A lot has changed since Sam Harper last played for the Melbourne Stars.
Last playing for the club in January 2016, Harper made the move to their crosstown rivals in the Melbourne Renegades prior to the 2018/19 BBL season.
Over the six years the wicketkeeper has been absent from the Stars, both sides have fluctuated in form, although one thing has remained constant. The team in green are still yet to hold the BBL silverware aloft.
Arguably the more consistent of the two Victorian sides since the competition’s inception, the Melbourne Stars have made the finals eight times over the 12 seasons. Reaching the Grand Final on three of those occasions, the Stars have crumbled at the final hurdle.
Their biggest opportunity ironically came against the Renegades in BBL|08. 0/93 chasing 146 for victory, they lost 7/19, ultimately surrendering any chance of winning the title.
A member of the Renegades side that gave the club their maiden premiership, Sam Harper told The Inner Sanctum that win was and still will be one of his favourite days of his career. He hopes his Stars teammates can experience that same feeling, something he is surprised they haven’t yet.
“When you are at the Renegades, you look at the Stars and they’ve always got such a good list,” he told The Inner Sanctum.
“It’s a surprise they haven’t won one in the first 12 seasons so hopefully it’s only a matter of time.”
The move back to the Stars gives Harper the opportunity to play at the MCG on a regular basis once again – a ground he spent most of his time at during his childhood.
“It’s sort of come full circle,” he said.
“Like any Melbourne kid growing up, I would go to the MCG to watch footy and cricket so I’m excited to be back playing there.”
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Involved in a trade with in-form spinner Adam Zampa, Harper evolved as a player during his stint at the Renegades. He was voted the club’s Player of the Season in BBL|10 after he scored 351 runs and racked up 12 dismissals for the tournament.
The 26-year-old said his new club was unfortunate last season with captain Glenn Maxwell missing a significant period with a broken leg. Harper is excited about the prospect of a fit-and-firing batting order.
“I think having Maxi out for a lot of the tournament last year hurt us, so having him back will be great,” he said.
“Hilton Cartwright and Beau Webster did really well through the middle last year.
“Any middle order with [Marcus] Stoinis, [Glenn] Maxwell, Cartwright and Webster is gonna make for a really awesome top six or seven.”
This season, the Melbourne Stars have added some much-needed firepower to their bowling stocks with cult-hero Scott Boland returning to the club, while Joel Paris and Mark Steketee make the move south-east for the first time. The Victorian believes with those additional players, as well as the existing youth within the squad, they can build a dynasty with their homegrown talent – similar to how the Perth Scorchers and Sydney Sixers have found their success.
“In the Twenty20 format you want as much experience as you can,” he said.
“I think having Stoinis, Maxwell, Hilton [Cartwright has] played a lot, Webster has played a lot, Joel Paris is very experienced, Scott Boland when he’s available is very experienced. There’s a fair bit of experience there.”
“People like Campbell Kellaway and Tom Rogers, it’s exciting to have them signed up for the future. So hopefully, a few of us youngsters and middle-aged people, who are all from Melbourne can see what the Scorchers and Sixers have done and held their core group together.”
The Melbourne Stars begin their BBL|13 campaign against the Brisbane Heat at the GABBA on 7 December.