Sport: Cricket - Aaron Lewis


Interviewee: Aaron Lewis, born 1978

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,

            for The Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 4 May 2010

Transcription: Glenys Murray, June 2010

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee

Did you play any sports while you were at school?

Mainly cricket and rugby league, they were my two main sports at school. I played a little bit of hockey and volleyball, touch football a few other things. But cricket and rugby league were my main sports.

How did you go in cricket?

Not too bad. Our school had a pretty good side. We won the Alan Davidson Shield which is a school competition in 1994. We did pretty well.

What do you like about the game of cricket?

I just think it’s just such a good social environment. It’s very mentally testing. It’s something that regardless of your size or skill, there’s something we can find for you to do in the sport. Very challenging game over a long period of time, good mentality and good camaraderie between those who play it.

In a game of cricket they can be there a long time, can’t they?

At the top level it takes five days, so six hours a day, so thirty hours to complete one game. At our level certainly we only probably play for between twelve to fourteen hours I guess. It’s still long enough.

So do you need a lot of infinite patience to be able to do a game of cricket?

To play it properly it’s all about the patience regardless of your skill level. If you’ve got the patience you can make something of cricket especially as a batsman.

What position were you mainly on the team?

Mainly I’m an opening batsman now. When I started off playing I was bowling leg spin. As the years went on I’ve steadily turned into a batsman and it’s very rare for me to get a bowl. Mainly an opening batsman.

You’re still playing today?

Yes, still playing today. I played first and second grade all of last year. I played first grade the last couple of years before that.

Can you give me a history of the North West Sydney Hurricanes District Cricket Club?

It’s a bit of a complicated history with the partnership or merger of two clubs. The first one being the Holroyd District Cricket Club and the other one being The Hills District Cricket Club. They merged in the year 2000. We assumed the name of the Holroyd Hills District Cricket Club till 2005, 2006 I think (actually 2006). Then we changed it to North West Sydney Hurricanes Cricket Club ( ).

The Holroyd side of the club started in 1967 in Wentworthville. The Hills District Cricket Club started as Baulkham Hills in 1982.

What was the need to merge the two clubs?

It came about for a variety of reasons. I think at the Holroyd Club there was a lack of facilities and at the Hills Club there was a lack of numbers and support from junior clubs and associations. So the two got together and merged and formed the club. We still have some of those problems but we’re dealing with them as we go along and move forward.

Aaron Lewis in Hurricane Cricket Club uniform at Bruce Purser Reserve Rouse Hill

in 2000. What were their respective strengths and weaknesses?

Holroyd had very strong playing base, had good solid numbers but just lacked facilities. So Holroyd traditionally performed quite well.

Hills had a good junior base. A lot of good junior cricketers coming through. They didn’t have the experience to compete in the higher grades. A lot of the younger players were playing above their skill level. So they weren’t competing well on the field. The year that we merged or the year before the two clubs merged, the Hills club was starting to struggle for some numbers as well.

It gave the Holroyd Club a good junior base and gave the Hills Club good numbers and more senior based players.

When did The Hills Shire Cricket Club actually begin?

They were formed from former members of the Baulkham Hills Sports Club in 1982 to compete as a shires club. They started in the low grades. In fourth grade to begin with. Then steadily by 1984 or 1986 they were competing in all four grades properly. Then playing at Charles McLaughlin Reserve in Baulkham Hills back then. Initially the father club was the Baulkham Hills Sports Club. (The cricket club was originally called Baulkham Hills District Cricket Club and changed its name to The Hills Shire Cricket Club in 1996).

What were the coaches like at that time?

I think a lot of cricket back then was just more about people who were playing were coaching. Even at the top level coaching wasn’t considered a necessity for cricket. It was more about the older players passing on their experience to the younger players. That’s pretty much what the foundation for what most cricket coaching was about back then.

Nowadays it's a very different story. Coaches are every where in all sorts of things.

So it was more on an amateur basis in those days was it?

Yeah definitely. Even at the levels just below state cricket. It was still very amateur back then. It sort of took a turn in the nineties I think where sport in general but cricket especially started to professionalise off the field.

What’s your present position in the club?

I’m the president of the club. I’ve been in that position since 2004. I took one year off for business reasons but back into it now. With our AGM next week I will possibly get another year as well, so we’ll soon find out.

Why was it necessary to change the name of the club? Because it was two different identities?

Our name was Holroyd Hills District Cricket Club. It probably didn’t reflect our move into the Hills region. It was still very much a Holroyd based club. We were still playing out of Wentworthville. There were opportunities in the Hills district to build cricket so we jumped on those opportunities. The most obvious and probably the thing which really brought it about was the development of the Bruce Purser Reserve in Rouse Hill. It made us really consolidate our footings in the Hills district.

Who came up with the name the Hurricanes?

I think that was just from the Holroyd Hills keeping the H’s in line. Our current treasurer Glenn Curtis I think was the one who came up with that. He was the president back in 2000 when the clubs merged.

Before you became president were you a secretary? What other positions did you have?

I was initially secretary of the Holroyd club in 1996, 1997 and up until 1998, 1999 I think. I was captain of one of the lower grade sides. That gave me a position on the committee. I was appointed the assistant secretary and after a year of doing that I was the secretary there for three years.

What was it like being on the committee of the Holroyd Hills Club?

When we first merged together we took senior members from both clubs. I wasn’t an active board member for the first year or two of the merger. From what I observed. We saw certainly a lot of friction between those who came from the Hills club and those who came from the Holroyd club. A little bit of ego and things like that. The eventual result was that we ended up with too many clashes and people starting to drop off and not really help out. It put us into a position where I started to get involved back in the club in 2002, 2003. I was noticing that we really didn’t have good infrastructure. What we could have had after merging the two clubs together after a very successful first year fell away very quickly. I think it got to the stage where those from Holroyd were relying on these things from Hills and the guys from Hills were relying on these things from Holroyd. Nothing actually came together properly.

We’ve had to do a lot of work since about 2003 to get the club rolling again in the right direction. Getting a good solid committee, good off field support which is now starting to happen.

Hurricanes cricket players near scoreboard at Bruce Purser Reserve

What tier level is the club presently?

We play in the second tier level which is the Sydney Shires Competition. Sydney Cricket is broken down into state cricket which is fed to from the Sydney grade competition which is twenty clubs across Sydney. They have five grades each and a series of junior colt sides and under twenty ones and under sixteens.

We then sit into the second tier which is called the Sydney Shires Competition which is fourteen teams across the whole of Sydney. We have four grades as well as the colt competition for under twenty fours players.

Our level is roughly parallel so it’s not simply their top five grades then our first grade. We have a lot of former first grade cricketers. Some who have played a little bit of state cricket who would play in our competition. They provide the obvious experience from having played in the top level competition. They’d pass it onto our juniors coming through. That’s how we like to work it.

At this stage we’re in the second tier. We are looking to go into the Sydney grade competition. We’ve put a plan in place and hopefully working with councils and local business and our current membership and junior clubs in the area. We’ll be able to get to that Sydney grade competition.

Give me a description of the size of the club and how many teams actually compete in it?

We have one hundred and forty three members of our club, which include our playing membership, our supporting membership or our associate membership plus our life membership. This year we had our four graded side plus we were in a fifth grade which was a junior development squad. They play in a Sydney metropolitan competition. We also have our under twenty four side which play a Sunday competition of one day games. Then we have two masters sides for players over forty. It’s the first time that we’ve had masters sides in the competition. We put out a feeler for teams last year and we got a very good response. That’s something that we’re hoping to continue with in the future years.

So that’s a new initiative is it?

Yeah certainly, we see that the population in this area is heavily coming into that market of the family with two kids. So we want to cover it from both ends. We’ll expose ourselves to those who are parents of the club who are wishing to participate in sport in sport in the area. They might have moved from other areas to here or previously played with the club. That allows them to expose their children to the club. As they go through the junior ranks they’ll know about the Hurricanes and what we can offer. We’ll sort of hit it from both sides.

The masters competition is bringing in a new class of people here to. Different ideas for administration. With our AGM next week we’re looking at having some of the masters guys put their hands up for positions on our board. They’ve got a different level of experience which can really contribute to our board. Then we’ll steadily see their kids come through, cause they’re exposed to our club.

Do the mothers play also?

No we’re looking at the development of a women’s side. Something that this area is lacking. Part of our strategic plan is to develop a women’s side. It’s probably the hardest of our goals along with getting into the Sydney grade competition. It’s something that we have as a firm sight. It’s just a matter of making sure that we can have the facilities to cater for them and that there’s a demand out there. That we can attract the necessary women, given the resources that they need to compete in the women’s competition.

What research is there to indicate that women do want to play cricket?

At this stage it’s a little bit of word of mouth. We’re just hearing a little bit of demand and people are contacting us and asking us about women’s cricket. We see a few women come through into the juniors. At this stage there’s a good women’s comp. through the Hawkesbury region and then clubs like Northern Districts and Parramatta and Blacktown who run really good women’s programmes. Similar to us being a grade club we’re filling that hole between Northern Districts, Parramatta, Blacktown and Hawkesbury. As the population grows we’ll certainly see a lot more women cricketers make themselves readily available. Hopefully we can provide them with a team and a place to play and represent the North West Sydney region..

Castlewood Reserve aerial view 2008

How many grounds does the club need to function?

At this stage we have two grounds. Realistically to compete in the grade competition we need three. We need three turf wickets and we can’t really compromise that to any degree. Our current demand is such that we have to look to other areas to play our fifth grade games or our masters games. Our two current grounds are not meeting our current demands and yet we expect to grow as we look into becoming a grade competition. We definitely need three turf wickets in the area to get into grade that will be the first thing that we need to do. Then from there… we can certainly work around the three grounds and that would cater for our demand.

How did you actually go about acquiring those two grounds that you have now? What was the process?

The first ground that we have is Castlewood Reserve which is out at Castle Hill. We lobbied the Council back in 1991, 1992 to start using that ground. This was the Hills District Cricket Club. They lobbied to use the ground but they said “ we could have the ground but we had to pay for all the resources. We received grants for the construction of the turf wicket. Then we proceeded to run a series of working bees to construct the wicket. Since then we’re maintained it ourselves. Occasionally we’ve had to hire contractors to help us out. We purchased the roller, purchased the mowers and have done the majority of work ourselves. Our other ground which is our main ground and our feature ground is Bruce Purser Reserve. We got involved with Bruce Purser Reserve in about 2004, 2005 when I contacted Peter Physick from the East Coast Eagles Football Club. I heard the whispers about this ground being built and convinced them that we’d be the appropriate partners to assist in getting the right amount of funding for there. What they needed for their summer license so it wouldn’t compromise what AFL had out there. 2005 we started on that, got the approval and then worked with Cricket NSW to get funding for the ground. Worked with Council for the design and then we were playing cricket on there in 2009.

How much money was involved in developing the Bruce Purser Reserve?

Total expenditure was around the $7 million mark. I think just a little bit under. Most of that came from the Council. The AFL were significant contributors as well as were Cricket NSW. All up $7 million which is quite a handsome piece of land there.

You’re sharing that of course with the other group?

East Coast Eagles yeah. They’re the winter licensee and we use it during the summer period. We just have a working relationship together.

Talking about cost, how much does it cost to put up a wicket say?

The wicket at Bruce Purser Reserve cost in the vicinity of $90,000, the main cost being the cost of the soil, which is a special brand of soil that is only used for cricket wickets. There’s only really one person who markets it at the moment so it’s very hard to negotiate anything. There are some other brands of cricket soil but they’re not as good. That’s where most of the cost goes as well as the construction of the wicket. Physical cost of the turf at $350 a cubic metre is quite expensive.

Must be gold huh?

You’d hope to find some gold in there if you dug it up, when you’re paying that much money for it.

What about a practice wicket, what does that cost?

A practice wicket is half the size so the soil was probably about $30,000 or $40,000. We used a netting system which would cost in the vicinity of $10,000 to construct. That’s a retractable netting system which means that it’s all based off field. We turn up for training and we just pull out the nets on the two wickets that we need, use those. We also have two synthetic nets off the field there as well. It’s quite a complex training unit for our training level. Probably the best in our competition and would be suitable for a team in the Sydney grade competition. It’s at that same sort of standard.

What happens to that very nice soil when the AFL’s playing on it in the winter months?

They run around on it. I think they look after it pretty well and we’ve got a full time grounds person up at Bruce Purser Reserve who makes sure she keeps an eye on it, keeps it in good tact. I think the soil side of things is pretty easy because you just water it and roll it out. Getting the grass to grow back through it, that’s probably the biggest challenge they would have at the changeover of seasons.

Sporting facilities at Bruce Purser Reserve Rouse Hill 2008

I believe you use different grasses for the two sports, tell me about that?

That’s true in the summer we use a summer couch which is a bit more lush and more conducive to the rolling of the cricket ball across the field. Whereas in the winter season the AFL use what they call a winter rye which grows a little bit better. The couch doesn’t grow or survive the winter and it’s better for injury management and getting their studs in through to the ground.

That would be the main reason so you see in the changeover of season two sorts of grass on the wicket. Depending on how the weather is the couch will survive a little bit longer in this sort of weather where we’re getting a little bit warmer. As soon as it gets really cold and start getting frost over night the couch will die off pretty quickly, then the winter rye will come through.

What sort of facilities are there for the crowd?

At Bruce Purser Reserve we have a bit of a terrace region out in front of the dressing rooms. It’s quite a nice design and then we’ve got a little spectators hill over on the side of the amenities building there. I think catering for spectators is something we’ll continue to work on in the coming years. At the moment it’s an open terrace region and then the hill which I think will gain some infamy over the years with the footballers there. Even now when we have our day/nighters it’s a good ground to be able to walk around the ground and see the cricket from a variety of different places.

Our biggest challenge was… and it wasn’t the biggest of challenges but was convincing places like Cricket NSW that this was the growth area and this is where they should be spending their money. Instead of their traditional areas, cricket rich areas on the North Shore. We had to convince them that the North West region was a growth area.

Amenities block at Bruce Purser Reserve Rouse Hill 2009

It sounds like the Council has been very supportive in letting you have this ground?

Yes certainly I think The Hills Council now as they’re growing and becoming more… bigger population different people coming through to the area. They’re realising that sport is something that they need to assist with. Gone are the days I think where they used to have the big paddocks and people just playing sport. They’ve got to start focusing on building better facilities that cater for that higher level of competition which the East Coast Eagles provide and hopefully we will provide in the premier competition. Other sports like Soccer (football) and Rugby League they’re still to get premier sides. Not so much Rugby League with getting into the NRL. You’ll certainly see some Rugby Union representation in the higher grades here in future years. I think Council's very aware now that we can increase population and with the demand on sport in the area the facilities will have to catch up.

What’s the nature of your lease of the Bruce Purser Reserve?

We have a ten year lease with a ten year option which is the maximum that you can get under the Local Government Act. Basically we have use of the ground for twenty years. Our club’s the actual licensee of the ground for the summer period. The NSW AFL are the licensee for the winter period. It’s good to have that security. We’ve had grounds in the past where we’ve had access to the ground. Then its been taken from us by a sports club or another club who claim that their demand is greater than ours. We’re protected at Bruce Purser Reserve for the next twenty years. We’re hoping that there’s the possibility of getting other grounds in the future, that our relationship with Council is solid and we wouldn’t get ground taken from us any more.

What’s been the record of the club to date as far as wins are concerned?

Our total existence has been over forty three years. In that time we’ve had twenty premierships. Most recently our fourth grade side won the 2009, 2010 fourth grade premiership. We’ve had four club championships. The last one was way back in 1989, 1990 I think. We finished second in the club championship this year which was a good effort. Considering that our best effort had been about fifth in the previous ten years. To jump into that second position was quite an achievement. We finished ninth the season before so a massive improvement on the previous year. We gave it a good run. It was a two horse race for most of the year with the Auburn Cricket Club who’d won it the two or three years before that. They pipped us at the post and hopefully we’ll be able to peg them back next year.

Go To Part Two