Whites swapped for music and fun as juniors face overhaul

TRADITIONALISTS might not like it, but changes are afoot in junior cricket.

The impact of the fun-sized Twenty20 has taken some time to be felt, but Clarence River Junior Cricket Association has finally bitten the bullet and will welcome the format with open arms.

Under-10 cricketers will feel the full force of the change, with traditional Saturday morning cricket on proper pitches discarded for a mid-week trip to a grass field.

CricketNSW North Coast development manager David Szumowski made a presentation about the format before Monday night's CRJCA AGM, which returned president Adam Brown said took up much of the time.

Brown said yesterday the new format would be based on the highly successful T20 Blast, which is directed more towards the social and fun aspects of the game rather than competition.

"It means they'll transfer to grass fields and wearing colours rather than traditional whites," Brown said.

The format will mean juniors get to bat for four overs, regardless of dismissal, in a much shorter version of the game.

The players from the batting side waiting for their time in the middle will instead spend time at a "skills centre", where they will work on the fundamental skills of cricket.

It is all about arresting the sharp slide junior cricket's participation numbers have experienced for the past few years, and Brown said CricketNSW had proved it worked in other regions.

"They showed a few videos and the feedback they had was great," Brown said.

"The only thing with this format is that it will not be able to played on Saturday mornings.

"We're looking at either Wednesday or Thursday as the alternative days, but still have to work on that."

With every plan there is a catch and if the effect on the hip pocket is as bad as initial reports suggest, the CRJCA could be in for a tough sell.

In the current competition, players generally pay "about $50 for a 16-week season", but the new format will see parents slogged $100 for a season that could last just eight weeks.

The money would be paid directly to CricketNSW, with players receiving a bag of goodies directly from state cricket's governing body.

Funds would also go towards the paid co-ordinators who would replace volunteer coaches.

"It is a tough sell, but we have to try something," Brown said.

"We can't stick by what we've been doing as it obviously isn't working.

"CricketNSW have them running in different parts of the state and it looks great. They want to get kids back on the field playing cricket.

"The thing we have to work out is if we adapt the whole plan. We don't have to implement the whole program but we can use elements of it. Some people may not like it; there's always people who aren't as optimistic, but we have to try something."

Brown said CRJCA encouraged people to give feedback about the proposal, with the move set to be decided at the next meeting on Monday, August 11.

Everyone involved in local cricket is encouraged to attend to ensure their voices are heard.

"We need to get people in with the age group to these meetings," Brown said.

"The people you usually get there are older heads who have been involved for years. It's tough to gauge the real reaction.

"We have stalwarts that always attend but there's barely anybody directly involved in the age group."

CRJCA AGM

The other major talking point from the AGM was a proposal to consider rescheduling junior games.

Currently the under-14s and U16s play on Friday nights, but the lack of depth in junior ranks means several clubs can't participate in the older age group.

The new plan could see the two age groups played on different nights (Thursday and Friday for example), allowing the younger players to back up.

"It's still in its infancy but we're moving away from weekends," CRJCA president Adam Brown said.

A proposal to move under-14 games to turf has been put on the backburner, and they will continue to play on synthetic surfaces.



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