When Moree farm boy Jack Montgomery made his first-grade debut in Tamworth this year, it didn’t take long for high praise to come.
First, Old Boys veteran Mitchell Swain said the 16-year-old and his brother Paddy, 18, were quick enough to be part of the conversation of who was the fastest first-grade bowler in Tamworth. Paddy, like Jack, plays for Bective-East. And for the record, Swain said Tom O’Neill was the quickest.
Then, Jack’s Bective teammate, former Bush Blue Adam Jones, said the teen was the best and quickest 16-year-old he had seen in the region since Test vice-captain Josh Hazlewood. “He’s exceptional,” Jones said of the youngster.
Now, Jack may live on a sheep and cattle farm about half an hour north of Moree, but he doesn’t live on Mars, so of course the compliments found his ears.
The accolades are part of what his father, Mike, a former Moree mayor and a current councillor, has said was a “standout” year for his son, as he emerged from his elder brother’s shadow after playing for the ACT/NSW Country side who won the under-17 national championships. Paddy played in the NSW side that won the under-15 nationals.
Jack is a multi-sport talent who was named AFL North West’s rising star in 2017 after playing for the Moree Suns (it was his debut season in the sport). He was now taking cricket more seriously, Mike said.
Dad helped nurture the talent of his “big unit” son by having a net constructed on the farm. His youngest boy, Eddie, 13, will play for Central North’s under-14 side at the Kookaburra Cup in Albury next month. Mike said Eddie had been told he was a fast bowler, but in reality, he was a middle-order batsman.
Mike and his wife Janelle have another child, seven-year-old Clare, who, Mike said, practiced the “dark art” of leg spin. “We don’t like to mention that in polite company,” he said, adding that he was a “rubbish” cricketer and the kids inherited their mother’s sporting genes.
“He’s [Jack] probably a bit more motivated this year,” Mike said. “He was [previously] a bit casual about whether he got involved or not [in cricket].”
Mike added: “You know what it’s like in these small country towns – you play everything … I think as he was selected for higher duties, the motivation becomes a bit more [pronounced]. He doesn’t say much, Jack, but you could tell that he was waiting to see whether selectors included him.”
Mike believes that Paddy’s achievements “wouldn’t hurt” in terms of motivating Jack, although conversely, being Paddy Montgomery’s younger brother meant he had been “branded a bit”. “And I certainly think the younger brother’s [Eddie] been branded a bit by those two,” Mike said.
Jack, who starts Year 11 at Moree Secondary College in 2019, said that performing well at the nationals had given him a major confidence boost. And now, more than ever, he considered cricket a legitimate career-path option.
“Before the nationals I wasn’t really thinking that I’m up there with the other people in Australia,” he said, adding: “It was a great experience to see that I was good enough.”
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.