THIS is the last edition of Behind The Stumps to be prepared by Alan Clark, AM who has also informed the Shoalhaven District Cricket Association that he will not be seeking re-election as recorder in the 2012-13 season. He has taken the opportunity to reminisce about his time in Shoalhaven cricket, as an office-bearer, journalist and historian.
COMING to Nowra in 1975 after playing senior cricket for 17 years in Victoria, I had thoughts of other involvement in the sport I had followed since watching the touring West Indies in a 1950-51 Test match.
During a brief time in umpiring I quickly recognised that I was not up to the task, but then the position of association recorder became vacant.
When I took on the task for the 1976-77 season, I used a book in which I wrote the scores every week, and made season calculations after the final series.
My first computer was an Apple IIc that I introduced to the task in 1984-85, and the Appleworks program enabled me to add a row of figures.
This was also the method when I progressed to a Macintosh in 1993-94, and it was not until 2006-07 that I graduated to a spreadsheet.
In my previous experience as recorder at Warragul (Vic.) I had devised a card system for individual player records, and I introduced that in Shoalhaven.
Cards contain all statistics from senior matches and other details that were entered between seasons.
Having established that system and “created a monster”, I have never had the time to transfer the information to computer, so now have about 6000 players’ careers on cards.
My interests in cricket and history have been dovetailed together, and I have attempted to increase an awareness of the heritage of our sport in the Shoalhaven.
Little had previously been written about it in detail, but by regularly reading old newspapers at the Nowra Library I gradually put together information on each season’s activities.
This is an ongoing project that will never be completed, but I hope that my work will assist those who research Shoalhaven cricket in the future.
We can be grateful that our local newspapers have almost always provided details of cricket matches, but the scores with a brief introduction do not necessarily tell the whole story.
I have been fortunate to talk with many former players who have shared their memories and provided insights into players and matches.
Cyril Dent and Bob Jennings both went back to the 1920s in their long careers, while Foster Emery, Alan Davis and Cliff Hunter were notable players after World War II.
With the juniors in the late 1950s came Bob Webster, and many others have assisted, especially when I have been writing histories for the Berry-Shoalhaven Heads, Bomaderry, Nowra and Ex-Servicemen’s clubs, as well as the association.
Not belonging to a club or team and spending a lot of my cricket time in the office, I have missed the camaraderie of others in the sport.
However I have made many friends in the SDCA, serving with eight presidents, 10 secretaries and nine treasurers.
Each brought their own particular skills to the positions, working to the best of their abilities – and they have always got on.
I am most grateful for the clubs that have invited me to their functions, and those fellows who have driven me to meetings around the Shoalhaven and beyond.
A highlight was perhaps being asked to address Bomaderry players in the lead-up to a couple of final series, for I never thought of myself as a motivational speaker.
Behind The Stumps
In the lead-up to the 1990-91 season Terry Young from the Milton-Ulladulla Express newspaper asked whether the South Coast Register had any plans for a summer feature to match the League Seven supplement that appeared during the winter months.
That planted the seed of thought for Behind The Stumps, and after a modest start it has grown to what cricket followers have come to expect throughout the season, even though Milton-Ulladulla’s Friday edition fell by the wayside.
I am grateful to successive owners of the Register for their support over the past 22 years, and to Robert Crawford who has increased the use of photographs and taken the feature to a new level.
Those who have attended the recent first grade grand final will have noticed that only the umpires spent more time on the field than Rob who was carrying that huge camera.
I could not have asked for a greater commitment from a sports editor who was determined to capture the best action photographs to complement my words.
Games and players
It may seem appropriate that I select a team of my time in Shoalhaven cricket, but my lack of time at games convinced me otherwise.
Once I started typing scores and writing reports of junior matches, I needed to be in the office by the time senior matches were under way.
During the 1970s and early 80s I did watch some important matches in the company of scorers, but that luxury soon disappeared.
However I have managed to watch each first grade grand final since 1976-77, scarcely missing a ball bowled.
There have been some epic struggles, with Albatross and Rugby Union dominant in the early years, before Nowra, Bomaderry and Berry-Shoalhaven Heads gained the upper hand.
Having watched Ian Davis make his Test debut, I have especially enjoyed reporting on those Shoalhaven players who have sought to emulate him, going on to play representative cricket at high levels.
However the important thing is the game and the enjoyment that it gives to so many people from a tender age.
For the past 36 summers I have waited with anticipation for the arrival of score sheets, from under 10s through to first grade, as well as the various tiers of representative cricket.
The thousands to pass through my hands have presented plenty of challenges and the quality has varied dramatically.
Pressed for the most efficient scorers, I could name Sandra Webster, Bob Roach and Graeme Sawkins who have been meticulous and accurate.
However there are many others whose names were unknown to me, but they regularly and promptly lodged sheets that enabled me to understand their matches.
I am well aware that the position of recorder is already changing and will evolve into something that will depend heavily on the internet site, MyCricket.
The sport will continue to have a role for old fellows like myself, but at the same time I encourage our experienced cricketers to take a role in administration, at a club and then association level.
Over the years I have spoken at length with many cricket brains in the Shoalhaven who have played at a high level, but few have ever attended an association meeting where their wisdom and knowledge could be shared.
I have formed the opinion that Shoalhaven’s system of delegates’ meetings is a strength – because it involves the clubs in decision-making.
However it can also be a weakness when those delegates don’t pass on important information to key personnel in their clubs.
Perhaps the currently available communication technology will fix that.
In conclusion, I thank my wife Helen for her patience and for allowing me to spend so much time on cricket, especially during the season.
After 42 years of marriage, we may even take a summer holiday . . .
IT has been my honour and privilege to work alongside Alan Clark for the past 15 years.
His retirement this week marks the end of a significant era not only for the South Coast Register but sport in the Shoalhaven.
I have known Alan most of my life and like many local cricketers I grew up reading his reports each week in the Register, scouring the news for your name in print.
When I started at the Shoalhaven and Nowra News as a young cadet I was lucky enough to work with Alan on the odd occasion but it wasn’t until I came over to the Register in 1997 that I truly came to appreciate what marvel he is.
From a professional point of view Alan has been amazing.
I have never worked with someone with so much knowledge, passion and enthusiasm for a particular sport.
A deserving award winning cricket writer, I regard him as the best in the state and it has been an amazing experience to work with him.
His coverage is revered far and wide with visiting teams often commenting on the amount of space set aside for cricket and that is solely thanks to Alan’s dedication.
The high esteem in which he is held across the district was evident when both first grade teams in last weekend’s local cricket decider, Ex-Servicemen and Berry-Shoalhaven Heads insisted on having Alan included in one of their team shots to mark his final grand final.
Over the years I’m proud to say we have formed a great team and we have become far more than work colleagues but great mates.
To Alan, have a wonderful retirement, you certainly deserve it and I know you are looking forward to spending more time with Helen, your children and now grandchildren.