Return of Mac for daughter

December 26, 2017

Arnika McGregor and her father Cameron are unique as a father-daughter playing combination in Cricket Shepparton competition.

Making inroads: Central Park-St Brendan's ace Arnika McGregor captained the Norther Rivers to a state championship triumph with the honour just another feather in her cap.

Arnika McGregor (left) and vice-captain Letesha Bawden (right) celebrate after Northern Rivers under-14 state championship.

Senior cricket in any part of the country is littered with father-son duos taking on the grades together.

The long tradition of a son following in his father’s footsteps before ultimately surpassing his achievements is a staple of the sport.

But only recently has the landscape of grade cricket changed enough for father-daughter combinations to also thrive.

Central Park-St Brendan’s veteran Cameron McGregor, 47, has delayed his impending retirement from the game to line-up next to his daughter Arnika, 14, in the Jim McGregor (no relation) Shield C-grade competition.

The bond between the pair is evident to anyone spending more than 30 seconds in their company, with a healthy serving of gentle barbs flying back and forth.

‘‘It’s a bit of a challenge, it was going to be a retirement year, but we thought we’d have one year together and see how it goes, so if she keeps on improving we might get another year out of her,’’ Cameron said with a laugh — a regular occurrence during our chat.

‘‘She knows who the boss is (on the field), but on the other hand she does get a bit shirty at times when you tell her to do something because she knows everything.’’

The promotion of Arnika to C-grade this season, after debuting in E-grade for one match last year, is a nod to her amazing achievements in the past year.

A rising star of the game already at such a young age, Arnika’s recent accolades include captaining Northern Rivers to a state championship triumph, representing Victoria at the national championships and claiming the Raelee Thompson Rising Star Award for the region.

Leading her peers into battle was something Arnika thoroughly enjoyed.

‘‘It’s really good, I like playing with girls because I find it easier to play with girls of my age, it’s better because they’re the same as you and they’re sort of the same development as you,’’ she said.

‘‘(Captaining) was really good because at an under-14 level none of the girls know each other because Northern Rivers is such a big region, and you just get to bring all of the girls together and see them all come together as a team and just have fun with each other. Then as we came together as a team, everyone started working as a team and it was just a really good experience.

‘‘As a captain, it definitely tires you out more because you’ve got to think about everything, every single ball of the game you’ve got to look at the fields, make sure that if it’s a stronger batter you have different fields and if it’s a left-hander and a right-hander, but it’s pretty good.’’

The promising talent feels that although the two have distinct differences, men’s C-grade and girls under-15 national carnivals are more similar in skill than most would think.

‘‘The level of cricket is pretty much the same between both,’’ Arnika said.

‘‘Obviously there’s a lot of good C-grade players because they can bowl and bat real well and the same with the girls at that (state) level.

‘‘The intensity is way more in the Vic side, they have set times you have to be warming up and you have to have ice baths after and stuff like that, so it’s way more intense and they take it way more serious.

‘‘In C-grade they have a laugh every now and then, something funny happens and everyone cracks up laughing.

‘‘On the field even in C-grade sometimes everyone’s not real switched on, but in Vic everyone’s always switched on, every single minute of the day, because you can’t be anything else.’’

Mooroopna felt the full force of the McGregor duo in round eight, with both taking four wickets apiece in a fine display of bowling.

‘‘For the last probably 40 minutes we were both bowling together at the same time, but before that it was split in between because Arnika can only have spells of four or five overs being a junior,’’ Cameron said.

The Tigers have been more than helpful in making sure Arnika has every opportunity to succeed, promoting her through the grades as her outstanding performances continue to stack up and allowing her to avoid a burnout.

‘‘It’s been really helpful that they’ve let me play seniors because otherwise I would have to travel down to Melbourne to play girls’ cricket,’’ she said.

‘‘I already have to do that for training, so to travel down there Friday night, come back to play cricket Saturday, and then travel down on the Sunday would be really exhausting because it’s just a really long ride to go there and back.

‘‘But instead I can just travel a few minutes to play some quality cricket that’s about the same level.’’

The McGregor family backyard has played host to a plethora of gripping contests, with Arnika’s brothers Jordan and Brayden accomplished cricketers in their own right.

It is not lost on Cameron that the competitiveness at home has helped his children carve out strong junior and senior careers.

‘‘They all enjoy it, they have fun together and they all keep on going,’’ he said.

‘‘I think that’s something that leads her both into the C-grade cricket and her state requirements is that intensity that they use at home and the intensity that she uses on the field and the enjoyment she has.

‘‘Me with my kids it’s just about them enjoying life and enjoying sport and enjoying the country and enjoying doing what they do. It’s good seeing them overpass you, it’s a great time in one’s life where you can actually see them up to a level (above you).

‘‘Arnika’s still got that to come,’’ he added with a grin.

Cameron believes the level of girls cricket has exploded in the past few years.

‘‘Watching state level under-15 girls two years ago the standard was probably about at 30 per cent, but it’s improved nearly 300 per cent over the last two years,’’ he said.

‘‘The girls coming through are much stronger, they’re much quicker, they’re doing things similar to the boys at this age and even with Arnika in the men’s C-grade side, she’s definitely holding her own and being able to improve on that intensity and techniques that are being utilised, so it’s growing.’’

Arnika agrees, but knows there is still a way to go.

‘‘Males are a lot stronger, so they obviously bowl faster and they can hit stronger shots, but male cricket is more developed than women’s cricket,’’ she said.

‘‘Obviously there’s not as much women playing cricket, so for that women probably aren’t as good at cricket as males, but it’s just going to keep getting better and better as the years go on because there’s so many good girls coming up the ranks.’’

Part of the reason behind the boom is the growth and exposure of the Women’s Big Bash League, of which Arnika hopes she can play in one day — and eventually go even further.

‘‘It’s good to watch the girls play because you learn new things by just watching them bat and watching them bowl that you can then try yourself, so I guess it’s good to look up to a role model and just see what they do differently to try and get better,’’ she said.

‘‘Obviously my dream would be to play for Australia one day, but you never know if that will happen, so I’ll try to get to the highest level I can and keep practicing.’’

That journey will continue in Adelaide next month when Arnika again pulls on the Big V at a national carnival.

For now though, the pair is happy playing the sport they love together.

Although they do disagree upon how long that might be for.

‘‘Once she overtakes me, I’ll be definitely gone,’’ Cameron said.

‘‘So it could be 10 or 15 years.’’

‘‘I’m still taller than you, though,’’ Arnika retorted.

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