Former NSW Country all-rounder Michael Eccleston has joined Merewether for the Newcastle District Cricket Association season.
The 39-year-old Maitland cricket stalwart and St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar, teacher has moved to Georgetown and will pull on the boots again after a long-time retirement.
“I don’t think I have any boots to pull on,” Eccleston joked on Thursday.
The opening batsman and leg spinner said he was serious about his return and would compete for a spot in the Lions’ powerful first-grade line-up.
He can no longer bowl due to a shoulder injury but otherwise has kept himself fit, running from Aberdeen in the Upper Hunter to Mayfield last year to raise awareness of the plight of refugees.
“When you do anything you try to do it as well as you can, I suppose,” he said. “But I’m realistic. I haven’t played for a long time. I’ll try to contribute what I can.”
Eccleston played with Merewether coach Troy Goodwin at Tenambit-Morpeth 20 years ago and with Lions captain Simon Moore for NSW Country when he was in his early 20s.
He once topped the batting aggregates in two districts in the same summer after moving from Maitland to Griffith mid-season.
“He’s a very good cricketer. Hopefully he’ll push a few of our guys,” Goodwin said.
Eccleston will play for another of his former Maitland clubs, Norths, in a trial game against Merewether at Lorn Park on Saturday.
Goodwin has taken over as Lions coach this year after Brad Bannister vacated the role to focus on work.
Merewether is also talking to former NSW paceman Mark Cameron about a return to the club for a handful of T20 and one-day games this season. They had hoped to sign an Indian import, but the player has moved to Sydney.
Merewether open their season with a one-dayer at Wallsend on September 30.
Meanwhile, Waratah again will field two players from sister club Gordon in the first-grade T20 league, which this year is separate from the district competition.
The club is hopeful all-rounder Scott O’Brien, who scored 96 not out as a guest player in one game last season, will return with one of his Gordon teammates.