By Andrew Frackowski
A former Elizabeth and South Australian Redbacks cricketer Andrew Crook has been on both sides of the game then made the switch to netball.
He didn’t make the move to play netball, Crook made the transition to be General Manager of the “Netball Super-League” in England before being General Manager of the ANZ Championship, which he has continued on in for the past three years.
Crook grew up around another round ball code, watching his Dad, the late Martyn Crook play over 300 games for West Adelaide in the National Soccer League and going on to represent Australia as a Socceroo.
Sadly, his father passed away six years ago whilst in the USA coaching the Australian Joey’s Soccer team.
Despite his strong soccer background Crook decided cricket was his chosen pursuit and he started at Elizabeth District Cricket Club.
He progressed from the under 12’s,playing his first A Grade District game as a 16-year-old just before Elizabeth merged with Salisbury to become Northern Districts.
He then went to the Commonwealth Bank Cricket Academy, the country’s finishing school for elite cricketers for two years, with alumni including Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Ricky Ponting.
He was tutored by Rod Marsh, who is the current chairman of selectors for Australia.
Crook was a member of the SA under 19’s championship winning team which featured Northern Districts teammates Ryan Harris and Graham Manou.
His off spinning talent was also recognised by South Australian selectors.
Chosen to play a first class game against England, his initial first class wicket was England champion Nasser Hussain.
During his cricket career Crook also played cricket in England during the off season.
“After 2 years of University (Bachelor of Applied Finance) I left to play cricket as a league professional for Great Harwood, Lancashire in the Ribblesdale League,” Crook said.
“I was 22 and it was to rediscover my bowling form that had badly slipped.
“I loved it there and I used my British passport to trial with Leicestershire County Cricket Club where I played in their second XI in 2003 and the first half of the 2004 season.
“I then was asked to played for Lancashire CCC (where my brother Steven was playing at the time) and ended up playing there for three seasons, mainly in one-day cricket where I still hold the batting record of 162 not out at this level.
“After Lancashire I spent two seasons with Northamptonshire County Cricket Club.
“I enjoyed my time in England and was pleased with some of the memories and successes I have.
Crook’s time in England was also spent with his family, partner Louise, daughter Harriet (7) and son James (4).
His brother Steven is also a first class cricketer and is currently in Adelaide on holidays.
Mum, Sue and Step-Father Doug have also played major roles in Crook’s successes in sport and as a person.
During his second year at Northamptonshire he moved into the commercial operations of the cricket club.
“I thought it was time that I left cricket and moved into something I was passionate about outside of playing,” the former Rostrevor College student explained.
“I ended up running the commercial department of the club and after three years there, I was keen to applying everything I had learned to a sport which I felt like I could make a significant difference.
Crook then got the job as General Manager of the Netball Super-league in England.
“This job gave me a great grounding in reporting directly to a Board and stakeholder management,” he said.
“We had some good successes at England Netball and it stood me in good stead for my current role.
His current role as General Manager of the ANZ Championship is a credit to his work he did in England.
“After 18 months of my England Netball role, Anthony Everard, who is now General Manager of the Big Bash (Cricket Twenty20), left the General Manager of the ANZ Championship role,” Crook explains.
“I had already spent some time with the England Netball CEO in Australia checking out the ANZ Championship and how it operated so after Anthony left it felt like it could be a good fit and fortunately it worked out and I have been in the role for three years.
While Crook believes this is a challenging job, he like’s this opportunities that exist with this role as he thinks netball is still quite young as a sport.
“It is a really enjoyable job however like any job it sometimes throws up challenges that need to be overcome,” Crook said
“There is also lots of opportunity in the job which is exciting.
“Netball is a relatively young sport compared to other major codes and the opportunity really is for us to now find the keys that will unlock the potential of the sport into the future and I am really pleased to be able to play a role in this.
“I have really enjoyed watching how the quality of play improves year on year.
“The players are getting fitter and stronger every season and the coaches are getting more sophisticated which is obviously a natural evolution for Netball as a professional sport.
Crook has played a major part in transforming the competition to include two conferences this season, an Australian and New Zealand conference.
He has also hinted that in the future we could see more Australian teams introduced into the ANZ Championship along with possibilities of South African teams joining the competition.
Locally one question still remains for the Adelaide Thunderbirds on whether Jamaican born goal shooter Carla Borrego will be granted her Australian Citizenship.
Borrego has been attending Thunderbirds pre-season training, hoping she will receive her citizenship in time for the season opener.
Should this be granted Adelaide would need to drop a player from their current squad under the rules.
"They will have to drop someone from the squad and request permission from netball Australia to add Carla," Crook said.
"Alternatively she can be added to the squad on a short term basis if there is an injury.
"Or she can act as a permanent replacement player if there is a season ending problem - all this can only happen if she is a citizen.
The ANZ Championship is only seven weeks away and Adelaide Thunderbirds will kick the season off at home against Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic on Saturday, February 28.