Grant McAlister new chairman of Wellington umpires and scorers’ association

Grant McAlister has assumed the chairmanship of Cricket Wellington Umpires and Scorers’ Inc at reasonably short notice with David Brandon’s decision to move to Christchurch for family reasons.

The umpires were fortunate to have someone of the calibre of McAlister to step up. He had been on the board for a decade and since 2009 also a board member of the New Zealand Cricket Umpires and Scorers’ Association.

It means that the Wellington umpires have had their second chairman in two years following the lengthy tenure of Evan Watkin. Brandon made a strong impression in a short time, putting the association on a more professional footing. McAlister is keen to build on that, and raise the quality and standing of umpires in the capital.

The 45-year-old McAlister, affectionately known  as “Radar” after the legendary character in M*A*S*H, has had a lifetime of involvement in cricket. Among his earliest memories is of watching Richard Hadlee on television, bowling off his long runup at Eden Park in the 1970s, and the terrace ditties of characters like Ian Donnelly with his clever, “If I was a Hadlee”.

McAlister made an impression as captain of the James Hargest High School 1st X1 in Invercargill when it beat traditional rivals Kaikorai Valley High of Dunedin one year. On leaving school he played for the the Marist club, and became its delegate on the Southland Cricket Association.

Later he moved to Wellington and appeared for the Johnsonville club, and had several games in the Mercantile League before he was attracted to umpiring. In his early 30s, McAlister knew his playing days were numbered, but he wanted to stay in the game. He decided to try  umpiring for a year, and after his modest aspirations his involvement has steadily gathered momentum.

He started in the summer of 2000-01 after being among those to benefit from the winter training of Terry Knight and Bill Sommer, now the Wellington association’s patron and president respectively. He soon passed the national level three exam, and after two seasons was named Wellington’s most improved umpire, an honour he was to receive a second time.  

McAlister’s impressive grasp of the law and local playing conditions, which included him earning the national level four qualification, inevitably resulted in him being appointed the association’s regional training officer for the first time in 2004, and his on-field competence was recognised with his elevation to the emerging national panel for the 2005-06 season. Over the years McAlister has stood in numerous Pearce Cup and Hazlett Trophy finals. The most memorable for him was at the Westpac Stadium. It was a one-day cup final, and Naenae Old Boys managed to shut out Eastern Suburbs. McAlister recalled the stadium’s notoriously fickle swirling winds made it very noisy, and he just happened to umpire with Brandon.

After two stints as a national panelist and several years as one of the top umpires in Wellington, McAlister preferred to concentrate more on administration. As a national board member he took on the demanding recruitment portfolio, and it is hoped a national survey of umpires, which asks why they took it on, might provide some fresh ideas on how to boost membership.

In Wellington, besides the on-going need to recruit, McAlister’s priority will be a general upskilling of the umpires. He wants a greater number of them passing their national exams at a time when Wellington is embarking on a new, more professional club competition, and the most promising umpires gaining positions on the three national panels.

McAlister has worked for a leading clothing manufacturer, Rembrandt Suits, for 21 years in a variety of roles, among them design, development, and production.    

Brandon, an Australian who umpired in the Sheffield Shield, will not be lost to umpiring. He is expected to soon become involved with the Canterbury association.  

McAlister can be contacted at grant.mcalister@clear.net.nz and 4755388 and 0274 193266.

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