Former first-class fast bowler Jamie Heath had three kids under five, including a three-month-old, when he first headed across the Nullarbor Plain pursuing his cricket career.
January’s return trip home, almost a decade-and-a-half later, was “a bit easier” with two teenage daughters and his eldest son staying put in Western Australia.
“It’s been a while,” Heath told the Newcastle Herald.
“I’d been in WA for 14 and a bit years so it’s a big sea change from one side of the country to the other.”
But what hasn’t changed during that time for the six-time NSW representative – his love of the game and his first senior club Belmont.
And this weekend 41-year-old Heath finds himself back in the top grade at Cahill Oval.
Belmont, fresh from a morale-boosting victory against University, host Newcastle District Cricket Association leaders Hamilton-Wickham this Saturday and next with Heath on the teamsheet.
“I was helping out a mate in fourth grade because they [Belmont] were having some number issues and half the team were still juniors,” Heath said.
“I think [first grade captain] Marcus [Hainsworth] was looking for the same thing, a bit of experience, so I was happy to help out the club where I could.”
Heath, who claimed 13 first-class wickets between 1999 and 2002, said his impact may be lessened at the moment with a right shoulder injury restricting his bowling to off-spin.
“It’s frustrating being on the field and knowing what you can do but not being able to do it,” he said.
At the start of 2016-2017, seamer Heath collected his 250th wicket for WA Premier Cricket club Fremantle. This featured a career-best 39 scalps in a grand-final winning campaign of 2015-2016.
Not surprising when you consider the calibre of peers at his prime such as Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Mark Cameron.
“It was a tough era, but a fun time to play cricket at that level,” Heath said.
“My debut game for NSW against WA, I think there were only four players that didn’t go on to represent Australia.”
Heath was just 16 when picked for the Belmont first XI and Newcastle senior squad.
He fondly recalls winning a district premiership under Mark “Prawns” Curry in the early 1990s before heading to Sydney to play with Manly.
Elsewhere in round 12, Toronto and University meet in a top-four clash at Ron Hill Oval, Charlestown tackle in-form Wallsend at Kahibah Oval, Merewether travel to Stockton, City are at home to Cardiff and Waratah host Wests.