THE last time Newcastle hosted a professional cricket match, a group of enthusiastic kids manned the sightscreens, rolling them from over to around wicket and vice versa, at the batsman's request.
Among them was a starstruck 15-year-old, who spent four days gazing over the hallowed turf, marvelling at how good it must be to play on it.
The young fella's name was Jason Sangha, and he is now 22 and captaining the Sydney Thunder's Big Bash League team.
I'm pretty confident in saying Sangha will play many, many Tests for Australia. Probably more than any other Novocastrian in history.
He's already played at the major arenas in his home country, and in due course I expect he will get to perform at iconic venues all around the world, like Lord's, Eden Gardens, Newlands and Sabina Park.
But will he ever play a professional match in his own backyard, on the same ground where he once pushed a sightscreen?
Yeah maybe. If, like the legendary WG Grace, his career spans 43 seasons.
This is probably as good a time to vent as any, given that last weekend Coffs Harbour hosted its second BBL match this season, between the Sydney Sixers and Perth Glory. (The other was washed out without a ball bowled).
Good luck to the good folk of the Coffs Coast, but what about Newcastle?
Our grand tally of top-level cricket has been a duck egg since the Sheffield Shield match between NSW and Western Australia in January, 2015.
Excuse my narky tone, but I guess I'm suffering a seven-year itch.
And who knows how much longer I'll need to keep scratching.
The reason this city has been consigned to the boondocks was succinctly explained by Cricket NSW chief executive Lee Germon two years ago.
"We want to bring cricket here but ... the facilities need to be able to accommodate it," Germon said at the time.
"The bones are here but it's going to take some investment to upgrade it to the expectations around modern-day cricket."
Since then an upgrade has been in progress. An $8 million renovation, this paper reported in September, will deliver improved lighting, new fencing, additional bleacher seats, a larger playing arena, better drainage ... and new sightscreens.
And what does that mean? Well, there's a "possibility" No.1 might get to host some pre-season AFL and Big Bash League trial matches, as well as Australian Deaf Games cricket fixtures, in April this year.
Jeez, I hope new turnstiles were part of the upgrade.
No mention, from what I've read, of the BBL competition proper or Sheffield Shield, let alone Test matches or one-day internationals. Heaven forbid.
To attract those type of events, further investment will apparently be needed to improve player facilties, in particular the change rooms, which are now the best part of 30 years old.
Presumably that's all part of "stage two" of the No.1 Sportsground redevelopment.
Until then cricket fans can only carry on waiting and hoping that one day, preferably before Jason Sangha has hung up the boots, Australia's seventh-largest city has a facility capable of accommodating marquee fixtures.
All of which reminds me that the grandstand at No.2 Sportsground, built more than a decade ago, would have been better located a few hundred metres to the east.
Then we might have one decent multi-sport stadium capable of hosting top-level events, rather than two half-decent facilities that are used predominantly by local weekend warriors.
Money, most of us realise, doesn't grow on trees.
But somehow Newcastle City Council has found enough in the coffers to secure an annual V8 Supercars race, and is considering extending the contract for another five years.
I can't think of a more divisive event than the Supercars, literally and metaphorically. How many Novocastrians would even care if it disappeared off the face of the earth?
Holding it this year makes even less sense.
Organisers said last week they were "monitoring the situation in NSW" but were planning to proceed as planned with the race between March 4 and 6.
Council added that it was confident it could all be staged safely, "given the outdoor nature of the Newcastle 500 and people's ability to safely spread out".
Fair enough. Maybe carbon-monoxide fumes prevent COVID from spreading?
Whatever the case, I have zero interest in attending a hoonfest that causes weeks of disruption and, to borrow a line from prominent Newcastle restaurateur Neil Slater, "hoovers up every dollar" before moving on to the next venue.
As a ratepayer, I begrudge every undisclosed cent that goes towards the Supercars.
If, alternatively, council decided to punt the Supercars and make No.1 Sportsground their No.1 priority, I can't imagine many residents would be protesting in the streets.
Council might argue they're already working towards that, and to be fair an $8 million upgrade is a step in the right direction.
But it's long overdue, and still not sufficient. After seven years, it remains anyone's guess when, or if, Newcastle will emerge from the cricketing wilderness.