ROB Holman has admitted it is going to be a wrench to leave the County Ground to join Exeter’s Premier Division rivals Heathcoat after more than 25 years with the club.
Former Devon batsman Holman now lives and works in Tiverton and felt it made sense from a work-life balance point of view to join a club on his doorstep.
Heathcoat, pipped by Sidmouth on the last day of the 2018 season for a first Premier Division crown, have been squad strengthening during the winter for another tilt at the title.
Holman was not on Heathcoat’s target list, but skipper Jackson Thompson was not going to turn away a player who has totted up more than 2,000 Premier runs in the last four seasons.
Said Holman: “I really did not want to leave Exeter, but it made sense on so many levels and I felt I had to do it.
“I now live five minutes from Heathcoat’s ground and can walk there if I want, which is a lot different to driving into Exeter.
“My son is the right age now for All Stars cricket and he will be starting that this season.
“If I was still at Exeter I could be driving down there three or four times a week for senior nets, All Stars for my son, youth team training and a match on Saturday.
“We can’t make it a family day out on a Saturday afternoon at Exeter as it is just too far and a big ask for my wife with two young children and dogs to come down.
“I think Sarah has only seen me play twice at Exeter in the last couple of years, but it just is not practical for her to bring the family, especially as we both have on-call roles at work and one of us might have to rush back there at any time.
“Leaving Exeter was a massive decision for me, but it makes sense at this stage of my career.”
Heathcoat have already recruited all-rounder Callum French and hard-hitting left-hander Dan Pyle from the same club to strengthen the squad.
Holman said he approached Heathcoat, not the other way round, and considered himself just another club member.
“The first thing I had to find out where what is the membership fee and how much are the match subs,” said Holman.
Holman, who will be 37 in the week the season starts, was nine years old when he first picked up a bat and was soon playing in the under-11s.
His has been a long association with the club, punctuated by spending the 2009 season with Weston in the West of England Premier League and a few truncated seasons due to university studies, work commitments that claimed some Saturdays and the odd injury here and there.
Play-Cricket, the ECB’s statistical website, credits Holman with playing exactly 200 1st XI games for Exeter between 2002 and 2018. There may be a few games missing before 2002, if Holman’s memory is accurate.
“I played the second half of the 2000 season, which was when we won the Premier Division title under Glenn Lammonby, which was a great experience,” said Holman.
“I was batting down the order at number 10 and it was Glenn who taught me how to bat in men’s cricket.
“We won the Devon Cup a couple of times too with a team that was so much fun to be in because of characters in it like Marshall Hood, Will Hanson and Tom Gower.”
Holman said even his worst experience at Exeter – being skipper when Exeter lost their prized Premier status in 2010 – turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“I took over halfway through the season from Mike Wilkinson and we could not stay up,” said Holman.
“It was gutting at the time and it took us two years to get back up.
“It was a learning experience for everyone, but while we were down there our young players improved, we picked up players of the calibre of Miles Lenygon.
“We always knew when we got back into the Premier Division we were good enough players to remain there.”