Chris Caldwell (Strabane Chronicle)
IRISH international Andy McBrine returned home to Donemana last week after spending almost three months playing in Western Australia’s Premier Cricket League.
The 25-year-old signed for Midland-Guildford at the beginning of October and after an initial baggage debacle with Qantas was rectified, he and Eglinton’s Stuart Thompson, who joined Wanneroo for the same period, soon settled into life on the outskirts of Perth.
The national team duo lived at the Vines resort in the heart of the Swan Valley, which is home to golf courses, vine yards, breweries, chocolate factories and a host of other ways to while away any spare time.
For McBrine, as well as living in the scenic surrounds of the Swan Valley on Perth’s fringes, he was fortunate to get to play his cricket at Lilac Hill Park.
The club’s ground is nestled on the banks of the Swan River where it lies like an oasis of green on the edge of the scorched red earth on the boundary of the picturesque town of Guildford, which is a throwback to Australia’s colonial past. Red brick facades and tree-lined avenues give the suburb a distinctly old world feel, with the beautiful Stirling Square adding a sense of space and tranquility.
It would be hard for anyone not to enjoy a lengthy stay there, and Andy was enchanted equally by the area, his team-mates and the standard of cricket. While delighted that he made the decision to travel to Australia’s sunset capital to maintain his game during the winter rather than slog away indoors back home, he admitted it was an easy choice to make.
“I had the choice to stay around here and practice indoors and in the gym or go away and spend 10 or 11 weeks in Australia, so it was a no brainer really,” he said.
“I was living in the Vines, a lovely spot with a couple of golf courses that suited me down to the ground, it had everything we needed.
“We were only about five minutes from the Swan Valley and all the vineyards, which was pretty good as well.”
While everything off the pitch was pretty much ideal, at the crease things didn’t go as Andy and his team had hoped.
During his time with the club, which saw him play six Premier Cricket matches and three Premier T20 clashes, they won just once.
Fortunately for the North West Warriors captain, that solo triumph came against Wanneroo and Thompson, which, at the very least, gave him some bragging rights in their apartment for a few days.
“Clubwise, we actually struggled. We only won one match, but in a lot of them we were very, very close,” he observed.
“We were just a very young team and missing a couple of experienced players that would help get us over the line.
“There’s definitely a bright future there and I’ll be keeping a keen eye out for them and you never know, they’ve said I’m welcome back any time I’ve nothing on.”
Midland-Guildford fell to defeats to Scarborough, Mount Lawley, Rockingham-Mandurah, Bayswater-Morley and Melville in the 1st Grade competition, and Andy wasn’t overly impressed by his own performances during his time in Australia.
With the bat he scored 159 runs, averaging 17.67 with a high score of 47 against Bayswater-Morley and with the ball he took seven wickets for an average of 40.14 with a best return of three for 50.
Despite his own perceived short fallings on the pitch, Andy believes he has learned a lot from his few months ‘Down Under’.
“I wasn’t happy with my performances personally,” he admitted. “But I leaned a lot because we were training four times a week with a guy called Stuart Walters, so I learned a lot from him and the different conditions as well.
“It probably wasn’t the best for spin bowlers, but it helped my economy and it helped to outsmart batsmen because obviously you’re not getting the same purchase out of the wickets.
“It was a great experience and I would recommend any young cricketer from Ireland if they get the opportunity to go out, do it!”
Now back at home, Andy will start preparing for what is set to be another hectic 12 months with club and country.
Donemana received testing draws in the North West Senior Cup and Irish Senior Cup, at home to Coleraine and away to North Down, respectively, but initially the talented all-rounder is focused on international duty.
Ireland’s schedule is packed from the turn of the year with the T20 Series against Scotland, Netherlands and Oman in Oman, then three T20s with Afghanistan, five one dayers and a Test match, which takes care of February to April, which is enough for him to concentrate on for now.