On a wall in a house overlooking the rolling, blue waters of Coogee Bay, Sydney, proudly hangs a navy blue Warwickshire County Cricket Club cap.
Coogee Bay, with the south Pacific Ocean beyond, is a more photogenic watercourse than the dear old River Rea trickling timelessly behind between the Hollies Stand and Colts Ground at Edgbaston. It’s easy on the eye – yet one small corner of this beachside Sydney suburb remains forever Bears.
Sometimes, you can take the man out of Warwickshire but you can’t take Warwickshire out of the man. Such a chap is Nick Warren.
Warren’s first-team input for the Bears was fleeting. Having come through the Edgbaston youth ranks, alongside Ian Westwood and Ian Bell, from age 12, he played just eight first-class games, five one-dayers and two T20 as a swing bowler.
He enjoyed a remarkable championship debut, along with best mate Westwood, in the final match of 2004, away to Northamptonshire when, at the close of the first day, the Bears were presented with the championship title. Not bad going, that – six hours a championship cricketer and a champion already!
Eight months later, ‘Wazza’ played in the MCC v Champion County season-opener at a freezing Lord’s, but sadly injuries began to seriously impede his battle for a regular place in the seam attack. Warren, a Moseley and later Knowle & Dorridge regular, was to be denied a long career with his beloved Bears.
Even though I didn’t play many first-team games for Warwickshire, I was at the club from the age of 12 and around the first-team environment for a lot of years and I am very proud of that.Nick Warren
To say the least, though, things have not turned out too badly. It transpired that his future lay Down Under where he is a director of the Australian division for the global online sports and leisure company Shop247.com.
Warren’s future has taken him precisely 10,500 miles from his beloved Edgbaston – but he remains a passionately proud Bear.
“It gets in your blood,” said Warren, now 35. “Even though I didn’t play many first-team games for Warwickshire, I was at the club from the age of 12 and around the first-team environment for a lot of years and I am very proud of that.
“The cap is on the wall and I am still 100 per cent a Bear.
“I have such a lot of great memories from my time at the club. As a teenager, In those days you heard through the post if you were selected in the team for that year and it meant such a lot to get that letter with the Warwickshire watermark telling you that you’d been picked, signed by none other than the great RN Abberley.
“I’ll remember my debut forever. Westy and I both made our debuts and the Bears had clinched the championship while not playing the week before so the presentation was after play on the first day. It was a bit surreal.
“It was pretty special to be part of the first team. I had quite a good game and took two or three wickets for not many runs in about five overs. And Trotty scored 30 in about a day, I think – at least the dressing room was quiet.
“The following April I played in the MCC v Champions game at Lord’s and there was ice on the field. I remember for the first four hours we sat inside and just opened the balcony window to clap fours. I wasn’t too optimistic about having a bowl – Jon Lewis was playing for the MCC and had not swung the ball so what chance had I? But Dougie Brown, Dewald Pretorius and Heath Streak had a go and then I came on – and nicked Alastair Cook off! “Admittedly, he was probably tired from hitting 120. I’m glad Frosty caught it though!
“It was just brilliant to be part of that group. In 2004 some of the players from the mid-to-late ’90s were still around so I was playing with my idols. You can’t buy that. And it was brilliant coming through with Neal Abberley and Steve Perryman with their proven pedigree of coaching.”
Warren’s first-team career was not to fully fledge, however, as the team entered a difficult period. The unexpected title win of 2004 was followed by two years of drift which led to a horrendous 2007 campaign which brought double-relegation.
By then, Warren was eyeing up options beyond the great game.
“I did have a few injuries and maybe I was a bit unlucky in that respect,” he said. “In a couple of T20s I suffered a chipped thumb at Worcester and two days later broke a finger at Northampton which proved to be my last first-team game.
Some guys just get the club and what it means to be a Bear. They buy into the club and it gets in your DNA – Jeets has done that and I think he’ll be a great leader.Nick Warren
“I have no regrets, though perhaps I wish I had been a little bit easier on myself and enjoyed it more instead of putting myself under such pressure.
“When Warwickshire released me, I felt that was it for me in county cricket. In those days there was not so much swapping counties. If you didn’t make it at your home county you didn’t really think of elsewhere. But I was lucky in that the Professional Cricketers Association had just started working really hard with young cricketers. They had been great all along.
“They said at the start: ‘Congratulations on your contract – what are you going to do when you leave cricket?’ So I was always aware the day would come, though I had hoped it would not come quite so soon.”
Warren joined Simon Millington, a Bears fan through and through himself, at Shop247.com very much on the ground floor, packing boxes and printing labels at their base in Alvechurch – then his wife Sally landed a job in Sydney. Coogee Bay beckoned.
“We love it here,” Warren said. “Coogee is a lovely eastern suburb of Sydney and a short walk from Sydney Cricket Ground. I have played for Randwick Petersham which is a good club in the Sydney Grade comp where the likes of Usman Khawaja, Nathan Hauritz, Simon Katich came through. The club president is Mike Whitney, who played 12 Tests for Australia and he’s a great bloke.”
Warren is still turning out for Randwick’s 1st Grade and not doing too badly, having taken over 100 wickets and won a few trophies in his time.
“The standard here is still high,” he said. “I know a lot of boys still come over and “winter” here in grade cricket.
“But I keep a very close on eye on how the Bears are doing. I’m so proud that I played for Warwickshire and played at Edgbaston which is such a special place – being #442 is something that I look back on very fondly. Whenever I go back I always get a big hug from the man who is Warwickshire – Keith Cook – and a warm welcome from everyone. It’s a great club and I think to some, including myself, it means more than that.
“They had a poor time of it last year but that happens to all teams now and again in sport. With the calibre of people they have got there, they will bounce back. Jeetan Patel is a great choice as captain. Some guys just get the club and what it means to be a Bear. They buy into the club and it gets in your DNA – Jeets has done that and I think he’ll be a great leader.”