By Sam Watson

IN a recent interview with the Sentinel-Times, Poowong Loch Cricket Club manager Garry Knox delivered a brutally honest assessment of his club and the rules within the Leongatha and District Cricket Association that he believes have significantly hindered clubs like his.

Knox has returned to the club for the 2021/22 season to do what he can to turn things around, but he admitted it won’t be easy with the problems they’ve encountered in recent years.

“Some of the problems are self- inflicted, in that I think the culture has been a bit ordinary for a long time,” Knox said.

“Also, Loch is not a growing town, Loch seems to take pride in the fact that the township itself hasn’t expanded much, and that doesn’t provide a lot of optimism for team sports.”

“We lost the football club, we lost the tennis club and I reckon we’ve nearly lost the cricket club.

“There’s been a bit of development at Poowong so that’s positive but not as much as what we’d like to expect I guess.”

And Knox was disenfranchised with the standards others in the LDCA expect struggling clubs to meet.

“The number one stumbling block is this very high-handed edict that if a club is going to have a cricket team, it has to play in A Grade,” Knox said.

“I’ve said for a number of years, that assumes that if you start losing players, you lost them from the bottom up, and that’s just not the case.

“If a club hits upon hard times, they lose a cross section of players and from that minute it becomes harder, because not everyone left is going to be great players.”

But he said the relatively new president John Schelling and secretary Ken Scrimshaw have approached the matter with a level head.

“They’ve been very receptive to Poowong Loch’s plight and if it wasn’t for that, Poowong Loch would have died this time last year.

“That gave us some breathing space, we were competitive last year and now it becomes Poowong Loch’s duty to capitalise on that change of philosophy at an association level.

“We’ve been given the luxury of playing in a lesser grade, which I think is the appropriate grade and now it’s up to us to say, ‘we’re up for the fight’.

“I couldn’t speak more highly of John Schelling and Ken Scrimshaw.”

Another one of Schelling’s and Scrimshaw’s successes in recent weeks has been the inclusion of Nyora into the LDCA for the upcoming season and beyond.

Every club in the league is hoping the inclusion of a neighbouring town, like Nyora, can allow Poowong Loch to attract more players.

Knox was very grateful for the league’s efforts in getting Nyora into the competition.

“Not only have they helped us, they’ve recruited Nyora and overseen a restructure of the cricket association which has seen appropriate teams been appropriately promoted.”

But one of Knox’s issues with the league was the removal of the rule that stated every club can only have two paid players, around five years ago.

“That was a hard rule to implement and administer but at least it did give a little bit of a message to every club that they’re going to be limited.”

“Now it’s very common and a lot of clubs have been tempted to go down the paid player path, purely to conform with the fact that they have to have an A Grade team.”

Despite having paid players in the past, a “no paid players” attitude is now in full effect at Poowong Loch.

He also said doing away with bonus points has been a big hinderance to lesser clubs.

“The winning team, they’re all happy and jolly because they’ve had a win and any rumblings from their lesser cricketers gets smoothed over because they’re happy with the win.”

“Whereas the bottom teams, they go away with a loss and it’s ok for the better players in that team, they’ve had a bat and bowl but because the game has been cancelled prematurely, the lesser players don’t get to bat or bowl.

“And probably those lesser players don’t have the confidence to complain, and they just don’t turn up next week.

“And the lesser clubs are probably more concerned about looking after their own patch rather than going to the association and saying the rule doesn’t really help our situation.”

He also said a rumour that was circulating about Poowong Loch going back up into A2 this year, which wasn’t true, probably didn’t help their cause in trying to retain their players from the previous season.

But Knox said he and the rest of the committee are going to do all they can to overcome the obstacles they’ve faced in recent times and they’re looking to implementing some exciting new initiatives in the coming months.

And they’re going to be putting lots of resources into attracting players to the club.

“We need to doorknock, we need to get on Facebook, we need to make everyone aware there is a cricket club there, and they are very welcome” Knox said.

“We need to make sure that the cricket club is seen as a good responsible community citizen.”

“It’s not all beer and parties, it’s not paid players, we may not ever be considered the biggest or strongest cricket club ever again but perhaps that reflects the size of the Loch township and the Poowong township.

“We look out for players and play cricket with good spirit, and we need to publicise that.”