The feature of the 1896-97 season was a match played at Maitland on Christmas and Boxing Days 1896 between a HRDCA team and a strong Metropolitan XI. Country Week had lapsed during this season because of financial difficulties and as a substitute the NSWCA decided to send Metropolitan Xl’s into the country, one to Bathurst and the other to Maitland.
The Metropolitan team that came to Maitland was led by W Richardson and included the great Victor Trumper. The Mercury reported it would be “the first time for years that a team comprising such prominent players had been seen on a Maitland wicket”.
The HRDCA team selected for the match was: R Lindsay, D Pryor, E L Waddy, P S Waddy, H Harden, M McMillan, C Patrick, J Kerrigan, C White, W Bartlett and A (YBrien. The locals put up a very creditable showing, scoring 161 and 5 for 215 to Metropolitan’s 178 and 5 for 88. Top scorers for the HRDCA were R Lindsay with 68 in the first innings and EL Waddy (103) and PS Waddy (62 n.o) in the second. Victor Trumper showed his masterly skills by scoring 60 n.o for the Sydney team.
The match proved to be a much needed financial boon for the Association. Gate takings were €38.7.0 and after expenses were deducted there was a credit balance on the match of €25.12.6. The President reported “no match on the same ground (the Albion) even against the Englishmen had ever come out with such a splendid balance”. The Treasurer was able to report at the next Annual Meeting that they had “started the season with a debit balance” but they were now able “to pay all liabilities and show €10.8.7 on the credit side”.
In the local competition eleven clubs affiliated with the Association, with five teams in the senior competition and nine in the junior. Three new club entries in the junior competition were David Cohen & Co (a warehouse team), Eelah (from Aberglasslyn) and East Greta.
The senior competition was won by the Albions captained by WT Lindsay.
However, the Albions received a lot of criticism, particularly from the supporters of other clubs when it introduced a fee of a penny, in addition to the normal sixpence gate entrance fee, for sitting in the players’ pavilion .
There were also numerous complaints about matches starting late. The official starting time was 2.30 pm – late compared to today – but some matches were not getting under way until 3 0’clock.