How the kid from Clunes made his mark in state cricket
THE pads were too big, the bat was too heavy and Matthew Phelps was far younger than any of the other under-11s from the Police Boys Club, but he still loved cricket.
The man from Clunes would often spend afternoons hitting cricket balls with an iron pipe on the farm after he collected the cows from the paddock.
Phelps credits his Clunes upbringing and the support of several locals like coach Lance Perry from Clunes and Lismore, for his successful state career with NSW.
“As a young person, the facilities you play on are just so critical, the pitches we played on in Lismore helped you become a better player,” he said.
“People like John McMahon, Harold Crozier, Stan Gilchrist and Reg Baxter but all these people, the influencing they did … allowed people to be the best type of players they can.”
Phelps’ watermark year came in the 2005/06 season were he amassed including a memorable 133 against Victoria at Oakes Oval in Lismore.
“Just to play a match in Lismore was a highlight … but to score that hundred, I can vividly remember hitting that ball through mid-wicket to score the hundred, walking out to bat, I remember the Phelps stand, a whole range of things I vividly remember, I think things like that are etched in your mind,” he said.
“I was proud to be a Clunes or Lismore person to play in that match and hopefully foster the next generation of players.”
Those achievements saw Phelps named Pura Cup player of the year for the 2005/06 season alongside Brad Haddin, after which he retired.
“I was 33 and there were some good young players coming through so there was need to create some space … NSW Cricket recognised I had some skills in administering the game so they actually gave me a job … I’d say I was lucky to finish that way,” Phelps said.
Now based in the Canberra as general manager for Commercial, Competitions and Operations for Cricket ACT, following stints at Cricket NSW, University of Sydney and the NSW Waratahs, Phelps still maintains a connection to his boyhood home.
“Whenever we can it’s always good to get back to Clunes, it’s where my heart is and my parents have a property there … so it’s always good to get my children back there, to a sense of reality,” he said.