Rob Aitken's 500th First Grade Appearance

Rob and Bob
Rob Aitken bat white 1
Rob 3
Rob Aitken bat red
Rob 1

This coming Saturday, 4 December, Rob Aitken will become the first man in history to play 500 NSW Premier Cricket First Grade matches. He surpassed the previous record of 472 appearances towards the end of the 2019/20 season and has not looked back since.

Rob started his First Grade career in 1992 for Fairfield-Liverpool, making his debut on 28 November against Balmain. It was an inauspicious start, as Rob failed to score and did not bowl, but since then his career has been littered with highlights.

He played in the NSW U19 and U21 sides before earning a NSW 2nd XI selection. In the 2000/01 season, his last before joining the Bears, Rob won the coveted Bill O’Reilly Medal for the best player in Sydney Grade Cricket. In 2012/13, he added the Michael Bevan Medal for the best player in the Sydney Grade Cricket limited overs final to his collection. In the process, he helped the Bears win their fifth limited overs title.

Rob played for three previous clubs, Fairfield-Liverpool, Petersham-Marrickville and Parramatta, but his current season is his 21st with the Bears after he joined “for one season, just to see what it was like” as he told a Newscorp interview when he broke the appearances record. Since 2001, he has represented the club 360 times at the top grade, and become our second-highest run scorer (8,102) and fourth-highest wicket taker (387).

Rob is a unique cricketer, a once in a generation player. He is one of a handful of players in the world who have been able to master the ability to bowl the finger spun off and leg breaks – in the style of Iverson and Gleeson. As a result, he has been the object of much mystery, admiration and confusion, particularly by opposition batsmen, over 600 of whom have lost their wicket to his skilful deliveries. In Round 1 of this season, he took the most recent of his 14 five-wicket hauls to bowl us to victory against Western Suburbs.

He is also a hard-hitting batsman with over 11,000 First Grade runs to his credit including 8 centuries and 59 fifties. His remarkable record sees him join Grant Lambert as the only players with 11,000 runs and 600 wickets in the over 125 year history of Sydney Grade Cricket.

In his 30-season career at the top grade (so far) and 499 matches, Rob has scored his 11,386 runs at 29.34, and taken 618 wickets at 27.08.

Cricket is a family affair for the Aitkens. Rob’s father played 28 seasons of First Grade cricket for Cumberland, Sydney and Parramatta, and took 816 wickets, and Rob has played much of his career with his two brothers James and Glenn at UTS North Sydney. James and Glenn have, themselves, forged formidable first grade careers, and all three were awarded life membership of the club at the 2021 AGM while still active players. It is hard to imagine a family ever besting the Aitkens’ record of over 1,400 first grade games. The youngest Bear in the Aitken family is Rob’s daughter, Emily, who is a member of our Brewer Shield squad, and Rob’s immense contribution to the club has recently been further augmented with his invaluable coaching support to the girls.

There will be a short presentation at North Sydney Oval around 8.45am on Saturday to mark Rob’s extraordinary milestone. We’d be delighted to welcome any Bears supporters who wish to attend.

Images courtesy of Tony Johnson, David James, Adam Cavenor and Ian Bird