A landmark in the 1930-31 season was the first visit of a NSW Sheffield Shield team to Maitland. On the way back from Queensland, the team played a match on the Maitland Showground on December 5 and 6 1930 against a Northern District Side.
The NSW Xl was A Kippax, A Jackson, S McCabe, HS Love, W Bill, H Hooker, A Allsopp, G Stewart, W Hunt, H Chilvers, C Andrews, and A Fairfax (1’2). Four of these – Kippax, McCabe, Jackson and Fairfax had been members of the Ashes winning 1930 tour of England. Also included in the NSW team was Charlie Andrews, the former Maitland player, who must have felt proud to return as a member of the Shield side to play before his home crowd.
The Northern District team was R Oakes (capt.), G Bell, T Lindsiey, L McPherson, R Macmillan, L Holmes, F Neely, L Byrnes, C McDonald, R Johns, W John and A D’Ombrain(12).
Northern District batted first and were all out for 191, with Gordon Bell 64, Ross Macmillan 37, and Roy Oakes 30 being the best of the local batsmen. In reply NSW scored 440 with both Archie Jackson 118 and Alan Kippax 109 making centuries, Stan McCabe 5() and Hampden Love 51. In their second innings the locals were 6 for 135 with Gordon Bell delighting the crowd with a hard-hitting 75, including 8 sixes and 5 fours scored in 34 minutes.
A record 51 teams – an increase of 11 on the previous season – entered the local competition. Among the newcomers were South End, Heddon Greta, d’Argeavels and Martins Creek.
A new grade – D grade – was introduced with the intention of “giving boys leaving school a steppingstone to C grade”. It attracted 7 entries – Hebburn No. 1 and No. 2, Greta, Rutherford, Paterson, Robins and Hinton. The new grade was to have a short-lived existence and was abandoned the following season because of insufficient entries.
The A grade was reduced to 5 teams with Kurri Kurri again dropping out. An additional turf wicket was provided for the A grade competition when East Maitland replaced the old concrete wicket on the Banks Street Reserve with a new turf wicket that came into use midway through the season, making 6 turf wickets in the Association’s competition.
Branxton and Northern Division finished level on points in A grade and so the final determined both the premiership and the Waller Shield. The final was a low scoring affair with Northern Division 77 and 9-73 defeating Branxton 66 and 44. An unusual aspect of the match was that on the fourth Saturday, the game was transferred from the Showground to Robins Oval, after a flood had interrupted the final and the Association’s use of the Showground had expired.
In winning the final for the third time in five seasons, Northern Division became the permanent holders of the Waller Shield, in addition to the Irwin and O’Hearn Shields that it had previously won. These three shields are still preserved in the club’s pavilion at Lorn Park, and have even managed to survive a fire which burnt out the old pavilion in 1981.
Among some of the notable performances during the season were Gordon Bell’s outstanding double of 569 runs and 51 wickets in A grade; IRS McPherson’s three centuries in A grade for Robins; D McEnearney’s 251 n.o. for Marist Bros. A grade in a score of 8 for 45’2 against East Maitland; Ken James’ 102 wickets for Kurri Kurri in C grade, including 10 wickets in an innings against Robins; and Bert Coffey’s 95 wickets in C grade for Gosforth.
One young player to attract notice was Col Johnston (son of Will Johnston), who made his debut for Northern Division C grade at the start of the season. Following a match against Louth Park, in which Col opened and “carried his bat” to finish with 62 n.o. in a total of 119, the Mercury reported:”One of the most promising young bats at present in the District is Col Johnston … Young Johnston has shown admirable qualities for an opening bat. He is a left-hander and has an excellent defence. He watches the ball well, and, when making a stroke, meets the ball with a full bat and gets behind it. He has shown he can stick at it in a critical position”. Col was to go on to play a significant part in the Association’s history, not only on the playing side but in administration as well.
With the additional affiliation of Gosford and Muswellbrook Associations, the Hunter Valley Cricket Council’s John Bull Shield competition was conducted in two divisions with Hunter River, Singleton, Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter in one, and Gosford, Newcastle, Wyong and Cessnock in the other. Hunter River’s quest for the John Bull Shield still proved fruitless, with Newcastle taking out the competition to break the Upper Hunter’s sequence of three wins.
The combined team for Country Week was selected after a trial match between the Central North Coast and Hunter District. Local Association representatives were L McPherson, R Macmillan (Robins) and T Lindsley (Branxton). A surprising omission was Gordon Bell – so surprising that a Special General Meeting was called to consider the issue.
Though omitted from the Country Week team, Gordon Bell was selected in the NSW Country team that played against the West Indies at Newcastle on January 24 and 26 1931. A feature of the match was the remarkable all-round performance of Learie Constantine who scored 147 and took 4-57 in the first innings and 5-24 in the second.