Cricket’s future direction

The WGCA is calling on its clubs and stakeholders to have their say in its future direction. 146041 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

The future of the West Gippsland Cricket Association has been a hot topic in local cricketing circles for quite some time now, and key stakeholders are working on a plan for the future direction of the competition.

The WGCA has been working in conjunction with the Cardinia Shire, Cricket Victoria, and GippSport – the Gippsland Regional Sports Assembly – over recent months to review its strategic direction.

As part of that process, the WGCA’s clubs were approached by association executives to gauge their opinions, and an online survey was established.

The clubs’ responses to that survey have been reviewed independently by GippSport, and it’s understood a workshop will be held with GippSport later this month to explore those responses.

In the survey, clubs were asked to rank – from least to most important – the following factors when considering the WGCA’s future success: financial sustainability, strong governance and decision-making, an increase in participation, clear policies and procedures, attendance from all clubs at meetings, the standard of the competition, effective communication, and a positive club and/or association culture.

The option of changing the name of the competition to better reflect where its member clubs are located, geographically, was even floated.

Many of the WGCA’s current clubs are in the City of Casey, for example.

A range of options for effective communication between clubs and the association was also tabled – everything from phone calls, to emails, to regular meetings, to social media (Facebook) messages and posts.

The survey also asked clubs about the ways in which the WGCA could better support clubs in their efforts to increase participation numbers and improve player retention – seen as the biggest issue currently facing clubs, not only across the competition but right across the country.

Among the options floated in the survey were: funding or discounts for clubs to reduce costs, clinics or camps for player skill development, coaching education or mentoring programs, promotion of the game in the region, the capping of player payments, and even a paid administration service to reduce the workload of club volunteers.

Crucially, clubs were also asked about their stance on the current divisional structure within the WGCA, and if it’s working effectively for seniors and juniors.

Questions on how the WGCA can improve its decision-making as an association, and also what should be prioritised should Covid-19 impact the 2020/21 season, were also asked.

No doubt the survey and improved dialogue between the clubs and association is the first step on a long path for the association to improve.

It’s understood that there’s a real desire to attract a wider range of administrators throughout the WGCA who could help in better sharing the decision-making load. In turn, a wider range of voices would play a part in the association thinking outside the square.

WGCA president Bob Taylor said he welcomed the clubs’ opinions on the competition’s future direction.
“I’m happy for clubs to put forward their opinions – it’s the clubs that run the league, not the board of management,” he said.
“Not everyone will be happy with all of it, but in the long run we feel it (this discussion) will be a lot better for cricket.
“The clubs have done their surveys, and we’ll take it from there.
“We’ll know more after our meeting with GippSport later this month.”

Devon Meadows Cricket Club president Mick Floyd has put his name to a series of ideas that will no doubt generate plenty of healthy discussion moving forward.

“The league needs to find relevance to survive,” he explained.

“We have a lot of good cricketers and strong clubs with long histories in their towns.

“We’re in a growth area with lots of young families, we have a good-quality competition played on excellent grounds with great facilities, generally speaking.

“But it’s almost like it’s a secret – there’s no real buzz or excitement surrounding it.”

A range of ideas put forward by Floyd echo those that are being discussed throughout the association.

“Change the name to something more relevant,” he said.

“The West Gippsland Cricket Association doesn’t resonate, as no one in the region associates it with West Gippsland.

“With a new name, should be a modern logo.”

Floyd also suggested the association employs a qualified individual to manage its communications and social media channels – to better promote the league, its clubs, and players.

“If we’re not excited by our own competition, no one outside of it will be.”

He also suggested, given the number of second XI sides in the division, that ‘Sub-District’ should be scrapped and replaced by B Grade.

Some of Floyd’s other ideas include:

• Umpires grading clubs on their behaviour, with the club with the best average score over the season awarded the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ award.

• Restricting one day games for B Grade and below to 35 overs per side.

• Scrapping one day games for juniors in favour of T20 games.

• The association prioritising the increase of junior numbers at club level.

• Not fixturing junior cricket in either the last round before Christmas, or the first round back.

• Playing the under-10s and under-14s on Friday nights, and the under-12s and under-16s on Saturday mornings in order to give clubs a better opportunity to fill each age group.

• Restricting the Twenty20 Kookaburra Cup to sides in the Premier grade, with a separate T20 tournament for District sides.

• Increasing the prizemoney to $2000 for the winning side, and $500 for the runners-up.

• Scrapping the percentage on the ladders altogether and reinstating bonus points to re-incentivise the continuation of play once a first innings result is achieved in a two-day game.

• Scrapping the league presentation night, but reinstating a vote count night during the finals – either during semi-final or grand final week – and presenting player of the year medals, Country Week, and other awards in that function.

• Better promoting senior Country Week (should it continue) as a level of cricket to aspire towards, and better recognising the players involved.