Sport

Harper legacy lives on

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Melbourne Renegades player Sam Harper has many local cricket fans tuning into the Big Bash League, with the top order batsman and wicket-keeper having a connection to Deniliquin.

The 22 year-old is the son of Bryan Harper, regarded as one of the best cricketers to play in the Deniliquin & District Cricket Association.

Victorian coach Andrew McDonald came knocking in recent weeks when it became clear the Renegades would have vacancies in the top order.

Sam has since played five games with the Renegades, scoring 95 runs.

He most notably starred for the Renegades with his fifth-wicket 68 run partnership with Mohammad Sam, scoring 36 runs off of 25 balls, with three ‘fours’ and two ‘sixes’, to help put the Renegades in a winning position before being run out by Michael Klinger.

To see his son get the call up in place of hard hitting opener Aaron Finch (due to international duties) was a proud moment for father Bryan.

‘‘It hasn’t come out of the blue but he’s worked hard for this playing a few Sheffield Shield games in the past so this is a new chapter,’’ he said.

‘‘He’s done well, playing his shots and taking the chance he’s been given. Hopefully he can produce a knock higher than 36.

‘‘Rather than throwing him at the bottom of the lineup they’ve decided to put him at the top.’’

Bryan started playing with Deni RSL at the age of 16, leaving behind a legacy that will always be remembered.

During his time at RSL, he scored two double centuries in the DDCA, one in the 1982/83 semi-final and another the following season.

The opening batsman also contributed well to RSL’s three-peat of premierships from 1980/81 to 1982/83, scoring in the 60s in 80/81 decider against Morago and making 68 in 1982/83 decider against Mayrung. He also put his best foot forward with 128 in a losing 1983/84 grand final against Town.

Bryan also represented the DDCA at Bendigo Country Week on three different occasions from 1982 to 1984.

He showcased his talent as a prolific runscoring opening batsman when he scored 100 against Leongatha at Bendigo Country Week in 1984.

In 1983 Bryan gained selection in the Victorian Country Cricket League XI after a series of fine performances with the bat as part of the undefeated Goulburn Murray Zone team at a five-day carnival in Mildura.

Local sports historian Gerry ‘Cowboy’ Corrigan said Bryan was one of the best cricketers he’s seen play in Deni.

‘‘He was the best opening batsman in northern Victoria and southern NSW,’’ he said.

‘‘He left Deni to study and played for the Melbourne Cricket Club in first and second grades.

‘‘Bryan went on to captain/coach Caulfield in the Sub-District competition and has also represent the Victorian Country Cricket League and the Sub-District Cricket Association.

‘‘With his talent, as well as his brothers Laurie and Tim, there’s no surprise that Sam is performing well on the big stage.’’

Sam Harper is only 22, but he has had his share of challenges over the last two years.

He suffered a severe concussion during a Sheffield Shield game in Adelaide early in 2017 that caused him to be hospitalised for two weeks and set him on the path of a lengthy rehabilitation.

The wicketkeeper, one of the most highly-rated young glovemen in the country, was playing in just his sixth first-class game and was felled when South Australia’s Jake Lehmann inadvertently collected him in the helmet with his bat.

The gloveman returned for the start of the 2017-18 summer but his opportunities with Victoria were limited resulting in him losing his contract with the Melbourne Stars.

He spent the off-season playing cricket in Bristoll, where he found form with the bat, such that Renegades and all of Deni will be hoping that Sam can keep his spot in the Renegades line-up when the likes of Test openers Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris return to the side.