10 seasons, five times a first-class champion. Images: MBUTCHER & PHOTOSPORT

Ryan McCone goes out on top

Central Stags and former Canterbury paceman Ryan McCone, a five-time Plunket Shield champion, is bidding farewell to cricket at the top of his game.


Following a full-time career opportunity too good to turn down, 31-year-old McCone has announced his retirement from all levels of the sport, finishing as a national first-class and T20 title-holder with the Stags in his final season.

A lean left-arm seamer with a bustling run-up and compact action that created awkward angles for opposing batsmen, McCone played an integral part in the Stags’ successful Plunket Shield championship defence of 2018/19 — delivering the second most prolific first-class season of his 10-season career, 24 wickets from seven matches at 22.41.


He produced the final wicket under pressure in the last throes of a tight opening-round victory against Canterbury at Saxton Oval, and the third five-wicket bag of his first-class career in Napier to help seal yet another tense victory over Northern Districts — match-winning memories to last a lifetime.


McCone joined the Central Stags in June 2016 after seven summers with his native Canterbury, and departs with an overall first-class career tally of 139 wickets, three five-wicket bags, one century, and one half century from 53 first-class matches in New Zealand.


In List A cricket he achieved 55 wickets from 40 matches including two five-wicket bags, and made his sole half century (52 off 50 balls) in one of his last Ford Trophy appearances for the Stags this summer, his 105-run stand with Ben Wheeler against the Wellington Firebirds in Lincoln setting a new Central Districts List A record against all teams for the eighth wicket.


In T20s, McCone made 30 appearances from 2012/13, including the 2016/17 Grand Final. He claimed 21 wickets, the last 11 of those for the Stags, but his biggest passion was the longest format of the game.


The five-time Plunket Shield champion won the first-class championship with Canterbury in 2010/11, 2014/15, and 2015/16 before joining the Stags and winning back-to-back medals once again in 2017/18 and 2018/19 — a remarkable ratio unrivalled by any other New Zealand Domestic player during his 10-season career.


“When I think about it and realise the likes of Otago haven’t managed to win the Plunket Shield in 31 years, it’s a pretty cool ratio, and one I’m very grateful for,” said McCone.


Ironically his career-best season for Canterbury was the one that got away — when Kieran Noema-Barnett’s Central Stags won the Plunket Shield in 2012/13.


“That season, I took 66 wickets across all formats, a really good year. The next season, I was looking to carry forward that momentum and the day before the first T20 game, Matt Henry hit the ball back at me in training and smashed my thumb. It took me until the back end of that season just to get back in.”


It was the start of a run of battles with untimely injuries, but he was finally back in peak shape and top form in 2018/19. So why leave now?


“Yes, that has crossed my mind — but what a way to go out. I’m just so glad that I could do that for the Staggies this last year, do it for them. I really wanted to show them what I was capable of.”


Central Districts High Performance Manager Lance Hamilton said that McCone, who was a contracted player, would be sorely missed both on and off the field next season.


“Ryan’s a fierce competitor on the field and the ultimate professional off the field,” said Hamilton.


“His contribution to the Stags across the past three seasons has been immense. From a cricketing perspective we are extremely sad to see him go, but at the same time we’re really pleased for Ryan and his family that he has secured an exciting opportunity to begin his life after cricket.


“I have no doubt that Ryan will achieve as much success in his new career path as he did on the cricket field, such is his professionalism and drive to succeed; and we wish Ryan, Jen and their young daughter Rosie all the best for the future.”

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