Ben Balcomb knows every inch of the Passmore Oval pitch a little more than most.
And it’s not just because the wicketkeeper-batsman has been playing seniors at Hamilton-Wickham for the best part of a decade.
The 22-year-old is curating the wicket at the Pumas home ground this summer.
He was already looking after the club’s outer field Hawkins Oval during the last few campaigns, but with main curator Vic Cook out of action because of injury Balcomb doubled his workload.
“It [curating] has been great the last three years,” Balcomb said.
“It’s been the perfect part-time job to fit in around Uni [studies] because I can pick my own hours.
“I’d helped out preparing Passmore before [this year] but mainly just looked after Hawkins.
“With Vic [Cook] out this season I’ve been doing both. I actually really enjoy it.”
Tom Locker Cup champions Hamwicks, who are equal second on the Newcastle district competition ladder, play four of their remaining five matches at home at Passmore Oval.
That starts on Saturday with the Pumas hosting fellow finals aspirant Cardiff-Boolaroo in a two-day fixture. They also host Stockton, Toronto and leaders University on the run home.
“We haven’t had many games at Passmore so far this season, maybe one or two,” Balcomb said.
“It will be good to get back home for the run home.”
Balcomb, a mainstay of Hamwicks’ first XI since debuting in 2012-2013, has been impressed with the side this campaign especially considering the loss of former skipper Josh Trappel (Maitland), Rhys Hanlon (injured) and Andrew Maher (limited games).
“A lot of other guys have stood up,” he said.
“To be second at Christmas, with some of the big players we have lost, is a good achievement. We’re a couple of wins away from setting up a run at the finals.”
Next month Balcomb’s time on the roller will come to an end, having finished his physiotherapy studies and scored a full-time job in Toronto.
But what’s the secret to a top deck?
“Early preparation,” he said.
“Water it early in the week, let it dry out and leave a bit of grass on it. Then give it a bit of a trim on Saturday morning.
“Hopefully it plays alright, but you want a bit in it for both bat and ball.”
Rankin Park resident Balcomb originally played juniors with Wests before a division one hole saw him shift to Hamwicks feeder Colts.
“It was the best thing that ever happened, otherwise I wouldn’t have played with Hamwicks,” he said.
Balcomb has posted two half-centuries and claimed 12 dismissals behind the stumps so far this summer.