Russell Catley – 1973-2020

December 14, 2020

Suffolk County Cricket Club Chairman Andrew Squire led the tributes to the county’s former opening batsman Russell Catley, who has died at the age of 47.

Russell, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2004, passed away on Tuesday, December 1st at Arthur Rank Hospice in Great Shelford, just outside Cambridge, where he was cared for amazingly and compassionately in his final months.

Russell made his debut for Suffolk in the Minor Counties Championship just after his 19th birthday in a four-wicket win against Cumberland at Carlisle in May 1992.

His last appearance was in a Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy Preliminary Round tie away to Devon in August 2003.

He made a total of 63 appearances for Suffolk in the Minor Counties Championship, scoring 2,840 runs at 28.40 with a highest score of 130 not out – one of three centuries – and he also made 17 half centuries. He also took 22 wickets at 28.81 with best figures of 4-57.

Russell made 25 appearances for Suffolk in the one-day knock-out competition under its various guises, scoring 691 runs at an average of 36.36, with a top score of 82. He claimed two wickets at 28 apiece, with best figures of 2-28.

He also appeared in nine List A matches, scoring 152 runs at 16.88, with a highest score of 65.

Russell Catley in action for Suffolk CCC

Suffolk CCC Chairman Squire said: “Another incredibly sad time for Suffolk Cricket to hear of Russell Catley’s passing.

“Many of us know that Russell hadn’t been very well for a number of years and this illness curtailed his cricket career far too early. I’m sure Russell would have captained Suffolk CCC during this period and he would have probably made it into the top ten run scorers.

“Russell was a fantastic cricketer and his passion for the game was clear to see whenever we played together for Suffolk CCC and Mildenhall CC or against him for his Exning CC family and Old Ipswichians CC.

“I have some great cricket memories with him, especially going to Barbados to watch England and playing with him in various county games around the country. Seeing Russell and his brothers Tim and Matthew playing together for Suffolk CCC was an historic moment.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with the Catley family and friends.”

Former Essex cricketer Ray East, who became cricket coach and head groundsman at Ipswich School, was captain of Suffolk when Catley made his debut against Cumberland in1992.

He said: “Russell was my third 1st XI captain at Ipswich School and he was very knowledgeable about the game. He was a lovely lad and nobody had a bad word to say about him.

“He was a very good top-order batsman who bowled leg spin, but didn’t take his bowling too seriously. If he had he could have developed into a really good all-rounder.

“It is very, very sad and my condolences go to the family.”

Former Suffolk Director of Cricket Kevin Brooks said: “Russell was already an established member of the Suffolk team at the time of my appointment.

“An accumulator rather than a biffer – he was a traditional top-order batsman and an extremely popular guy around the team both on and off the field.

“He was unlucky not to go down in history as a member of the first Suffolk team to beat a first-class county in the C&G Trophy, only to be narrowly beaten in the end by Northamptonshire in the first round of the competition in 2002.

“The initial diagnosis of his health issues brought about an abrupt end to his time with Suffolk and sadly he missed out on the success we later achieved in winning the Minor Counties Eastern Division and Minor Counties KO Cup.

“Phil Caley and I always knew we could rely on Russell to set the right example to the rest of the group. His commitment and dedication to the game was unwavering.

“As an integral member of the side he was one of the players, who at the time, bought into the vision we had for the team and helped lay the foundations for the success the players after him went on to enjoy.

“It was desperately sad news to hear he had passed away and at such a young age as well. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this extremely difficult time.

“It is guys like Russell you can look back on and say: it was a pleasure to have known him and to have spent time in his company. RIP Cats.”

When Russell was joined in the Suffolk side by younger brothers Matt and Tim for the Minor Counties Championship match versus Bedfordshire in June 1999, it was the first time that three brothers had played for Suffolk in the same match.

It was also believed to be the first time that this feat had been achieved anywhere in Minor Counties cricket since the Second World War from 1939-45.

Russell, who was born in Cambridge on May 11th 1973, attended Ely Community College, before undertaking his sixth form studies at Ipswich School.

He then went to Loughborough University before doing a Masters at Reading University in Land Management and started work at Bidwells chartered surveyors in Cambridge in 1996, becoming a Partner in the Business Space Agency.

Russell grew up alongside his two brothers playing for Exning, where father Tony was club secretary and captain.

He then had a spell with Old Ipswichian CC in Division One of the Two Counties Championship, before returning to Exning in 1997 and helping them win the Division Two title.

Under his captaincy they won the Suffolk Cup three years in a row from 1998-2000, with Russell scoring a century in the first of those finals against St Margarets.

They won Division One of the Two Counties in 1999, finishing third the year before and after, with Russell’s desire to play in the EAPL seeing him move to Mildenhall from 2001-2004.

After he was initially diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2004, Russell battled bravely, courageously and optimistically over the following years and returned to playing with Exning for a couple of years before turning out for first Camden and then Helions Bumpstead.

Russell was also a playing member of the MCC and enjoyed many happy days at Lord’s with his friends and family.

He leaves a wife, Jeanine, and daughter Lucia to whom he was a devoted father and husband. A private funeral has been arranged for family and close friends only due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Donations can be made to the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity via the below link:

WORDS – Nick Garnham

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