When Steve Field was first interviewed for his position as a Regional Cricket Manager in Western Victoria, Cricket Victoria’s Shaun Graf had one key question.
“Do you like driving?”
After winning the job, Steve quickly realised that Graf hadn’t been referring to his ability to strike a ball crisply back past the bowler.
“In that first year I think I clocked up over 110,000 km in the car. Now my average is a just a Sunday drive really, about 55,000 km,” Field says.
Steve’s regional territory, Western Waves, occupies nearly a third of the state, taking in a huge swathe of cricket loving country stretching from Camperdown to the S.A. border and north of the Grampians to Patchewollock.
The region enjoys the highest cricket participation to population rate in Victoria, with nearly 11% of people aged 5 – 39 years of age involved in the game.
Steve says that greater access to coaching, facilities and junior cricket have significantly changed the landscape since he was a young country lad.
“Often the local team struggled to field a side and being a distance out of town it wasn’t that accessible. Now we work to ensure that young players have every opportunity to pursue the game, no matter where they live.
“Our region has been a huge leader in cricket for females and in schools – in fact, we have the only and longest running women’s competition outside of Melbourne (in Hamilton).
“There remains large scale growth potential in many areas such as Horsham and Warrnambool. Warrnambool, in particular, has significant opportunities to continue growth in all aspects of the game, particularly multicultural and female cricket. However improved facilities are critical to assisting this growth,” Steve says.
Steve’s role in helping to nurture that growth involves a lot more than driving. He is passionate about tending to the grassroots of the game, so much so that he was once dubbed ‘the father of backyard cricket’ for initiating a community street cricket program that continues to this day.
“I wanted to work out a way of getting people together during the time of the drought, so I decided to run a competition in Dunkeld, based on streets competing against each other in weekly six-a-side games. The game featured in Outback magazine and was adopted by many other towns across Australia.
“It ran locally for 5 seasons before it got too big to manage, but we still have two streets who compete annually around Australia Day. In fact, the Warrnambool Adult Education group (supported by the Emmanuel College Academy) still use this model for their annual October competition,” Steve says.
Today Steve’s expansive role embraces all aspects of Victoria’s Cricket Pathway program, including school and club programs, all abilities cricket, coaching and umpiring accreditation.
It’s little wonder that he says there is no such thing as ‘an average week’.
“At a club and association level my role is to provide assistance with local government liaison, grants, administration, governance and planning. I also provide support for the myriad issues that clubs and local government encounter – particularly relating to grounds, wickets and practice facilities.
“In recent years I have really enjoyed helping to run school holiday based camps for boys and girls at Donald and Nhill and an all female camp at Dunkeld,” Steve says.
The camps are a successful example of what Steve sees as key benefits of the game’s growth in Western Victoria. “Cricket makes a huge contribution to the wellbeing of small communities, physically, socially and financially. When you consider that our cricket teams include players of both genders from the age of 7 to 70, these clubs have the opportunity to provide a snapshot of life itself.
“I run into ex pathway players who are now heavily involved in their local club or with their own children and they just love the game and what it has done for them and continues to do,” Steve says.
Providing for the needs of this vibrant cricket community, however, is not without its challenges. Steve says that ensuring adequate facilities provision poses a constant dilemma.
“Personally I think we probably have to consider more multi-use options – such as incorporating schools and shared club facilities to warrant investment in maintenance and development. Shared use of practice facilities would also reduce a huge amount of maintenance on nets/synthetics.
“In the future I think sharing resources in terms of administration between cricket clubs/associations and other sports will also be common place.”
Steve sees the development of a regional base with high-class indoor and outdoor facilities as well as shared administrative capacity as vital to securing cricket’s future in the west.
“A regional centre should become a reality,” he says.
Steve observes that the most overlooked aspects of delivering improved facilities are the red tape and health and safety issues.
“The costs associated with these are so substantial and so time consuming that pooling resources with local government, schools, clubs, associations, benefactors and others might be the best way forward.”
Steve is one of sixteen Regional Cricket Managers throughout country and metropolitan Victoria. So who does he have to thank for it?
“My mother-in-law actually. She spotted the job after I returned from a season playing cricket in England, which is something I think that every cricketer who loves the game should do, “Steve says.
And his funniest moment?
“Scoring two ducks in one day for Port Fairy after an old mate somehow convinced me to pull on the spikes for them.