Coach Neil MacRae to depart Jersey for Netherlands role

Coach Neil MacRae to depart Jersey for Netherlands role
Neil MacRae has led Jersey's men's cricket team for more than a decade - photo credit Martin Gray

A little under 3,700 days ago, Neil MacRae sat in the lounge of the Mayfair Hotel reception to conduct his first radio interview as the newly appointed head coach of Jersey's men's cricket team. He'd beaten around 60 applicants to land the job.

A decade on, Jersey Cricket has today announced Macca is to leave his role and the island for a new job as Netherland's women's head coach.

As I held out my BBC microphone to gather his initial views ten years ago, I remember being struck by his quietness, his calmness and his clarity of thought about the job that lay ahead. It was particularly striking given the contrast to the somewhat louder, extravert leadership of the previous incumbent, Aussie Craig Hogan.

Composure, thoughtfulness and an ability to keep a level-head were to become a trait of MacRae's decade in charge, which took him and Jersey's top players from Los Angeles to Johannesburg, from Singapore to Uganda.

He departs with the men's national side now firmly on the international map, having played their first official ODIs last year. They sit 24th in the T20 world rankings, above the likes of Kenya, Qatar and Bermuda, having narrowly missed out on qualification for this summer's World Cup. The reds dominated inter-insular clashes during MacRae's tenure, including a record-breaking victory at KGV last summer.

When he looks back over the decade though, he may feel a little frustration that the side was never able to fully establish itself at ICC World League Four level (or higher), bouncing between that division and League Five on a regular basis. Promotions in 2014 in Malaysia, 2016 on home turf and 2017 in South Africa, were interspersed with relegations in Singapore and America. The latter came despite a memorable one-run win over the hosts in their own back yard, going right down to the final ball. They did finally manage to stay put in League Four for the first time in 2018, finishing mid-table in Malaysia.

Reflecting on his time in Jersey, MacRae said: "It has been an amazing ten years with Jersey Cricket. There has been significant growth in both the men’s and women’s game due to the collective effort and passion for Jersey of all involved.

Jonty Jenner and Jersey
Jonty Jenner has been a regular in MacRae's squads over the past decade - photo credit ICC

"The level and consistency of performances by the men’s team has been due to the commitment and quality of the players who have established Jersey on the World Cricket map. The women’s team has begun the journey in ICC competition and is developing well.

"The age group pathway continues to develop boys and girls to represent Jersey with distinction on the international stage. I am very grateful for the opportunity to coach in Jersey and the support given by the players, coaching staff, board and supporters throughout the ten years."

Jersey Cricket officials will now look to appoint an interim head coach in the days ahead, allowing a short handover with MacRae in the next few weeks.

He chose his words carefully in that first interview at the Mayfair, and has done in media interactions ever since. Never too high after the wins, never too low after the losses, and certainly always backing his Jersey boys.

MacRae outlasted the hotel, which closed in 2021, and leaves behind a group with a bright future, featuring the likes of Asa and Zak Tribe, Toby Britton and Charlie Brennan, supported by the now experienced Jonty Jenner and skipper Chuggy Perchard who've flourished as mainstays of MacRae's squads over the past decade.

Big shoes to fill...