Mark Atkinson
Feb 10 2020

John Saint made his first class debut for Tasmania in the 1995/96 season and went on the play 4 Sheffield Shield games and 6 one day games.

John arrived in Hobart to play for North Hobart after winning consecutive Bill O’Reilly Medals awarded to the best player in NSW Premier Cricket in 1993/94 and 1994/95.

John originally played for Penrith Cricket Club before transferring to Sydney University

Tasmania celebrating after a win

Welcome John,

How did you get into cricket?

I was 5 when I started. I was a good boy so Santa gave me a Cricket Set.

What are your memories of your junior cricket days?

From age 10 to 15 I played for St Patricks Blacktown in the juniors on a Saturday and then C Grade with my father in the afternoon in the Penrith District, absolutely loved it.

When did you come to grade cricket?

I was picked in the Penrith Green Shield Under 16 team and after the competition finished I was picked to play 4th Grade for Penrith.

How did you progress through the grade ranks?

In my first year in Grade we made the Final against Northern District and they got 230. In our innings I was batting with our captain .Jon Llewellyn and we put on 62 for the last wicket to win the game, I scored 57not out. I still have the photo of Jon and I walking off the field.

I progressed through the grade ranks as I improved my pace as a bowler and making consistent contributions with the bat.

You won 2 Bill O’Reilly medals awarded to the best player in the Sydney Grade Competition, what does that mean to you and what do you remember about those times?

My motivation was and still is, my 3 daughters Caitlin, Mikaela and Emily. When my youngest (Emily) was born I promised all 3 of them that I would do something special and win one O’Reilly medal for each, I nearly did.

I remember being totally focused now I had a goal and it went from there. I do remember coach Michael Haire was a big influence at Sydney University.

Did you have any mentors or coaches who were assisted your cricket and if yes how did they help you?

Former Australian test player John Benaud instilled self-belief and gave me my first chance in First grade at the age of 17 against Waverly. I remember feeling I was a bit out of my depth playing against the likes of Graeme Beard and Mike Gatting when we played Balmain.

I remember batting with Trevor Bayliss early in my career and I scored 87, he encouraged me all the way through and I felt it was a bit of a game changer for me.

Michael Haire taught me the art of swing and seam bowling and from my Rugby League days at Balmain, Bill Hilliard was a big influence for my grit and determination as well as my fitness.

John Benaud

What were your cricketing ambitions?

Like most, to play for Australia

Did you move to Tasmania to peruse cricketing opportunities? What were the circumstances around your move?

I moved to Tasmania for 2 reasons. The first was that it was perfect timing after the 2 O’Reilly Medals to try and break into first class cricket, and the other was we had 3 daughters under 5 and the quite life style appealed to us.

Describe the circumstances the led to your first-class selection?

Good question. I was picked to play against Sri Lanka in a one day game. I guess they thought ‘this bloke has travelled a helluva long way so let’s give him a go’ because I couldn’t buy a wicket or hit the ball off the square leading into the game.

I got 2 for 59 off 9 overs getting Mahanama and Ranatunga out


What do you remember about your first Shield game?

Mark Ridgway pulled out of a Shield match playing Western Australia at the WACCA. I was rooming with Boonie and he told me I was playing. I was all a little surreal and Brendan Julian was my first wicket.

What were the challenges of playing first-class cricket and how did you deal with them?

I must say I didn’t expect being away from my daughters would have such a huge impact, but it did and I didn’t deal with it all that well.

What was your best performance in first class cricket?

With the ball I took 4 for 10 against Pakistan at Bellerive Oval including the great Wasim Akram.

How did your first-class career end?

I had a bad fracture in my right clavicle after diving chasing a top edge from Darren Lehman. I was determined to get back on the park and did so in 6 months but it was never the same so it was perfect timing to give back to my family.

What do you think looking back on your cricket career?

I am so grateful and very humbled by the people I have met along the way...cricket really is more than just a game.

What preparation went into your game?

I trained pretty hard Bill Hilliard and Dennis Tutty when I was at the Balmain Tigers and I’m very grateful for the lessons they taught me as I always wanted to be as fit as I could be.

Dennis Tutty

Who were the teammates you particularly admired?

Colin Miller and I had similar interests as we both liked to gamble and have a drink or two. Mark Atkinson made you feel a part of everything and I admired that.

But watching our batting line up treat the opposition like 2nd rate cricketers was a real experience. 1 Cox 2.Hills 3.Boon 4.Ponting 5.DiVenuto 6.Young...it doesn’t get any better than that.

Colin Miller

Who were the opponents you particularly admired? 

In Sydney Grade Cricket, Brad McNamara, Scott Thompson and Shane Lee. Every week these guys were getting hundreds and 5 wickets consistently.

What are your hobbies?

Apart from my family, I love horse racing. I’m a part owner of No Escape ...doing really, currently at 280k in prize money. Touch wood.

You are now a coach? What make a good coach, what are the challenges and how do you deal with them?

I think standing back and listening more often than not helps. Communicating with young teenagers can be challenging but very rewarding individually when they finally get it.

I’m currently the bowling coach at Penrith

What would you do if you were running Australian Cricket?

I’d be making sure we have the cricket grounds necessary to keep Grade cricket strong so clubs don’t have to amalgamate.

What advice would you give to yourself as an 18 year old?

Be more open minded and find out as much as possible about everything.


If you'd like to see more content from Mark Atkinson, they'd be very grateful for your support and contribution. Mark Atkinson will receive 80% of all funds contributed.