The 2015 annual season for junior secondary school cricket will be a test case for new initiatives driven by the Wairarapa Cricket Association, through it’s Development Officer, Simon Roseingrave. For a number of years the level of participation of year 9 & 10 boys has been dropping, not only within the Wairarapa, but across New Zealand. This area was identified and made a priority by the WCA Board in 2014, as an issue that needed to be rectified for the good of the game within our region. One of the first steps was to try to identify why boys were deciding to give up the game, and to attempt to remedy this.
Certain things have been easy to put in place, such as the development officer acting as a go-between between JCB clubs and secondary schools, in an effort to provide continuity for boys starting in a new environment. This involves informing schools which players are leaving JCB clubs and starting at college, and the level at which these players have played, as well as offering to attend registration days. “Hopefully the sight of a familiar face at school registrations will help some juniors get over the fear over putting their names down to play. At the very least by letting the schools know which cricketers are attending, schools are able to shoulder-tap and introduce their cricketing staff and structure to these players”.
On top of this Roseingrave has been keen to ensure that the organisation of competitions is effective, and that schools are aware of which teams would best fit which competition. “ In the past the junior secondary schools competition has seen all teams playing on either a Thursday evening or a Saturday morning, with a cross-over of players between teams, and cross-over of days of play. This has led to a lot of confusion around how many overs games should be played for, and made it difficult for parents / coaches to commit to a team due to availability on different days.” For 2015 there is a concerted effort to ensure that Thursday evening games and Saturday morning games are treated as distinct competitions, giving certainty to players, coaches and around the rules of play.
Saturday morning cricket is being treated as a colts-type competition, with the best year 9 & 10s from Rathkeale, Wairarapa College & Kuranui being joined by a combined Wairarapa secondary schools girls team. These games will be played over a 30 over format, providing more opportunity for the Wairarapa’s best junior college cricketers to display their skills. The majority of these games will also be played on grass wickets, including use of the QE II Oval when available, to ensure that any development for bowlers and batsmen is enhanced. Thursday evening cricket will have an emphasis on being a part of the game, for new players and those unable to commit to weekends. “Positive factors around continuing with this midweek 20/20 format is that we are providing a vehicle for schools who do not have a recent history of cricket, and are maintaining an avenue for the two main 1st XI Girls teams to compete against the boys. Makoura have entered a team in the first half year, and hopefully with further work we can look at Chanel being involved in future seasons.”
Adding a competitive element to the Saturday morning grade has been the final piece of the puzzle. Local restaurant Lonestar have sponsored an MVP for the competition, which will be decided upon at the end of 2015, and the generosity of a local cricket personality has resulted in the establishment of a trophy for the competition. Schools will now be competing for the Trevor Martin Trophy on a round-robin points basis, with a proposed final to be played end of November / start of December 2015.
Roseingrave noted it was brilliant that a local business and a local cricketer were able to help out with this level of the game. “Trevor’s donation of the Trophy has been fantastic. The teams now know there is some meaning around their games, and it is not simply a matter of turning up for a hit”. Trevor has spent many years involved with the Red Star Cricket Club as a player and is still involved as an Administrator. He remembers his playing days at Wairarapa College well, and could easily be used as an example to a number of these players. Not only was he Coach and Captain of the Wairarapa College 3rd eleven, he continued to play at senior and second grade level until only a couple of years ago, at an age when most players are well past their retirement.
And the outcome of some of these changes so far? Roseingrave commented that “Rathkeale continue to be a strong school with three teams across the two grades, Wairarapa College have had a great recent registration day and match Rathkeale numbers wise with three teams. Kuranui continue to go from strength to strength and as mentioned Makoura are involved and keen to continue that involvement. The establishment of the combined Girls Secondary team is a further positive step for the female game within the Wairarapa.” Hopefully this continues to be an upward trend.