NEWCASTLE selectors have made Sunday’s Country Championships final against Southern/ACT a family affair by uniting brothers Grant and Luke Stewart at representative level for the first time.
The inclusion of Luke for his Newcastle debut alongside Grant, who has been a regular this season, left long-time observers struggling to recall other siblings to wear the city’s colours.
Waratah-Mayfield stalwarts Steve and Murray Christie featured prominently in discussions, while Steve and Rod Mace were the last brothers to play for Newcastle, in Lismore in 1999.
“There were a couple of emails bouncing around last night, but that’s all we could come up with,’’ Newcastle coach Shane Burley said.
The Stewarts have been dominant figures this season for University, who are unbeaten first-grade premiership leaders after seven games and last week qualified for the Tom Locker Cup final against Merewether.
Luke has scored 243 runs at an average of 40.5, while Grant is averaging 33.3 with the bat and has taken 12 wickets at 15.17, including a haul of 5-34 and a hat-trick against Hamilton-Wickham.
Luke and Merewether’s Pat Darwen were added to bolster Newcastle’s top order in the absence of Greg Hunt (overseas) and Jason Sangha (Cricket Australia under-17 commitments).
“Luke Stewart played a few years ago with Merewether and then he went down to Tasmania and did pretty well for himself down there,’’ Burley said.
“I think he played a second XI game for them.
“He bats and keeps, but he’s just going to play as a bat on Sunday.’’
Grant Stewart will be hoping to seal a NSW Country berth in the decider.
Newcastle skipper Mark Littlewood said after his team won the Northern NSW carnival recently: “Big Grant Stewart bowled really well, and he'd be in my team.’’
Burley was confident the 21-year-old Norths Maitland product, who took 46 wickets for University at an average of 12.43 last season, would continue to improve.
“Grant’s only been playing cricket for a few years,’’ Burley said. “I think he played rugby league before that.
“He’s pretty raw but he’s just got heaps of natural ability.
“He’s a big, strong lad who hits it a mile and bowls with reasonable pace.
“It’s always handy to have blokes like that in the team.’’
Newcastle’s squad is: Mark Littlewood (Belmont, captain), Joey Price (Toronto), Jeff Goninan (Stockton), Matt Gawthrop (Uni), Pat Darwen (Merewether), Nathan Hudson (Toronto), Grant Stewart (Uni), Luke Stewart (Uni), Ben Balcomb (Hamwicks), Jack McVey (Stockton), Bryan Warren (Stockton) and Nick Foster (Stockton).
He’s a big, strong lad who hits it a mile and bowls with reasonable pace.Shane Burley