Compact formats make junior regional cricket a hit
AS the latest Cricket Ipswich junior season clicks up a level, one loyal supporter knows better than most what benefits the competitions provide young people.
"It's a good social occasion for kids,'' junior co-ordinator and senior rep co-ordinator Jono Gibbs said, having been involved since 1987.
"It's a good outdoor activity in a group to play.''
In a world with ever reducing free time, junior cricket also offers more suitable formats for busy families.
The Master Blasters (under 9 based on ability) and Level 1 (under 11) kids play in two hour sessions on Friday nights for participation and learning. There's no points or finals.
"They are done so they can still have their weekends and that's got a lot of positive feedback,'' Gibbs said.
The Level 2 (under 13) and Level 4 (under 17) cricketers play on Saturday mornings under a 30 over format.
The Level 3 (under 15) players enjoy a 60 over competition over two Saturday afternoons.
The older kids have finals next year.
The Level 4 competition is proving a strong development for senior clubs wanting to introduce more skilful teenagers into senior fixtures.
Clubs like Northsiders, Brothers and Marburg Mt Crosby have been actively promoting new talent into the open ranks.
Thunder and Strollers are fielding girls teams this season.
Entering a new season, Gibbs was overall encouraged by the club support.
Laidley, Thunder, Northsiders, Fassifern, Centrals, Strollers and Brothers all have junior teams playing across the grades.
"Due to COVID, we've lost a few people,'' Gibbs said.
"Parents have been reluctant to sign on for programs not knowing whether a cricket season would go ahead.
"Considering that, we have to be happy with the numbers that we have.
"In the smaller junior teams, we have similar numbers. It's the older kids that are slightly down.''
Among the teams playing last Saturday were Marburg Mt Crosby Thunder and Northsiders at Jim Donald Park.
Gibbs said having juniors come up the recently formed Cricket Ipswich structure was beneficial.
"It's good. I think there's a much better brand recognition with the Hornets and junior cricket now,'' he said.
Some key changes were made a couple of seasons ago including having under 13 and younger players learn on shorter pitches to encourage more run scoring opportunities and less wides.
"That's all worked pretty well,'' the junior co-ordinator said.
As regional club teams get more involved in coming weeks, SEQ boys and girls regional sides are also preparing for various representative competitions.
The representative competitions starting this weekend include six-week hubs or drive-in, drive-out carnivals featuring other teams like Gold Coast, Brisbane and Darling Downs.
Some selection trials have already taken place with more on this weekend.
The SEQ teams feature players from the Ipswich and Logan areas.