Youngsters across south Leeds are today getting their GCSE results, and many are heading to Leeds Festival. Local youngster Max Chappell, 16, is one of them; but he’s also celebrating a remarkable year as an increasingly talked-about rising star of the cricket world. South Leeds Life got in touch with him to find out more.
Surprisingly perhaps, Max (who was previously in Middleton, but now lives in Tingley) isn’t from a cricketing family: he’s the first to have taken up the sport. But like many kids, he and his mates used to knock a ball about together; a friend of the family spotted his potential, and – when he was just seven – encouraged him to get down to Hunslet Nelson Cricket Club. (Which is, despite the name, up near Cockburn High School at the top end of Beeston.) He fell in love with the game, and has been hooked ever since.
He’s worked his way up through the youth ranks there, and has over the years especially honed his skills as a slow, left-arm spin-bowler. He joined the club’s first team (that is, grown adults..!) last year at the age of just 15, and has been playing with them in the regional leagues since. He’s also since the age of 10 been playing for Yorkshire’s youth teams.
Understated to a tee, Max insists he “didn’t have the best season” last year, as he was just getting used to the adult game – but this year admits he’s “done quite well”, with a considerable haul of 28 wickets for the club so far this summer.
But he’s also really been catching the eye on a bigger scale. Last year saw him playing for the North of England under 15s as part of the famed Bunbury Cricket festival, when – in particular – he took four wickets in a single match against South-West England.
Then just last month, Max spent a full week with the Yorkshire under 19s. Soft-selling himself again, he insists he didn’t expect to play much – but they actually had him in matches every day. And – in what was probably his career highpoint so far – he took a massive five wickets against a touring MCC team featuring good club players from around the country, and duly earnt himself an invitation to Lord’s Cricket Ground in London next year.
Much of his success, especially as someone from a non-cricketing family, is perhaps down to Hunslet Nelson. Max – at his most animated now – says: “It’s a great club, they’ve really looked after me; I wouldn’t be what I am without them.”
But also, by good fortune, he’s been playing football in the winter months with the Hunslet Club. (Although he insists that cricket is more sociable, because you’ve got more time!) And they put in touch with the Hunslet Trust, a group supporting local youngsters to achieve their potential through sports, the arts, and more. In the past year, they’ve bought Max new bats, gloves and pads, and paid for personal coaching.
Max seems well aware that he’s got a long road ahead to achieve his greatest goals, but he’s off to Leeds City College this autumn to study Sports Excellence, and hopes simply to “keep playing well, make a good cricketer, then perhaps get signed and go professional”. Watch this space.