Balgownie cricket club chasing players

CRICKET

One of the Illawarra's oldest cricket clubs is on a mission to breathe new life into Australia's summer sport.

Balgownie has been hit hard by the apparent decline in interest from young people in the gentlemen's game.

Not only has the number of Magpies junior teams basically halved over the last few years, their senior ranks are paying the price for a dwindling junior base.

It was only two years ago the club scraped barely enough players together to form two senior teams.

Last season Balgownie re-entered the third grade competition but low stocks continue to haunt the Magpies.

Premiership-winning captain Jamie Fleming has been an institution at the club for two decades.

As one of their most experienced players, he admits he fears for the future of the Magpies and cricket in general.

"It's tough, it's a bit of a dying sport I think," Fleming said.

"Especially with T20 coming out now, not many people want to play the longer forms of the game.

"Kids just want to come and smash some sixes, have a quick bowl and go home.

"But that might be the way the game's going."

Rather than sit by and let it happen, Fleming is rallying the troops to do something about the ailing nature of the sport he loves.

And he isn't alone.

Edward Bramich has only been at the club for two years after moving south from Newcastle.

But the plight of Balgownie certainly isn't lost on him.

Bramich put his hand up to join the Magpies committee this year and is on the front foot to help out his adopted club.

"This is my first year on the committee and I certainly wasn't expecting it to be this bleak," Bramich said.

"I'm from Newcastle and it's a lot different up there - we have players and sponsors coming out our ears.

"I don't know why, but player numbers seem to be down."

Bramich was quick to allay fears Balgownie is on their last legs.

"We're not at folding point or anything," he said.

The Magpies aren't alone in their battle for junior players.

Over the past four years, the number of teams in the Illawarra junior competitions has dropped from 71 to 54.

Fleming has set about reversing the trend and is pushing cricket into local schools in an effort to re-invigorate the sport.

The Magpies received a disheartening response to their first junior registration day at the weekend and will hold two more - on Saturday and Saturday week - to entice some new members.

With the season due to kick off in mid-October, Fleming knows it's a race against the clock.

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