Southland cricket leading the way
Conventional wisdom suggests that cricket should be dying.
Too long, too boring, too weather dependent, too traditional. But cricket isn’t dying; you could even say it is thriving, and Southland is leading the way.
Southland Cricket general manager Jason Domigan looks out over the idyllic surroundings of Queens Park, the headquarters for the game in Southland, and contemplates a summer rich with promise.
This is a code which has faced the enemies gathering against traditional sport - time, indifference, technology, to name a few - and is fighting back.
CHANGING THE GAME
Following NZ Cricket’s age and stage approach, Southland Cricket has taken the lead providing short-format cricket which caters for youngsters aged five years to 10 years.
“We’ve done it a little bit differently,” Domigan says.
“A lot of models hand that role over to clubs, but we know that a lot of our clubs aren’t set up to deliver that. It’s about everyone being able to have a bat and a bowl. It’s short in duration, the kids switch off pretty quick when they are waiting to bat any longer than about 10 minutes, so games are done and dusted in 45 minutes to an hour. It’s becoming more like the other growth sports like basketball, netball and futsal.”
It’s meant parents are more likely to get involved too. Head along to Queens Park on a Monday or Tuesday night in terms one and four and you are likely to see just as many adults as children.
“You don’t need to know how to coach a cover drive. It’s just about getting kids to pick up a bat and a ball and having a bit of fun. That’s where it started for most of us - not expert coaching, playing in the backyard with brothers, sisters, Dads and Mums, and you just fall in love with the game.”
At senior club level, there appears to be a ceiling, with a small amount of movement where one team will come into the competition and another will fall away.
Working closely with the clubs to ensure competitions suit the needs of the players has been successful, Domigan says.
“In the past we have probably looked too much at being a breeding ground for Hawke Cup cricketers. For the guys that want to play at a higher level, we have opportunities with the development setup and it’s been reasonably successful. We’ve got the Hawke Cup, so it hasn’t hurt us, and we will produce those talented guys, but we don’t want to force people out of the game because they aren’t enjoying formats.”
WOMEN AND GIRLS
Southland has been recognised as a leader nationally, following on from the hard-hitting Women in Cricket report released by NZ Cricket in 2016.
“The report was not great, but it was accurate,” Domigan says.
“We had forgotten about 51 percent of the population and, if you want your sport to survive, you can’t do that.”
Former Southland Cricket employee James Carr was named NZ Cricket Development Officer of the Year after being instrumental in developing a free programme for girls called Girls Smash which focuses on providing a fun, safe environment to play cricket.
The programme has also been successful throughout Otago and will be rolled out nationally next year.
Buoyed by the success of Girls Smash, Southland Cricket will trial a women’s social competition at Queens Park later this summer and the Southland Cricket board now has two female representatives. While that was a move regulated by NZ Cricket, Domigan said the benefits of having a more diverse board had been felt immediately.
RELATIONSHIP WITH OTAGO CRICKET
Southland’s relationship with Otago, the region’s major association, has often been something of a ‘big brother, little brother’ situation, but much has changed in recent times, Domigan says.
“That’s progressed a lot and that also extends to NZ Cricket, who have admitted that for a significant period they didn’t have enough of a focus on the community game. Martin Snedden is leading some really structured change around the community game.
“(Otago) are aware that the districts play a vital role in providing a pathway for cricketers into those elite teams. We operate much more closely and that relationship is really strong.”
Southlander Jacob Duffy has captained Otago this season. Harsh Visavadiya, Ben Lockrose and Jack Mockford are pushing for higher honours with the Otago A team and nine members of the Otago under 17 team were Southlanders.
“It speaks volumes of Jake, because it’s been a tough couple of years for him. He went through a bowling action restructure, then was in and out of the team last year. They have realised the leadership qualities that he has. He’s still really young and has a lot of cricket ahead of him, but the captaincy has done wonders for his own game and it’s great to see him reaping the rewards from some really hard work.
“It’s great for Southland because it really shows that pathway, and that it is possible. Before him, outside of Jeff Wilson, it had been lean pickings for a while.”
Unbeaten for the past two seasons, the Southland Hawke Cup team has had a busy winter preparing to defend the Hawke Cup, the most prestigious piece of silverware in New Zealand minor association cricket.
Following zone play over the next three months, Southland will play its first defence against the next highest-placed southern zone team on February 1 to 3. If that’s successful, Southland will look to defend the trophy at home every two weeks against the winner of each regional zone, with a total of four possible challenges.
“The focus has gone from trying to win the Hawke Cup to working out how we can defend it and what characteristics, as a group, we need to have this summer to give ourselves the best chance of doing that. It’s going to be tough - winning it is one thing, but when teams come to us they all have one opportunity to win it and they will be giving it everything to try and take it off us,” Domigan says.
“There’s not much room for complacency, but that’s a good motivator for the guys and it’s an exciting season - something we thought might not happen again. It’s something that’s come from a couple of pretty good seasons where we’ve shown that willingness to fight for each other and not believe it’s over until it is.”
6% of young people (5 – 18 years) in New Zealand indicated that they play cricket – this includes organised (e.g. competitive) and informal (e.g. playing with friends) cricket.
Comparatively, 7% of young people (5 – 18 years) in Southland indicate that they play cricket (organised and/or informal). This includes:
- 8% of males and 6% of females aged 5 – 18 years.
- 11% of 8 – 11 year olds.
- 14% of young people who live in high deprivation areas.
- 5% of 18 – 24 year old males.
- 44% of Indian males.
Source: Active New Zealand Survey 2017. NB: Small samples sizes for some subgroups mean rates should be used with caution.