The director of cricket at Sydney University Cricket Club (SUCC) took his leave at the end of the 2017-18 season and left a wonderful legacy, writes Graham Croker.

When Gary Whitaker arrived on the campus at the start of the 2010-11 cricket season he had no idea the next eight years would shape him as much as he shaped the Sydney University Cricket Club.

During his tenure as the Director of Cricket, SUCC won the 2013-14 Club Championship, four First Grade titles, a First Grade Limited Overs title, four Second Grade premierships, and premierships in Thirds, Fourths and the Metropolitan Cup.

Gary was named Sydney Cricket Association Coach of the Year in 2013-14 and he was also acknowledged as the 2016 Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness Premier Coach of the Year.

In the season just finished, First Grade won the Limited Overs Championship and were runners-up as defending premiers in the two-day Belvidere Cup competition, Third Grade were Mitchell Cup premiers and Second and Fourth Grade were finalists. 

With that envious record on the board, it’s interesting to hear that Gary’s career was evolving as much as the cricketers he was coaching. That came about as he totally embraced the ethos of Sydney Uni Sport’s Elite Athlete Program (EAP).

“The emphasis is just as much, if not more, on academia as it is on sport,” he said. “The athletes on the programs are gifted academically and in their chosen sports. When they learn the importance of time management and dedication, they can achieve in both fields.”

“Younger cricketers coming through to state rookie contracts and representative teams such as Country Seconds are learning how to manage their studies with the time required for cricket training and games. And they’re probably becoming better players through the dedication and quality time they put into training.”

“That’s where the staff at the EAP are so good in helping the athletes with their study and sporting schedules.”

And, as a coach, Gary found the SUSF model provided some added benefits.” Many of the sports are based in the same area, so I was able to meet other coaches on a daily basis.”

“It was informative to talk with the likes of Karen Dalton (basketball), Chris Malone (rugby) and more recently Rob

Taylor (rugby) among others about their coaching methods and player management. It certainly helped to improve my coaching methods.”

While watching many young cricketers advance through the ranks, Gary continued to develop his skills by undertaking a Master’s degree in coaching which he completed in 2016.

“I’ve had a wonderful time on campus thanks to the players who’ve come through the ranks, the SUCC board, Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness and the EAP staff. It’s been awesome.”

“I would have loved First Grade to win back-to-back titles this season, but Parramatta posted a big score and their fast bowlers performed well to restrict us from reeling in the total. Our Third Graders were outstanding winning their title.”

“Overall it was another good season without being outstanding. I think the club is in good stead.”

Meanwhile, Universities wicketkeeper Georgia Redmayne produced a stunning, unbeaten 141 against St George-Sutherland to help the Students to the 2017-18 Sydney Women’s First Grade cricket title.

The stylish left-hander hit 13 boundaries and a six in her 149-ball stay as Universities posted an imposing 5-289 off their 50 overs in the season decider at Blacktown International Sportspark.

She shared a 188-run first wicket partnership with opener Ashley Day, who scored 79, with nine boundaries in her 108-ball stay. Raised in Alstonville in northern NSW, Redmayne played at state level from Under 15s to Under 18s. She made the NSW Breakers squad in 2014-15 and made her debut in the Women’s National Cricket League final.

Playing for Universities in the 2015-16 season in the Sydney Women’s Grade competition, she was named First Grade Player of the Year after notching 656 runs for the season at the healthy average of 82. Not surprisingly, Universities also won the title that season.