COLCHESTER and East Essex Cricket Club get a brand new Hamro Foundation Essex League season underway, this weekend.

But there will be a very notable absentee when they host Hutton at Castle Park, on Saturday.

For the first time in 17 years, long-serving batsman Julian Russell will not be starting the season with Colchester, after moving back to Australia with his family.

Russell is relocating to Melbourne, bringing the curtain down on his long association with the club.

“The club has been fantastic but we’ve got this opportunity to relocate to Melbourne,” said Russell, who was born in the UK but grew up in Perth.

“With not being able to travel and see family over the last couple of years, that sense of distance had built up.

“We looked at what jobs might be available to us and managed to line something up, so it’s an exciting new chapter for us.

“But we’ll look back at our time in Colchester and around the cricket club very fondly.”


Russell’s incredible batting stats for Colchester speak for themselves.

Since making his debut for the club in 2005, he has played nearly 300 games in all competitions, scoring an incredible 12,703 runs at an average of 48.48.

In that time, he has hit a remarkable 41 centuries, in addition to 63 half-centuries.

He has helped Colchester win league titles, cups and promotions and over more recent years, has captained the side and been the club’s Director of Cricket.

He said: “Like a lot of young cricketers, to start with you’re just looking to be as successful as you can almost from one game to the next and throughout the season contribute to a strong team.

“In those first couple of years, we had a nice group of young guys.

“It was just great to be a part of the club on the up, getting promoted and winning the cup and T20 competitions in those first two years in the late 2000s – that was a fantastic time at the club.

“After a little bit of time, taking on the captaincy feeling like I can contribute a bit more than just the runs and being a bit more of a leader around the club was something that I really enjoyed.


“I took a lot of satisfaction out of the development and bringing other players through, helping to create an environment that was going to be one that helped play good cricket and be successful, long into the future.

“The thing that I’ll remember most fondly is the people I’ve played with, the young players that have come through and have gone on to be fantastic cricketers, in their own right.

“As you get a bit older, your own performances are slightly less important.

“But it’s nice to be successful and I’ve really enjoyed being able to still be out there at Castle Park, which I still think is one of the very best grounds in the county, if not the best.

“I’ve got fond memories of cricket in Colchester and the Essex League really, around the county.

“It’s a strong league and we’ve had some tough battles with opposition clubs but we’ve built some good friendships with other clubs.


“Lots of players, you can measure them in terms of runs and wickets.

“But I think it’s important how you play the game, how you’ve interacted with opposition, umpires, people around the sport, growing the game out in the community as well.

“I always say to the guys whether they’re playing in the first team or any level, make sure you’re doing it because you love it – that’s when you’ll play your best cricket if you’re enjoying it.”

Russell leaves Colchester and East Essex, a club he has invested so much time and effort into, in good shape.

The building and refurbishment to provide a new changing room extension and to revamp the existing pavilion at Castle Park are nearing completion, with a formal opening event planned for next month.

Russell said: “It’s been a project that’s taken time and effort to get off the ground.


“The fundraising efforts and the planning has been no small task for some of the people on the committee.

“It’s definitely exciting to see the club investing in the future.

“It’s a great facility and having something that will encourage more people to come down and play in the years to come can only be a good thing.”

Russell is hoping to stay involved in the game in Australia and plans to keep a close eye on Colchester’s progress this season, with the club's live web stream of matches.

“This time of year, you’ve always got that bit of excitement about what the year ahead might hold,” he added.

“I’ll be watching from afar this season but there are some really exciting players ready to step up for Colchester.

"I’m looking forward to seeing some of those guys putting in some strong performances.

“I wish Colchester and the whole league every success, going forward."

Colchester warmed up for the new season with a nine-wicket friendly win at Wickford.

Wickford were bowled out for 189, with Liam Wheeler claiming 5/33.

Colchester had no trouble reaching their target, with Joe MacGregor hitting 82 and Josh Elliott 61.