Without a wicket: Broken Hill out of championship

By Peter Argent

For the first time since 1974, there will not be a Broken Hill component in the SACA Senior Country Cricket Championships.

This is the tournament that launched the career of first-class cricketer Jeff Vaughan, and also saw stars like Ian Fillery, David Cutting, Bill Slee, Michael McGann, Mark Johns, Rob Johnston and Vaughan represent various SA Country sides against touring International teams.

Then you also have Paul Attard, Johnston, Johns, McGann, Peter Lewis, Aaron Carroll and Tobias Hack have all worn SA Outbacks caps at the Australian Country Cricket Championships.

The SACA Senior Representative Championships event which will start tomorrow, Sunday January 31, will now be a five-day, four-round tournament between six teams – Yorke Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula, Barossa and Light, Fleurieu and Districts, South East and Northern (Upper/Mid North).

The decision for Murray Districts-Barrier not to compete was driven by COVID issues and the trouble that can be encountered by moving across state borders.

“(I’m) Saddened to here this news, as we’ve (a Barrier team) been participating in this tournament since in the early 1970s,” three-time Barrier title-winning captain and inaugural SA Outbacks skipper Rod Johnston explained.

“It was a big honour to play for Broken Hill and there was tremendous support from the community during the time I was involved.

“In my era we won the SACA Country Championship title three times; 1978 was the first, in 1982 we went through the championships undefeated and again in 1986.

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“The Barrier team also won the tournament in 1990.”

There was still a stand-alone Barrier side in the early 2000’s and while Broken Hill cricketers played for Murray Districts at the championships in between the official Murray District – Barrier association started later that decade.

Since the introduction of the Cec Starr Medal for the SACA Country Cricket Championships Player of the Tournament started in 1985, Barrier cricketers have consistency won this prestigious award across the next two decades.

Rod Johnson won the inaugural award in ’85, all-rounder Paul Attard has secured the “Cec Starr Medal” on three occasions (’95, ’98 and ’01), while Jeff Vaughan collected the award as a 16-year-old in 1990, with Bill Bergman (’00) and Mark Jones (’02) also winners.

“It was a tough decision, but sensible in the current climate,” captain of the Murray District-Barrier side from the past four seasons since 2018, North Broken Hill cricketer Tobias Hack confirmed.

“Personally I wasn’t coming down this year anyway, because of family commitments.

“In these uncertain times, with the lateness of the final decision being made, mean it was nearly impossible for us to commit.

“We had a good handful of cricketers that had put their hands up to play in the tournament this year.

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“It is disappointing as it robs people of playing representative cricket for our region.”

Barrier District Cricket League president Peter Johnston confirmed that seven Broken Hill cricketers had nominated to play in ’22 Adelaide SACA tournament.

“From our perspective, we would certainly hope to continue our association with Murray Districts moving forward,” Johnston continued.

“We would hope that this is just an ‘one of’ issue and we’ll be back in 2023.

“We’re keen to continue in the SACA country champs, but also from a Broken Hill Representative level we are exploring other options along the Murray River.”

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