New Worcestershire CEO Matt Rawnsley spent nine seasons at the club as a player in the 1990s and early 2000s.
He played 100 games for the County in first class and List A cricket, picking up 127 wickets with his slow left arm spin.
Birmingham born Rawnsley was released at the end of the 2002 season and, after a brief spell playing for Herefordshire, moved into the business sector full-time with great success.
Here he looks back at his playing career in part two of a Question And Answer session with the Worcestershire CCC website.
Question: Did you ever think when you left as a player that you would one day return as Worcestershire CEO?
Matthew Rawnsley: “No I didn’t at all. There has always been a draw to the club. I really enjoyed my time here as a player.
“I think it is a very special place, not only as a place to play with world renowned view and surroundings, but there is quite a unique atmosphere around the club that you don’t get maybe at the Test match playing grounds.
“In some ways, I think it was inevitable because, every possibility I’ve had to make a move away from Worcester, I’ve chosen to stay here.
“I talked about this during the interview process. I said if you want someone with the ideal experience, you would want an ex-professional cricketer, who would have to finish in their late 20s to then get 15 years of commercial and business experience and then be in their early 40’s now. That is exactly my career!
“When the opportunity came up, and I started in the interview process, I got to talk to a lot of great people at the club who were in charge of that. Those conversations made me really excited about the possibilities for the future.
“The acid test is when you get to the end and you are waiting for that phone call of letting you know if you’ve got the job or not and you ask yourself ‘how will I feel if I don’t get it’ – and I would have been really disappointed.
“Of course, I’d have moved on and done other things but to be given this opportunity is great and I’m also very fortunate that I’m coming in at a time when there is some positive momentum right now.
“There are lots of changes that have happened and everyone at the club has taken those changes in a really positive way because it can go two ways.
“On the playing side of things, I’ve spent a bit of time with the guys and the atmosphere is very positive.
“I’ve also spent some time doing one on ones with people on the commercial side and again they are looking forward to the ‘new era’ as they call it which is again very positive for me coming into this role knowing that support is there.”
Question: Have you stayed and kept in touch with the club during the years since you left as a player?
Matt Rawnsley: “A bit. David Leatherdale (former CEO and player) is a good friend of mine, and we’ve kept in touch for years.
“He kept me abreast of certain things. I’d pop down sometimes, maybe to watch the Seconds, and have a coffee here.
“I think when I finished playing I needed to separate that life. It was a case of now I need to focus on a new career.
“It was a case of ‘that part of my life has gone, now I need to move on.’
“But I did enjoy coming down. I’ve known Brett (D’Oliveira) a long time, 20 odd years, so for the last few years I’d come down and watch him play second team cricket and have a chat with him or a few of the guys if they were around.
“But I’ve not been down significantly over the last 10 years.”
Question: Looking back over your playing career, how did it come to an end?
Matt Rawnsley: “I was released by Tom Moody. I remember that scenario very clearly. My partner, who became my wife, and I were sat in my flat in Broad Street and I knew there was a Cricket Committee meeting going on that day.
“The phone rang and Tom said they had decided not to renew my contract for next year and if I wanted to come down to the ground tomorrow, we will have a chat about.
“I said ‘is there any point, it’s not going to change things is it?’, he said ‘no’ and I said ‘if I need to have a chat, I’ll give you a call’ and that was the end of it really.
“That part of the process has changed a lot for the better. It is now more in line with other areas of business life where you go through an appraisal process, there is that structured communication going on, which didn’t happen in those days.
“Players now have 12 month contracts. I came out of an era where you’d got six month contracts so you knew in October you weren’t going to get paid again until the following year so you had to find a job or you had to go overseas and play.
“After eight or nine seasons, it is always a bit of a shame for things to end that way but I went to New Zealand, had a great time and got an offer to go and play one-day cricket only at Derby.
“It didn’t really fit with me. If I was going to play, it was going to be all the time and it was a bit unstable so it just seemed the right time and go and look for something else.”
Question: What to you recall about those years as a player with Worcestershire?
Matt Rawnsley: “I think what helped me leave the game was actually the way I came into it. I didn’t start playing cricket until I was 16, incredibly late, and within two and a half years I was a professional.
“I came into it with my eyes wide open thinking ‘I don’t know how long this is going to last’. I was quite a realist in that sense in that I’m here to enjoy myself but I’m also here to do really well, never losing sight of the fact that this is an opportunity which is going to end – and it might be sooner rather than later.
“I miss that environment. People say ‘do you miss playing?’ but there are two elements to playing. One is out on the field, but what I miss, and what a lot of people miss when they come out of the professional game, is the sense that you are in this together and you are with a group of people on exactly the same journey as you with very clear goals and objectives of what you want to achieve.
“You are not carrying anyone in that environment. You are all adding value, you’ve all got a role to play and that has never been replicated in my business life after that. You try and build teams like that but, just because of the nature of businesses, there are always people that are contributing more than others.
“Also in sport, I love the fact that it is fully accountable. If you didn’t do well, you were dropped. If you didn’t put the hard yards in, you get dropped or you get told by others around you. That peer pressure was a very positive thing.
“At 18, after a season as a triallist, I went away for a winter in New Zealand, learnt a huge amount about myself. People were looking at me and saying ‘you need to lead’ as a pro in club cricket and that pushes you.
“Then you come back into your first full season, you are making your full debut against Glamorgan at Abergavenny and it was a case of ‘you are with the big boys now, you need to step up. Put any nervousness to one side, we are expecting you to do well!’
“It was a steep learning curve but one I really enjoyed. There are a lot of transferrables you can take from that environment to try and replicate but I don’t think you ever do.
“One of the attractions of coming back here in this role was being in that environment again, to work with a group of people who are all here for the right reasons with a very positive outlook on life but also realise if they don’t perform, there will be consequences. That is on the field and off it on the commercial side.”
Question: Were you overawed in playing with some great players?
Matt Rawnsley: “Not really. When I first started here, I realised there were some very strong characters around and I made a decision to just sit back a bit and watch and learn and try and take it all in. I wanted to show who I was by the way I put the effort in, which helped a lot.
“I realised in the first year that this might not be a one year gig and that I’m actually quite good at this and I could be here for while. I didn’t want to ruin that in any way by letting ego or attitude or anything like that take over.
“It took a while, maybe second or even third year for that character to come out.
“I remember my first visit to New Road. I lived in Birmingham and I’d never been to Worcester before and Dave Houghton (Head Coach) came to see myself and James Ralph play in the Birmingham League for Kidderminster.
“Ralphy got a hundred and I got a six-for. We had a chat with Dave at the end of the game and he said ‘what’s your position at Warwickshire’ and I said I was just playing Under-19s cricket.
“He said ‘go back and have a chat with them, we’d like you to play a few second team games.’
“Warwickshire said they had plans and wanted me to go down to the Lord’s ground-staff for a year or two but, if I had been offered a contract by anyone else, they were not going to stand in my way – or if I wanted to play second team cricket for Worcestershire.
“That was very nice and I played two games, the second of which was the final game of the season at Trent Bridge and there a few people playing who had already been released so it was a really weird environment to be in!
“I then got invited to a game here and it was Neal Radford’s last game. I came into Worcester in this Gold Volkswagen Polo which had cost £300 and asked two people where the ground was and ended up parking on the Racecourse!
“I walked to the ground and paid to get in even though they had left me a ticket on the gate. I knew I had to see David in his office so walked past hundreds of people into the dressing room in just jeans and trainers.
“Hicky was sat in the window as I opened the door and he said ‘who are you?’ I finally got to the office and David and Damian had a chuckle about the way I had come in.
“I remember it like it was yesterday and they said ‘great performance against Notts, we’d like to give you a contract.’ My first salary was £3,600 but it wasn’t about the money at that stage. I’d got the opportunity to play cricket.
“I came out with my chest puffed out on cloud nine and walked into the bar and Andy Flower was in there with Gus McKay (now MD at Worcester Warriors).
“Andy had got me the trial basically with Worcester. He said ‘you need to come and have a look at this lad.’ Andy Flower was the overseas at West Bromwich Dartmouth.
“I had bowled to Andy quite a bit that summer and he recommended that Dave come and have a look at me.”
*Matt will be talking about his successful business career in Part Three on the Worcestershire CCC website during the next few days