931/32 season, making it three premiership and final wins in a row.
Some of the outstanding players for the club during this period were Roy Oakes, Wilfred Jarrett, Gorden Bell, Herb Patfield, Arthur Watson and Athel D'Ombrain.
Another "Golden Period" for the club was from 1951/56 during which time the Northern Districts Club matched the successes of the twenties and early thirties.
Under the captaincy of Col Johnston the first grade won four consecutive first grade premierships from 1952/56 and two first grade finals in 1951/52 and 1952/53 before finals were abandoned up until 1957. Added to the first grade success was a second grade premiership in 1951/52 and three club championships from 1951/54.
During this period first grade was a particularly strong combination. Their pace attack was spearheaded by the formidable bowling combination of Keith Smith and Norm Mudd and backed up by the spin bowling of at various stages of Charlie O'Connor, Aub Newman and David Rutherford. They also had a strong batting lineup headed by the experience of Col and Alan Johnston and with a sprinkling of youngsters such as Doug March.
Some Outstanding Players
Over the years Norths has produced many outstanding players, some of whom have gone onto higher representative honours. Two of these who have assumed almost legendary status in the history of the club are Robert Lindsay and Colin Johnston.
Robert Lindsay was prominent during the first twenty five years of the club. A left hand opening batsman, he was a prolific run getter and frequently headed the the District and Club batting aggregate and averages. By the end of the 1924/25 season he had topped the clubs batting averages 14 out of 18 seasons. It was calculated that by that time he had played 154 innings for the club, been not out 34 times and scored 6214 runs at an average of 51.7.
His best season was in the 1904/05 season when his first grade aggregate was 842 runs including four centuries and establishing a district record for the highest aggregate and most centuries in a season- a record that has not been bettered to this day!! He also has the distinction of being the only batsman in the history of the Association to score two double centuries.
Colin Johnston started playing with Northern Division C Grade in 1930/31 at the age of thirteen. That was the beginning of a cricket career that was to span a remarkable fifty one years. Apart from a short stint with Mosman (1935/37) and Stockton (1941/42) and the years when he played for Maitland in the Newcastle competition (1942/47) all of his competition cricket was played with Norths.
For 22 of those seasons he captained Norths first grade, leading the team to 11 premiership wins and regularly featuring in the Clubs batting aggregate and averages. During his career he scored over 15000 runs in competition cricket, including a total of 24 centuries. He topped 700 runs for the season in 1947/48, 1953/54 and 1957/58 and he headed the District batting aggregate and averages for three consecutive seasons from 1953/56.
Norths has yet to produce an Australian Test player but there have been two players- David Johnston and Michael Cox- who have gone on to gain Sheffield Shield selection.
Over the three seasons from 1977/80 David Johnston played in 12 Sheffield Shield matches for the state. In his 22 innings he scored 454 runs at an average of 22.7 with a highest score of 81. He also played in 8 Gillette one day cup matches for NSW.
Like many cricketers from NSW, Michael Cox moved to Perth to enhance his chances of selection at first class level. There he was to achieve his goal in 1985/86 when he was selected to play for Western Australia after regular keeper, Tim Zoehrer, was called up for test duties.
Michael played 6 Sheffield Shield matches for WA in the 1985/86 season and as wicket keeper took 19 catches and 2 stumpings. He also joined a select group of keepers, including Rod Marsh and Barry Jarman, who have taken 5 or more dismissals in a Shield innings.
In the course of its history the club has undergone two name changes. In 1947 the name "Northern Division" was changed to "Northern Districts" when the association once again tried to introduce a district system of cricket. The second change occurred in 1987 when Northern Districts and Bolwarra (formerly Black Hill) Cricket Clubs amalgamated and adopted the name "Northern Suburbs Cricket Club".