David Johnston was the son of Colin Johnston. As a schoolboy he had shown outstanding promise.
After being selected in the State Primary School team, he represented the State in 1967-68 as a wicketkeeper batsman in the Under 14 Schoolboys team at the interstate Carnival in Adelaide. He was again chosen the following year.
At the age of 14 he gained selection in the NSW CHS Open Schoolboys team that toured Queensland in 1969- 70. He was selected again the following year and scored an impressive century against a strong NSWCA team.
For two seasons from 1969-71 he captained the CHS Under 16 team that played in the Green Shield competition in Sydney. On two occasions he won the Stan McCabe Trophy for the outstanding batsman in the competition.He also scored 127 not out for the Combined Green Shield team in a match against the Combined Country Coaching Class.
In 1971-72 he toured Ceylon with an Australian Schoolboys team.
In 1965 at the age of 10 David started playing third grade with Northern Districts.His captain, Don Nichols, described him as “a very handy fielder and wicket-keeper who likes to hit the ball hard”.
He spent another two seasons from 1966-68 in third grade. ln 1967-68 when he scored 243 runs, he received special mention for an innings where he “carried his bat” through the innings to equal a similar performance by his father at the start of his career: “One of the best batting performances of the season was David Johnston’s innings against SMR at the Leagues wicket. No other batsman in our team scored double figures. David opened the innings and scored 51 not out in a total of 79 – a very fine performance indeed.”
In 1968-69 he came up from second grade and played about half the season in first grade scoring a modest 56 runs from 6 innings.The following season he had the opportunity to take over the first grade wicketkeeping position when Jeff Crittenden moved to Sydney. He played a full season and scored 201 runs from 15 innings.
His time in the Club’s first grade was to be fairly brief as he went to Shore College in 1971 to complete his secondary education.He played the first half of the 1970-71 season,scoring 91 in the first match against GUOOF, and had a few matches in the school holidays in the 1971-72 season.
After leaving school he played first grade with North Sydney. It was while there that he began to attract the attention of the State selectors, particularly after scoring an unconquered century against Mosman.
In 1974-75 he was selected in the State Colts and three years later in 1977-78 he was chosen in the State team for the Sheffield Shield match against Western Australia at the SCG.
His selection marked the first time that a Maitland player had been chosen for the State since Frank Cummins in 1932-33.
Originally named as twelfth man, David received his opportunity when Graeme Beard withdrew because of injury, and scored an impressive half century on debut, which earn’t him a Shield place for the rest of the season.
Former Test bowler, Bill O’Reilly, was very impressed with David’s innings and wrote:”Batting with incredible confidence bordering at times on unadulterated cheekiness, this eye-catching newcomer won all the batting Oscars at the SCG yesterday … One seldom expects a youngster battling his way into the big time to go aggressively forward to his off side shots – certainly not until he has some reason to think that his place in the team is secure. As for swinging hard into punishing on side shots, from the drive full circle around to the sweep, such behaviour is almost questionable when practised by a young fellow of whom nobody has heard a whisper.”
Over the three seasons from 1977-80 David played in 12 Sheffield Shield matches for the State.ln his 22 innings he scored 454 runs at an average of 22.7 with a highest score of 81. He also played in about eight Gillette Cup one day matches for NSW.
He was unfortunate in that his Shield career received a setback in the early stages when he suffered a broken finger facing Western Australian speedster Sam Gannon in a Shield match on a lively wicket in Perth during the 1978-79 season.
During his short Shield career David had the distinction of giving Geoff Lawson his first Sheffield Shield wicket when he caught Geoff Marsh in the slips.
After retiring from the Sydney competition, David later played with University in the Newcastle competition during the eighties.
Then after a break from cricket, he followed in his father’s footsteps and the Johnston tradition by becoming involved with the local Maitland Association. He served on the Board of Control from 1994-97 and was very much involved in the organisation of the City Origin versus Country Origin match that was held in Maitland during the Association’s Centenary celebrations in 1994.
In 1997-98 he attempted a comeback with his old Club, Northern Suburbs, but in the very first match snapped his Achilles tendon and was forced to retire again.
Michael Cox was the son of John Cox who had played first grade with the Club in the sixties.
Like David Johnston, Michael achieved a lot of success at the schoolboy level.
In 1968-69 he was vice-captain of the State Primary School team and in the following season captained the team.
In 1971-72 at the very young age of 14 he gained selection in the CHS Under 16 team that played in the Green Shield competition. In 1973 he was a member of a Newcastle CHS team that defeated a strong Sydney CHS side. From 1974-76 he was in the NSW CHS No.1 team and in 1975-76 was in the State All Schools team that competed in the Australasian Championships in Perth.
While attending Maitland Boys High School, he captained the 1st X1 that won the Davidson Shield Knockout competition in 1975 by defeating Forbes in the final – the first time that a country high school had won the competition. For his school cricket performances he achieved the high honour of being awarded a CHS Blue.
After representing Maitland in the Colts and John Bull Shield teams, he was selected in 1972 as a 15 year old in the Hunter Valley Colts team for the J.S.white Carnival at Tamworth. There he showed his wicket-keeping skills by dismissing ten batsmen during the Carnival and equalling a Carnival record by stumping five in one innings. This form won him a place in the Emu Colts team to tour Tasmania.
The Emu selection had particular significance for Michael as it marked the first time that the son of an Emu had been picked in a later Emu side. His father, John, had been a member of the 1949 side – the first ever Emu Team.
Michael started playing with the Club as a ten year old in 1967-68 in third grade.At that stage he was showing some potential as a spin bowler, no doubt making use of some of the wiles taught to him by his father. During the season he took 11 wickets and scored 27 runs from 10 innings.
He continued to play third grade for another two seasons from 1968-70, picking up 24 and 23 wickets respectively. His captain, Don Nichols, described him as “another fine young player who bowls his spinners like a veteran … His batting is correct and will improve with his increase in size and strength.”
In 1970-71 his batting began to develop and his spin bowling gave way to wicketkeeping. After starting the season in third grade, he was promoted and finished the season in seconds.
The next season saw him make his debut in first grade at the age of 14. The team Report noted:”Michael Cox improved with every game. His ‘keeping for a boy of his age, was out- standing and with a full season in first grade behind him,should really develop into a first
class ‘keeper. Whilst his batting was not given many opportunities, enough was seen to realise his potential. With his improvement and a higher position in the batting order, he will score many runs in the season ahead.” 1972-73 was to be his last season with the Club.
During that season he continued to show promise with his wicketkeeping and batting and won the Roger Moylan Memorial Trophy for the most improved Under 21 player in first grade.His captain, David Rawling commented:”Michael Cox – wicketkeeper and middle order batsman. The baby of the side.True ability showed out last season.Batting was of a very matured nature, knowing when to go for his shots. Wicket-keeper of a high standard. Still has a few years to go for experience, but has the making to go far.”
A setback came in 1973-74 when he was forced on doctor’s orders to give away sport for eighteen months because of a back problem. While this was a major disappointment, he kept a positive outlook, seeing it as only a temporary setback “in his bid for a State cap”, and continued to retain his interest in cricket by taking up umpiring.
When he did resume playing cricket in 1974-75 he moved on to play with Charlestown in the Newcastle competition for two seasons. After that it was on to Sydney where he played with Gordon in the first grade competition. While with Gordon he was selected in the State Colts and was named in the State Practice Squad for 1979-80.
Like many NSW cricketers who have moved interstate with the hope of having greater opportunity to play in the Shield competition, Michael moved to Perth.There he was to achieve his goal in 1985-86 when he was selected to play for Western Australia after the regular State keeper, Tim Zoehrer, was called up for Australian Test duties.
Michael played six Sheffield Shield matches for WA in the 1985-86 season and as wicketkeeper took 19 catches and 2 stumpings. He also joined a select group of ‘keepers, including Rod Marsh and Barry Jarman, who have taken five or more dismissals in a Shield innings. In his six innings he scored 88 runs with a highest score of 31.
In 1986-87 he also played for WA in a first class match against Mike Gatting’s MCC team – a match in which he took 4 catches. He also played four matches for WA in the Australian One Day Competition, taking 10 catches and scoring 61 in 3 innings.
Later,when reflecting on his cricket career,Michael wrote:”My first memories of cricket revolve around the Northern Districts Club and of the people involved.These people included players and gentlemen such as Col Johnston, Trevor Deamer, Doug Rawling and of course my father. I was very disappointed when selected in first grade at the age of 14 and my father retired. However, the background of knowledge passed on to me by these gentlemen was invaluable and held with great esteem over my career.