IN a stunning coup, premiers Merewether have added former Australia A fast bowler Mark Cameron to the team who last season towered over their Newcastle District Cricket Association rivals.
The Lions were a dominant force in 2011-12, securing an unprecedented trifecta of district Twenty20, 50-over and two-day titles and finishing runners-up in the SCG Country Cup.
Now their side has been bolstered by the signing of Cameron, the 31-year-old quick who retired in February from first-class cricket after a succession of back injuries.
‘‘Scud’’ Cameron said he realised there might be concern that Merewether, already the NDCA’s benchmark outfit, were building a team that would be virtually unassailable.
But rather than criticising the Lions, he said rival clubs should try to emulate them.
‘‘It’s a good question, and I guess if other clubs are a bit annoyed I can understand that,’’ Cameron said yesterday.
‘‘But to be honest, maybe the other clubs should take a look at Merewether and how well run they are.
‘‘They were the first club to contact me. I was looking for work and they helped put me in contact with my employer.
‘‘I’ve got a great job thanks to Merewether Cricket Club and I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing for them.’’
Cameron, who completed a Bachelor of Exercise Science degree at university, is working as a consultant exercise scientist with Charlestown-based company Ethos Health.
The right-armer counts Merewether coach Brad Bannister as one of his closest friends and played at representative level with Lions skipper Simon Moore before heading to Sydney a decade ago.
Moore said yesterday Cameron was a ‘‘massive signing’’ who would probably have ‘‘two or three yards’’ on any other quick in the district.
He said criticism from rival clubs would not surprise him.
‘‘I guess there’ll be a backlash,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s enough people who knock Merewether as it is.
‘‘This is going to probably get a few more anti-Merewether comments out there, but at the end of the day, we’re just trying to be the best club we can be.
‘‘We’re just trying to improve every year.
‘‘We don’t pay players, we never have, contrary to what people believe.
‘‘We’ve obviously helped Mark out with some employment, and him living in Merewether obviously helped as well.
‘‘If that means we get stronger, well that’s just the way it is. We just want to keep building and not become complacent.’’
Having spent his formative years at Lambton-New Lambton, Cameron considered returning to Harker Oval and held talks with Wests officials before settling on Merewether.
Capable of bowling up around 140km/h at his peak, Cameron was unsure what sort of speeds he would be capable of clocking next season.
‘‘I played a bit of grade cricket towards the end of last season for Fremantle and bowled at about 70 or 80 per cent,’’ he said.
‘‘They were coming out OK, but who knows what I’m going to produce next season. I’ll have to wait and see.’’
Cameron made his Sheffield Shield debut for NSW in Newcastle in 2003 and proceeded to play in 16 first-class matches, taking 68 first-class wickets at 24.63. He also played 12 interstate one-dayers and six T20 domestic matches.
He played for Australia A against India A in a one-day match in 2008 and against the English tourists in 2010.
His last game of professional cricket was for NSW in December 2010. He joined Western Australia at the end of that season but didn’t play a game for the Warriors in two injury-interrupted campaigns.