01/03/2024

Sam Harper returns to the Stars after five seasons at the Renegades (Photo: Lucy Williams / Cricket Australia - Design: Madeline Irwin)

Sam Harper made his mark at the Renegades before rejoining the Melbourne Stars, but his time in green has not been without a struggle due to a torrid run of form in his new colours, dating back many years.

The wicketkeeper’s BBL journey started in BBL05 when he signed with the Melbourne Stars as an 18-year-old. He spent that season on the sidelines, waiting in the wings behind the more established wicketkeeping duo of Peter Handscomb and Tom Triffitt.

He got his first opportunity on Boxing Day in 2016 against the Hobart Hurricanes in a game where he didn’t bat but took the duties behind the stumps. This was one of five games he played for the Stars that season, scoring just ten runs at an average of 2.5 with a high score of five.

The Stars kept the faith with the then 20-year-old talented youngster, resigning his for their bbl07 campaign. Despite this he failed to play a game in that year, subsequently delisted at the end of the season.

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Harper then moved across to cross-town rival the Melbourne Renegades ahead of BBL08, with a fresh start hopefully helping take him to the next level.

His first season with the Renegades provided just what he needed, with Harper producing several impressive innings and proving to be a fine wicketkeeper.

He finished the season scoring 341 runs at an average of 22.73, much improved on his effort at the Stars. He was announced as the BBL08 Young Gun, also helping the Gades to a remarkable turnaround in the final, clinching the BBL championship against his former side.

Over the next four seasons, Harper would go on to become an integral part of the Renegades’ side, contributing the 2nd most runs in franchise history, behind only Aaron Finch. His 1433 runs came at an average of 23.49, which included some breathtaking knocks.

After last season, Harper was unexpectedly traded to the Melbourne Stars in a straight swap with Adam Zampa. The 27-year-old initially said he was shocked to hear that he’d been traded but was looking forward to contributing this time around for the Stars.

“It all happened pretty quickly if I’m honest, sort of one morning I woke up a Renegade and went to bed a Star to be fair with the trade. Probably initially [I felt] disappointment, been at the Renegades for a long time,” he said.

“Started with Ronny [Andrew McDonald] and ended up with Sakes [David Saker], people like Sutho [Will Sutherland], Macca Harvey, Fraser-McGurk, Richo [Kane Richardson], Finchy [Aaron Finch], had pretty good friends and relationships there who I really enjoyed playing with.”

“Obviously playing at the MCG, what an awesome stadium to be able to play at, started my career there. I was really excited with what the Stars proposed, and it was an exciting opportunity for me to go there and settle into the wicketkeeping role there which was really exciting.”

Since then, the Stars had dropped their first three games, losing their opening two games by a significant amount before an improved performance against the Sydney Thunder. In the past few days, they had got much needed victories against the Sydney Sixers and Hobart Hurricanes.

Harper has started poorly as well, contributing scores of 4, 1, 5, 17 and 0 from the Stars’ first five games in BBL13. That leaves the diminutive wicketkeeper-batsman with just 26 runs this season at an average of only 5.2.

On the eve of the season, Harper said he was keen to work alongside Glenn Maxwell and co this season.

“I’ve been opening a little bit with Tommy Rogers with the Vic’s this year and playing in the same white ball team as him, so looking forward to forging a really good relationship there with him and lucky enough to have Maxwell, Stoinis, Cartwright, Webster, pretty powerful middle-order to come in behind,” he said.

He also thanked the Renegades for his time there, referencing no bad blood between him and the club for his unexpected departure before this season and looks forward to returning to the club where he kicked off his BBL career as an 18-year-old.

“I just look back with the Renegades with joy and gratefulness with the experiences they gave me and how lucky I was to sort of really start my BBL career with them and now full circle really looking forward to getting stuck in with the Stars,” he said.

“Obviously a completely new group, very different to the group that was here six years ago, although a few familiar faces which is nice. Made some great mates, had some awesome memories winning that title and looking forward to making some new ones with the Stars.”

Despite his form being well below par, Harper felt in good form coming into the BBL campaign, hitting 151 off just 104 balls in a mesmerising display against South Ausralia in the Sheffield Shield.

“Adelaide was doing a fair bit [in the Sheffield Shield], I think all four innings the team was 3/20 so I thought the positive approach was the way. A bit Brendon McCullum esque, I didn’t think my defence was good enough for that wicket so I thought I may as well take them on,” he said.

“[Its] always a hard question, I thought I was going into the season pretty well last year and the tournament probably didn’t start as well as I wanted it to and then when I thought I wasn’t going that well, all of a sudden there was three 50’s in a row.

In Harper’s career as a Star, he’s batted nine times for a miserably low return of 37 runs at 4.1 runs per inning. If the powerful opener can get going it will go a long way towards his team pushing for the finals and beyond.

“First year I went to the Renegades we won a title, so I’m sort of hoping that we’ll follow suit with the Stars.”

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