Trust in youth has reaped its rewards

Leo Cammish - one of Hastings Priory's young stars - executes a pull shot in Sunday's win over the Sussex Development XI. Picture by Simon Newstead
Leo Cammish - one of Hastings Priory's young stars - executes a pull shot in Sunday's win over the Sussex Development XI. Picture by Simon Newstead

By Hastings Priory second team opening batsman Joe Lamb

If ever there were a sport that allowed ample time for reflection on a season of hard work, it’s cricket, particularly on a Saturday where rain that wouldn’t seem out of place in monsoon season had wiped out Hastings Priory’s penultimate league game.

The last time rain of this kind was seen was in the chilly transition from winter to spring, which looking back now was a worrying time for many at the club. Senior members gathered in a local pub to discuss which players were at our disposal and which we had lost.

That picture didn’t look particularly rosy. Two players who had spent a large portion of the previous season opening the batting for the first eleven left for supposed greener pastures, and with Josh Poysden and Harry Finch likely to be largely unavailable due to Unicorns (and a broken finger) and England commitments respectively, and Tom Harvey and David Draper both relocating for work commitments, the club was suddenly shorn of six cricketers who at various times had played important roles.

Added to that a couple of second team players deciding to return to their old clubs and the early season unavailability of Elliot Hooper and George Campbell, and it seemed that the 2013 season would be a fight just to avoid relegation at all levels of the club.

So to be sat now, with the first and second teams both set to finish no worse than fourth, and the third team 30 points clear of relegation in their division, it can be seen as an excellent on-field season.

After the losses we were able to pick up three cricketers, all under the age of 20 who have excelled, as well as quality overseas player. Australian Dave Lowery arrived in June, replacing Kyle Adcock, who had joined the club after Sidley’s first team folded, and he made an immediate impact with the bat and ball.

Byron Gould joined a few games into the season and took instantly to the club, contributing a great amount both on and off the field. Sixteen-year-old Leo Cammish scored a league century in his first season with the club, while Joe Billings played a couple of match-winning innings for the seconds at the tender age of 14, with high hopes held for both.

Cammish in particular was instrumental in the first team’s run to the Sussex T20 Cup final, where Priory overwhelmed Eastbourne to claim their first cup triumph since 1996.

That run was largely down to the group of youngsters that had been trusted to take the club forward after the winter’s losses. The semi-final at Three Bridges saw Adam Maharaj-Newman as the oldest player at just 24, proving that winning things with kids is very much achievable.

And while Priory’s 2011 league championship was a fine moment in the history of the club, many I’m sure would agree that 2013 will live longer in the memory. 2011 was a triumph aided by Sussex duo Matt Machan and Kirk Wernars, and while both were good guys and excellent cricketers, there is something altogether more satisfying seeing Jake Woolley and Tom Gillespie, who have been associated with the club since they were at primary school, opening the batting for the first team, and playing a pivotal role in claiming silverware.

That success on the field has certainly contributed to a new era off it. The atmosphere after a game and at training is as good as I can remember in the 12 years I’ve played adult cricket, and this must be attributed to having a group of cricketers who have come through the club, from colts right through to the present day. It is important to have players that are fully committed to the cause and right now it seems that Priory have just that.

The goal must now be to kick on from here. Theoretically the bulk of the players who have played this year could still be representing the club in 15 years’ time and if improvements continue at a similar rate, then a further league triumph could be a real possibility.

Contrary to belief, Hastings Priory are far from a wealthy club, so competing with the likes of Horsham and Preston Nomads will never be easy, but in trusting the youngsters this season and not panicking when players left, the benefits should be reaped for years to come.