Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Beatles Experiment 1: Please Please Me 1963

In general, I have always enjoyed The Beatles earlier, love inspired pop tunes to their later experimental work. Of ocurse, I haven't yet heard all of them, so I don't want to jump the gun.

Their first album has its bright spots, and also a couple of places where it appears they were running out of time in the studio (apparently this was recorded in just ten hours) and had to fill the album. Of course, this is just my opinion, and this album is now 43 years old.

The Good:
The opening track I Saw Her Standing There is typical of my favourite Beatles tracks - upbeat, easy to sing along to, and you can swing with a partner to it. The other best known tracks on the album are in a similar vein, the title track Please Please Me, Love Me Do, Do You Want To Know A Secret and Twist And Shout.
I was pleasantly surprised by tracks like Misery and Chains, which immediately brought back memories of the cartoon Series called "The Beatles", which was always on Sunday mornings on Channel 10 during my childhood. I could almost see the episodes when these songs started.
These tunes are still the catchy ones, the songs that grab you as they begin, and encourage you to sing along. To find I still knew all the words to these songs is indicative of their success.

The Average:
Probably not through any great mystery, the songs I find least accesible on the album are not written by Lennon/McCartney. Anna (Go To Him), A Taste Of Honey and Boys are not in the same class as those written by the bands major contributors.

This is, overall, a solid debut album. Half of the album is well known by most of the music listening world, a major accomplishment on any level. The signs were already there that the song writing team was quite extraordinary, and that the sharing of lead vocals, along with the backing vocals, was an inspired solution.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Great Beatles Experiment

Just recently, I was listening to a few Beatles tracks when I was putting something together for my beautiful wife Helen for her birthday, and I thought to myself - and not for the first time in my life - that I had never actually sat down and listened to a Beatles album. And by that, I don't mean a compilation album. I have the best of those - 1 - and of course my mother ensured there was plenty of Beatles played when I was a kid, but as to the actual albums, I have never heard one.

When the ABC recently did their My Favourite Album show, where normal people (and me) could put in their votes, The Beatles featured prominantly as always. Abbey Road was at four, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was at 5, The White Album was at 12, Revolver was at 13. The list itself is intersting to look at, and worth discussion or argument.


At my favourite music site, Rate Your Music (http://rateyourmusic.com) they also have a Best All Time Album list, compiled from the literally tens of thousands of people who, like me, rate all their albums at the site.
On this list, Revolver comes in at number 2, Abbey Road at number 4, the White Album at number 11, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band at number 26, and Rubber Soul at number 29.
Again, the list is interesting to look at for discussion and argument.

Anyway - I came to the conclusion that I needed to find out what all the fuss was about. Were these albums really that good? Have I been missing something for all these years? There was only one way to go about it correctly. So I have scraped and scavenged and searched, and found copies of all of The Beatles albums, from Please Please Me to Let It Be.

So now I will be listening to them all, in order, and deciding for myself. And of course, putting it all down in my blog.

Let us see how we go! :)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Season in Review 2006-07

Once again, having reached the conclusion of another cricket season, it feels uncomfortable to come up with apparently negative attitudes to the outcome for the Kiama Cricket Club. And yet, despite all of the superlative individual performances that punctuated the summer months, it was the inability to perform as a unit, as a team, as a Club, that has been our downfall at the final hurdle. It has again brought forward questions as to what the players of Kiama actually want to achieve with their cricket.

It was hard to foresee at the end of November. The Club was riding high on the success of the four Grades – so much so, that three veterans in Joe Murphy, Gary Koks and John Watts were encouraged to return to the playing field, so as not to miss out on the obvious premiership glory that was going to occur. As veterans of the Club, they really should have known better. :)

First Grade's was again a season unfulfilled, the promise of being on top of the ladder at the Christmas break and the possibility of a home semi-final, falling away to consecutive losses to Lake Illawarra in the final round and the subsequent semi-final. Though the team’s form after the break was not as diabolical as last season, Firsts could still only manage to defeat The Rail, draw with Albion Park, and lost key matches against Warilla and Jamberoo, as well as the aforementioned Lake match. As a premiership challenge, it again told the story loud and clear – compared to other teams, especially Oak Flats and Lake Illawarra, they were not in the same class.
In fact it speaks volumes. It showed that the team – or more specifically, many of the individuals – had not learned the lessons of last season. Theories abounded as to why this was the case. In the long run, it comes back to the basics. The team that trains together, wins together. The team that doesn’t, loses. The Oak Flats club’s incredible success this season didn’t occur with just a half dozen people showing up to training. Excuses, like losing, wear thin after a while. Whether our Club can change its culture to offset it is an entirely different question.

Two players seasons stand out.
Captain coach Matt Meurant led from the front with bat and ball. Following on from his fine first season with the Club, Matt went out and broke a 24 year old record for most runs scored in a season for Kiama First Grade, finishing with 708 runs at the impressive average of 78.67. Only twice did he fail to make double figures – one of those almost predictably in the semi-final. He scored five half-centuries and an unbeaten 139 against The Rail. Moreover, he was often left stranded at the non-strikers end as he watched the innings fold at the other end. Add to this 29 wickets and eight catches, and there was little more Matt could do to lead his team to glory.

Arguably an even finer all-round achievement came from Dale Scifleet. He followed last season’s breakthrough performances by improving even more, scoring 473 runs at 43.00, and taking 42 wickets at 12.88, and snaring 11 catches. In the process, he became only the third Kiama 1st Grader to do the 400 runs / 40 wickets double in a single season, following two legends of the Club in Ken and Trevor McDonald, who both performed the feat twice. Dale also scored his maiden 1st Grade century, 128 against Jamberoo, added to it with a century for South Coast, and represented Southern Zone.

The influence these two had on Kiama’s season was immeasurable. Between them, they scored 46% of 1st Grade’s season runs, and took 32% of the wickets. Kiama need these two back on deck next season if real success is to be achieved.

Second Grade finally suffered for their relative successes and ageing player base in recent seasons, and missed the finals for only the second time in the past ten seasons. This appeared impossible after winning five of their first six matches, but followed by six losses in the final seven rounds, it was perhaps a better indication of the troubles that faced the side. An amazing 37 players appeared in 2nd Grade during the season, as they battled constant player unavailabilities, lack of form and massive inexperience in high Grade cricket.
The generational change, one that everyone knew was coming and had been planned for over the past two seasons, was blown apart when those that had been prepared to take over found themselves either required for First Grade duty, or having lost interest in playing altogether. Only two of the side that played in the previous season’s semi-final were regulars in 2006-07. The rebuilding needs to be underway now.
Skipper Steven Holz found himself shouldering the majority of the batting and bowling load, but it was his absences that left some instability in the side. Seconds needed a constant leader, but with the captaincy split between Steve and Dan Reilly during the summer, and almost completely different sides playing week to week, there was no consistency. Players like Andrew Ross and Nathan Barr scored brightly in patches, and then couldn’t back it up with consistency. The bowling lacked penetration all season. The chaotic assembly of Second Grade’s season was illuminated by the troubles in selecting a full side each weekend. This in turn harmed First Grade, as under-performing players who would normally find themselves back in Seconds were held on to through a lack of players performing in that Grade.
There needs to be some thought put into Second Grade before the start of the new season, to ensure these problems are rectified for the good of the team and the Club as a whole.

Third Grade entered the new season with the hangover of last season’s great effort in the Final, and seemed to be playing catch up for most of the summer. To a lesser degree they suffered from the same problems as Second Grade – teams changed weekly (34 players in all), and the loss of inspirational Skipper and batsman Jeff Lawler after Christmas was a blow. However, they hung in most of the season, and when it came down to the last round, they had to defeat the reigning premiers and undefeated leaders, Lake Illawarra, to reach the semi-finals. Showing the same spirit and determination that they had last season, they beat Lake convincingly, so much so that they finished second on the ladder and grabbed another home semi. From here, though, their luck ran out, and they fell to eventual premiers Oak Flats on a soggy weekend and an unforgiving outfield.

Luke Bombaci, who took over the captaincy from Jeff, again led with bat and ball. Last season it appeared he was destined for Second Grade, and the fact he still played almost the entire season in Third Grade remains mystifying, despite the reasons given by Luke, selectors and captains alike. Without him, however, Thirds may have sunk without a trace. The fact that veterans such as Gary Koks, Joe Murphy and Frank Weir were the most consistent performers is a portent to where the Kiama club stands at the moment.
Jason Horley stood up and had his best season so far for Kiama. Rob Wakeham continued to baffle batsmen and wicket-keepers, while Brendan Shaw’s first season with the club augers well.

Fourth Grade was unable to capitalize on their good showing from last season, though they managed to offload the wooden spoon to Lake Illawarra with a convincing victory over them in the final round. With the introduction of a Fifth Grade competition, and only one team from each Club allowed in higher Grades, it made for a tougher and higher standard than has been the case in recent years, and the young Kiama team discovered the difference. It was pleasing to see a number of juniors coming through into the side, and in some cases into higher Grades. New arrivals to the Club, such as Dave Creighton, Randall McGregor and Rod Williams, also played well and boosted the young sides prowess.

Kiama's chances of glory in the Country Cup knockout competition fell victim to the weather for the second successive season, with their second round match against Lake Illawarra washed out before a result could be achieved. As a result of no spare day being scheduled, Lake progressed through to the next round by having a higher seeding in the competition.
The ridiculous seeding became even more obvious, when the winners of last season’s Country Cup were eliminated by rain, because they were seeded LOWER than their opponents, on the same weekend. How can the previous season’s winner be eliminated in this fashion? It begs the question “Who the hell is running cricket?” And the answer is generally “Idiots”.

Kiama also entered two Twenty20 tournaments.
In the combined Illawarra/South Coast Twenty20 Knockout, our side was defeated in the first round by Keira. This competition was played on Wednesday evenings, and proved popular in the area, with the novelty of playing against Illawarra teams showing obvious popularity.
In the local 1st Grade Twenty20 Knockout, our side defeated The Rail in the preliminary round, and then went down to Oak Flats in the semi-final. Rain disrupted this small tournament and played havoc with the scheduling.
In both tournaments, Kiama were unable to field full strengths teams, though with emotions still mixed over the format that didn’t seem to deter many within the Club.

While turnouts to the Grand Hotel after play each weekend dropped in relation to the performance of teams’ on the field, other events went off smoothly. The get together at the Grand for the First Day of the First Ashes Test was a great success, with all those who attended having a great day. While we may not be able to reproduce that festive atmosphere, no doubt a similar event will be held this November. The second annual Mexican Night again proved popular, despite the late notice.

The Club executive, headed by President Ross Wolf and Treasurer Wayne Richardson has again done itself proud with the administration of the Club as a whole. The election of Ross and Wayne as the 10th and 11th Life Members respectively of the Kiama Cricket Club was a just reward for their work over many years. Their tireless efforts are to be applauded. It is to be hoped that the new administration for the coming season can continue the great work that has been done in the past decade.

Our Club stands at the crossroads once again, and the direction is unknown. A new Executive will be elected at the Annual General Meeting, after the stability of the past six seasons. Our influential Coach and First Grade skipper looks to be moving on for personal reasons, though mixed with reservations on where we as a Club are headed.
The Executive of this Club has done everything in its power to bring success on and off the field. The coaches that the Executive have appointed have done everything in their power to create a successful Club. Unfortunately, the on field results have not been forthcoming.

Certainly, it is not the ability of the players of Kiama that is in question.
It is their commitment.

The same things are said every season, and yet very little changes.
Sometime very soon, our Club will have to make a decision. Two options appear prevalent. Either that the player base of the Kiama Cricket Club grow some commitment to the cause of improving their own cricket, that in turn will improve the Club’s cricket, or we accept that our Club culture will never change, and we turn into a social club.
It is senseless to continue spending money on a Club Coach when less than 10 players turn up for training on a regular basis. The money isn’t the issue – it is a waste of a Coach’s time and ability if he is not being utilized.
Kiama can never hope to compete with Clubs such as Oak Flats, Albion Park and Warilla if we continue to ignore the basics.
Oak Flats competed in every Grade final this past season, including the Women’s competition, and won all but 4th Grade. This was not a fluke. It is because their structure is fantastic, their players are motivated and keen, they have a desire to succeed… AND THEY TRAIN 2 TO 3 DAYS PER WEEK.

Those in charge of running the Club have done everything they can do. Now it is up to the players of the Club to come to the party. To put up… or shut up.
The 2007-08 season may well be one of the most important in this Club’s history. Time will tell if that is a positive thing.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Presentation Night 2006-07

The cricket season finally reached some closure on Saturday night with the hosting of the Presentation Night for the Kiama Cricket Club, held at the Kiama Golf Club. The evening proved to be a landmark for the Club's Captain/Coach Matt Meurant, and newly (officially) inducted Life Members, Ross Wolf and Wayne Richardson.

Matt scooped the pool claiming the four biggest awards on offer - the 1st Grade Batting and Bowling Average Perpetual trophies, the John Watts Medal for 1st Grade Cricketer Of The Year and the Stuart Holmes Memorial Cricketer Of The Year. In a season where he finished with 708 runs at an average of 78.67, and 29 wickets at an average of 11.21, it was hardly surprising that Matt went home with his trophies in the back of a semi-trailer.
Perhaps the unluckiest cricketer in this respect was Dale Scifleet. In any other season, his 473 runs at 43.00 and 42 wickets at 12.88 would have meant that it was his name on all of the above trophies. Dale actually became only the third Kiama cricketer to do the 400 run / 40 wicket double in a season in 1st Grade, following in the footsteps of Ken and Trevor McDonald, who both performed the feat twice. In the end he had to settle for the 1st Grade Bowling Aggregate, as well as sharing the Bill Leyshon Fielding Award for most catches in the season.

Also highlighting the evening was the presentation of Life Membership to two of the Club's finest servants, Ross Wolf and Wayne Richardson. Their efforts, not only in the past 6 years as head of the Club's Executive Board, but in years past in a number of positions, have put the Club where it is today, and their awards are fully deserved. The job for the Club now is to replace them, as they are both retiring from their positions at the coming Annual General Meeting.

The Club also took time to remember Athol Noble, and his wonderful service to cricket in our District. Athol passed away in February and will be sadly missed by everyone in our Association.

The full list of award winners is as follows:

4th Grade Batting Average & Aggregate: Randall McGregor 329 runs at 32.90
4th Grade Bowling Average & Aggregate: Dave Creighton 31 wickets at 12.97
4th Grade Captains Award: Ben Runge.

3rd Grade Batting Average: Gary Koks 232 runs at 46.40.
3rd Grade Batting Aggregate: Luke Bombaci 397 runs at 30.54.
3rd Grade Bowling Average: Rob Wakeham 20 wickets at 12.20
3rd Grade Bowling Aggregate: Luke Bombaci 32 wickets at 13.00.
3rd Grade Captains Award: Tim Rossiter

2nd Grade Batting Average & Aggregate: Steve Holz 276 runs at 39.43
2nd Grade Bowling Average: Steve Holz 23 wickets at 15.35
2nd Grade Bowling Aggregate: Daniel Reilly 24 wickets at 20.46
2nd Grade Captains Award: Daniel Reilly

1st Grade Batting Average & Aggregate: Matt Meurant 703 runs at 87.88
1st Grade Bowling Average: Matt Meurant 27 wickets at 11.15
1st Grade Bowling Aggregate: Dale Scifleet 38 wickets at 12.61
1st Grade Captains Award: Nick Hartgerink

Life Members Induction: Ross Wolf & Wayne Richardson

Goose Of The Year: Jaya Hartgerink & Luke Bombaci
Duck Award: Xavier Mayes (6)
Centuries Award: Matt Meurant, Dale Scifleet & Matt Unicomb.
Best Bowling Award: Luke Bombaci & Glenn Cleary (7 wickets in an innings)
Under 21 Player Of The Year: Matt Unicomb
Bill Leyshon Fielding Award: Dale Scifleet & Tim Wolf
President's Award: Paul Sheehy
Harold Lyons Trophy for 1st Grade Batsman of the Year: Matt Meurant
Harry Brown Trophy for 1st Grade Bowler of the Year: Matt Meurant
John Watts Medal for 1st Grade Cricketer Of The Year: Matt Meurant
Stuart Holmes Memorial Cricketer Of The Year: Matt Meurant