How strong are the metro grade comps these days?

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Caesar

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I know Sydney grade is a lot weaker than it used to be, but from what I have heard the other states have experienced an even bigger drop-off. Anyone able to give a bit of an assessment of how the different comps match up against each other these days?

One of the commentators in the Renegades game last night mentioned that Peter Hatzoglou was a third grade player in Melbourne, which was a bit of a shocker since I remembered Melbourne thirds being terrible.
 

eth-dog

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I know Sydney grade is a lot weaker than it used to be, but from what I have heard the other states have experienced an even bigger drop-off. Anyone able to give a bit of an assessment of how the different comps match up against each other these days?

One of the commentators in the Renegades game last night mentioned that Peter Hatzoglou was a third grade player in Melbourne, which was a bit of a shocker since I remembered Melbourne thirds being terrible.
Melbourne grade cricket has too many sides but it's still comfortably better than all bar Sydney from what I've heard.

Hatzoglou is a seconds player with a few ones games for Uni.
 

t_94

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Hatzoglou was named in the Victorian emerging players squad before he made the move to SA to play there, so he appears from the outside to have had a surge in development in a short period of time.

In answer to the op’s question, in my experience it isn’t as good as it was as most players seem to stop at around 25, rather than 30 + like they would have 20-30 years ago. Stronger clubs are generally those that retain those guys who played a small amount of professional cricket in to their 30s.
 
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Hamez

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From my experiences in Victoria, players in their mid 20s left grade cricket to play local cricket after realising that they wouldn’t progress. In the past you’d still have players in there 30s playing.

Grade cricket is also a pretty big commitment with 10 or 11am starts, 100 over days with the occasional Sunday games. Compare that to local cricket, it’s a 1pm start with 80 overs.

There was a period where clubs are encouraged to pick players that were in pathways squads, whereas traditionally those players would be made to work up the grades and earn their spot with performances.

There currently 18 teams in Melbourne’s grade cricket comp which should be cut to 10 or make it two divisions. All the state players play for the same few select clubs.
 

The Passenger

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When I chat to my old cricketing mates back in Sydney they same the same thing as above - the biggest issue is players dropping out much earlier than previous generations because once they hit about 25 there isn't really a genuine pathway for them to becoming a full time professional cricketer, or guys who had state contracts are often not playing on if they lose their contract in their late 20's because they know that's the end of that. There was a hope maybe the BBL would encourage guys just short of state cricket to stay on, but that hasn't really materialised.

Stories the likes of WIll Somverville who was 30 when he got his big break with a NSW contract en route to a test cap with New Zealand are becoming very few and far between. But having players like that stick with grade cricket can only be beneficial, but they need to see there's a genuine chance of getting a contract, rather than the 1 in a 100 long shot that happened with Somverville.

I'm all for promoting youthful players and looking to the next generation, but you can't forget that experienced cricketers still bring a lot to the table, particularly in the grade cricket scene.

Straight off top of my head I can remember these guys who got selected at a mature age for NSW with varying levels of success - Mark Patterson (NSW debut at 28), Matthew Phelps (26), Ian Moran (27), Greg Hayne (28), Adrian Tucker (20, but reselected after a decade at 35), Geoff Miliken (25) and they all played grade cricket well into their 30's, and that's without diving deeper into my memory bank and guys that never got a run for NSW (I had a few other guys in mind but can't confirm their birth dates without a CricInfo profile). You also had guys like Phil Marks who got picked young-ish (22) but last played for NSW at 28 and were still playing first grade cricket 10 years later.

There's nowhere near the abundance of this level of cricketer in the Sydney grade system anymore. They aren't completely lost and there are a few around now - Phil Wells for Campbelltown and Robert Aitken for North Sydney spring straight to mind. Whilst the aforementioned dozen or so guys were probably not quite good enough for regular state cricket (Phelps made a good fist of it), they are/were all guns at first grade level and really bring up the standard of that competition, which is where the highly talented NSW cricketers first get exposed playing against adults.
 
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The Passenger

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Did a bit of a follow up google for this thread and found this article with comments from none other than Jason Gillespie, Shane Warne and Tom Moody which essentially echo what's been written above.


Tom Moody:
“Club cricket, the dramatic change has been the age. The average age of a club cricketer in this day and age to what it was, say, 20 years ago is quite a bit different, it’s a very young dressing room in an A-grade club side now, so therefore the learnings are nowhere near as rich as what they were previously because you don’t have the old heads in that dressing room to share stories and experiences.
Jason Gillespie:
“The guy whose in his late twenties, nudging 30, he’s lost the incentive,” said Gillespie. “A 30-year-old still harbours dreams of playing second XI cricket. That second XI match might be his Test match, and he might think, ‘I’m going to give grade cricket another season or two here because the carrot that’s being dangled, if I perform well at club cricket, I might get a second XI game, South Australia versus Victoria at the MCG, and that’s my carrot.
Shane Warne:
“There’s no experienced players around now because they don’t play grade cricket, they don’t play state cricket. Grade cricket and first-class cricket has to be really strong. They have to find a gap for the international players to play more state cricket. If that happens, Australian cricket will be stronger for a longer period of time. If second XI cricket isn’t just young kids all the time where they’re not learning of senior players, then Australia has a chance to be at the top of the tree for a long period of time again rather than going through cycles of being good for a couple of years, and then average of a couple of years.”
 

Caesar

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Do you guys think that the scrapping of age restrictions on the Second XI comp will make a difference to attrition in grade?

I don’t know any grade cricketers any more to ask them.
 

eth-dog

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Do you guys think that the scrapping of age restrictions on the Second XI comp will make a difference to attrition in grade?

I don’t know any grade cricketers any more to ask them.
Nope. The "age restriction" was a wet lettuce leaf. Team make ups were pretty much the same in terms of age last season
 

toml

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Nope. The "age restriction" was a wet lettuce leaf. Team make ups were pretty much the same in terms of age last season
Perhaps might be something that might take a few years to show any noticeable change. A few of the guys in their mid 20's now might decide to stick around a bit longer than others have in previous years. Only time will tell I guess.
 

Hamez

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It might take a few years to readjust as premier cricket would’ve lost a generation of players due to the rule changes to promote youth. There was a period where the state 2nd XI was a glorified U/23 comp.

 

Hamez

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According to Fox Cricket’s Tom Morris, Maxwell and Finch are unlikely to represent Victoria in the Sheffield Shield again as their hopes of returning to the Australian Test side dwindle.

Morris understands that the duo have held talks with Cricket Victoria regarding their futures and are aware of the focus on promoting young batsmen such as Jake Fraser McGurk, Jono Merlo, Mackenzie Harvey and Sam Harper.
 

t_94

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Do you guys think that the scrapping of age restrictions on the Second XI comp will make a difference to attrition in grade?

I don’t know any grade cricketers any more to ask them.
Maybe a bit however I would say more to do with the changes to modern life re work, family expectations.
 

Richard Pryor

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Can't speak much to the strength of grade cricket, but in case anyone isn't already aware Stump to Stump is a great resource for following the comps and they have a lot of great articles of historical content with interviews with coaches and past players and things. Wonderful website which one would hope could 'demystify' and strengthen the culture of grade cricket in the country.:


Actual club support and pride materializing seems to be the only solution to the problems raised I think, tackling the problem at the grassroots level, and things like Chris Lynn tonking massive scores in grade cricket getting greater attention on the BBL coverage to tracking grade cricket could actually achieve this (and realistically I think the intra-state T20 comps/carnivals are far more relevant to BBL squads than anything else).

I recall reading in Andrew Strauss's book that he was incredibly impressed with the spirit of Sydney Grade cricket, that the players actually seemed to care about the club unlike in England where even county cricket was treated like a 9 to 5 by most. Getting that back seems to me to be the only solution.
 
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Richard Pryor

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Maybe a bit however I would say more to do with the changes to modern life re work, family expectations.
Yeah, I'd say you can look to the death of hobby groups as being the same thing. Even the death of church going on Sundays. Organized obligations outside of work is dying a slow death, with coronavirus really just highlighting what was already happening in terms of people walling themselves off I think.
 

The Passenger

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It might take a few years to readjust as premier cricket would’ve lost a generation of players due to the rule changes to promote youth. There was a period where the state 2nd XI was a glorified U/23 comp.

There's a few obvious flaws in Chappell's plan and I'm surprised no one pointed these out to him at the time - maybe they did but the Chappell's are not exactly known for their humility or flexibility in their opinions.

1 - 23 in cricket is ridiculously young, and mandating a minimum of 8 players out of 11 is ridiculously high. Considering cricket is a sport where players regularly play to their peak at 35, the VFL equivalent would be mandating 16 players 19 or under. I don't follow the VFL but I can't imagine that is the general composition of a team.

2 - There is much more flexibility in picking players into an Australian rules team, in comparison to a cricket team. The majority of players in the AFL system can play two roles, many play three or four roles and pretty much every young player trying to break into the senior team will happily take an alternate role, no matter how alien it is to them, because the basics of the game remain the same no matter where on the field you are. If a spinner can't get through the guy in front of him, you can't just pick him as a batsmen for the experience. Yes, you can alter team structures a bit, but you are much more limited than an AFL coach.

3 - For mine this is the most importantly point... Bringing through talent before it's ready means identifying your ELITE talent (one or two players) and giving them a shot early - the way NSW did with Jack Edwards and Jason Sangha (neither of which have paid off yet, but may still). It doesn't mean bringing through a whole bunch of B and C grade talents with them. Yeah no problem taking a punt on a B or C grade talent here and there, but not potentially three quarters of a teams worth as was the case in the Future's League concept... Let's say a genuine state second XI team would, on average, have 3-4 players 23 or under, that means 4-5 guys (nearly half the team) are coming through early. How does it benefit the ELITE talented 19 year old batsmen who has played a few shield games but is just short of regular state cricket to just continue to belt up on largely the same guys he smashed around the park last season in the under 19 championships? Surely his best stepping stone between grade cricket and shield cricket is to play bowlers who have been in and out of the shield competition for the last few years and all have 10 to 20 FC games under their belt and are all desperate to get back in the shield team?

Anyway, feels like the proof is the in the pudding. 8 years since that article and 12 since the degrading of the second XI competition and the shield, "second XI" and grade cricket competitions are the weakest in living memory. Now, this isn't purely down to the degrading of the Second XI comp, because things like the domestic scheduling, lack of international players to state cricket, lack of state players to grade cricket, players being pulled out games or "managed" for injury... All these are contributing factors.
 
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The Passenger

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Thinking about it, if they wanted to go down the age mandate path - and it's a dubious if - it would have been better to go harder on age and much lighter on numbers. Have 2 (or more - if worthy) under 19's players, maybe even under 18's, in each second XI. Find the elite talent in each state who aren't quite ready for shield cricket and put them up against battle hardened second XI cricketers from other states.
 
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Blue Arrow

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Nice piece from a local Sydney's newspapers site.
 

The Passenger

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Nice piece from a local Sydney's newspapers site.
I've met Andrew Fraser many times over the years, though not for at least ten years now. And even if I revealed my name here, I doubt he'd recognise it, but that's not the point.

He's an absolute ambassador for grade cricket. He lives and breathes it. He lives lives for Manly and I have nothing but respect for him (and God how I hated manly back in the day).


You can see his distress for grade cricket in these comments...

Fraser says the clubs are largely okay with young players getting opportunities. The disconnect can come when a player is banned from playing because of “workload”.

“It’s a big issue,” says Fraser. “Mickey Edwards and Ryan Hadley both played in a recent second XI game; then were both banned from playing on Saturday. That’s our first grade opening bowling attack.
 
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Hamez

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I've met Andrew Fraser many times over the years, though not for at least ten years now. And even if I revealed my name here, I doubt he'd recognise it, but that's not the point.

He's an absolute ambassador for grade cricket. He lives and breathes it. He lives lives for Manly and I have nothing but respect for him (and God how I hated manly back in the day).


You can see his distress for grade cricket in these comments...
Something similar happened on number of occasions during my time. State 2nd XI games would generally run Mon-Thurs. The Saturday prior to the 2nd XI game only the batsmen would be allowed to play. The Saturday after the game, bowlers would be capped with how many overs they could bowl.
 

TigerCraig

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Nice piece from a local Sydney's newspapers site.
I play park cricket in Manly district and the development pathway is pretty good. I captain my clubs 2nds which is all 15 year olds who are playing in junior rep teams.

Next year at least some of them.will be playing for Warringah in the Shires comp, and hopefully move on up to Manly.

The loss is the other way though. When guys get mid to late 20's they dont go back down the levels through Shires to Park. They just give the game away
 

Richard Pryor

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I play park cricket in Manly district and the development pathway is pretty good. I captain my clubs 2nds which is all 15 year olds who are playing in junior rep teams.

Next year at least some of them.will be playing for Warringah in the Shires comp, and hopefully move on up to Manly.

The loss is the other way though. When guys get mid to late 20's they dont go back down the levels through Shires to Park. They just give the game away
Spitballing, but I wonder if the accelerated pathways approach is responsible for this? Players getting boosted into the Second XI really early prevents them from ever building an attachment to the club, so when higher honors are out it's seen as the end of the road, rather than the club career being something to enjoy with higher honors being a cherry on top. "Real journey being the friends we made along the way" is a cheesy theme, but some truth to it, and simply boosting anyone who shows any kind of gumption immediately seems to prevent that from happening which longterm drains the system of culture.
 

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