CHURCH professional Greg Mail has been forced to return home with a back injury.
It is devastating for the New South Wales star who was on course to break the club's league batting record.
The 25-year-old had notched up 954 league runs and, with eight games left, was confident of reaching the 1250 set by Geoff Parker in 1990.
"We are desperately disappointed," said Church's league representative Jack Houldsworth. It has been a privilege to watch him play. In all my years at the club, he is the best batsman I have seen.
"Geoff was a good batsman but Greg would have easily broke his record. He has got five hundreds in league and cup this season and that is the most for any batsman for Church in a season. He has been playing out of his skin."
Mail's injury, a long-term problem, was aggravated a couple of weeks ago.
"He has tried and double tried to bowl and wanted to stay," said Houldsworth. He was being treated by the New South Wales physio who is with Hampshire. But his club back home obviously want him fit for the new season.
"Greg is dismayed at causing any upset for the club. We hope he can come back next season. He said he will let us know but obviously it depends on his club and his back injury."
Darwen's Keith Semple has replaced Mail once this season and has been lined up for the remaining Sundays, providing the Northern Premier League side aren't involved in the cup.
Mail is the fourth Lancashire League pro to return home this season. Lowerhouse's Ryan Harris (groin), Haslingden's Jerry Cassell (back) and Ramsbottom's Jason Arnberger (his pregnant wife is ill) have all been unable to see the season through.