Essex all-rounder Graham Napier set to benefit
CHOOSING dinner menus and learning about flower arranging are not normally activities you associate with a county cricketer.
But they have been part of the learning curve for Essex’s Graham Napier this winter as he looks forward to his Benefit Year in 2012.
Benefit Years are few and far between these days because of the movement between counties as cricket has developed a transfer system previously associated more with professional football.
Colchester-born and bred Napier, who joined Essex under a YTS scheme in 1996, said he was proud to be awarded a benefit by the county.
The 32-year-old explained: “To be awarded a benefit is for me the benchmark of a good county career. When I first started playing several players had benefit years – Peter Such, Mark Ilott, Ronnie Irani, Paul Grayson, Nasser Hussain and Ashley Cowan – who were all players who enjoyed good careers with Essex, and of course there was James Foster last year.
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“These days it is quite an achievement to be awarded a benefit because players are moving between counties so much more now.”
Reflecting on his career with Essex he said: “When I started as a YTS in 1996 my aspirations were to be picked for the England Under-17 side for a tour to Bermuda, which I was, and to play in the first team, and I made both my first-class and one-day debuts in 1997.
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“Then it was to be awarded my cap, which I received in 2003, and to get close to the fringes of England squads, which I did when I was in the World Cup squad in 2009 but didn’t get picked to play.”
Now his sterling service has been rewarded with a Benefit Year, and Napier has been busy working behind-the-scenes preparing for his big year.
He said: “Jo Hicks, my secretary, and Anthony Bright, my chairman, have both been brilliant along with my committee. I leave it up to them to follow up the leads I have made over the years.
“But my Benefit Year has given me an insight into how different things are done. It has been a great experience so far seeing how things work and organising things such as choosing menus and flower arranging and how promotional stands need to look.”
No Benefit Year is complete without a brochure, and Ambrose Went Curtis Ltd, who are based at Claydon, just outside Ipswich, are publishing Napier’s souvenir offering.
“AWC have been superb, and I am very grateful to Chris Swallow, Dale Curtis and Steve Went, who I knew through Colchester & East Essex Cricket Club and who helped with Peter Such’s benefit brochure. He has come up trumps in being able to help with the design of the brochure.”
The brochure, in return for a recommended �5 donation, will be available at his benefit launch – a Valentine’s Ball at Boreham House, just outside Chelmsford, this coming Saturday, which he is hoping will be attended by 220 guests.
This will be followed by a Golf Day at Hintlesham Hall, just outside Ipswich, on Friday March 16. Napier is a keen golfer and although not a member of a club plays in society days and golf days.
“I play off a handicap of 13, and one of my aims when I have finished playing cricket is to get my handicap down to single figures.”
John Childs, who is on the coaching staff at Essex, and team mate Tim Phillips, are two of Napier’s regular playing partners and they have confirmed their attendance along with first-team coach Paul Grayson, captain James Foster and team mate Jaik Mickleburgh.
Napier, who kept goal for Ipswich Town’s Youth team and played in the same side as Kieron Dyer, is also hoping to have a couple of Town players – past or present – supporting him on the day.
He has consciously tried to include as many locally-based events as possible to encourage the support of people who have supported him over the years in the Colchester and Ipswich areas.
“It is my way of thanking them for their support over the years and asking if they will come and support me again,” he said.
Although he currently lives in Chelmsford, Napier plans to move back to his north Essex roots when his playing career is over.
But for now he is concentrating on getting fully fit and making a success of his Benefit Year, although he admitted he enjoyed escaping the stresses involved by going for a long walk with his dog Fred, a 19-month-old German short-haired pointer who he has had since he was 13 weeks old,
n To find out more about Graham Napier’s Benefit Year visit www.grahamnapier.com