DURING his 24-year stint with North Nowra-Cambewarra, Dean Tyson has seen many highs and lows.
From dropping out of first grade all together to being a part of their maiden premiership in 2018-19, Tyson has experienced it all with the Bernie Regan Sporting Complex-based club.
This dedication to the club was acknowledged at April's club presentation, where he was unveiled as Norths' seventh life member - joining the likes of Noel Goodger (the man responsible for establishing the club in 1991-92 after a name from North Nowra Tavern (formed in 1987-88)), Alan Muggleton, Tim Bricklebank, Mark Kemsley, Greg Stephenson and Graham Lowbridge (who was inducted alongside Tyson).
"For someone to become a life member, it has to be voted upon by firstly the committee and then members of the club," Tyson, who is the club's youngest life member, said.
"When notice was given that a vote on two new life members was to take place, I messaged our secretary and asked to vote as I couldn't attend the meeting due to living away.
"I also had a wedding the night of the presentation and therefore wasn't going to it.
"My wife already knew what was happening and then our secretary Elle [Jarman Weller] decided they had to tell me beforehand to ensure that I would be there.
"I was extremely surprised, honoured and a bit emotional about it all.
"It's not something I ever set out to receive.
"The life members are people I have looked up to for years so to be nominated was quite surreal.
"When I look at the names of the life members, all were involved with the club before I started playing and still are or only recently have decided to step back.
"I wouldn't consider my contribution to the club to be even close to what I have seen from them so for others to feel differently, it's very humbling."
Tyson first joined the club as a nine-year-old, playing all the way from under 10s to the senior ranks - where the club first entered a team in in the top grade in 1994-95.
"I was lucky to captain a very strong side through juniors where we made six consecutive grand finals, winning four of them, and in that team was current first grade captain Nick McDonald," Tyson, who has 3565 runs, 170 wickets and 66 catches during his senior career, said.
"It was a very strong junior club, and still is, but now we are seeing this carry on into the senior grades, especially the last few years."
As well as the club's maiden two-day premiership, Tyson was also a part of this season's title against Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemens.
During that time, the now 33-year-old has held numerous roles such as first and second grade captain, president (three years before Justin Weller took over), vice-president and other committee positions.
"Cricket by nature is a very humbling game," Tyson, who was part of numerous victorious Jeffrey Cup sides while also captaining Bomaderry High School to Davidson Shield glory in 2005-06, said.
"One day everything clicks and you feel a million dollars, next day you are out first ball.
"Throughout my time at North Nowra Cambewarra, I have always been supported and given opportunities.
"By nature, I am a very shy and quiet person but I feel obliged to be a leader at the club and therefore will take things on that normally I would avoid."
Upon reflecting on his more than two decades with the Cambewarriors, the Shoalhaven product acknowledged how special his journey has been.
"I started playing cricket because I loved the game and really enjoyed the challenges of it," he said.
"Over the years, you build incredible friendships and this is what has kept me at North Nowra-Cambewarra.
"A few years ago, I moved out of the Shoalhaven area but I keep coming back to because it is such a great club and because of the mates I've made over the years.
"Although North Nowra-Cambewarra only has a relatively short history compared to a lot of the other clubs in the Shoalhaven competition, we have built a great reputation as a family club and to continually see new players and their families welcomed into the club, it's a great feeling."
Apart from lifelong friendships, it's the club's inaugural premiership that holds a special place in Tyson's heart.
"Our maiden first grade premiership was extremely special," he said.
"It was a long time coming for the club and there were a lot of seasons where clubs had chalked up a win against us before the game even started, so to finally get that first premiership was amazing.
"Another premiership this year was special due to the game situation and watching the young guys dig in against a strong and experienced Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemens team.
"The club winning its first club championship was another highlight - all four grades being in the finals with rain costing us the chance to have four senior teams in the finals."
Tyson also highlighted the contributions of his family off the field.
"None of this would have been possible without the support, and many games of backyard cricket, with my brother Grub, my nana and pop, Noble and Nola Soper driving me to local and representative games all through juniors and seniors and my wife Alexandria," Tyson said.
"Alexandria travels back to Nowra every weekend with our children Samuel and Sienna, and supports my decision to keep playing for this great club despite it meaning we don't really get to do anything else of a weekend throughout the season."
Looking ahead, Tyson knows the Shoalhaven District Cricket Association club's future is only going to get brighter in the years to come.
"If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said that potentially Norths wouldn't exist," he said.
"Things weren't looking great - we had dropped out of first grade, and only had two senior teams.
"Some key players had to leave the club and we were really struggling.
"With the lack of senior teams, I'm sure our strong junior base would have been wondering what the path to seniors would be.
"It was at that point that some senior players and committee members decided to really step up and focus on the future.
"We had a strong group of juniors just starting out in seniors and we needed to give them the support and a pathway to first grade and whatever they desired to do with their careers.
"I think we can see the result of that now and with the momentum we have, I think North Nowra Cambewarra will be a strong club for many years to come."
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