Gundagai High School student and Kooringal first-grade cricketer Shaun Smith has capped an incredible twelve months with victory in the under-17 national cricket championships, as part of the NSW Country side.
Played from January 4-11 at Ballarat, it was the first time a NSW Country team, which also included Howlong all-rounder Hunter Hall, won the under-17 national championship.
The six-wicket win over Western Australia in the final was made all the more memorable for Smith when he learned of his selection in the tournament squad alongside fellow country player, Blake Mackrell.
“It was a massive achievement for the team, especially after being rolled for 45 in the first game; it took a lot of character from the team to bounce back after a loss like that,” Smith said.
“Being named in the team of the tournament was a huge achievement individually, but I can’t take all the credit, our bowling unit was a huge part of our success. Being able to open the batting only chasing scores of around 200 meant that I could build an innings, and not have much scoreboard pressure.”
Born and raised in Gundagai, the wicketkeeper/batsman has displayed natural ability as a cricketer from a young age. After making several representative sides as a youngster, Smith starred for Riverina in January of 2023 at the prestigious Bradman Cup, taking home the award for player of the tournament.
Smith’s talents had already been recognised in Wagga with the local player making his first-grade debut for Kooringal at the age of 13. It wasn’t long before he attracted the interest of Sydney clubs.
Playing for Easts in the Green Shield, considered by many to be the strongest junior cricket competition in the world, Smith excelled throughout that season to be named in the competition’s Merit XI in 2023.
His stunning performance with the bat and gloves at this month’s national championships, in which he totalled 303 runs at an average of 60.6, illustrates his consistency as a batsman, while his knock of 99 from just 107 balls against Queensland demonstrates his ability to take hold of a match.
Smith’s value to any side was given more credence with his performance behind the stumps, taking nine catches throughout the tournament and making two stumpings, one of those in the final.
As he prepares to enter Year 12, the promising cricketer reflected on the parts of his game that have really developed in recent times.
“I think making the move to open the batting has helped my game a lot,” Smith said.
“It was a struggle making the move after usually batting at four, but opening meant that I actually had to build an innings, and I have heaps of time to do that.”
Hailing from a sporting family, Smith has all the drive and determination to take his cricket to the highest of levels.
His father John, and grandfather Laurence Smith, are both life members of the Gundagai District Cricket Association (GDCA), while his brother Alex, also a representative player, lines up alongside Shaun for Kooringal, and in the time-honoured Hogan Gold Cup matches of his hometown.
It is perhaps this family history that sees the young cricketer continue to contribute to the Gundagai association, despite his busy schedule. Not long after winning the national championship, Smith made the dash back to Gundagai to be a part of the 2023-24 Hogan Cup.
Craig Ferguson is a junior representative cricket coach and life member of the GDCA. He has been at the coalface of local cricket for the past 20 years, and has seen Shaun develop into the player he is today.
“Shaun has always been an incredibly enthusiastic and very capable cricketer,” Ferguson said.
“He has always had that eye, and a fierce determination, but a lot of credit must go to his parents, John and Jayne, for their unwavering support. It’s exciting to see someone from our part of the world excelling against their peers on the highest stages.”
His HSC year will make life even busier than usual for Smith, with the emerging keeper-batsman having a goal of adding another trophy to his Australian title in the not-too-distant future.
“Goals for right now is to hopefully get back to club cricket in Wagga and win the competition,” Smith said.
“We (Kooringal) haven’t really performed to our very best yet, but we definitely have the team to go the distance.”