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PHIL EDWARDS talks to the new NTCA president Paul Clark about his vision for cricket in the North.
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With the 2012-13 NTCA season about to start, what are the board’s priorities?

The NTCA is up and running and the new board has a number of initiatives they are wanting to put in place.

We have a severe shortage of volunteers around the clubs that needs to be addressed urgently because we can’t expect just a couple of people to run clubs anymore.

We need to look after our volunteers and make them more important.

Secondly, our junior cricket is in dire strife with only four clubs having under-17 teams at this stage.

If you don’t have under-17s then down the track a few years clubs will suffer.

Cricket Australia and Cricket Tasmania’s motto is to make cricket Tasmania’s favourite sport and we certainly embrace that.

But there are so many options out there for kids today, we have to make cricket more attractive than those other options.

We’ve been a bit old-fashioned in our approach to the game and we now need to make decisions that will embrace the change that’s happening.

The NTCA needs to become more involved in junior cricket and we want to try to reinvent representative cricket.

In the past there was a bit of pride involved in representing the North and it was a stepping stone to being able to play for Tasmania but at the moment the North hasn’t played a game of representative cricket for more than three years.”

Are cricket facilities in the North sufficient for the future success of the sport?

The cricket season traditionally starts on the Launceston Show weekend and it is becoming increasingly frustrating that cricket is being pushed on to the backburner with grounds unavailable after the football season.

We are all extremely proud of the cricketers that have come out of Launceston but nobody is all that keen to do anything to see that there is another Ricky Ponting or David Boon down the track and we have to address that.

The junior twilight cricket people are struggling to find wickets around the Launceston community to play their matches on a Wednesday night because there is such a shortage even of concrete pitches.

Our under-13s and under-15s – where numbers aren’t too bad – struggle to find synthetic wickets to play on and clubs are charged money by private and public schools to play.

Mowbray has to pay the people at Aurora Stadium to roll their Invermay Park wicket and the under-17 and third grade don’t get the pitch rolled on a Sunday or lines painted.

They front up on Sunday and play with what is left-over from Saturday and with health and safety regulations these days they won’t let anyone use the equipment.

Westbury, Riverside and George Town all have to do their own cricket wickets and they have to get volunteers to do that.

The NTCA used to subsidise them in the past for that but the previous administration took that away.”

Does the NTCA receive sufficient funding from Cricket Tasmania to help with expenses?

I’ve got no doubt it could always be better but at this point in time I think we are getting what we deserve – and that is a bit unfortunate.

I think if we were prepared to get off our backsides and have a bit of a crack and do things ourselves then I’m sure Cricket Tas would provide more funding for us.

It’s all about getting numbers out there playing the game and at the moment our numbers are dropping dramatically so you can’t therefore just keep throwing money.

That’s not going to fix the problem.

We have to be prepared to do the work and if we do the work then people will assist.

We have no major sponsors outside the ones Cricket Tasmania have supplied in the past five years.

We are looking for sponsors and supporters and we have to start with small steps but we are well aware we will have to work our butts off.

We are appealing to the business community to come onboard and sponsor the NTCA.

There is a great opportunity at the moment with the redevelopment out there with phase 1 of complex with the ground done and phase 2 which is the link building signed off on and supposed to be finished by the end of June.

With statewide soccer coming onboard this year with Northern Rangers playing out of the NTCA complex, there is going to be 12 months a year advertising available through that complex for anybody who wants to become a naming rights sponsor.”

What will be done to ensure there is no repeat of the in-fighting between clubs and the NTCA board as happened last season?

Cricket Tas has indicated that they are willing to help us fix up the outdated constitution and governance of the association which is what created all the problems in the first place last year.

That will be rectified this cricket season and all the conflict between the previous board and the clubs is in the past.

Clubs outside of the NTCA complex believed that they were subsidising it because of the high fees they paid in the past.

We plan to split the running of the NTCA complex from the running of NTCA cricket so we need to get our lease sorted out and have separate boards or committees for each.

Cricket Tas have a number of initiatives they are prepared to put in place once we can get our lease and constitution sorted out.

We don’t blame anyone for what has gone on except for the NTCA board.

So we now have to prove ourselves before people will accept us and we have given ourselves three years to work hard and try to turn this around.”

There has been debate in the past few years about where state cricket should be played – what are your thoughts on this?

We certainly have every intention to see state cricket back being played in the North of the state again.

If the games are going to be played at Aurora Stadium on a drop-in pitch we are prepared to work with them for that situation.

But if it is not then we want it back at the NTCA complex which is probably its rightful place.

However we understand that in this day and age we have to provide facilities that are up to scratch.

But I wonder if we are not trying to duplicate and what could be if the money spent on a drop-in wicket for Aurora was spent on the NTCA complex.

We want to make sure there is not a doubling up on facilities.”

How much money has been spent on the redevelopment of the NTCA complex so far?

The first two stages will cost a bit over $2 million, I think, and the next phase is going to be dependent on federal government funding if it happens.

The new link building for the second stage will include new changerooms, upstairs offices, viewing room and scorers’ boxes.”

How do you attract more volunteers to help out clubs?

I think we need to recognise them by inviting them to functions and at the end of the season have a volunteer of the year award and possibly send someone to the Allan Border Medal or provide cricket tickets to Hobart for instance.

If the clubs all pitch in and do a little bit and the association pitches in then it doesn’t become such a burden on one or two people.

If we can get the cricket people involved from the past we know they are passionate about their cricket and if they are there other people will follow.

We will always have the parents who have great ambitions for their children so if we keep the kids we keep the parents – if we lose the kids we lose the parents.

We need to retain our kids from 15 to 18 and get them to go on from playing junior cricket to senior cricket because that’s where the fall-off rate is too high.

And we have to get our former champions like the Richard Soule, Richard Bennett and Roger Brown types involved and back in the clubs and in the system helping out our juniors.”

It sounds like there is a lot of work that needs to be done to promote cricket in the North ?

We are not saying that we have all the answers but the NTCA can be better and there are lots of things that can be done.

We have to get people onboard to come with us and make sure that we can take the NTCA back to where it came from.

At the moment we are just another country cricket association to most people.

We don’t expect to be the powerhouse we were before all our players moved to Hobart but at the end of the day we are still a breeding ground for state cricket and we want to make sure future players get the opportunity to go on and play state cricket from here.

We want to be the second best cricket association in Tasmania and we don’t want to see clubs fall over.

It’s a major task – we’re aware of that – but we believe with the co-operation of everyone involved we can achieve it.”

Last season’s NTCA grand final: Launceston batsman Hayden Fenton faces Westbury.

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