Barry Cooper has enjoyed being back in Huddersfield – 36 years after he was a double-winning champion with Holmfirth.
The 57-year-old former professional from New Zealand has been watching his son Henry play for Broad Oak in the Drakes Premiership and Sykes Cup for the past few weeks.
He’s been catching up with some old mates, too, as well as doing a bit of sightseeing when this miserable English summer has allowed.
Henry is hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps with Northern Districts, who are under the guidance of one of our own in James Pamment, and Cooper senior is a valuable counsel for his son, although he stays out of the cricket side of things.
“Henry is back for his second year here and is starting to come right,” said Barry, who won the Byrom Shield and the Sykes Cup with Holmfirth in 1980.
“He did his degree first, which I thought was pretty sensible, because nowadays you have to be very good to make it in first-class cricket and, if you don’t, you need something to fall back on.
“From what I have seen here, he is starting to develop really well and he’s determined to try and get a first-class contract. From what I have seen he is going the right way about it, coming here and playing lots of cricket.
“There is a bit of pressure on him to perform, but he is having a good season.”
Cooper has hit a top-flight best of 627 runs so far at an average of just under 70, and he’s also picked up 13 wickets with his spin at under 20.
His route from the ND A team to a strong Plunket Shield side (County Championship equivalent) is most likely as an all-rounder.
“I stay out of it and just try and watch on my own,” said Barry, who arrives back home in Whangarei, on the North Island, today.
“I support him 100%, of course, but I like to let him develop his own career.
“He’s absolutely loving it at Broad Oak this season.
“The first year he struggled a little bit early on, but he is starting to learn you’ve got to be more patient here, that the wickets do a little bit more and that you’ve got to be that bit more confident.
“Henry is backing himself a bit more than he used to, which is showing in the runs he’s scored, and he’s also a wicket-taking bowler.
“So if he gets a chance at first-class, he is definitely good enough to perform, especially as he now has the right attitude to make that step.”
That’s as much as you’ll get out of Barry on the subject. The rest is up to Mr Pamment, maybe even later this year when the ND contacts are dished out.
Barry, meanwhile, has fond memories of his own time in Huddersfield, which came ahead of 11 years in the first-class game in which he played 62 times for ND.
A right-handed batsman, he hit 2,982 runs with four centuries, taking 26 wickets with his off-breaks to boot, and also represented the North Island and Northland.
He also played for Derbyshire Second XI during a second season in this country.
“Obviously I remember the Premiership and Sykes Cup wins with Holmfirth, but what I really liked was the cameraderie, the small grounds and the way the people here looked after us,” he said.
“I remember Dennis Marshall, who ran the club at the time, and guys like Stuart Jakeman and Robert Whiteley, and there was also an Aussie guy called Chris Smailes – we used to hang out quite a lot together because we didn’t work.
“It was really enjoyable and I used to like the tradition and the history of it all – it was fantastic – and I just wished we could have played a bit more in the midweek back then.
“Holmfirth and the people were really good to me, though, fantastic, and I really enjoyed it.”
He went on: “The second year when I came back, it was a decision by ND cricket for me to go down to Derbyshire, and I ended up with the likes of John Wright and Peter Kirsten and playing for the Seconds, while playing club cricket for West Hallam.
“When you look at the stats I suppose you would say I was an average first-class cricketer, even though I played for a long time, did some reasonable things and won a cup for two.
“My real level was playing for Northland in the Minor Association and I had a very good career there, captaining the side and playing around 150 games.
“We only played six or seven a year at first-class level and quite a few one-day games, which was more my style and where I was reasonably successful.”
So who were his mates from the first-class set-up?
“I was great mates with Lance Cairns and Geoff Howarth, and while I’ve been here I’ve caught up with Tony Blain, who played wicketkeeper for New Zealand.
“Martin Crowe and I were good mates, and his brother Jeff – but when you’ve only got six first-class teams you get to know most of them!
“In fact, the Over 35 New Zealand first-class cricketers have a get-together every year, which is fantastic, so we do see each other quite a lot.
“Richard Hadlee was also very good in my benefit year, and people from other sports like Buck Shelford with the All Blacks.
“We are a small country, so we all try and support each other.”