SAM McHugh has quickly made an impression in his first season in Tamworth, so much so that he’s shaping as a key cog for Central North in this weekend’s Northern Country Championships in Newcastle.
The South Tamworth recruit’s allround abilities, and form, made him hard to ignore for selectors.
He’s been a big pick-up for Souths and among both the wickets and runs.
The 22-year old grew up in Duntroon – a small farming town in the Waitaki District of New Zealand’s South Island, but spent part of his schooling in Brisbane and has also played half a season at Coffs Harbour.
He moved to Tamworth with his family and wouldn’t have considered that he’d be playing for the zone side a couple of months later.
“I didn’t think I’d be here long,” he said.
He thought he’d play a couple of games and see how it went. It went well and McHugh was snapped up by Tamworth rep selectors.
First game he took the new ball and claimed 1-12 from his 10 overs to lay the platform for Tamworth to score a 10-wicket win.
“I’m enjoying it,” he said.
Not so much the Twenty20s with his McDonald’s side crashing to another loss last Friday night, but the club and rep cricket.
This weekend will be another step up with the best cricketers from the Northern half of the state playing in the three-day carnival.
“That’ll be good,” McHugh said.
He’ll have a big role to play for Central North, firstly with the ball, and also with the bat.
Bowling his right-arm seamers, he has been one of the most impressive bowlers in the Tamworth competition.
Last game he tore through City United’s top order taking 6-21. He took 4-for another game.
“When I was younger I never bowled,” he said.
“My last year of high school I started bowling.”
Now he admitted he is probably “a bowler that bats a bit”.
“I’d like it to be the other way around,” he said.
Most of his career he’s been more a batsmen.
“I used to be an opener back in New Zealand,” McHugh said.
He hasn’t been batting there for South Tamworth or Tamworth, but has shown he’s more than capable with the bat with a near half-century for Souths and a memorable unbeaten 42 for Tamworth against Wallsend a couple of weeks ago.
His 71-run last wicket partnership with Mitch Holt got Tamworth to a defendable, and in the end match-winning total. Hopefully those kind of heroics won’t be required this weekend.
Central North are the top seeds of the Northern sides and take on North Coastal tomorrow in their opening game.