A Central Highlands focus from Cricket Victoria aims to stem player decline in the Grampians Cricket Association.
Cricket Victoria employed one person to focus on developing regional areas in previous years – but a restructure 18 months ago means the organisation now employs three full-time members focusing on the sport in rural areas.
Many teams in the Grampians Cricket Association have forfeited this season, having failed to reach the minimum requirement of seven players to proceed with scheduled play.
As a result, it has seen some sides record multiple forfeits. Chalambar didn’t play cricket for close to a month because the teams it was due to play were forfeiting matches.
Central Highlands cricket manager for Cricket Victoria, Tom McCarthy, said the restructure allowed the organisation to focus on the issues that needed attention – such as participation and supporting clubs with better facilities.
“It gives us the ability to target areas that need our support more than ever before," he said.
“It will give me, as a cricket manager, the opportunity to identify areas that I need to invest my time and efforts – with the Grampians being one of them.
“I will then work one-on-one with the associations that identify challenges and work with them to find strategies to support them and curb the issues they are facing.”
A rebranded version of the modified game, called Cricket Blaster, is another proposed solution.
The Cricket Blaster programs aim to boost junior participation – including learning to take wickets, make runs and take catches.
“We have a really heavy focus on junior cricket at the moment,” he said.
“The new program is to ideally enhance the positive experience that children will have playing in sport, with the hope that then that filters up to them continuing to play the sport to senior levels.
“Some of these modifications include playing with smaller boundaries, less players on a side, shorter length wickets – so that batsman are scoring more runs, less fielders in the field means the fielders are engaging at all times and bowlers bowling off a shorter wicket means they are getting more wickets.
“We think it will be a really positive influence in the region being rolled out this season and hopefully we see more kids enjoying the sport and continuing to play to the senior grades.”
In regards to declining participation at the senior level, McCarthy said the organisation has worked with the Grampians Cricket Association to identify causes of the issue.
“The senior participation is one that is becoming an increasing issue, and it is something that we may need to work one-on-one with the Grampians Cricket Association to address,” he said.
“The association is being proactive with the issues being faced and unfortunately there is no easy solution because a lot of country regions are facing the same issue with the decline in participation.”
Grampians Cricket Association president David Turner said the association and Cricket Victoria could do more to stem declining player numbers.
He said the organisation could use the AFLs program where clubs took players take to country towns for school and community clinics as a way to promote the sport.
“I think across the board they need to get back into schools,” he said.
“I know they do do a bit and I know Collingwood came up and Carlton come up fairly regularly and I know North Melbourne have been up to our schools, but you never see the cricketers.
“We never see a state or our international cricketers make inroads into regional areas.”
Turner said a masters competition brought some higher-profile cricketers to the region last year.
McCarthy said it was important Grampians clubs also worked to improve issues such as player numbers.
“I think a big focus should be trying to create a real positive club environment, so when you get people in you keep them in,” he said.
“It’s about identifying what the desires of the community are and playing that format of cricket which suites those desires.”
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