'Hopefully we can finish on a high note' - Bradshaw ahead of emotional finale for Vauxhall Mallards
PUBLISHED: 14:37 12 September 2019 | UPDATED: 14:37 12 September 2019
Paul Bradshaw has given nearly 25 years of sterling service to Vauxhall Mallards Cricket Club, having joined them as a 17-year-old way back in 1995.
The former Norfolk captain has been involved in some memorable successes, with Mallards winning the inaugural East Anglian Premier League title in 1999 and going on to be champions on four further occasions.
As recently as last summer the club won the very last Carter Cup competition at Manor Park - but now they are going the same way as the long-standing county competition, with another proud Norfolk institution about to be consigned to the annals of history.
A lack of players has forced the club to fold and there is unlikely to be a dry eye in the house on Saturday when they take on Copdock at Halvergate in their final fixture.
Bradshaw led the way with 88 last weekend as Mallards beat Great Witchingham in their last away game - and now the target is to go out on a winning note on home soil.
"Last Saturday showed what this group of players is all about," said the club chairman. "When we announced the club would be folding at the end of the season earlier in the summer it would have been easy for heads to drop, or for people to just walk away, but the lads who are still here have kept battling.
"There was no way we wanted to bow out by conceding a lot of games, that wouldn't have been the right way for Vauxhall Mallards to be remembered. Even though we suffered some heavy defeats we were determined to keep on playing and everyone involved got their reward last week.
"From a personal point of view it was nice to get some runs - and it's just a shame I couldn't get to three figures, which would have been a first for me in the EAPL. Steve Goldsmith told me there would be plenty more chances for me to get a hundred when he declared on me when I was 94 not out - and that was 17 years ago!
"But the most important thing was that we won the game - and now we want to mark our final match with another victory. Obviously it will be a very sad occasion, but hopefully we can finish on a high note."
It will clearly be an emotional afternoon for the long-serving Bradshaw but he says disbanding the club was the only practical action to take.
"Over the course of three years we must have lost over 35 players for various reasons," he said. "Moving from Brundall to Halvergate (in 2014) may have played a part in that but I think it's too simplistic to say that led to the club folding. We didn't move that far and the theory was that we could pick up players in the Great Yarmouth area, rather than competing with a lot more clubs for players in Norwich.
"In the end it was the demise of our A team that did for us. It's impossible to run a club at this level with just 12 or 14 players, with no second team to call upon when people are unavailable, which they will be during the course of the summer. It's all very sad - but there really wasn't an alternative."
As for his own future Bradshaw - still a bowler to be reckoned with at the highest level of club cricket in East Anglia - is keeping his options open.
"It's something I will think about when the season is over," he said. "I have got two young children, which are obviously the priority, and it would feel strange playing for someone other than Mallards. If I do decide to play on it will be all about achieving something, maybe with a club on the up, not just playing for the sake of it."