Grade one day, Pura Cup the next
By CHRIS GILMORE
FORMER Alstonville cricketer Brendan Drew got one of the best early birthday presents ever this week.
Drew, who turns 22 on Friday, is playing for Tasmania against South Australia in a Pura Cup game that began on Monday.
The selection capped a whirlwind few weeks for Drew, who only two weeks ago was still playing grade cricket for Balmain in Sydney.
He moved to Tasmania 10 days ago after being asked to join the Tigers.
By Monday last week he was back in Sydney playing for the Tasmanian Second XI against New South Wales, and was then told at the weekend he would be playing in the Pura Cup.
"It came a lot quicker than we thought," Drew's mum Anne said yesterday.
"He told us on Saturday and he started on Monday."
Drew, a right-arm quick who is also handy with the bat, scored an unbeaten 15 yesterday in his side's total of eight for 421 at Bellerive Oval.
At stumps yesterday, he had bowling figures of one for 66 off 16 overs, including the wicket of Mark Cosgrove for 74. South Australia were at three for 251.
Such is Drew's reputation that former Australian Test and one-day star ? and current Tasmanian captain ? Michael Bevan flew to Sydney a few weeks ago to watch him in action for Balmain at Drummoyne Oval.
Bevan was instrumental in luring Drew to Tasmania and, as captain, had the final say on whether the Tigers would sign him.
Drew, a member of Alstonville's LJ Hooker League winning team in 2001-02, is the first player from the Ballina Cricket Association to play Pura Cup, according to local cricket guru John McMahon.
He is also the first member of the Far North Coast Junior Cricket Faculty to play first-class cricket.
"It's great from our point of view," McMahon said.
"He's an outstanding prospect.
"He has an action very similar to Glenn McGrath."
Drew was first recognised as an 11-year-old playing for the North Coast Polding team in a PSSA competition, McMahon said.
His main coach at the faculty was Roger Boyd, FNC Cricket regional director of coaching and a former Newcastle and NSW Country fast bowler.
Drew's development has also been aided by Alan Campbell, the Cricket NSW coaching director who was also his coach at Balmain.
He is the second player from the Far North Coast region to play for Tasmania. The other was Peter Mancell in the 1970s.
Drew left Alstonville at the start of 2003 to join Balmain.
He broke into the first grade team at the end of the 2002-2003 season, and was selected in the NSW Institute of Sport Under-23 team in August 2003.
His other achievements include representing the NSW Under-17 and Under-19 sides.
He was selected for the NSW Second XI in February last year to play against West Australia, but missed out on playing because of rain.