To mark the official opening of improvements to Lorn Park two special matches were arranged against teams led by Charlie Macartney, the great Australian Test batsman – one in 1922 and the other in 1923. The 1922 Match – This match was arranged mainly through the influence of Will C. Johnston who was a friend of Charlie Macartney’s from former schooldays spent together at Maitland Primary School.
Will persuaded Charlie to bring to Maitland a team that included a number of international and interstate players – Alan Kippax, Bert Oldfield, Johnnie Taylor, Tommy Andrews, “Johnnie” Moyes and Bill Trenerry (a former local player) – to play a match at Lorn Park on September 9, 1922 to mark the official opening of the new turf wicket. Dr Neil Blue, who had brought University teams to Maitland in the pre-war days, accompanied Macartney’s team as Manager.
The local Northern District XIII was captained by Will Johnston and included two other Northern Division players – Les Manners and Roy Oakes – with Rev H.R. Holmes named as the reserve. Other local players in the team were L. Moore, R. McLean, H. Patfield Snr. (Robins) and J. McEnearney (Marist Brothers), while invited players from outside the Hunter River Association’s District were Dr E.P.Barbour, S. McGlynn (Newcastle), B. Watson (Taree), W. Jarrett (Eccleston), R. Fawcett and C. Morrissey (Singleton).
Elias Bowden, Patron of the Northern Division Club, had the honour of declaring the wicket officially open and bowling the first ball to Charlie
Macartney. The Northern team batted first and closed their innings at 7 for 185 with Dr Eric Barbour top-scoring with 94. In reply Macartney’s team was dismissed for 215 with “Johnnie” Moyes and Johnny Taylor both scoring fifties with some hard hitting.Best of the local bowlers was R. McLean who took 5 for 44.
The weather on the Saturday morning of the match was threatening but by mid-afternoon when the weather had cleared, the crowd at the match was estimated to have grown to 2500. The net profit, mainly gained from gate takings for the match, was eighty seven pounds and this was later spent on further improvements to the ground.
During their stay in Maitland, Macartney and his team were “royally” entertained. On the morning of the match they were given a civic welcome by the Mayor at the Town Hall. The match luncheon was provided “in splendid style” by a committee of ladies who had adorned the tables “in a beautiful decorative scheme” with the green and gold colours of the Australian Eleven. On the Saturday night a complimentary dance was arranged for the visitors in the School of Arts and on the Sunday they were taken for a motor tour drive around the local district to Paterson, Hinton and Morpeth.
Shortly after his return to Sydney, Macartney wrote a letter to Will Johnston thanking him and all concerned on behalf of the team for “the most magnificent weekend” and lavish hospitality that they had received on their visit to Maitland. He went on to express his delight at his “homecoming” to Maitland: “Personally I can only look upon the whole thing as an honour done to me by my native town, and I want you to thoroughly realise how much I do appreciate it, and what a real pleasure it was to visit West Maitland again.”
In addition he hoped that the match might become an “Annual Social arrangement” and concluded with some complimentary remarks about Lorn Park: ” … your ground and wicket at Lorn Park are a credit to you, and no first class groundsman could have prepared a better wicket than the one introduced to me last Saturday morning. lt speaks volumes for your voluntary workers and helpers, and many country districts could take pattern by you. I consider that in two, or perhaps three years, you will have a ground fit to compare with the best Club ground in the State.”
At a later meeting of Northern Division Club Will Johnston was presented with two enlarged framed photographs – one of Macartney’s team and the other of his own team – as a tribute to his organising ability in making such successful arrangements for the match.
The Club’s Annual Report for the 1922-23 season stated that “the visit of C.G. Macartney’s international eleven was a great success – socially and financially, and was instrumental in causing an increased interest in cricket generally during the season”.