He has spent 18 seasons with his beloved St George, won six titles and two player of the year awards as well as amassing more than 9,500 runs. Now Stewart McCabe has decided to walk away from the game, and the club, that he loves.
The veteran opening batsman played his final game at Hurstville Oval in St George’s final match of the season, a four-wicket loss to Blacktown earlier this month.
It has been a long, enjoyable and vastly rewarding time at the club for McCabe, who arrived at St George as a 17-year-old from Petersham.
It wasn’t an easy decision, with McCabe leading a young Saints team this season after the club lost a host of experienced players. But a need to focus on work won out, ending a glittering career.
“I’m feeling good about it. I guess it hasn’t quite sunk in yet because usually this time of year we’re playing semis. This is the first time in eight or 10 years I haven’t. Maybe it won’t [sink in] until pre-season comes around again,” McCabe said.
“I knew the time had come. The Friday night before [my last game] I couldn’t sleep, I tossed and turned. Probably eight or nine weeks ago just after Christmas was when I thought that’s enough, it’s time to pull the pin.
“I’ve had a good time and been so lucky. The club was good about it. The opposition were good too, they clapped me on and off the ground.
“It’s a massive commitment to play first grade cricket. For me getting to training was a struggle. Plus you’re playing Saturday-Sunday cricket. You don’t get a life. We’re semi pro if you want to call it that. Work comes first and foremost for me, it pays the bills.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love the place and the game. It’s been a tough year but enjoyable. I’ve always said as long as I was seeing the younger guys learn and improve then I was happy.”
For many, cricket isn’t purely about statistics but the memories and mates made playing the game. Even so, McCabe’s numbers can only be described as magnificent.
The left-hander finished as the fifth highest run scorer in the club’s history with 9,556 runs. 6,404 of those were in the top grade, the sixth most in firsts. McCabe also snared 100 first grade wickets at 22.8 with his leg spinners, which included three five-wicket hauls and a hat-trick. While he has been known as the rock at the top of the order, it was as a bowler that McCabe made his first grade debut with his underrated leggies.
McCabe, who has captained the club for the last three seasons, won two Kerry O’Keeffe medals as the club’s player of the year back to back in 2013-14 and 2014-15. He won four first grade premierships as well as captaining the club to a first grade Twenty20 title. He also won a second grade premiership.
His three centuries included a highest score of 161 not out against Hawkesbury.
“I wasn’t the most talented cricketer but I worked hard and I enjoyed myself,” he said.
“A lot of the guys I played the bulk of my career with have either retired or moved on to other clubs. I’ll miss the club in general. Doing it for that long it just becomes a routine, part of your life.
“I’ll be taking a break now. 20 years of cricket takes a lot out of you. I’ll relax a bit, enjoy having my weekends back for a while.
“I’ll keep following the team and the club. When I get a chance I’ll be back for a few beers on the hill to watch the boys.”