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Sunday, April 18, 2021

‘Crunch’ pulls up stumps

Steve Christie has no plans to do a “John Farnham” when he dons the whites for the Waratah-Mayfield District Cricket Club (DCC) for the last time this weekend.

The man affectionately known as “Crunch” will pad up for the organisation’s fourth grade side in its season decider with Merewether at Waratah Oval on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 March.

And, win, lose or draw, he intends to pull up stumps permanently – with no hint of a comeback.

“Everyone thought I’d retired a few years ago,” Christie said.

“I hadn’t but this is it for me.

“When COVID-19 prematurely ended the previous season, I thought I’d go around one more time.

“So, yep, this is last match.

“The fact it’s also a grand final is a bonus.

“Hopefully, the rain will stay away.

“But, it’s a good way to finish – and at my home ground, too.

“The planets have certainly aligned for me.”

Christie will bow out a genuine Waratah-Mayfield DCC “legend”.

He’s represented the club on 559 occasions, scored 6,027 runs, snared 1,178 scalps and held onto 134 catches.

It also makes him the most capped player in the Newcastle District Cricket Association’s history books.

“When you start as a kid, in 1977-78, those records just come along,” he said.

Steve “Crunch” Christie fires up the troops before a match. Photo: Pat Gleeson

“It’s nice to be number one for games and wickets [at Waratah-Mayfield DCC], however that’s not what you play the game for.

“I do it because I love the sport – and the camaraderie.

“Many years ago, I had an accident and missed an entire season.

“So, I made a promise to myself [back then] to keep playing for as long as I could.

“Recently, the younger guys have also spurred me on.

“I try to mentor the kids coming through.

“It’s my job to teach them; and I’m happy to knock the rough edges off the juniors.

“And, I think I’ve been quite successful.

“There’s great satisfaction seeing the young blokes from thirds and fourths reach first grade, knowing you played a part in their development.

“There are a lot of good kids in – and who’ve been through – the club.

“Burt Cockley, who played for NSW, is one name that stands out.

“Hopefully, there’ll be more to come [from here] in the future.

“There’s a great culture at Waratah-Mayfield DCC at the moment.”

As for the highlights in an illustrious career?

“Definitely making the rep side and playing for NSW Country in the mid-to-late 1980s,” Christie recalled.

“It was a real thrill to face the likes of Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh and Mark Taylor.

“I got to test myself against them – you don’t get that kind of opportunity every day.”

Waratah-Mayfield heads into this weekend’s finale as favourites, having contested two deciders in the past three seasons and tying the 2018-19 encounter.

However, victory has eluded Christie on the big stage in recent times.

“We go into this match undefeated, but it doesn’t count for anything when you’re on the ground,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“Our previous showdown with Merewether in 2020-21 was washed out, just one of many this year.

“They’ll field a reasonably young team so, I’m hopeful, our experience might come in handy.

“I’ll just tell the boys to play for themselves.

“You don’t get too many chances to play in grand final, so they need to make the most of it.

“But, if we win, it’ll be the icing on the cake.”

Newcastle District Cricket Association grand final draw

(Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 March)

First grade:

Wests CC v Belmont DCC (Alfred Harker Oval)

Second grade:

Stockton and Northern Districts DCC v Merewether DCC (Lynn Oval)

Third grade:

Merewether DCC v Charlestown DCC (Townson Oval)

Fourth grade:

Waratah-Mayfield DCC v Merewether DCC (Waratah Oval)

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