JAMES Watson became a wicketkeeper only by chance but it has taken him all around the world.
The 18-year-old was in Ballina yesterday with the touring Canterbury Colts representative cricket team that took on Ballina Under-19s at Fripp Oval.
Watson went on the cricket trip of a lifetime last year, playing for six months with Great Houghton in the UK at second division level.
He had lots of fun, took lots of catches and scored lots of runs including a highest score of 112.
And it all started courtesy of a surprise gift "seven or eight years ago".
"I used to be a bowler but one Christmas I was given a pair of wicketkeeping gloves and I've kept ever since," he said.
With the cricket travel bug still in his system, Watson's experience playing abroad has been extremely valued by his younger teammates.
"It's been a big thrill playing out here - I'm one of three older fellas in the team and some are playing in this team for the first time so I'm enjoying that responsibility," he said.
For Ballina, the experience of older batsman Luke Hall was also sure to come in handy.
The hosts batted first yesterday with the 19-year-old fronting up as opener.
Hall has scored 149 runs so far for Ballina Bears this summer in the LJ Hooker Leagueat an average of 21.29.
This is his third season in the top grade.
"I've played cricket since I was about 10 and my dad played first grade for Randwick in Sydney so he's been a good influence on me," he said.
"It's pretty exciting to play a touring team from New Zealand; they should give us a great challenge."
Georgia Redmayne was another promising youngster to take the field.
Redmayne plays second grade for Alstonville and won the John McMahon North Coast Cricketer of the Year Scholarship last summer.
"I'm not fazed by playing against the boys," she said.
"I played all my juniors against boys as well as now at Alstonville in second grade."
Lismore Under-19s had a comfortable six-wicket win over Canterbury Colts on Wednesday at Oakes Oval.
Canterbury Colts were bowled out for 142 in just the 36th over with Jake Muscat, Adam Armistead, Mitch Holland and Ben Curtis each taking two wickets.
Nick De Giusti (40), Jack Watt (32 not out) and Jake Nind (22) got among the runs in the hosts' run chase.