Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Work to be Done

The opening to the South Coast cricket season has probably illicited more questions than it has answered, pointing towards yet another year where the strong remain strong and the weak remain uninspired. It also proved that Kiama need to do a lot of work if they are to remain competitive in this environment.

While it was no surprise to see The Rail defeating Shellharbour City, and Oak Flats caning Jamberoo in their respective 1st Grade fixtures, the relatively comfortable victory by Warilla over reigning premiers Albion Park came from out of the blue. After last season's disappointing finish, it must be gratifying for their supporters to see the Kooka's come out strong in the season's first round. Having been so successful for so many years, it would be no shock for Warilla to be back in the thick of things this season. As a Club, their training and preparation has always been of the highest quality.

Kiama's loss to Lake Illawarra in the first round is disappointing more for the size of the defeat than losing in itself. Having dismissed both Lake openers for ducks, a total of 167 was still more than manageable. Being bowled out for 63 once again highlighted our Club's continuing problem with batting strength and batting depth through the Grades. Only skipper Matt Meurant and the extras column managed to reach double figures. It is all and well to mention that the Club had a number of players unavailable for the weekend – the side that played 1st Grade should have been more than capable of reeling in that total.

The Second Grade competition looks to be, at this very early stage, a race between the same three or four teams. Despite being completely thrashed by premiers Oak Flats, Albion Park will no doubt be a force once again. One can only imagine that they suffered from a lack of numbers like other Clubs last weekend.
Surely this situation, which occurs every season, should force the District to see that there is no need for 2nd Grade to start their competition on this weekend. 1st Grade are the only Grade that plays two full rounds, and to do so requires starting on the weekend before the October long weekend. Surely common sense should prevail, and in future 2nd Grade will start on the same weekend as 3rd and 4th Grades do. This would mean that these three lower Grades can all play to the same draw, bringing continuity to the season. Unfortunately, common sense and decisions made at a higher level do not always go hand in hand.

Kiama's victory in 2nd Grade against Gerringong was one of the best that I personally have been involved in. Seven of the selected players had only four 2nd Grade matches for Kiama between them, with five of these players on debut. Despite this situation, and an untried captain at the helm, 2nds outplayed a Gerringong side that are also suffering a player shortage.
Matt Cook continued on from last season's form, taking 4/30 from eight terrific overs, while Luke Bombaci again proved his worth with 3 wickets and 10 not out with the bat. Both Cooky and Bomba should be automatic 2nd Grade selections this season, despite Luke's stated reluctance on the issue. The time has come for younger players to move into the 2nd Grade team, especially those whose talent is wasted at a lower level. If our Club is to continue to improve we need some fresh faces and fresh attitude on the scene.

Though the Club has a number of players returning for the next round beginning on October 7, it is obvious at this early stage that Kiama needs its players to stand up and be counted this season. The depth, especially in batting, is worryingly low, and it means that everyone has to take stock of themselves, and lift themselves to new levels. Success does not come without putting in the effort, and the attitudes of players in the Club must change if Kiama is going to have a successful season.

Time to start thinking to yourself – what do you want to achieve this season, and what are you willing to do, or to sacrifice, to make that happen?

Friday, September 8, 2006

Evolution, Extortion and Egomaniacs

Fines for daily scores not being sent through to the Association within a gnat's gonad of play finishing for the day. Brand new $20,000 sight screens now to be absolutely useless for half of the season. Grand ideas for connected websites to include all Clubs, now laying half-baked in rubble.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another season of South Coast Cricket.

I'm certain that the above issues will appear trivial to many people, and yet they affect each and every person in our Club, and in our Association. The arguments that I bring forth here may appear petty to some, even most, but I assure you that there are decisions being made here that are contrary to the charter of the Association itself. Ask yourself a question - “Are the rules that are being enforced by the South Coast District Cricket Association (S.C.D.C.A) in the best interests of the Clubs who make up the competition?”

Last season, the S.C.D.C.A brought in the use of coloured clothing for First Grade in all one day matches, which appeared to be a success. It was hailed as such, as the S.C.D.C.A was the first competition to introduce such an innovation. One of the sticking points last season however was on the use of the ball – red or white. The S.C.D.C.A eventually left it to the Clubs in each match to decide which colour ball they would use. There seemed to be no objection.In season 2006/07 however, the rules have been changed, with the use of a white ball MANDATORY in all one day matches in First Grade. This of course requires home teams to completely black out their sight screens (if they have sight screens...) to enable the use of the white ball. And here is the rub.
Over the past few seasons, a number of people in the Kiama Club have spent a lot of time and energy in raising the necessary capital to purchase the two fantastic sight screens we now have at Cavalier Park. Fund-raising, the seeking of grants, the design process, and the erection was a process over five years. And now we are being told to cover them up.
To do this, Clubs are expected to purchase black cloth. The S.C.D.C.A are generously 'helping out' with the cost of the material, but the Clubs will be required to fork out more money in this instance. Then this cloth must be placed over the sight screens and then removed every Saturday of one day matches. With the extreme length of the screen at the Reilly End of Cavalier Park, it must theoretically all be covered up, or else fieldsmen are bound to lose the white ball in the part of the sight screen left uncovered.
I know this all sounds a bit pedantic, and that many people will consider this an unjustifiable whinge. I have spent over 20 years playing cricket at what we now call Cavalier Park, and have heard a hundred players – from our Club and from others – complain about losing sight of the ball in the cliff and in the roofs of Blue Haven, and that we should have sight screens installed. After so much work to get the damn things installed, now we are expected to change them again.
Has anyone considered how this may affect any insurance claims if they come about?
One of the quotes to arise over this issue was “If we don't keep moving forward, we may as well be a social competition” Well, a word to the wise. We are not a social competition, but we are an AMATEUR competition. We play because we love cricket, and those that are good enough play to advance through the various representative levels to achieve greater glory. Playing in coloured clothes with a white ball does not increase the standard of cricket in our Association.
I saw and watched only one match last season where the coloured clothes were used, when Kiama played Albion Park at Keith Grey Oval. It was a great match that went down to the wire, with Park winning by a dozen runs. The one thing I noticed was that the standard of cricket was completely unaffected by the colour of the players clothing, and the colour of the ball being used.
Anyway, good luck to those who are charged with erecting black cloth over a monolith on those Saturdays. It won't be me doing it.

For more than fifty years, the newspaper publicity for the S.C.D.C.A was handled by Athol Noble. Every summer, on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, Athol would chase up scores from every match played in our district, compile them, do write ups for the First Grade fixtures and summaries for other Grades, and get them into the Illawarra Mercury and the Kiama Independent/Lake Times in time for publication – almost without fail. As a historian of the local game, I am not only in awe of the job Athol did, I am in eternal gratitude, as it is his meticulous efforts that have allowed me to continue to delve back into our Club's history as accurately as I have. Since his 'retirement' we have seen cricket reporting in our district disintegrate, to the level that anyone trying to find out what had occurred in cricket on the South Coast between 2002 and 2006 would simply not be able to do so.
For the coming 2006/07 season, the S.C.D.C.A have decreed that all scores for all matches MUST be submitted to the Association publicity officer by 9.00pm on Saturday evening. For every team's scores that are NOT submitted by this time, the Club in question will be fined $50. That amount again is $50 PER TEAM. Therefore – if none of your Grade scores get through one weekend, that is either $200 or $250 dollars for the Club, depending on whether you have a Fifth Grade team entered.
Now, just to get this into perspective. Up until this season, the cut off time for scores to be transmitted to the Association has been 10.00am SUNDAY morning. As anyone who has done reports for the local papers before knows, the cut off time for the Independent/Times is 10.00am MONDAY morning. I am reliably informed by a source that should know that the cut off time for the Mercury is 4.30pm SUNDAY afternoon.
Now, I may just be a simple person, but does anyone else believe that it should be possible to collate and report on all of these scores within the time frame of, say, 10.00am and 2.00pm, at a very long stretch? And surely not EVERY Club is going to send their scores through at exactly 10.00am? The process of collating would not have to begin at 10.01am.
Publicity is a relatively thankless role. The fact that the Association has had someone willing to volunteer their time and energy into performing the role is a terrific thing. Hopefully we will return to the days when you would pick up the paper on Monday and Wednesday and be able to read about CRICKET!
However, the decision by the S.C.D.C.A to set a 9.00pm curfew on the transmission of scores is simply unacceptable. By doing this without direct consultation of all Clubs, and by blindly eliminating all debate on the matter, they are effectively holding all of the Clubs to ransom. No longer can teams mingle after the day's play has concluded. The day's when teams would go to the home team's establishment for a drink or two are over. No ducking home for a shower and some dinner before heading down to the Grand for a drink. And heaven forbid if your match has to go into overtime to get in those overs, or because of a rain intervention. No – those scores MUST be in by 9.00pm, or else fines will be enforced.
As a fund-raiser for the Association, it is a goldmine. What it has become is extortion of the highest degree. As I have previously mentioned, we play in an amateur competition. Fines like the ones outlined here, for what could hardly be called an 'offense' of any description, are obscene. In the past, our Club has had cricketers fined $100 for allegedly abusing an umpire. By simply missing a 9pm curfew for ringing through some scores that could just as simply be collected the following morning, our Club could be fined twice that much. What would YOU consider to be the worse offense of the two?
The S.C.D.C.A simply must take a step back, and review the situation. The only body that can lose face in this dispute is the Association. It has been made clear that if fines are not paid, then a Club can be de-listed from the Association. It would be kind of difficult to run a competition without any Clubs. A return to the status quo, of a 10.00am Sunday morning deadline for scores to be submitted, must be made, and it must be made before the season starts in two weeks.

One of the bright points of the pre-season has been the appearance of a website for the S.C.D.C.A, something that our district has been crying out for. Hopefully, everything that Clubs and players and supporters alike need to know or want to know will be found on this site.
Again though, for some unknown reason, what appeared to be a great opportunity for our district and its Clubs has been badly botched due to an inability (on this occasion...) to make a firm decision one way or another.
The Association decided to dabble with CricketVault as the hosts of their site, which could also incorporate ResultsVault. On advertising this to their Clubs, a number of them switched their own websites to CricketVault – Oak Flats, Albion Park, Jamberoo and Kiama.
The benefits of utilising the ResultsVault as well are obvious. On inspection of the site, it would be possible to have the scorecard of every game played in our Association accessible. Stats of every player in every Club would be at your fingertips. All Grade tables would be up to date and available to see. Each Club could even run their own Fantasy Cricket league on their site, for profit or pleasure.
As I understand it, the cost for our Association to have this fantastic utility available for their Clubs was $60 per team entered. For 45 teams, that would come to $2700. Pricey? Sure. Maybe they could have recouped that cost by insisting scores should be in by 8pm on Saturdays instead. But put that price tag into perspective by comparing it to the $2200 the Association has just spent on a new laptop computer – for use by how many? And for what?
Talk about wanting the Association to go forward! What envy the S.C.D.C.A could have garnered if there had been enough foresight to take up this opportunity! As it stands at the moment, the website will be helpful and a starting point. But it could have been so much more.

These decisions have already been made, and look as though they will not be undone. That is disappointing. Perhaps my perspective is at odds with most people (it certainly wouldn't be the first time if that is the case), but I have trouble understanding the logic behind these three issues.
However, as the people involved in that decision making process would no doubt say, if you have an opinion strong enough, stand up and run for election to the board.
Not this year, thanks.

OK. Enough of the negative side. Let's get this season underway.