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Secretary’s Report 2024 David Ross looks back on a very eventful year and ahead to our next challenges.

January 17, 2024 News

It is that time of the year again when as Secretary I am asked to reflect on the achievements and challenges of the last twelve months and provide a snapshot of our position at the start of the new year.

A Season to Remember

2023 was a remarkable season for our 1st XI who rode the crest of a wave all summer, collecting three trophies and securing our promotion to the Birmingham League in a nail-biting final play-off against Milford Hall. The team lost just two of thirty matches across the season, clinching the Shropshire League, the Shropshire Cup, and the ECB T20 Plate on a memorable day in Derby – our first ever national honour, secured in front of a large travelling support.

Whilst there was optimism around the side at the start of the season, I think it is fair to say that such a record of achievement was beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Our captain Dan Lloyd marshalled his troops in expert fashion, fostering a strong team spirit, a culture of improvement through training, and perhaps most importantly ensuring that the players always represented the club well. He was of course able to call on some excellent individual performances. Wendell Wagner, playing in his final season, claimed over 70 wickets, and won SCCL Player of the Year. What a servant he has been to Wellington over the past decade and more; he will certainly be missed. Meanwhile, Daniel Vaughan and overseas Will Mashinge were heavy and consistent scorers; whilst Hugh Morris demonstrated what a talent he is with a fine season, picking up the SCCL James Corfield Young Player of the Year award. There are many others who could be highlighted besides, the vast majority of who came through the club’s junior section: it was truly a team effort.

Having achieved promotion, we now have an opportunity to re-establish ourselves as a Birmingham League outfit, which is a wonderful place to be for the club. Of course, nobody is under any illusion as to how great a challenge this will be, however the squad and the club are determined to give it our best shot this season.

As many of you will know, we will embark on the new season with a new captain. With Dan Lloyd currently away travelling, Daniel Vaughan will be taking over the reins for the 1st XI and we wish him all the best for the year ahead. He and the rest of the Cricket Committee have been working hard to give us the best chance of success and we have secured the services of the very talented Yash Dubey, an Indian batting all-rounder who will be our overseas player-coach this summer. We have also reinforced the squad with the arrival of Matt Simmonds, who we are delighted will be rejoining us from Bridgnorth, whilst Faheem Chohan and Ollie Smith will add depth to our bowling options. We all look forward to seeing what the guys can produce at the higher level.

Ups and Downs

It was undoubtedly a historic season, which was recognised when Cricket Shropshire awarded us Club of the Year at their awards back in November. However, away from the 1st XI there were the usual ups and downs you would expect for a club of our size.

The 2nd XI might consider themselves unlucky to have been relegated from Division One after several key matches were lost to rain, but I don’t think any of the squad would deny that as a group they underperformed last season, particularly with the bat. Relegation to Division Two opens a large gap in standard between the 1sts and 2nds and captain Matt Stinson will be targeting a quick return in 2024.

Relegation for the 2nds also spelt bad news for the 3rd team, who finished 8th in Division Two but have been automatically demoted: according to the Shropshire League rules, no club can have two teams in any one division. With Simon Topper standing down after several years at the helm, new skipper Steve Moules inherits a young team packed with potential and he’ll be looking to develop that this year. Keep a watch out for Dhairya Jani and Matt Morris this season after some eye-cathcing performances last year.

Also new in post is James Brothwood, our incoming 4th XI skipper who will be looking to improve on the side’s 9th place finish in Division Five achieved under Dave Morris, who has hung up his whites. We all know that this job is a particularly challenging one in terms of availability, but it is a crucial step on our senior pathway, and we offer James our support and best wishes as a young captain.

Steve Oliver’s 5th XI had a great season in Sunday Division Two, finishing as runners up and with Mark Downes crowned as the division’s Player of the Year. They must now adjust to life in a higher division whilst ensuring that our young players are given the opportunities they need to progress. It is a fine balancing act, but there was a noticeable improvement in Sunday availability this season and they are up for the challenge.

Our Sunday friendly team continues to produce meaningful cricket for youngsters, those with casual availability, and extra matches for those looking to find some form. Matt Earley and Paul Willis will be running these matches in 2024 and combined with midweek and indoor cricket it ensures that there is plenty of cricket on offer to members across the club.

We do have challenges regarding officials at the club, especially with the 2nd XI not able to rely on a panel umpire in 2024. If anyone is interested in getting trained up as an umpire, please contact our new Cricket Chairman Dave Morris. As for scoring, the picture is slightly better with Lucy Vaughan coming forward to replace Hannah Young as 1st XI scorer; and Kyeisha Tuffnell, who won Young Scorer of the Year at the Cricket Shropshire Awards, is a real asset to the 2nd team. However, below the top two sides, scorers are harder to come by. We would in particular appeal to our junior members to come forward if they are interested in learning to score – and earning a few quid! – at the weekend.

Wellington Ladies joined their male counterparts in collecting their league trophy, narrowly winning a very competitive midweek hardball division. Last year we merged our Ladies with our older girls (Year 9 and above) to form a larger training group. This was a success and has really aided the development of our younger players. The club is a good position for female cricket moving into 2024 under the watch of captain Hannah Young and coach Simon Topper.

Junior Cricket continues to be the most demanding sector of the club with high volumes of children still coming through our gates wanting to learn and develop their skills. Whilst this is of course a great position to be in, it does place pressure on the club’s coaching resources and we launched a campaign to recruit new coaches in the autumn. I am pleased to report that this was quite successful and that several candidates will take their qualifications next month. However, the club could still do with extra assistance for the U11 Softball group and at U13 level; if you are interested, it is not too late, so please get in touch. I would particularly appeal to players who have come through the junior system at the club and now are able to give something back. One example of someone who did this is Luke Goring, who has shown a real aptitude for coaching and has been recently recognised for his efforts by Cricket Shropshire.

Elsewhere our junior standards remain high, and we continue to be competitive across the board. Our U13 Lions won their division last season, and they look to be a talented group – many of who will move into the senior pathway this year. One change for 2024 will be the amalgamation of our boys and girls in the U13 and U11 categories. Mixed group cricket is more inclusive and better aligns with ECB’s national programme objectives – and it offers better opportunities for talent development for our young girls.

With a well-run All Stars Cricket programme bringing an additional fifty kids to the club every week, 2023 was a busy year for junior participation and 2024 promises to be no different. Without the efforts of our coaches and the admins behind the scenes it would not be possible – so a huge thank you to them. The recent success of our men’s and women’s teams, composed overwhelmingly of home-grown talents, justifies the emphasis the club continues to place on youth development.

Off The Field

It is fair to say then that the club continues to put on a lot of cricket and the biggest challenge off the field is simply getting the pitches ready. We are indebted to a small group of volunteers in this regard, as we have been for many, many years. I was delighted when Cricket Shropshire recognised them as Grounds Team of the Year in 2023 – and the club was also pleased to award three of our longest serving volunteers, Glyn Downes, Roger Pitchford, and Graham Morris with Life Memberships this summer. It is oft repeated, but there is no game without them.

Leading this team in 2023 was Steve Gough and anyone who has visited the club over the last four years will appreciate the sheer volume of hours he has put in as Ground Chairmen. When the sun comes out in the summer, I believe there is no finer place to watch cricket in the county and this is in large part down to Steve and his high standards. However, for various reasons, Steve now feels that the time is right to stand down from the role and he deserves a massive thank you for his incredible efforts.

With Steve stepping down, the club has taken the step to employ a new groundsman on a part-time basis. This is an inevitable development and puts us in line with most clubs of our size. We have been blessed to have the volunteers to avoid this cost for so many years – but putting on upwards of ten matches a week in the summer is incredibly time-consuming and it is no longer possible for us to do this without remuneration. We are however lucky to have Alex Brasenell to fill this new role. He’s grown up at the club and has learned the ropes from Steve over the last few years and I’m certain he’ll do a brilliant job at managing the ground and the small team of volunteers who will continue to support him.

Elsewhere there are specific challenges on the ground, namely around drainage, which has been a growing problem over the last few years. We have been undertaking some drain clearance and dredging over the winter to alleviate the issue, but the club is still going to have to invest in some expensive remedial work in some problem areas. However, this is crucial work for the long-term future of the club, and we must invest now to prevent these problems getting worse.

Increased ground costs will have a serious impact on our finances and the club must adapt quickly to this new reality. It is the intention of the Management Committee that as little of this extra cost is passed on to our members as possible – but without a significant increase in our non-cricketing revenues we will have no choice. I do not want to be writing in twelve months to inform you that subscriptions and fees will be rising dramatically and so every effort is now being made to address this.

The Committee has identified several ways that it can bridge a funding gap which if untouched would run to several thousand pounds. All being well, installation of new solar panels on the main roof will take place prior to the new season and these will help us to significantly reduce our energy costs. We will also be looking at rationalising our bar rotas as we had too many shifts last year when there was little demand for the bar. We would also like to grow our function diary for birthdays, christenings, and wakes; please don’t forget that as members, you are entitled to discounted room hire.

We hope that the above measures will help our situation – but our main opportunity lies in growing our sponsorship and significant effort has been put into improving our offering to sponsors. We have undergone a badge redesign and will be moving over to a new kit supplier – both of which are designed to increase our commercial appeal. Before the season gets underway, we will also have a new website. Crucially we have also lowered the entry cost for new sponsors and increased the range of benefits they can add to their packages. I am pleased to say that these efforts have produced some early positive results, but there is a long way to go. We need our members to support us in this regard, by making the case for sponsoring the club to their employers or to friends and families with businesses.

Finally, we need to grow our income from events. Fireworks was once again run to real success, but this is only one night of the year and there is a limit to its scale and growth. We need extra events throughout the year to top up our funds. Last year’s Family Fun Day was a great day, thanks chiefly to the vision of lead organiser Dan Squires, and we hope to develop that event further this year. Our Ladies Day and VP Day are well established and were well supported again last year. They will be key events again in 2024; and they will be joined in the calendar by an exciting showpiece match in the summer – but you will need to wait a few days for the details on that one. Dean Hireson has reintroduced Quiz Nights into the club’s calendar, and we thank him for that; and we are pleased to say that our President Charles Bathurst will be holding a hotly anticipated President’s Day in May. As ever, the message to our members is clear: please support these events by volunteering or attending as they are the crucial fundraisers which keep your playing fees down and our facilities well maintained.

In Summary

As 2024 gets underway, it is a mixed picture for Wellington Cricket Club. Promotion last season gives us the opportunity to re-establish ourselves as a Birmingham League club. But off-field challenges will continue to mount. Chiefly, how can we keep the cost of participation low for our members with our costs rising? As a committee we are working towards some solutions, but I can’t stress enough that we need your support.

I will as ever end this report by paying thanks to the many people who assisted the club in 2023. Our officials, captains, umpires, scorers, ground staff, bar staff, junior coaches, supporters, and of course our sponsors all make their contribution to a club that now offers cricket opportunities to well over 300 people of all ages and abilities.

Here’s to a prosperous, healthy, and successful 2024 for Wellington Cricket Club and all its members. I look forward to welcoming many of you to our AGM on 29 January 2024 when I will submit this report.

David Ross, Secretary

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