Annual Report 2014

13/05/2015 14:48

Below is the text of the annual report presented at the AGM.


Following the successes of 2013, it is pleasing this evening to be able to report another year of significant progress and achievement both on and off the pitch.

As far as the playing side is concerned, as match details are readily available on-line, it is not the purpose of this report to give a detailed account of the season, but rather a summary encapsulating the main points and highlights.

The First XI, captained again by Mark James, had their best season for a decade in DCCL Division One and second best-ever.  They also won the Marston’s Smooth Trophy, the senior cup competition of the League, and reached the finals of the League T20 competition held at the County Ground and the re-vamped Brewery Cup.

The Second XI, captained by Nick Goode in the absence of Scott Cobley, who found himself in the First XI for the whole season, achieved the much-needed promotion to Division 4 which had not been a realistic prospect until the last two seasons.

The Thirds too had a good season under Warren Cowell, challenging for promotion from Division 6 for a good part of the summer, whilst the Fourth XI, skippered for the last time by Mick Acton, held their place in Division 9 with some comfort after promotion the previous year.

The First XI again proved hard to beat in the league, for the second consecutive season losing only to the sides which were eventually promoted.  Had two games, both away from home, not been abandoned when every other team played, their points tally and league position would have been even higher.  They played positive cricket throughout and some impressive wins were recorded, notably against a strong Elvaston side away where, ironically in the absence of the coach, the side notched their highest margin of victory ever in the league, winning by 161 runs after the captain and Gareth Marshall had put on over 120 for the first wicket.  Newcomer Zaroob then followed up an explosive 50 with five wickets for 10 runs.

Zaroob’s bowling throughout the season was marked by an attacking intent which brought him 44 league wickets including other match-winning analyses against Stainsby Hall, Matlock, Sawley and Long Eaton and Cutthorpe.  The latter performance of 4 wickets in the space of three overs to finish off the innings in just 26 overs altogether was much to the chagrin of the off-spinner, who took to social media to express his disappointment at being denied the opportunity to bowl (and boost his average). Luke Nelson, however, had plenty of bowling in other matches to claim 37 wickets and all the other bowlers made significant contributions.

The leading run-scorer in the league was Gareth Marshall with 520 runs.  He was ably assisted by positive batting from several of his colleagues who scored over 300 runs throughout the season – Matt Ford, Alex Britton, Zaroob and the captain, whilst newcomer Tom Liversage made his mark with 238 league runs in a batting order which had considerable depth.

The latter also took 18 catches in all games to become the deserved winner of the fielding prize.

The cup competitions were dominated by the victory in the Marston’s Smooth Trophy following two nail-biting finishes in the earlier rounds.

Owing to fixture congestion caused by poor weather, the quarter-final versus Elvaston was played in mid-week and restricted to 20 overs per side.  An enthralling high-scoring match went to the last ball, bowled by Ben Liversage, who kept his head under pressure to restrict the batsman to one run short of that required for a tie.  Earlier Zaroob had scored a fiery 62 off just 30 balls.

In the semi-final against West Hallam, the visitors seemed to be cruising to victory needing just 50 runs for victory with seven wickets and plenty of overs in hand.  However, some astute bowling changes and field placings, coupled with the never-say-die spirit of the side, snatched an unlikely victory by 10 runs.

And so to the final, played at Staveley against Quarndon.  Gareth Marshall, skippering the side in the absence of the holidaying captain, won an important toss and the Rolleston seam bowlers took full advantage with Ben Liversage and Zaroob taking three and four wickets respectively to reduce Quarndon to 119 all out.

If Rolleston thought that the chase would be straightforward, they were soon to be disabused when the dismissal of Marshall for 37 precipitated a middle order collapse in which 5 wickets fell for 23 runs with another 23 still needed.  Fortunately, Mark Chalkley dropped anchor to enable Ben Liversage to steer his side home with an invaluable 16 not out.  He was most unfortunate not to win the man-of-the-match award.

The club were unable to repeat their previous year’s success in the national village competition, going down to Milford Hall in the regional final amidst the disappointingly usual controversy of player eligibility which resulted in one of the Milford players being banned from games later in the competition.  Unfortunately, the organisers saw fit not to disqualify the team.

We hope for better luck and more consistency from the organisers in future.

The team did reach finals day of the re-vamped but disappointingly organized Breweries Cup competition and the DCCL T20 Cup, held at the County Ground, but unfortunately were unable to add their silverware.

The Second XI finished second in Division 5 South to gain a well-deserved promotion.

This had seemed unlikely at the beginning of August following a defeat at Winshill and an abandoned game, but the side went on to win the next six matches on the trot to seal promotion in the penultimate match against Sawley and Long Eaton when Tom Yates carried his bat in an innings which deservedly won him the best senior performance of the season.   It was fitting that the winning run was scored by the captain.

Tom and Louis Burrows were the heaviest run-scorers, making the best part of 1,200 runs between them, whilst the evergreen John Thomson was the leading wicket-taker, ably supported by Andrew Cooper and Kamal.  It was good to see youngsters Joe Priestley, Luke Arnold and Henry Parker making their mark during the latter stages of the season.

Although it was Nick Goode who led the side throughout the season, the contribution of Scott Cobley should not be forgotten. Working closely with the coach and the First XI captain, he had instilled a consistency of approach to preparation and practice which was much needed.  This made transition between the teams easier, more enjoyable and brought its due reward.

In fact, both outgoing captains deserve the thanks of the members, especially newer members and those with short memories who should not forget the resolution and altruism they displayed when the senior XIs were in crisis two years ago.  It is crucial that the team cohesion which they have built is maintained.

The Third XI, again led Warren Cowell, had a good season, mounting a serious challenge for promotion before finishing in third place, a most commendable achievement made even more noteworthy by the fact that there was a deliberate policy at the start of the season to let the junior players have an extended opportunity in the team.  It was an opportunity that the likes of Brandon Ridgway, Nils and Joe Priestley and Henry Parker accepted both gratefully and successfully, with Brandon ending the season as the leading run-scorer.

It was the old head rather than the young legs of the skipper which brought most wickets, but he will be the first to acknowledge that the attack had good depth and all the bowlers contributed to the team’s success.

The Fourth XI, in Mick Acton’s last season as captain, again proved to be a valuable learning ground for our developing young players. Not only that, the team consolidated their position in Division 9 South with some comfort following promotion the previous year.  The captain and vice-captain Sunit Purandare made sure that their young charges were given good role models  as well as performing well with both bat and ball.  The experienced players all made valuable contributions when called upon with John France coming out of retirement to score a century against Rolls-Royce.  Mick  is to be thanked for his  tremendous work as skipper, and the club is fortunate that he has indicated that he will still help with the administration for the team.

It was no mean feat to be able to put out four full teams every Saturday, at a time when many teams were struggling to put out even two sides or had to pull teams out of the league or scratch fixtures.  In fact, as reported in the press last week, the ECB’s own survey shows a disturbing 7% decline nationally in participation from 2013 to 2014 for adults and juniors over the age of 14.  In bucking this national trend, we clearly must be doing something right.

On that theme of availability, it is also clear that Sunday friendly fixtures are becoming increasingly difficult to arrange, but the club is fortunate to be able to call upon players who are still willing to turn out when there are no cup games. Thanks go to fixture secretary Mick Clay for still being able to arrange such games.

The junior section continues to thrive under junior co-ordinator Matt Parker and his team of managers and coaches.  To Matthew, Clive Jacobs, Andy Cooper, Alex Brown, Louis Burrows, Paul Allen, Steve Yates and John France we offer our thanks, and as ever we are grateful to all parents of the boys and girls for their support.

The Under 17s came close to winning their section, whilst the Under 11s were unfortunate not to win theirs.  Nevertheless, junior cricket is more about development than opponents using loopholes in league regulations on player availability to win titles and publicity, and in this respect it was good to see so many youngsters participating and improving thanks to the structured coaching programme.  At Kwik Level, we regularly have over 50 youngsters at sessions.

Several youngsters achieved county and district recognition and special mention should be made of Lucy Yates who was chosen to practise with the England Development squad for her age-group.

This report on club performance on the pitch would not be complete without thanking coach Clive Jacobs for his contribution to the season’s successes at junior and senior level.

Our scorers too deserve a special mention.  At a time when many clubs fail to provide competent scorers, especially in the lower divisions, we are fortunate indeed to be able to call upon the services of John Hodson, Paul Smith and Barry Wynne. 

We also need to emphasize the immense contribution of our ladies in supporting the club, a contribution which is certainly not restricted to providing teas which would put Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry to shame.  Angela Wynne once again undertook the onerous and frustrating task of arranging the tea rota.  Without wishing to appear sexist, may I appeal to all playing members to ask their partners, wives or mothers to prepare one tea.  This would make an enormous difference and lighten the load on the existing volunteers and Angela.

Our “Willow Wags”, have again arranged social activities and fund-raising activities to support the club.  Jayne Yates and her team have so far raised an impressive amount of money - over £2,000. If you have not already bought tickets for the Christmas concert by Fusion in early December, please do so.  You will not be disappointed.

The bar, as ever, has provided much needed income thanks to Mick Acton and his committee, but as will be made clear later, the club cannot rely on this alone to cover costs.

Turning now to the ground, it has again been another busy year and I would like to take this opportunity of keeping members informed of the latest developments on the new pitch and proposed extension to our facilities.

Those who have seen the new ground at close quarters cannot fail to be impressed by the quality of the work carried out.  The whole area benefits from a comprehensive and effective drainage system, and the seeding of the outfield and square is complete, with a lush sward of grass, the best possible reply to the cynics of 2012 who said it would never happen.

There remains some fencing work to be completed, and but everything is on track to enable the pitch to come into use for the start of the 2016 season.

The price of the land and the cost of the work amounts to well over £150,000, funded by Staffordshire County Council.  The proposed cost to the club of £1 per year for the lease must rank as the bargain of the century.

This of course is not the complete project. The existing pavilion will have to be extended to accommodate increased numbers. 

Your president has been very busy preparing plans, and thanks to his hard work and that of the Hon Sec., professional costings have been obtained and planning permission granted.

There now remains the considerable task of raising approximately £135,000 to complete the work.  Your officers have been busy networking and canvassing support for the project, which has the full backing of the Staffordshire Cricket Board, Sport across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, the East Staffs Borough Council Sports Development Plan, the Parish Council and the local MP.

After presenting our case to the Borough Council, we have been fortunate to receive a guaranteed £29.6k in Section 106 monies. (Section 106 is the contribution that developers have to make to mitigate the impact of their development – in this case the loss of the playing field at Pirelli.)

This is a very good start, but the lion’s share of the money needed will have to come from elsewhere, and to this end we have completed an application to Sport England’s “Inspired Facilities” Fund for the maximum amount of £75k.   This has the support of all the stake-holders previously mentioned, and although we think that we have presented a strong case, the process is very competitive, with many bids being rejected as sports clubs bid for a restricted pot of money.  We expect to hear the result of the bid in February.  Even if we are successful, we shall still need contribute more of our own funds and rely on members to donate their skills in the building work.  Contributions from playing members would be particularly welcome.

The Hon Treasurer will present his report later in the meeting.  Suffice it to say at this juncture that funds need to be continually raised to cover current running costs let alone development.  We are therefore very grateful for the sterling work that Steve Yates has undertaken to secure sponsorship, currently approximately £10k over the next three years with the prospect of more to follow.

Steve is also to be congratulated and thanked for master-minding the fund-raising which followed the heart-attack suffered by Ian Wakefield on the field of play during a Second XI game at Sawley.  Ian made a full recovery after being treated with a defibrillator and so it was thought appropriate to raise funds to provide the club with its own machine.  Such was the success of the sponsored walk from Sawley to Rolleston, that over £6,000 was raised, enabling us to purchase at least two such pieces of equipment and pay for training.

Turning now to the existing pitch, your secretary has once again shouldered the additional burden of ground committee chairman and completed a huge amount of work. Natwest Cricket Force day was again a success with the bar area redecorated and spruced up.

Playing conditions have again been excellent thanks to the hard work of David Woodburn and John Hodson.  John again kept our machinery in excellent condition, making a huge impact on our income and expenditure account as well as on the quality of the outfield.

New pitch covers were purchased, taking advantage of a discount from the manufacturer open to Natwest Cricket Force registered clubs.and grant aid from the ECB and the local sports development council, which covered two thirds of the net cost.

In conclusion then, thanks to an excellent club ethos and work ethic which has seen all sections of the membership pulling together, the club has successfully met the challenges of 2014, but as has been pointed out before, there are many more such challenges ahead.

So, what of the future?  These days it is fashionable to set targets.  That is all very well, but the patients at Stafford hospital might not agree that it is necessarily a good thing.

Yes, we want to achieve even higher placings and win more trophies.  All the players want to score more runs, take more wickets and take more catches.   And as new members are attracted to the club,, we must not lose sight of the fact that individual ability has to be incorporated into team cohesion.

For all the talk of smart targets, I would encourage all to have one over-arching aim, and that is quite simply to be the best we can be.  If every member signs up to that, and more importantly is prepared to work to make it happen by putting in the effort into all aspects of the club, then success will inevitably follow.

It is interesting to note that when England won the Rugby World Cup, coach Clive Woodward’s mantra was to improve every player by a small but significant percentage.  He proved that if everybody improves a little, the overall team improvement will be greater than the sum of the parts.

I would urge every player and non-player to strive to do this as we set our sights on 2015 and make sure that we truly are the best we can be.