Sport: Cricket - Aaron Lewis - Part 2


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

What do you attribute that to, that improvement in performance?

A series of things. They all came together at once. Bruce Purser Reserve was certainly the marketability of our club. We can put that out there and say this is one of the best grounds in Sydney. That will attract people to our club. In combination with that we have been working on junior development programmes in the previous few years. We’ve built relationships with a couple of clubs in the area, local clubs, who look after the kids from ages six and seven right through to their senior sides. We’ve started to build relationships with them. We go to these junior clubs and we talk to them and we help them with coaching. We can simply say that the good cricketers amongst their club can see Bruce Purser Reserve and aspire to be playing there.

They were the two biggest things for us in getting the success that we had this year. We’re starting to put in good coaching plans and development plans even further and build on those a lot more. Appointing a lot more coaching and programmes of that nature within the club and making sure that we’ve got the appropriate facilities and amenities to cater for improving cricket skills. Also building a good social club culture and being able to attract people into our club. We’ve been around for forty three years already we’ve got a good social culture. We enjoy what we provide as a product and service. Certain people will come through and be part of the pathway to going on to bigger and better things. We do cater for the locals in the area who want to play good high level competitive cricket and be part of a good social club.

What’s the age of players?

In our Shire sides between first to fourth grades we’ve had a few fourteen year olds make their debut with us this year right through to thirty nine years of age. Then we have our masters sides on top of that which are for players over forty. Our big focus and our area of growth this year was in our players under twenty four. In previous seasons we’d had a big struggle to attract that age group. For a variety of reasons either they were young or going into grade clubs or other Shire clubs straightaway from this area. Or in the age bracket where with their studies or part time work commitments cricket was a real hassle. I think with Bruce Purser now and the big focus on that, we’re able to attract, to the point where we had over thirty people who were under twenty four at our club this year. Compared to only thirteen or fourteen the year before, out of those players they were good cricketers. Our under twenty four side went from winning one game in four years to being undefeated minor premiers this year. That really shows what our club has achieved in the last year.

We gave a couple of fourteen year olds a run. One fourteen year old played in our fourth grade premiership side. We had another fourteen year old who turned fifteen who played second grade during the year. We had a seventeen year old who played first grade. Just broke records, massive achievements. We had a whole series of sixteen, seventeen, eighteen year olds who performed exceptionally well this year. Another fifteen year old was man of the match in the fourth grade final. The young players really stepped up. We had a good mix of good experienced players from my age thirty two upwards through to a good mix of youth coming through. Just blended really, really well and we hope that will continue in future years. That local young cricketers from the age of fourteen will come through our club as part of their pathway onto state cricket. Our guys who have played high level cricket or played with our club for a number of years can pass on their experience and wisdom and guide these young cricketers along.

Hurricanes 4s cricket team

A lot of the standard of playing is due to the level of coaching. What’s been evolution in that particular aspect?

For our club since the early 1990’s we looked at employing player coaches. That grew and most players are employing player coaches to some degree. Our player coach this year was Cameron Watson who played a lot of first grade cricket out of a variety of clubs. He’s been with us for two years now as a player coach. He’s a level two coach, he’s a high school teacher and does private coaching.

What we’re looking to do with it next year is build a team of coaches. So the responsibility doesn’t fall onto one person. That we have bowling coaches, batting coaches, fielding coaches, training coordinators. A whole team of people who are running our coaching and our development off the field. I think that will be a big change for our club. Something that we really want to work on. It will put us at that same level as the top level grade clubs. Some grade clubs have head coaches, batting coaches, bowling coaches, fielding coaches etc. We want to set ourselves to that level now as well. Instead of having one coach who might impart some advice towards other members of the club our demand at training suggested that we needed more coaches. More people doing more specific things. So you turn up to our training sessions in the middle of the year this year. There’d be forty people at training, we have Cameron as a coach directing things. Our training coordinator organizing things. We’ll have bowling machines set up so that they can be training in the nets then come over to our synthetic nets and have a go on the bowling machine. We’re hoping that we can have three, four, five people running these. So we’ll have fielding drills and other things well organized and ready to go. So big evolution, big changes in coaching happening at our club.

How often does the club play?

During the summer season we play thirteen rounds. There’s fourteen sides we play thirteen rounds. We play every team once. We play ten games over two days and three games over one day. So we play every Saturday. A normal game would last two Saturdays starting around twelve o’clock and finishing around six o’clock on both those days. That’s for our top four or five grades. Our under twenty four side will play seven games during the year. They play in a one day competition on Sundays, fifty overs a side. So they would play once every week or two during the middle of the competition plus their final series. Masters play every second Sunday which I think they enjoy. It gives them a week to recover from playing on the Sunday. Our grade club would play every Saturday, our Frank Gray side play occasional Sundays and masters on Sundays as well.

What other clubs do the Hurricanes have relationships with?

We have a very firm relationship with the Rouse Hill Rams cricket club. Their president Chris Ortiz is one of our board members this year. We asked him to sit on our board. They’re a strong growing club in the region. They’ve been around a few years up in the area. We’ve been in contact with them for two years just helping out with some coaching days and development days. We started to have a few players just play as fill in for us the season before last. Then this year we have seven player come over to play with us. It was Chris’s son Tom who was our exceptional stand out in first grade who ended up taking thirty seven wickets with an average of 9.9 which is a club record. That just goes to show how strong that pathway, how it can lead into… so a very firm relationship with Rouse Hill Rams.

We’ve also been in contact with the Tigers cricket club who are based around the back end of Quakers Hill, Stanhope Gardens and into Riverstone, Schofields and coming across the road a little bit into the Hills. They’ve only been around for two or three years. Their secretary Paul Harvey has put his hand up to be on our board for this year. We think that will tighten that relationship and we’ll see some of their players come through. We even held a game with the Tigers last year. It was a combined Hurricanes and Tigers side which we affectionately became known as the Huggers. We played a team called the Australian Transplant cricket club over at Bruce Purser which was part of the David Hook’s tribute series. A team of our players played against eleven or twelve players that had transplants of various descriptions. We held a charity day as they toured around Australia. That was probably the first official thing that we did with the Tiger’s cricket club. So we’ll hopefully do that as an annual thing. Just organizing it for next year, looking at it being a day night game. So possibly under lights next year which would be good for them.

Have there been any notable players that have come up through your club?

The Hills District Cricket Club produced a few quite good young cricketers. Rodney Tucker was probably the most famous. He’s now an umpire at test level. He played a bit of state cricket for NSW and Tasmania. He’s probably the most prolific of those.

Many have gone onto play first grade from our club over the years and NSW second eleven sides which is quite an achievement.

In the quest to become a first grade team by 2020 which is what your aim is, what do you need to do to achieve that?

The first thing and our priority at the moment is making sure our facilities are up to scratch. Bruce Purser covers our need for a first and second grade ground. We’re looking at the options for a good third and fourth grade ground which would be suitable for the grade level competition. Then we can use Castlewood Reserve as our fifth and sixth grade ground. We definitely need the three because grade has five grades. Then we can use those same three facilities to cover into other competitions. We can make sure that we share them quite well. That’s our primary goal.

Our second is to make sure that we’ve got the right coaching plans and development plans in place. Making sure that any of the kids coming through to play grade get all the support that they need. That they can go onto play first grade for us or our junior (?) we're now coaching. We’re working on that. We’ve got a bit more time and leeway to get things done in that regard. Then just making sure that everything from the back office running of the club sponsorship, fund raising, canteen. Just general things, just taking it to that next level to make sure that we’re financially sustainable.

Cricket coaching session at Bruce Purser Reserve

How do you acquire major sponsorship deals? What do you have to do to get those?

It can be very difficult especially in the recent economic climate. We usually rely on people who can directly benefit from access to our membership. So certain retailers, physiotherapy practices such as what I am, can certainly benefit from sponsorship. Local gyms, places like that. We rely heavily on big business in the area to try and support local clubs. Their corporate responsibility. Just making sure that if they’ve got funds available that we put together a professional proposal which says this is how your funds are going to be used, this is what you’ll get back from it, this is the sort of exposure that we can give to you. On top of that we rely on players in the club who own their own businesses. Parents of players who own their own businesses or who are in significant corporate roles within organisations to see if they’ve got access to funds. Last year we raised over $25,000 in sponsorship. Our main sponsor was the Mean Fiddler Hotel who’ve been great in supporting us. Then a series of other small sponsors on top of that. We’re looking to increase that again next year and to continue to grow sponsorship. That way we can put it into our junior programmes and our facilities which are the two main things that we need to spend money on, as we go into becoming a professional grade club.

Does the club presently have a clubhouse?

No, no clubhouse at the moment. We rely on the half year access to the change rooms at Bruce Purser. So it’s become a quasi clubhouse. I know there might be plans in the future for clubhouses be it through the AFL or separate things altogether or through the Council. It would be very good to have a clubhouse where we could display our trophies and our achievements. Especially given our forty three year history and many trophies. At the moment they have to be stored or placed in different areas. We’d love the opportunity to be able display our achievements and be quite proud of them.

So is that a plan that you’ve got to build a clubhouse?

I know the AFL have probably a more concrete plan at the moment and I’ll be in touch with them soon. We can discuss if there’s a way that we can both utilise such a facility and make sure that it gets built to meet both our needs. We’re looking independently or with the AFL to build something at Bruce Purser Reserve which we consider our main ground to make sure that it's something that we can be proud of. A place where we can call home for our club.

In terms of operating costs to keep the club going what are the main items? Is it coaching fees or do you pay players at all? How does it work?

The main costs for us are operational costs. Things like cricket balls, clothing all the things like that. Our competition has a salary cap of only $10,000 which includes any player coaches. We utilise that to cover coaches. On top of that balls are quite expensive. Every week we have to go out and play a ball will cost between $60 and $65 so between four or five grades over x amount of weeks they add up to several thousand dollars. Clothing and things like that put us back about $15,000 to $18,000 a year. They are the sort of expenses we have a the moment.

Moving forward most of our expenditure will go into asset accumulation. Sight screens, maintenance on or purchasing of new rollers and mowers that we need at Castlewood. New capital projects like fences. On top of that paying for coaches for development programmes which are independent of playing coaches. Separate coaches who would be attending our training and running coaching programmes for the club. I think that will take a big slice of our budget in the coming years and rightly so. That’s the sort of thing we should be spending money on.

Night lights at Bruce Purser Reserve March 2009

You mentioned that you’ve now got lighting at night. How important has that been in terms of the popularity of the game?

I think it opens up a whole new window of opportunity for our club to promote cricketing in the area. Cricket is not one of those sports that traditionally attracts larger crowds. We usually need to do something more eventful to attract a crowd from the locals and supporters. This year we ran a series of day/night games from our Frank Gray team. They played four games under lights this year. Having the lighting there means we can play these games. We can get these sort of games going. It’s up to us to market it well within the community. To make sure people become more aware of our club, the ground and these grounds. That they can continue to be a success.

On top of that having the lights means that we can run more social games as well. We’re looking at hosting celebrity games involving NSW players where we might be able to host a Twenty20 game under lights on a Thursday night for instance.

How does the club rate compared to other similar clubs in Sydney?

I guess we’re in a unique position. Given that there is twenty grade clubs and fourteen shire clubs. Our club’s unique in the sense that we’re one of only two clubs that have a real chance to grow. The other being Southern Districts. We’ve got no shires clubs around us. The closest shire clubs would be Pennant Hills or Auburn which are both substantial distances away. Then our grade clubs are all about twenty kilometres away being Blacktown, Parramatta, Northern Districts and Hawkesbury. So we fill a big hole in the area there.

What has been your own biggest personal contribution to the sport?

To the sport as a whole probably my role in the club. I don’t think I’ll ever achieve heights as a player. Nor my playing record demand any recognition. Certainly administratively I think I’ll probably be remembered for my involvement in Bruce Purser Reserve. Redirecting the club into the North West of Sydney and building the club from that level. Hopefully that’s a legacy that will live on and grow. I’ve been involved administratively with the club since 1996, ten or eleven years on the committee over that period. Achieved a fair bit and I’m hoping that there’s still many more goals for us to achieve. One of the things that is sitting around for us to build in the coming years is the formation of a Hills based junior cricket association. The footings for that are underway. We’ve got Parramatta district cricket, Blacktown district cricket, Hawkesbury district cricket and Hornsby district cricket. There’s no true representation of a Hills or a North West Sydney side association at this stage. Once Bruce Purser and facilities are looked after we’ll have a big focus with building relations with junior clubs. Forcing the idea of our own junior cricket association in The Hills region.

What is it about the sport of cricket that you love personally?

It’s always an interesting question that one because it’s such a frustrating game. It’s a team sport so you get that team camaraderie. It relies heavily on your individual efforts as such. When you’re out there as a batsman you’ve got this bowler coming in and hurling this ball at you. You’ve got the fielders around and they are setting their tactics. You’ve got a split second to make a decision on what you’re doing and you do that repetitively over an entire day if you’re lucky enough to bat that long. It’s just a game that when you’re “on song” it can be the easiest game in the world. When you’re struggling it can be so difficult to get yourself out of that hole. It’s just such a mentally challenging and rewarding game. It’s a game where you can share your efforts with people in your team.

Is it a more cerebral game than other sports? Do you need to employ some real strategies?

Strategies are a big part of the game. The role of the captain isn’t as important in any other game as it is in cricket. The captain has a lot of responsibility on the field to make decisions. In other sports like football or Rugby League or Soccer you’ve got a coach who’s directing traffic off the field and can see a lot more things. Whereas on the field the captain’s got to make those decisions. It’s a very difficult role.

Where do you get your love of cricket from?

As a young boy growing up my father used to play for our club. He played for the Holroyd club from 1975. I was born in 1978. So I followed him around all the grounds around Sydney as a youngster. My earliest memories are of cricket for this club in particular from three, four, five years of age. For me this club is all about family value there too. I know one of my Dad’s… my Dad played with the club until he was fifty and one of his goals was always to play cricket with me. When I was fourteen and started playing with the club he dropped back down through the grades and eventually played cricket with me. I know that was one of his prouder moments. When I look back on it now I was very proud to have played with my Dad. To play cricket with my little boy would be certainly a dream if it’s fourteen years away and my wife lets me play for another fourteen years I think that would be quite an experience.