Four years ago a sidelined Grant Stewart sat in the stands at Lorn Park and pondered what move to make next.
Rather than let ongoing knee injuries get the better of him Stewart chose the hard road to recovery and he hasn’t looked back since.
The 23-year-old transformed himself into a fast-bowling all-rounder and made his mark on cricket fields across Maitland, Newcastle, NSW Country, Adelaide and now England.
On Thursday he announced his maiden professional contract – signing on with county club Kent for the next two years.
“I’ve progressed a lot quicker than I thought I would,” Stewart told the Newcastle Herald from England.
“Back then, four years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be at this sort of stage.
“But I guess having a bit of time off cricket with an injury always makes you realise how much enjoy playing and how much you miss it.
“It gives you that little bit of hunger to get back and have a good crack.”
With multiple cartilage tears and ligament surgery long behind him, Stewart put pen to paper this week which means he could make his first class debut by the end of the English summer.
“Hopefully I can get a crack,” Stewart said.
“I’m probably more preferred in red ball cricket and I guess that would be the first goal to make the four-day side. And then maybe over the next year or two I can become a consistent member of all three formats. That would be ideal.”
There are four, four-day matches remaining this County Championship season with Kent fifth in the 10-team second division competition and within a top-two finish plus main-league promotion for 2018.
All 18 county sides combine for one-day and T20s, which reach the finals at Edgbaston on Saturday with former Newcastle first graders Michael Hogan (Glamorgan) and Tim Ambrose (Warwickshire) set to clash.
Stewart, who isn’t classed as an overseas player because of a European Union passport through his Italian mother, has performed the last few months with a joint-high 29 wickets for Kent second XI.
He also has 30 wickets, including 6-48 on Saturday, as well as seven half-centuries and a ton this year playing for third-placed Sandwich Town in the Shepherd Neame Kent Premier League.
“I’ve had a couple of chats [with the Kent coach] throughout the season and I think they just see me as a different style of bowler to the other blokes they have on the roster,” Stewart said.
“Then I was just lucky enough to take a few poles.”
Raised on a turf farm Stewart played for Northern Suburbs in Maitland before joining University for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons, including Newcastle and NSW Country representative honours.
Previously a leg-spinner and wicket-keeper, the engineering graduate properly picked up pace bowling around five years ago.
He first traveled to England and played with HSBC Cricket Club in division one of the Shepherd Neame Kent league last year.
In 2016-2017 he went to South Australia and joined Adelaide University. Stewart will return with the same side for half of the upcoming summer before embarking on his first full county campaign with Kent.
His contract takes him through until the end of the 2019 season.