MIGHTY MILESTONE: Waratah-Mayfield life member Ian Liddell at Waratah Oval yesterday. – Picture by Ryan OslandCONTEMPLATING how many hours Waratah-Mayfield life member Ian Liddell has spent chasing leather on a cricket field is simply mind boggling.

The fourth-grade skipper is one game from becoming only the second man to reach 500 matches in Newcastle district cricket.

Hamilton-Wickham stalwart Denis Broad holds the record with 523, though only two of those were in first grade.

On January 7 at Waratah Oval No.3, Liddell will play his 500th game in his 36th consecutive season. The game will be against Stockton-Raymond Terrace, the club he made his debut against in second grade at Lynn Oval in 1976, aged 15.

‘‘A lot has changed over the years,’’ said Liddell, who turns 51 next week.

‘‘I’d say the late 70s was the golden era for Newcastle. There was a lot of good bowlers around.

‘‘The tracks these days favour the batsmen too much.’’

Liddell began as an all-rounder but during his 16 years in first grade from 1977-78 to 1993-94 he played predominantly as a medium-pace bowler. In later years he served the Tahs as a batsman.

He has been part of several lower-grade premierships and played in two first-grade final losses in 1981-82 and 1985-86, when they were undefeated before the decider.

But Liddell won two Tom Locker Cup finals with sides captained by Greg Arms in 1988-89 and 1993-94.

Liddell’s greatest service to Waratah has been through his administration. In 1993 he was made a life member and he served as president for three years until last season.

Through his experience as director of the Asian Cricket Sixes Tour, which has run tournaments in China, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines, Liddell helped Waratah develop its own annual sixes tournament. The tournament has since become the financial backbone of the club.

Liddell’s aunt, Susan Liddell, is also a life member of Waratah due to her service as club scorer. She has since retired but is expected to return to score on Saturday and for the 500th match.

This season will be Liddell’s last as reaching 500 games was his last personal goal in cricket. But he has another for his beloved Tahs.

‘‘First grade have been struggling for five or six years, so it would be one of the foremost things in my mind, to see Waratah first grade back on top,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s not going to happen tomorrow, but I’d personally love to see that.’’