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The Pros: Shane Singe (2002 - 2006)

When Gotham City needed Batman they shot up a spotlight with the infamous Bat Signal and the caped crusader duly surfaced; similarly, when the world was in dire need the Avengers were readily ‘Assembled’. Back in the early to mid 2000’s when Carrickfergus Cricket Club found themselves in trouble they invariably sent out a distress call, enlisting the assistance of man from 11,000 miles away. Shane (Patrick Laurence) Singe would begin his stint as the overseas professional at Carrick in 2002 and would last, due to many rescue missions, a further four seasons. Along the way he would prove his worth in creating a winning mentality in training and the whole club which it can be argued would lay foundations allowing Carrickfergus to prosper into the position it has today.

Singe hailed from Papatoetoe, in the southern part of New Zealand’s non capital but most populous city of Auckland. He attended the local High School and would return there post education to take up employment as a Physical Education Teacher. Cricket was a natural passion and he quickly developed, displaying such leadership qualities that an appointment as Auckland Under19 Captain in 1998/99 beckoned. Signing for his home Papatoetoe club was easy and he similarly became Club Captain of the Premier League side while still in his early twenties. Recognition came at the Auckland Cricket Association Awards in 2001/02 for his innovative captaincy and the accumulation of most 1st Grade runs that year. The accolades for the left handed opener and wicketkeeper would stir interest from a club on the opposite side of the globe.

Carrickfergus had a long relationship with New Zealand players since they first dipped into the overseas professional market in 1987, Auckland in particular a popular ‘feeding ground’. Having progressed from the very lowest reaches of cricket in the Northern Cricket Union (NCU), the East Antrim club had now become a little stuck in the second tier and were on the hunt for a professional with inspiration and some fresh philosophies to take them to the Premier League of the NCU for the first time in their history.

Shane was welcomed to Northern Ireland (April 2002) with a time honoured ritual of heavy rain and an airport transfer back to his new home in the clutches of club secretary Roger Bell. He recalls:

“(I) Arrived after a thirty hour round trip into rain which was bouncing back up from the ground but the most eye popping part of the journey was the twenty or so minute car journey back to Carrick with Roge… suffice to say he had some serious trust in the brakes. Immediately though I was welcome; Really liked the setup of the club with the picturesque ground, with the bar as the centre piece of the local community and once I could understand the banter, something that I needed to do quickly… the camaraderie with the boys and indeed the club membership was second to none”

Singe’s first outing for his new team on 8th June 2002 saw him end unbeaten just 12 short of a debut century and a three wicket win at Laurelvale. Rain and cup ineligibility however, would mean that Carrick did not take the field again for almost a month; this allowed the New Zealander to set about what became his second passion, socializing. Always able to chat, Shane quickly became popular at the club itself but also in the local spots of ‘The Wind Rose’ and ‘Ownies’ where he often introduced some improvised cricket shots into his dance floor routines; how or why this seemed acceptable remains somewhat a mystery. But it was nearby capital Belfast and particularly ‘The Fly’ that became the staple diet of a Saturday night post cricket. Three floors and cricketers from Carrick and other clubs dotted around each made it the place to be and the subject of most conversations at the subsequent Monday night practice. The early morning sprints for the last bus home also maintained fitness levels.

A stop start debut 2002 season ended with Carrick finishing second but well adrift of impressive Champions Bangor (they would win the Premier League in 2004). The goal of promotion had not been met but Singe had made his impression with steady performances but more strikingly with his enthusiasm and drive in training and around the club. Having now made his debut in first class cricket with Auckland, he would return to Northern Ireland in 2003. Coaxing, cajoling, encouraging, he would mould that group of talented individuals into a winning one. Some would argue that being third in the batting averages that year, behind (Barry) Cooper and (Ryan) Eagleson, indicates a mediocre return for the club professional. But it was the determination to win and make that small difference either with the bat or the gloves that really contributed. Demonstrated none more so in a crucial clash in late August when an oppressive 37, on a terminally slow end of season Muckamore track, kept his side in a game they may well have lost but would eventually emerge victorious. A week later and a half century in the final game at Laurelvale, where he began the previous year, would allow Singe to accomplish his intended target and take Carrickfergus into the Premier League for the first time

Shane’s popularity within the club had grown over the two years and was demonstrated in no better way than his benefit night in that promotion season. Tickets were sold out and although these nights are usually fairly formal ‘farewell’ get-togethers, the one for Singe became one of dubious notoriety. On the social side and that night in general …

Some of the parties and social times as a club were magnificent…Everyone just got on and not just the first eleven squad, we liked each other’s company. I remember my sponsorship night vividly for the banter and fun but still the lasting image will be of 30 odd blokes with their shirts off ‘dancing’ round a 10ft square floor; if you didn’t know what was happening then there would have been some questions asked...maybe they still are ”

Carrick opted to take the option of a South African overseas professional for their inaugural Premier League adventure. That proved a reasonable choice and the story of AB De Villiers season in Northern Ireland can be relived here Scott Oliver Reaching the middle of that summer with the circumstances the way they were following De Villiers South African call up, that first mayday was sent off to the Southwestern Pacific Island and Shane made his first polite request to be excused from teaching for a little trip back to Ulster, something that would regularly require a very understanding head teacher. Despite De Villiers scoring at an average of over one hundred , the threat of an immediate return to the second tier still hung over Carrick. Indeed it came down to a winner stays up last game of the season against Belfast Harlequins at Middle Road, Carrick’s home turf. The Quins had been first team to suffer at the hands of AB and perhaps thought that without him the balance may have shifted their way.

“My highlight really was helping the team avoid relegation in that first season v Harlequins. AB had just scored two double hundreds when I arrived so I felt more than a little pressure that year. In that final game at Middle Road though I batted most of the innings for what I would describe as a very average 99*. But we got home by 20 odd runs and I remember fondly being awarded a crystal glass memento in the club afterwards…the lads took a little chip out of the glass just to recognise I was that one run short. I still have it at home. But a real good day to keep us up especially having replaced AB.

Singe remembers particularly batting earlier that year in an Ulster Cup game away at Donemana in the North West. Carrick effectively named two pros and yet still ended up being pretty well hammered by the team from the Holm. Throughout his career Shane it is fair to say was an accumulator of runs but he recalls that Ulster Cup game ‘fondly’

Watching AB at his game for those few weeks was a privilege and having the chance to partner him in the middle even once was even better. One game in particular we played had amazing ground dimensions, with one boundary around about 35 metres at best.(the other was huge) I opened with Coops (Barry Cooper) and recall my first two scoring shots , a drive which went pretty much straight up in the air and then a horribly mistimed pull . Both of which just plopped down a metre or so over this ‘(not) huge’ boundary. Imagine if they had had six distances flashed up in those days . Over the years I have managed to meet up with AB a couple of times since; obviously a world class player but an even better bloke”

Having kept the club up in that 2004 season Singe would have been assuming a return to the club would only be to continue his social career. Instead when injury befell Carrick’s new South African pro (to be Mumbai Indian) Davy Jacobs, yet another rescue call went out. Another bunch of air miles banked and his first game back was a defeat against local rivals Cliftonville. After only four runs in those first two outings pressure was building on the team and Shane himself. At Downpatrick though he finally reached his maiden century for Carrick , scoring 107* albeit in a failed chase. Carrickfergus in fact only won 5 games from 18 that year but were fortunate to find Derriaghy winless and another season of safety . The final assignment came in 2006 when Agent Singe was flown those eleven and half thousand miles from Auckland to Belfast for just three final outings in Carrickfergus colours. Again though Singe dug in and a vital 80 against old foes Bangor secured a win that would ease those nerves again.

From the beginnings in 2002 Shane had been back and forth for a total of five seasons in all, initially helping secure promotion and then making sure they consolidated there.

My best moments were obviously getting to the Premier League and then staying there; the team and club definitely deserved to be playing at that level. We had a great mix of younger and experienced players each of which pitched in when needed. Led by Eagy (Ryan Eagleson) it wasn’t just winning on the pitch for me, it was the culture we and I tried to establish off the field. Working and encouraging players to take responsibility to get better with one to one coaching and doing extra training. Some of the younger players at that time have gone on to become seasoned campaigners- critical to the club- Parky (Iain Parkhill) Frostie (Anthony Martin) and Michael Gilmour for a few . I am pleased to have played a part in helping to start this progress and to see the club flourish at that time and ever since”

The After

Singe returned to New Zealand and to his regular positions within Papatoetoe school and sporting circles. As far as his cricket was concerned the club was no longer challenging for the Auckland titles that they had previously but in typical fashion he could see this as a new or in actual fact possibly a repeating challenge.

As I was moving toward my late twenties I was beginning to think more about the future of Papatoetoe rather than some of my own personal ambitions. I was still playing some matches for the Auckland B’s but after my stint at Carrick I had begun to enjoy the coaching and interacting with individual players even more. In many ways this was a similar thing to when I first went to Carrick with a group of young players and working out how to create a sustainability to the club and a culture where they could progress. The experiences I had had in Carrick definitely helped. I ended up in my last year as a player coach but then was only 31 when I felt that that was me as far as continuing to play. I was happy where I left it as a good friend of mine Gareth Shaw was able to step in and took up the coaching reins

Shane’s personal life was to also change when he met Amanda Morris a short while after he had returned from Northern Ireland. Given the amount of travel detailed it would come as no real shock to discover the Singe would fall for an air stewardess. Originally from Hamilton but residing in Christchurch then, Amanda would be persuaded to move to Auckland and they would be together there until a defining few months for Shane in early 2013. He had found his kindred spirit and they would marry in March of that year which followed on only a few weeks after Singe had decided to quit teaching for a risky career change.

In two parts of his life , Singe had been heavily involved in the career of Ish Sodhi, initially teaching him at the local High School but subsequently as captain with his cricket at the Papatoetoe club. Sodhi by 2013 was progressing well on the field but further guidance was required

I had been looking into the sports player management space and in 2012 there was an opportunity to open a New Zealand office for a global rugby agency;. Amazingly for rugby, New Zealand had not been included and that was when I really wanted to change direction. We started looking after only a few rugby players just helping them maybe move from school into provincial rugby. Ish was progressing well and I felt that this could also be developed for the cricketers. Like the coaching just enjoyed the interaction with players and helping them to build a career in the sport but also prepare for possibilities outside of their chosen field. Got Amanda involved and we have grown substantially over the past 6–7 years and to be honest I am immensely proud and what we have achieved over these past seven years. We now look after several rugby international players as well as a few NZ cricketers including (Mitchell) Santner, (Jimmy) Neesham and of course Ish still. Looking towards the future with a possible merger with an Australian brand but I love the life I've managed to build both career and personal and that's a pretty good place to be.

In particular he notes one of his new ‘clients’ who he considers might have the brightest of futures

I now also ‘look after’ Kyle Jamieson. Pretty special for me as he is a Papatoetoe lad like Ish and I actually opened the batting with his old man back when! Think Kyle has the mental aptitude to go a long way with his cricket career ; just before cricket got stuck into lockdown he had made a real impression in the series against India, knocking over Kohli for his second test wicket!

In 2014 things were to change again with arrival of his first child, daughter Sophia and sticking with the so called customary fashion Shane and Amanda had their second child, four years later when another daughter Georgia came along.

Yeah look it’s a cliche but kids do change outlooks but they have been just fantastic. Best thing perhaps is that they are so different in personality with one being a real ‘girls girl’ but the other is already more than determined and definitely knows what she wants. Know that there have been some discussions about which daughter takes after which parent. Sophia is at school already and using another cliche I suppose, time does really fly by, but it’s great to see them develop so much and so quickly

Remaining unassuming in his ways Singe continues to use the words ‘lucky’ and ‘fortunate’ when discussing his career both within his cricket and working life. Nothing though shows how lucky you are than hard work and commitment and the successes surely have been well deserved on that basis alone. Since his departure from Carrick in 2006 Shane has remained regularly in touch with players from the club and his captain at that time in particular

Over my four/five seasons I met so many great characters at the Club and that is what makes it such a special place for me. Great memories and friendships held at the club which was testament when I was back over to the UK during the Rugby World Cup of 2015. (I) Was keen to see the All Blacks of course and went to the semi final at Twickenham against South Africa; but for the final itself I was just as content to get across to Belfast and hook up with the Carrick boys again. As usual after the initial meets and greets, the banter and ribbing was just like old times and naturally we celebrated the All Blacks sweeping the Aussies aside that day . I remain in regular contact with Eagy and he has been out to NZ with Ireland Cricket a few times. Again we just catch up as if I was back living in Carrick. I was due back to UK this year but with the circumstances they way they turned out might have to defer for a year. New Zealand had some T20s and One Day Internationals to play in Ireland but obviously they have had to be postponed; but hopefully they will be rescheduled and I can get back over, see Ireland take on the Kiwis and yeah if I’m forced maybe get myself down to Carrick again !

In the way he has mentioned just like old times in his quotes, speaking with Shane over this recent past has indeed been just like those old times. Continuing to be self deprecating he fondly remembers his stints in Northern Ireland. The mere fact that Carrickfergus were willing to recall a bloke from half way around the world on three separate occasions between 2004 and 2006, speaks volumes about Singe’s inherit value and commitment to his adopted club . Or perhaps it was the fact they he just could not wait for the telephone to ring every summer. Rumours still circulate that he had a special voodoo doll made each summer from 2004! Either way the contribution he made to the East Antrim club cannot be underestimated. He may not have smashed 60 ball hundreds or had the international cricket career of other players we may come to in this series; but he changed mentalities and was an integral part of a team that initially won promotion to the top league for the first time in 140 years and then stayed there.

Not all heroes wear (Black) caps.

(Written by Ally McCalmont)

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