“I think I could safely that if I wasn’t playing with Wests than I probably wouldn’t be playing cricket at all.”
This is a fair indication why Andrew Shakespeare has now played 200 matches for his only club.
Wests through and through, the 28-year-old wicketkeeper has seen the highs and lows during his time at Harker Oval.
There was a season not all that long ago, in 2010-11, when the Rosellas didn’t win a single game in first grade. But it only made last summer’s drought-breaking premiership all the more sweeter.
“Absolutely that grand final was a highlight, no doubt,” Shakespeare said.
“The first few seasons I played first grade we didn’t do so well. We struggled to be honest.
“Not just winning the competition, but just doing well, made all those years worth it. And that little bit more special to do it with this club. It means a lot.”
Shakespeare grew up in New Lambton Heights and, outside a short stint living in Merewether, is now back at New Lambton and once again nearby Wests’ home ground.
“I’m literally around the corner [from Harker Oval],” he said.
“If I didn’t have to carry my kit I could walk there.”
Shakespeare originally watched his older brother play juniors before joining a Wests under-10 side himself.
It wasn’t long before he donned the gloves and in 2005-06 he was called up for his senior Rosellas debut in third grade at Awaba.
“I think they must have been short a keeper that day,” he said.
Shakespeare has never looked back since, taking 207 catches and 36 stumpings along the way.
He credits his best individual campaign, when awarded the wicketkeeper prize for most dismissals (27) in first grade in 2013-14, with training that same year from former NSW gloveman Kerry Thompson.
Those one-on-one sessions, set up by then Wests coach Michael Hill, were a “turning point”.
Nowadays, Shakespeare, having gone full circle at the club, is passing on the tips behind the stumps.
“I still use some of those drills from Kerry when I’m working with juniors now,” he said.
Shakespeare, a pharmacist at Wyong Hospital, said he was “grateful” for Wests acknowledging the double-century milestone earlier this month.
Surrounded by family, his teammates, old boys and club president Terry Morgan, he was presented with a plaque and certificate.
“I didn’t even know so it was all a bit of a surprise,” he said.
On the same day, Shakespeare’s long-time teammate Peter Lojszczyk notched up his 150th game for Wests.