WHILE I have stepped back from a hands on involvement in cricket due to my wider responsibilities connected with local government in Taree and sport and recreation in our region, I have retained a keen interest in local cricket.
So I read with interest the various views about the proposed super league concept for senior cricket.
It is commendable that people are prepared to think outside the square and I can see the reasoning behind it.
However, I'm not sure if the super league will achieve much in developing the local competition or grass roots which is the juniors.
The challenges facing Saturday senior cricket have grown over time and I think it is has much to do with the life style demand of families and the restricted education and employment opportunities which drains promising juniors to other areas, that is the heart of the problem.
The local twilight cricket competition is popular for many because it frees up weekends so they elect to play mid-week rather than Saturday.
There are some excellent players in the mid-week mini bash who would be quite capable of doing well in the Saturday competition.
I always found it hard to get all senior players to commit to playing representative cricket because of the travel and the effect on family life.
The risk of the super league concept might be the same with players not wanting to be available for the three sides as proposed due to the travel commitment and family issues.
I don't think the idea of just taking the top three club sides to the super league as Ricky Campbell suggested in Friday's Times would work because there will always be some A-grade quality players outside the top three clubs that will pose a problem if their club is relegated to the lower grade and conversely the three clubs will have players of lesser quality in their playing roster.
Time will tell I guess and the fact that the clubs supported the three composite side selection at association level is a plus and I hope it proves to be a winner because the idea has merit but none the less a challenge I feel.
These days many families have two working so weekend time is precious and that has not only been an obstacle to get players to play on a Saturday or representative cricket, it also been a big obstacle to get over when trying to entice juniors to cricket due to the length of a game of cricket compared to football codes.
There has been a struggle for years to have strong juniors and seniors from Old Bar, Forster-Tuncurry and Hallidays Point areas.
Part of the reason is that families near the beach have kids who want to have their beach and water activities on Sunday which means Saturday is a further stretch for families.
The travel involved playing in a Manning competition also made things a bit more of a challenge.
I noticed a comment in the Times last week from the Mid North Coast senior development officer Ashley Bryant who said parents in the Forster-Tuncurry area believe a mid-week afternoon competition for juniors would suit parents better in that area.
That sentiment is understandable and while easier said than done, it might be achievable in Forster, Hallidays Point, Pacific Palms, jointly if there is enough local will to make it happen.
The success of twilight cricket and the popularity of the shortened game, the fact that there are plenty of retirees and even school teachers who might be happy to give up an afternoon for some community service to assist in sport competition, could open up that as a possibility in the coastal area in particular.
The shortened version for Forster juniors or even seniors in a local mid-week comp might increase participation.
The trick then will be to encourage and facilitate a method for genuine talent to link with Manning players when it comes to representative cricket and offseason coaching and development. This is achievable but in the meantime it will take some enthusiastic coastal dwellers who are listening to what families are saying, to think a bit outside the square.
The trick is to treat the representative side of things and talent development at the junior level also, as a bigger picture, where those keen are given the opportunity to be considered for selection no matter what comp they are in eg Forster mid-week if it does gain momentum.
(Alan Tickle is a former president of both senior and junior associations for which he is also a life member. He was a former coach in the junior development program and manager or coach or Mid North Coast and North Coast representative sides at both junior and senior levels).