The highlight of the 1924-25 season was the match at Maitland against Arthur Gilligan’s MCC team on March 6 and 7 1925 at the Showground. The last English touring team to play in Maitland was “Plum” Warner’s side in 1903-04, so the fixture aroused considerable interest.
Much of the credit for obtaining the match – the only one played by the MCC in a NSW country centre – was due to the efforts of Will C Johnston (HRDCA Vice President), John Lintott (HRDCA Secretary) and Bill Cameron MLA (a former Upper Hunter top cricketer who had played against Warner’s team). The decision to select Maitland as the venue caused considerable “heartburn” in Newcastle, where the NDCA made every effort to have the match transferred to that centre.
The MCC team was: AER Gilligan, H Sutcliffe, MW Tate, FE Woolley, R Kilner, JW Hearne, WW Whysall, AP Freeman, A Sandham, R Tyldesley, H Howell, E Hendren (12).
The Northern District 15 was selected from the Associations playing in the John Bull Shield competition: WC Johnston (capt.), G Bell, RH Oakes, N Tiedeman, FC Cummins, V Wright (Hunter River); EP Barbour, E O’Bryan, G Wells, F Johnson, HO Osland (Newcastle); VV Morrissey, HW Ohmsen(Singleton); AC White (Upper Hunter); A Clifton (Wyong); C Cameron (16th).
After being sent in, Northern District were all out for 157 with JW Hearne taking 8 for 18 and Maurice Tate 2 for 10. Best of the Northern batsmen were G Wells with 45 and Gordon Bell with 38. The MCC declared at 7 for 337 with Herbert Sutcliffe making 136 n.o. and Roy Kilner 66. In their second innings Northern District were 7 for 153 with Gordon Bell scoring a hard hitting 68 with 2 sixes and 8 fours.
The match with a profit of €433 proved to be a financial success for the Association. On the second day the crowd was estimated at 6,000 with special trains from Newcastle, Cessnock and Singleton bringing many spectators to the ground.
At the luncheon adjournment in the match the HRDCA President, Frank McMullen, said that he hoped that it would not be another twenty years before the next English team visited the Maitland district. Maitland is still waiting – every English side since Gilligan’s has played at Newcastle.
In the local competition there were 34 teams. Mulbring reverted to B grade leaving 6 teams in A grade, 6 in B and 22 in C. Among the entries in C grade was one from the newly formed Thornton Club which had an official opening of its ground at the end of 1923.
The A grade Irwin Shield final between Northern Division, the premiers, and Robins the runners-up, was a high scoring match. Northern Division made 32’2 and in an exciting finish Robins was all out for 304. There were two centuries in the match – A Watson scoring 1’2’2 for Northern Division and F Cummins 109 for Robins.
In B grade Northern Division won the premiership but was defeated by East Maitland in the final. In a John Bull Shield match against Upper Hunter at Maitland Showground on December 26 1924, Gordon Bell put on a powerhouse display of big hitting, when he scored 215 not out. His innings included 10 sixes and 20 fours and his double century was posted in 115 minutes. The Hunter team declared at 4 for 426. Yet in one of those vagaries of cricket Hunter River with practically the same team was all out for 30 in the next John Bull Shield match against Newcastle.
In response to a HRDCA recommendation, the Northern District team for Country Week was drawn from the area covered by the Hunter Valley Cricket Council. The Association was represented by F Cummins and M Winder. With an aggregate of 252, including two centuries, Cummins was a large part of Northern District’s success in winning Country Week. His performances earnt him praise in the Sydney press as “the best country batsman in Sydney” and as “a batsman of great promise”. He was selected in the Counüy No 1 team and shortly afterwards was chosen for a State trial game in Sydney.
At the end of the season an Annual Banquet and Smoke Concert was held in Miss Chamberlain’s Rooms for the presentation of shields and for a farewell to the President Frank McMullen, who had taken up an appointment as Headmaster of Newcastle High School. Special trophies were also presented to Roy Oakes who took 103 wickets (including 82 in the A grade competition) and to Gordon Bell who scored 1180 runs (including 838 in Association representative matches) during the season.
During the season red and gold were adopted as the Association’s colours. Starting time for matches was brought forward from 2.30 pm to 2.15 pm. A new turf wicket was also put down on the Park by Marist Bros. Club, with some financial assistance towards the expense being given by the NSWCA.
At the Annual Meeting the report claimed that the standard of the game was on the up-grade and “that with greater facilities provided in the way of turf wickets and a number of young players showing promise it would not be long before the game was back to pre-war standard”.