HE was the last Novocastrian to play Test cricket for Australia. Now Paul Wilson hopes to become the first Novocastrian to umpire at the game's highest level.
The former fast bowler from Kilaben Bay, who cut his teeth with Newcastle district club Southern Lakes before embarking on a career that earned him a baggy green cap and 11 appearances in Australia's one-day team, made his debut last week as an interstate umpire.
In tandem with another former Test paceman, Victorian Paul Reiffel, Wilson officiated in the one-day match between Western Australia and Tasmania at the WACA Ground.
It was the 36-year-old's first major step towards his ultimate goal, which is to join the International Cricket Council's panel of full-time professional umpires.
"Certainly the aim for me is that I want to be doing that sort of standard, to get onto the ICC panel and become a Test umpire," he said yesterday.
"Paul Reiffel and Rod Tucker have been added to what is basically a supplementary panel for the ICC . . . I'm following the path of those two guys, and hopefully if I'm good enough and on merit, I can get to that point and beyond. I suppose I'm as good a chance as anyone. It's just a matter of spots opening up and being in the right place.
"The next step for me will be to do a Sheffield Shield match and hopefully get first-class cricket in Australia. Then we'll see how I go from there."
Wilson finished playing at the end of the 2003-04 season.
He spent some time coaching then was added to Cricket Australia's panel of project umpires.
He started officiating in Perth's second-grade competition, was soon elevated to first grade, and is now in his third season as an umpire.
His interstate debut was a complicated affair in which Western Australia won with four balls to spare on the Duckworth-Lewis method after rain interruptions.
"It was a great experience," he said. "It went pretty quickly, and I don't remember too much about the game. It was rain-marred, which was unusual over here, and had pretty much everything in it.
"I'm quite happy to have it over and done with, but it was a great experience nonetheless."
The 36-year-old, who lives in Perth and works as a real estate sales and marketing co-ordinator, said he would find out in the next few days what umpiring appointments he had received for November.
A fiery right-armer who took 265 wickets for South Australia and Western Australia, Wilson admitted it had taken some adjustment to be answering appeals rather than screaming them himself.
"You certainly wish you could help the fast bowlers as much as possible," he laughed.
"But at the end of the day, you've just got to call it as you see it.
"It's as simple as that. There are a lot of instances when you're playing when you think something was out, but you see it a bit differently standing behind the stumps."
The man they call "Blocker", who broke down with injury during his only Test, against India in Kolkata in 1998, said it was rewarding to give something back to the game that has been both his passion and vocation.
"If any club cricketers are looking to stay involved, umpiring is another avenue," Wilson said.
"It's good fun, it's great camaraderie between the umpires and you can still have that rapport with players as well.
"In England, they do it all the time with club and county cricketers going on to umpire when they retire.
"But in Australia we apparently haven't had that tradition.
"Hopefully we can start."
Newcastle District Cricket Association secretary Royce McCormack confirmed yesterday that no Novocastrian had umpired in a Test.