Ambitious captain Robin Maxwell has urged Hucknall Cricket Club to grasp their golden chance of promotion to the promised land of the Notts Premier League (NPL).
In an inspirational, pre-season rallying-call, Maxwell accepts that the club has made great strides, both on and off the field, in recent years.
“But now we see ourselves at something of a crossroads,” he says. “The next aim for the first team is a clear one, but one which could have a big impact on the club’s future.
“Everything is there -- the ground, the facilities and the people behind the scenes. We may never have it so good again. Now is the time to take advantage of those circumstances.”
All-rounder Maxwell, who turned 30 just before Christmas, will lead Hucknall in May into what could be one of the most defining seasons in their 125-year history.
He has been a revelation since joining Hucknall in a surprise move from high-ranking from Kimberley six years ago.
Modestly, he says he signed “as an injured bowler with the hope of helping the club progress as far as it could”. But although he’s taken plenty of wickets, his role as prolific batsman has re-written the record-books at the New Gatehouse Ground.
In each of the last five seasons, he has finished in the top four of the Gunn And Moore South Notts League’s (SNL) batting charts, including a memorable 2013 campaign when he fired 1,141 runs at an average of 71.31.
Maxwell’s exploits have twice helped to lift Hucknall to the brink of promotion to the elite NPL. Last summer they missed out by only eight points. Now he is sure they can get over the line -- and develop into one of the leading clubs in the county.
“When I first took the captaincy in 2011, I was reluctant because I didn’t fancy the prospect of all the extra responsibilities,” he said.
“Looking back, it was the best thing I could have done. Trying to help push the club forward has become a mini-project for me.
“Having won two promotions and two more cup competitions, we have established ourselves as regular contenders in Division A of the SNL.
“But while we have done so much in the past few years, there is so much more that the club can achieve. We have to keep pushing. If you stand still, you get overtaken.”
After the sad disbandment of Rolls-Royce Leisure, the Dispatch district will be without a club in the NPL next summer for the first time since 2003. But Maxwell is sure Hucknall can soon fill the void.
“We remain in a highly competitive region for cricket, but we have grown to the level of clubs around us (and overtaken many),” he says.
“I would love to see the day when all the top cricketers in Hucknall play for Hucknall Cricket Club.
“Since we have grown in reputation, we are in a better position. It is imperative for our longevity that we continue to produce and attract local players and actively encourage local kids to get into cricket.”
Maxwell is under no illusions, however, that Hucknall’s enhanced reputation has not just been forged by his on-field performances or those of his players.
It also owed a lot to the work and enthusiasm of volunteers responsible for the club’s other teams, its highly respected youth set-up and its social environment, which all nurtures a family atmosphere.
“Off the field, the club has developed at a rate of knots,” he continues. “Any good amateur club relies on the commitment of its volunteers, and in David Wagstaff and Martin Cassidy, we couldn’t have picked two better people to effectively run the club. There are also many others who have helped in so many ways.
“Whatever happens, we need to keep the heart and soul of the club. This has been a large part of what has driven us forward and without it, the club would stand for nothing.
“When I joined, it was a risk to drop from the NPL with Kimberley to Division C of the SNL and probably seen as a mistake.
“But the shell of a top club was here. All the tools were here for progression. Here’s to the future!”