Cam Atkins is the Wyndham City Team Leader, Leisure Development and Community Participation
Q. Is cricket a major focus in Wyndham?
A: Wyndham has a fast growing and extremely diverse community and that makes it a dynamic place to work. Cricket, being a predominant sport over summer, receives plenty of operational attention and we are quite active in the development space as we have outcomes that we would like to work with the network to achieve in the short term.
Wyndham’s South Asian community is currently driving a high level of community demand for cricket.
Q: How important is it to work closely with local clubs, Associations and Cricket Victoria’s Regional Cricket Manager?
A: The best outcomes result when everyone chips in and plays their role. Local Government’s traditional role is the ‘provider’ and ‘maintainer’ of a facility, however I think across the industry and most definitely in Wyndham, there is growing potential for Local Government to contribute at a development level through strategy, resourcing and networking functions.
We’re lucky to have a strong network of administrators and volunteers across our Clubs & Associations that are not only passionate about their sport, but also great to work with.
Q: Wyndham has a culturally diverse population – what have been the biggest growth areas? Where do you see the greatest potential and benefit?
A: Traditional (Junior & Senior Association Cricket) team numbers are growing by approximately 10% each year. This season has seen the introduction and great success of a ‘Social Cricket’ product on Sunday mornings featuring 36 teams. This has been extremely popular amongst the South Asian community.
Our aim is to develop a strong and sustainable network of community clubs that are welcoming and inclusive to all. There is also great potential in MiloIn2Cricket. Our participation numbers are currently about half of what I think they could be. That has got to be a focus in 2015/16.
It would also be great to see specific opportunities for women to play cricket. We currently don’t have a team in Wyndham and a number of local Clubs have recently raised this as an area requiring correction. Without an underpinning product to provide a pathway to a women’s team, its sustainability would be questionable, so I think it needs to be developed as a whole package.
Q: You have been very active in facilitating growth in social cricket, which is now booming in Wyndham. What role has Council played in helping to establish competitions and enable ground provision?
A: Our efforts in regard to Social Cricket (Sunday morning cricket) were initially intended to address some issues we were having with covers being taken off wickets during the autumn changeover and conflict between groups on Sunday mornings.
We got the key players together over winter and developed a structure that provided groups with insurance coverage and a secure ground to play on.
We specifically didn’t set up an independent Association, as we saw it important to bring the social cricket groups into the local cricket family, rather than encourage them to continue in isolation. WSUC&CA and WDCA have been very supportive and are on hand to provide guidance to the social cricket leagues as required.
We attained 28 teams for Season 1 (Oct to Dec) and 36 for Season 2 (Jan to Mar). All available grounds in Wyndham were filled and we were lucky that Brimbank Council could provide a couple of extra grounds to accommodate Season 2.
Only 40% of participants reside within Wyndham, so the product has a wider reach. If our fellow Western Metro Council’s are willing to support the initiative, I have no doubt that this concept could reach 100 teams within four years; a pretty good outcome for cricket participation.
Q: What is the biggest demand that cricket places on council? What are the areas of greatest need?
A: Wyndham’s Turf Maintenance team have done a great job maintaining run up areas that in some cases have experienced double the use this season. The seasonal overlap is always a challenging time but thankfully our local Associations are very cooperative and willing to schedule finals at grounds that make our life much easier!
Our biggest challenge is dealing with a multitude of new club requests each season, as we don’t have the sheer number of grounds available to be in a position to provide a ground to everyone that wants one. Each year we have interest from 2-4 new clubs that can’t be accommodated.
Q: How do you manage the challenge of meeting the facility needs of cricket across the City?
A: Recently there has been a genuine trend for groups to want to start their own Club, rather than join an existing local one. We are seeing a proliferation of 1 to 3 team Clubs that challenge the traditional ‘community club’ model given that in most cases, there is low capacity (and in some cases low interest) to establish and grow juniors or service any other segments of the community other than senior cricket.
This is a real concern for Council because the significant capital investment into facility development is ultimately being under realised.
Unfortunately we don’t have a definitive answer and our approach to dealing with this trend will likely need to evolve as we learn more.
Our challenge over the off season is to put in place initiatives that build stronger relationships between local clubs and the social groups playing at their facilities, to break down any apprehension towards the club environment and create a pathway for participants to transition to Saturday afternoon cricket if their life circumstances allow.
Q: How important is cricket to the Wyndham community and what does it bring in terms of social inclusion?
A: The sporting club network is a very important part of Wyndham’s social fabric. The benefits of involvement in a community sports club from a social connection and belonging perspective are well known.
Cricket plays a key role in bringing the Wyndham community together, particularly for those who may have recently moved to the area and may not have friends and/or family in close range.
Q: What does the future hold for cricket in Wyndham?
A: In two years time it would be great to see:
700+ MILO in2Cricket participants
120+ Junior & Senior Teams
A 65-team network of social cricket leagues across Wyndham and neighbouring Councils.
A women’s cricket team/club within Wyndham and an underpinning structure that supports an ongoing supply of participants.