STOCKTON have produced a coup in the lead-up to the biggest match in the club's history by signing England hopeful Graham Onions in time for Sunday's SCG Cup cricket final against Tamworth.
Onions, a 26-year-old paceman who plays for Durham, was a member of England's one-day squad for the 2006 home series against Pakistan but did not play a game.
He arrived in Newcastle on Monday, and Stockton officials intend to rush the paperwork through this week to ensure the right-arm seamer is registered for the SCG decider.
Providing he is registered by 5pm Friday, he will make his Stockton debut the following day against Hamilton-Wickham at Passmore Oval.
Newcastle District Cricket Association officials said yesterday that they had received a clearance for Onions but not his registration form, which was expected to arrive today.
The England A representative would need to play in three of Stockton's four remaining two-day games to be eligible for the first-grade finals series.
His arrival gives Stockton's new-ball stocks a timely boost after the departure of Pat O'Rourke and the suspension of Tim Harding.
"This is all paid for by his county, by the way," Stockton president Ron Hancock said yesterday.
"It hasn't cost us a zac. It's pretty incredible really.
"When Tim Harding was suspended we needed a quick, and [Stockton spinner] Nick Foster has got quite a few contacts over in England.
"Graham's county was looking to send him somewhere for a month to play some cricket before their season starts, and we were lucky enough to get him."
Onions, who attended his first Stockton training session yesterday, said it was a "no-brainer" when he was offered the chance to leave near-freezing temperatures in his native Gateshead and fly out for the end of the Australian season.
Getting to play at the SCG on Sunday was an unexpected bonus.
"It was probably only a week ago that I found out I was coming out here, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to improve my game," Onions said.
"Obviously to play at the SCG will be a great achievement for myself and, you never know, I might get to play there again one day."
Onions said he hoped to stay for the rest of the season, although Durham may ask him to return for the start of their pre-season in March.
Having been a fringe member of the England squad three years ago, he believes he is better equipped now to make his international debut.
"I've been in and around the England set-up for a couple of years now, and if I knuckle down and do well for Durham, then I'll play for England. I'm sure I will," he said.
Last season Stockton signed former England star Chris Lewis, but the veteran all-rounder made little impact in his four games for the Seagulls.
Meanwhile, Merewether paceman Duncan McIlveen will front the NDCA judiciary after being charged on Monday with three breaches of the code of conduct.
McIlveen was reported by the umpires after day one of the match between Merewether and Toronto at Townson Oval on January 3.
McIlveen has been charged with offences relating to abusing an umpire, another player or spectator; using crude and/or abusive language; and engaging in conduct detrimental or prejudicial to the best interests of the game.
The judiciary hearing has been tentatively scheduled for January 28.
His Merewether teammate Trent Bush is expected to face the judiciary on the same date after an incident in the Tom Locker Cup final that led to Harding being suspended.