The success of any Club depends not only on its players but on the strength of its administrators. Norths Club has been fortunate over the years in having many outstanding administrators who have given the Club strong leadership and sound organisation.
In recent years three members who have given great service to the Club in this area have been Bruce Leary, John Wilkinson and Geoff Searle.
Bruce Leary began playing first grade cricket in 1961 with CYMS in Dubbo where as a fourteen year old he played alongside his father. Two years later he moved to Sydney to take up his first job as a technician in training with the PMG. He did not begin playing cricket again until he moved to Maitland in 1974.
How he became associated with Norths is best explained by Bruce himself:
“It’s now history that I picked up a hitch-hiker at Lochinvar (1974) and drove him home to Maitland. During our trip he spoke of the cricket club he played for and the people in that club. In his mind there were no other clubs and no other people – he encouraged me to play cricket with his club, and that’s the beginning of my affair with Norths (Hitch Hiker’s Name – ‘Iron Mike’ Hopkins).”
In his first season with Norths (1975-76) Bruce played second grade under the captaincy of the “hitch-hiker” Mike Hopkins. The Report noted: “Club newcomer Bruce Leary proved himself a very capable cricketer with a string of handy scores. In fact Bruce had five not outs in a row. Bruce was also a great asset as wicket-keeper going from strength to strength.”
It did not take long for Bruce to show his leadership qualities and commitment to the Club – the following season he took on the job of Assistant Secretary and captained the second grade team.
He continued to play second grade as wicket-keeper and opening bat up until the early eighties. One of his best innings was in 1979-80 when the left-hander “blazed away” in typical hard-hitting fashion to score 90 against GUOOF-City. He also become involved in coaching and managing the Club’s junior teams in the Saturday morning competition and in 1981-82 served as Club Treasurer.
By 1984-85 he was down in third grade, captaining the team and playing alongside his second eldest son, David. He continued to play third grade up until 1988 and had the distinction in 1987-88 of being “the first Northern Suburbs’ captain to lead a team to the semi-finals”.
In 1988-89 – one year after the amalgamation – Bruce took on the position of President. It was a position in whch he was to serve with great distinction, guiding the “newly formed Club” through some of “its teething problems” and inspiring Club members with his energy, drive and enthusiasm.
Although Bruce spoke at times in the eighties of retiring from playing cricket and “joining the Muppets”, he continued to play up until 1999, making a number of “comebacks”. He captained the A grade team in 1988-89 and after that even though he did not play regularly, if ever a team was short, no matter what the grade, Bruce was there ready to fill-in and even don the gloves if needed.
Bruce’s involvement with the Club was a real family affair. His three sons, (Shaun, David and Adam) were all talented cricketers who at various stages played first grade and scored centuries for the Club. His wife, Gwen, and his two daughters (Bronwyn and Megan) were also very active supporters of the Club and involved in the organisation and catering for many a Club B-B-Q and social function.
In bidding farewell in his eighth and what was then thought to be his final President’s Report in 1996, Bruce wrote: “After twenty one years in the Club having served as President, Treasurer, team captain and chief cook and bottle washer, I believe the time has come for me to hand over the baton. The friends that I have made at Norths and through cricket have been the highlight of my innings, and while many are able to talk of great cricket feats, I can talk of great cricket mates.”
As it turned out, Bruce “answered the call” and “took up the baton” again to serve as President from 1997-2000 when the Club had difficulty in filling the position and for a further term in 2002-03.During this extended period he continued to show the same enthusiasm and commitment that had been characteristics of his earlier years as President.
In recognition of his services to the Club Bruce was made a Life Member. When players return to the pavilion they are also able to look up and see Bruce’s photo and a sign above the bar that reads “The Bruce Leary Bar” which will remind them of someone “who gave of their best to the Club”.
John Wilkinson was another who gave tremendous service and commitment to the Club.
He became associated with the Club after being involved for a number of years with the Bolwarra-Lorn Junior Cricket Club, where his two sons, Dominic and Justin, started playing junior cricket. John coached junior sides and also held the position of club Secretary during his years with the juniors.
His first mention with the senior Club appears in the 1987-88 Report where he was thanked for his “efforts in coaching the junior boys in the C grade competition”.
His captain, Jimmy Steinerts, also noted that “with courage and stubbornness, Wilko showed that it is possible not only to frustrate opposition bowlers, but that runs could be scored as well”.
He continued to be C grade’s “guide and mentor” for another two seasons, encouraging the younger players and “steadily developing into a specialist fielder, umpire and transporter of young cricketers”.
From 1990-2001 he served with distinction in the demanding role of Club Secretary and after that, despite some health problems, stepped in and took on the position of President.
At the end of 1990-91- John’s first season as Secretary the President, Bruce Leary, paid him the following compliment: “John Wilkinson as Secretary has been a delight to work with. He is no doubt the most organised man I have had the pleasure- to work with in the cricket Club. John has had a great influence on our Club this season and I fully appreciate the workload he has carried not only for the senior club but also the junior club. J.W. – Gentleman, Scholar and Mate … I salute you.”
John gave up playing regularly but still helped to look after the fifth grade team and was available to fill in, wherever and whenever needed. The fifth grade Report of 1991-92 described him as “our manager and leading umpire” who “when called on to bat or bowl (usually in a crisis) – produced the goods”. In 1993-94 he even played in a first grade game and delighted later on in recounting that he remained 1 not out and that this was probably the first occasion that a father had followed in his son’s footsteps into a Norths’ first grade side.
Apart from the time taken up with his duties as Secretary, particularly in filling teams with replacements after last minute withdrawals, John, with the help of his two sons, also took on the role of curator at Bolwarra Oval. In 1994-95 when the Club was in dire trouble trying to find a curator for Black Hill wicket, John stepped in and in his quiet way took on that job as well.
As in the case of Bruce Leary, John’s involvement with the Club was very much a family affair. His two sons, Dominic and Justin, played for the Club while his “long suffering wife” Pauline was a great support, answering an interminable string of phone calls, following the progress of her two sons, scoring and helping with the organisation of numerous Club functions.
Geoff Searle also became involved with the Club through his early association with the Bolwarra-Lorn Junior Cricket Club, where he served six years as Treasurer.
A remarkable aspect of his involvement was that he did not play cricket himself.
However, in 1991-92 he took on the role of Manager of the first grade team. As Manager he looked after the details that made the job of the captain so much easier – attending to the scoring, collection of money and countless other matters. Captains who had the benefit of his services were very appreciative of “his tireless work” and the load that he took off their shoulders.
By 1993-94 Geoff was still first grade Manager and was taking an active role in the Club’s administration as the Senior Vice-President. In that season he was awarded the Battler’s Shield for Clubman of the Year and was paid the following compliment by the President, Bruce Leary: “Geoff’s contribution to Norths Cricket Club has been outstanding. Geoff was the first grade Manager, scorer etc., for the season. He was also our Club’s representative to the Maitland District Cricket Board and our Club’s social organiser. As a non-playing cricketer Geoff is the greatest asset our great Club has seen. Geoff Searle has been my right arm as President this season. Geoff stepped in, as Senior Vice- President, and did a fantastic job. Thanks Geoff, you’re the best Senior Vice-President this Club has ever seen in my time.”
After retiring as first grade team Manager at the end of the 1993-94 season, Geoff took on the position of Club Treasurer from 1994-2000 and did an outstanding job to put the Club on a sound financial footing. His work was aptly described by Bruce Leary: “Geoff Searle is no doubt the most astute and hard working Treasurer this Club has ever had. The Club has continued to become more professional in its management, and this has been directly associated with Geoff Searle … cricket has given me some great mates, and having worked on the committee with Geoff Searle is one of cricket’s rewards.”
Geoff was also a member of the Association’s Board of Control for four years, serving as Vice-President from 1994-97.There he again showed what an asset he was to any organisation by his work on committees such as the Grounds and Fixtures, the Gradings and Permits and the Ten Over Competition.
For his services to the Club Geoff was made a Life Member. Having guided the Club’s finances for six years, at the end of the 1999-2000 season he “put his treasury cap on the peg” and retired “to join the Muppets in the pavilion”.