THE drain on players and volunteers are two of the main issues facing the Shoalhaven District Cricket Association.
The South Coast Register's Damian McGill, one year ago, did a series of stories on the health of cricket in the Shoalhaven.
One of the things he found was that a select few volunteers carried a huge workload and players struggled to meet the week-to-week playing demands.
This season, two clubs Nowra and Bay and Basin, could not field teams in first grade, while Bateman Bay has not been in the top grade for a number of years.
The drain on the association's executive will also see a massive void created when key members of the executive committee vacate their roles at the next AGM.
Association president Craig Howsan knows all about being overworked.
"Since we had our discussion last year, our workload has more than doubled," he said.
"We have got policy upon policy now."
Howsan said the top tier levels of cricket administration were still putting pressure on the overworked local volunteers.
"Now it's gotten worse and there is either too much information or no information at all," he said.
It's reached a point where Howsan can no longer financially afford to continue on as association president.
He also has to consider his own well-being.
"I am not going to be there next season," he said
"It has cost me a fortune - I have to take days off to do this role or knock work back.
"It's gruelling and the workload just for a game of cricket is unbelievable."
He is not the only one feeling the pinch, as five current executive committee members won't be on board next season either.
All is not dark for cricket and the current president went on to talk about the many positives achieved by the association and his hopes for the future.
Support from Cricket NSW
Cricket NSW, in light of the issues facing the sport locally, responded with several appointments.
Martin Gleeson was appointed Cricket NSW's area manager for Southern NSW and ACT and Sean Barrett, cricket manager Shoalhaven.
Howsan said the two appointments would help cricket in the Shoalhaven survive.
He added, Sean, in particular, had work to do
"Sean is very keen and listens to what you have to say, which is good," Howsan said.
"His primary role is game development - plastic bat and ball stuff - and getting into schools to get the pre-cricketers into cricket.
"For Sean, it's going to be a long grind but at least he is making inroads."
The current president says he can contact the area manager (Martin Gleeson) whenever he needs.
"If I need to call him (Martin), I will ring him and he will answer," Howsan said.
"If I've got something to say he knows I am not afraid to say it, whether he likes the answer or not.
"I'm also prepared to listen if I say something wrong."
Howsan said on occasions when one cricket hierarchy wants one thing and Shoalhaven or Greater Illawarra Zone wants something else, conflict can arise.
He added the volunteers at the end of the day don't want to move to other tangents - they just want to get the job done.
"They [volunteers] are not achieving what they need to achieve because they spend so much time and effort on little menial stuff," he said.
Once again, not all his bad in the world of Shoalhaven cricket as there are many positives.
"Our junior representative teams are developing - we are slowly getting on the right path and we're getting the resources to the coaches that need them and getting good resources for the team managers," he said
"We hope that our processes will develop so we can get winter programs back on track.
"We have had these constant four years of change and they've been significant changes in the background and we haven't had a proper winter program.
"We didn't have one at all last year and we barely had one season before."
Long representative season
The length of the representative season is something he suggests may have to be looked into.
"The rep competition would once start late October and finish early December - done and dusted and everyone gets on with life," he said.
"The rep competition or rep structure starts early September and doesn't finish at all - it keeps on going 12 months of the year."
The players then have to decide whether to play rep or play for their clubs.
"So if one player pulls out, that's really going to hamper a rep team or conversely it's really going to hamper a senior team," Howsan said.
The outgoing president is also wary of the burnout factor.
"There is nothing worse than a player getting through to under 18s and saying 'I have had enough - I have already played 500 games'," he said.
"Every year kids are just burnt out and done with cricket."
Women's cricket is getting wickets
Another positive and strength of Shoalhaven cricket is the development of many outstanding female cricketers.
"I would definitely say the more visible prominence of girls/women's cricket is a positive," Howsan said.
He highlighted Shoalhaven based players Jo Kelly, sisters Lauren and Naomi Woods, along with Chantelle Downey who played for the Illawarra Flames in the inaugural Women's Regional Bash at the SCG.
Players need to enjoy the game
Without the players, there will be no competition and Howsan is getting mixed reviews from the teams after some off-season tweaking.
"Fourth grade are liking the no two-day matches and so the people that are only available for short spaces of time - one week here, one week there - are liking it," he said
"Those in the other grades just cut and paste things from other seasons.
"Those who are winning think everything's fine and those who are losing think everything is not fine."
He added the high occurrence of 'club hopping' and loss of teams like Nowra and Bay and Basin from the top grade was a concern.
The Basin has a team in second grade but the only Nowra team playing is in fourth grade.
Howsan said the association needs a club like Nowra in its ranks.
It's also important the players are having fun.
"When they can get out onto the paddock, I do think the players are having fun," he said.
"This year has definitely been a year of hardship because we've had so much heat.
"We've also had to deal with smoke for the first time, in my recollection.
"It has been to such an extent that play was called off due to smoke and for a significant period of time."
What is the standard like?
Howsan believes the association has many good players in its ranks and will continue to produce the opportunities for more players to develop.
"When we get into the right climate type of thing, we're actually seeing some really good cricket," the current president said.
"We have seen really good team scores, some really good bowling, good batting, good fielding and some really solid games.
"The weather has really hurt us being an outdoor sport - you take the good with the bad but this season has definitely been very bad."
What are Howsan's hopes for the future?
Howsan, when he calls stumps on his time as president, hopes the association continues to grow.
He does want more support for the volunteers.
"I hope that the workload for volunteers gets easier," he said.
"We are desperately trying to get a paid administrative role.
"That (proposal for a paid administration person) is currently before the clubs at the moment with the aim of locking it in."
He said being president was one of the hardest roles he had done.
Howsan added there have been some rewarding moments, like the establishment of a new zone (Greater Illawarra) during his tenure.
"We have done our best to make things as easy as possible," he said.
"It hasn't always gone as expected and in many cases, has gone the wrong way but the infrastructure is there."
Who will take over as president?
The association now needs to find a new president.
"One of the things that I tried to install on all the executives when I took over is we are here temporarily - we are not on the association permanently," he explained.
"So we've got to have individual roles ready for the next person."
Mr Howsan - is your individual role ready for the next person?
"Not yet -it's mostly ready," he said.
His term ends at the July AGM.
He still wants to maintain a role in cricket but not at a day-to-day level.
"I'd like to think I've done a good job but my standards are fairly high and so I couldn't say I have done a good job to my standards," he said.
Howsan said he had people come up to him and said he had done a good job.
"I like the fact that if someone's got a question, I can either give them an answer or get them the person who does have the answer," he added.
Now for the future
Howsan is confident, particularly if they get a paid administrator, that cricket in the Shoalhaven has a good future.
However, the upcoming loss of many key officials does worry him
He would like people to move from the sidelines and onto the committee.
Howsan has set things up to make sure the new president can move into the role smoothly.
He is also willing to share his knowledge with the new committee when and if needed.
The development of more coaches, ensuring more heat breaks, getting more umpires and encouraging junior rep players to consider learning the rules so they could make the transition to match officials, are just some of the initiatives in place to ensure cricket remains strong.
"Information is power and so that is why we are trying to bring these other roles, functions and ideologies into our development of people, not cricketers or umpires, so that they can move forward," he said.
One of his last roles will be to get a new Shoalhaven cricket logo registered.