PAUL McLeod played with and against some of the best cricketers of the era during his nearly three decade stint in Manning A-grade.
An all-rounder, McLeod played initially with Taree and finished with Taree West. He retired five years ago after winning a B-grade premiership.
However, now 60, he’s back playing third grade with Taree West. And to borrow from famous TV series Get Smart, he’s loving it.
He's in the team with his son, Adam, and grandsons Lynk and Taj – Adam’s boys.
Lynk and Taj play with Taree West under 14s in the Manning juniors on Saturday mornings before backing up for thirds when required in the afternoon. The boys persuaded McLeod into donning the creams again.
“They said ‘c’mon Pop, you can have a game with us,’ ’’ McLeod explained.
It was an offer too good to refuse.
“I’m really enjoying it, and the side’s been going okay...Bulahdelah’s the best team in it and they gave us a bit of a thrashing. Great Lakes is the other good side.’’
McLeod gives his own form a pass mark.
“I’m very slow, but I’m still bowling okay,’’ he said.
McLeod has seven wickets from four matches at a miserly average of nine. He is 14th on the list of leading wicket takers. But he’s not interested in statistics. McLeod said it’s a buzz just to walk onto the field with his family each Saturday.
While not the pressure cooker atmosphere he was used to back in his prime in A-grade, McLeod said the C-grade games are never-the-less competitive.
“There’s a good mix in the team – a few old blokes like Chris Hollis, Paul Gilbert and Mal Yarnold. Adam was re-graded to C for this season and that’s a good thing,’’ McLeod said.
McLeod came into A-grade at a time when cricket was strong in the Manning.
“Darrel Rosser,’’ he answered without hesitation when asked who the best cricketer here he’s played with or against.
Rosser, a Country representative, smashed bowling attacks here when he arrived in Taree during the mid-1980s.
“Dave Lynch – he was one of the best bowlers I faced and Graham Watters, he was playing with RSL when I first came into A-grade and he was an unbelievable bowler,’’ McLeod added.
“When I started in A-grade we had players like Cliff Toms, Les Griffis and Barry Fahey. They were top cricketers.’’
McLeod was the inaugural winner of the A-grade cricketer of the year back when it was sponsored by the Manning River Times. That was in 1980/81 or thereabouts.
“I was playing with Taree. I won the player of the year, Les Griffis won the batting aggregate and Barry Fahey the bowling aggregate,’’ he recalled.
“But we still missed the semi-finals. It was a strong comp then. – there were no easy games.’’
Even when he first gave the game away McLeod had an inkling he’s return to have a run with his family. And if all goes to plan he’ll be playing a couple summer yet.
“My granddaughter, Riely, is playing under 10s with Taree West,’’ McLeod said.
“She’s going pretty well too. Now Riely says she wants to have a game with me, so I suppose I’ll have to keep going for a bit longer.’’