Spirit of North, Minson inspire end of WA Shield drought
Spare a thought for Marcus North.
The elegant left-hander played 111 Sheffield Shield matches for Western Australia, 40 as captain, during a time that his team was a perennial bridesmaid in the world’s premier domestic competition. North’s debut match was the first played by WA after they had won the 1998-99 shield final and expectation were ever-present about the State’s golden era extending for the foreseeable future.
It was also the first game I covered for The West Australian after being appointed chief cricket writer.
But far from success continuing to flow to the west, we both spent the entirety of our careers trying in vain to reach the elusive grail of shield glory. North’s last match was in 2013-14 when WA finally reached the shield final but were stymied by their own nerves, rain and a pitch at Manuka Oval as dry and unchanging as the Hume Highway that took the celebrating NSW back to Sydney.
In between those two games, he was a key member of a team that occasionally threatened and often flattered but never came close to replicating the lustre of his immediate predecessors. North, Adam Voges and Shaun Marsh were the only three players to make at least 100 appearances between WA’s last shield win and the current match at the WACA Ground that will finally end the 23-year drought.
Voges had a brilliant playing career with records in numerous captaincy, runs, catches and wins categories but, like North, his goal to win a shield never arrived. That disappointment should vanish today when the team he coaches goes one better than the team he captained in Canberra and a year later in Hobart when WA were again kneecapped at a venue prepared to benefit the home team.
Marsh played in both those finals as part of his own brilliant career and is about to join his father Geoff in the select group of WA captains to hold up the shield trophy after a final. The others are Dennis Lillee, Graeme Wood and Marsh’s first captain Tom Moody.
Voges’ coaching success will take him past Mike Veletta, Moody and Justin Langer, who also had outstanding playing careers. The WACA also imported coaches Mickey Arthur and Lachie Stevens whose tenures were short but notable for the emergence of influential players.
And it is quite possible that Stevens’ departure, after the ill-fated Champions League tour of South Africa in late 2012, was the catalyst for this week’s glory. Langer replaced Stevens and it was his tough love approach, and focus on promoting young talent and working it hard, that laid the foundations for the success of the modern era.
That success includes the Scorchers winning four Big Bash League titles, WA being a perennial challenger and regular winner in the one-day competition and now, after 23 long dry years, Sheffield Shield champions.
North is no longer in the WA team but his spirit, like that of SportFM stalwart Colin Minson, who did not live to see the drought end, remains.
IMAGE: Jacob Landsmeer Facebook