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Glamorgan have signed Charlie Hemphrey for the coming season, a former baggage-handler in Australia. The Welsh county have certainly got used to being left on the carousel when it comes to success in recent years but Alun Rhys Chivers has uncovered what could be some useful Yorkshire grit.
Until four years ago, Yorkshireman Charlie Hemphrey was “throwing bags” onto aeroplanes at Brisbane Airport.
At 25 years old, the batsman and occasional off-spinner had been rejected three times by Kent, and once each by Essex and Derbyshire.
Disillusioned with life in England, the Doncaster-born Kent club cricketer made the move which would catapult him into professional cricket, albeit in Australia, and then onto Glamorgan, who have offered him a contract for 2019 and 2020.
“It was purely a lifestyle choice,” he said from his home in Australia. “It wasn’t really difficult.
“When I was younger, 18 or 19, I came out and played seasons of club cricket and made friends and contacts. Back in 2011 and 2012 in England, it was a difficult time for someone trying to forge a career in any industry, so it wasn’t a difficult choice.
“I was 25 years old and thought the chance to play professional cricket had passed me by. I was lucky I was scoring a good amount of grade runs and Queensland weren’t overly strong batting-wise.
“The selectors liked what they saw, threw me in and took a bit of a plunge and here we are today, four years later. It’s nice to get the opportunity after essentially being written off at a young age.”
He credits fellow Queenslander Usman Khawaja and Glamorgan’s interim head coach Matthew Maynard as two key factors in his decision to head to Wales.
“Last year, Ussie [Usman] Khawaja and Joe Burns were there, obviously Ussie was there for longer, and he spoke really highly of the place, the team, the whole set-up there.
“Obviously it was a tough year for Glamorgan results-wise, especially batting-wise, but that wasn’t just Glamorgan. It was throughout county cricket.
“It was tough for batsmen throughout. They said from the outset they wanted to add a few top-order players and so it was how positive they were and how much effort they made over the past few months to get me there, it’s been great.
“Another big pull was Matt Maynard. I’ve actually never met him but everyone I’ve spoken to speaks very highly of him as a batting coach. Someone like that will be great to work with in terms of getting better.”
Although he was a relative latecomer, he still feels he has plenty to offer and that Glamorgan were the right fit for him from the outset.
“I had a fairly good year last year in Shield Cricket. I’m in a fortunate position where I’m able to play in both competitions and with the age I’m at and the experience I’ve had here [in Australia], I thought that it’d be nice to play some county cricket.
“I got in touch with an agent and he put some feelers out. Glamorgan came straight back and were very positive and I sensed they were encouraged about getting me over there.
“The contact has been going on for a long time now, since September, when I had the first few chats with Hugh Morris. The offer was made quite early but it’s taken a long time to get past so many loopholes.”
When he eventually arrives in Wales ahead of the opening match of the season in April, he’ll no doubt feel at ease alongside fellow Brisbane product Nick Selman, whose own rise through the ranks of the Kent league and Second XI mirrors that of Hemphrey.
“I played against him a handful of times. I played against his side, Sunshine Coast, a couple of weeks ago in a T20 match, so I had a chat with him. That’s the first time I’ve really spoken to him.”
Despite not knowing each other well, Hemphrey says that he’s kept a keen eye on Selman from afar.
“He loves the place and is looking forward to trying to have a big year next year after a slightly disappointing year this year.
“I haven’t really spoken to him about going down through the age-groups, but obviously he went and played club cricket and age-level cricket and did well, and played in the Kent League and did well. I’ve still got some friends who played in that as well.
“He seems very settled over there. He’s got a lot of time on his side and can have a really good career.”
Hemphrey has also kept a close eye on disgraced former Australian captain Steve Smith, and expects big things from him if and when he reaches the dizzy heights he once enjoyed.
“I’m lucky in the last three or four years that I’ve been around Test players and played against the Australian bowling attack and watched Steve Smith and people like him, how they go about it. It’s a case of always learning and trying to get better.
“He’s obviously a fantastic player. I’ve played with and against him when he came over at 17. We still have a bit of contact here and there. He’s obviously going through a tough time but his performances on the field are amazing and I think after a year off, it could be scary what he manages to do after that.”
Glamorgan fans will be hoping that the same can be said of the county’s newest recruit in 2019, once he completes the remaining matches in the Sheffield Shield. But he’s all too aware of the challenges facing him in his new endeavour.
“There’s obviously going to be different challenges. Early April wickets in England are probably going to be slightly different. I’ve just got to get as much advice and pick as many people’s brains as possible.
STATS // In 2015 new signing Charlie Hemphrey became the first Englishman since John Hampshire in 1978 to score a century in the Sheffield Shield
— Glamorgan Cricket (@GlamCricket) January 10, 2019
“I’m really excited. It’s something I didn’t think would come along. I’m fortunate it has and very thankful to Glamorgan, firstly for their patience and then secondly for giving me this opportunity.
“I’m ready to put in some good performances and I think with a good bowling line-up and if we can put some runs on the board for the bowlers, it can be a really good year.”
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