5 July 2024

Local cricket league looks towards expansion across Southern NSW

| Michael Murphy
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Adam Swanston, pictured centre, at a recent South West Slopes Cricket League presentation.

Adam Swanston, pictured centre, at a recent South West Slopes Cricket League presentation. Photo: A Swanston.

Country cricket has been struggling to maintain player numbers at the senior level for several years now, but one local league is aiming to buck the trend and expand its competition.

The South West Slopes Cricket League (SWSCL) was formed 10 years ago when the towns of Cootamundra, Young and Temora decided they would be stronger as a united competition rather than struggle to maintain their traditional formats.

Last season the SWSCL included teams from the towns of Temora, Young, Cootamundra, Grenfell, Harden and Boorowa.

SWSCL secretary, Adam Swanston, said some teams had come and gone over the years, but they had been able to maintain a strong core group of sides, with a hardworking committee and generous sponsorship from local businesses contributing significantly to the thriving league.

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Swanston now sees an opportunity to help country cricket by expanding the competition further.

“I have contacted teams from Coolac, Junee, Gundagai, Tumut, Cowra, Ariah Park and West Wyalong,” Swanston said.

“I started talking to these guys last year and I have been keeping in touch with them all, so hopefully some will be keen to join us this year.”

Swanston cited dwindling junior and senior player numbers in towns like West Wyalong, Tumut and Gundagai as being a common theme throughout regional areas. The problem has been attributed to either clubs folding or playing competitions with very low numbers.

Junee is one club that is seriously considering the SWSCL proposal. In recent years, Junee has fielded sides in the Elders Cup and, before that, in Gundagai’s Hogan Cup while also having several local players travel to Wagga for games.

Long-time player and official, Trent Charlton, sees the SWSCL proposal as a positive move for cricket in his town.

“It seems like a great concept,” Charlton said.

“We have had strong feedback from the group of players we have, and it looks like we will be in a position to enter a side into the competition for the upcoming season.”

Trent Charlton has said that Junee are in a good position to join the expanded SWSCL in season 2024-25.

Trent Charlton has said that Junee are in a good position to join the expanded SWSCL in season 2024-25. He is pictured second from left, bottom row with a victorious Junee side at Gundagai’s Stan Crowe Oval. Photo: Trent Charlton.

The enthusiasm from Junee will no doubt please the SWSCL in its attempt to expand its competition.

Tumut, Gundagai and several other associations have AGMs scheduled for early and mid-July. It is understood that these committees want to speak with their members about the proposal, with some determined to do whatever they can to continue their own competitions.

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Much will hang on these meetings. Competitions like the joint Tumut and Gundagai associations’ Elders Cup, once boasted 10 to 12 teams, but are now reduced to just five in 2023-24, with Gundagai not entering a team.

Coolac is a side that would certainly add depth to the SWSCL, but team captain, Tim Graham said that while his club was approached to enter an expanded SWSCL, they would look to maintain their links with their current competitions.

“The consensus at Coolac was if there is a local competition we will play in that,” Graham said.

“We would only consider the southwest competition if there was no competition in Tumut or Gundagai.”

The Temora Ex-Services Renegades club compete in the SWSCL.

The Temora Ex-Services Renegades club compete in the SWSCL. Photo: SWSCL Facebook.

Swanston said while he would like to see more support from Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia, he saw the loss of junior players to other pastimes and the cost of running a team as two of bush cricket’s biggest challenges.

He also acknowledged sponsorship as one of the keys to the SWSCL current and future success.

“One main thing why our comp is so strong is, of course, the sponsorship,” Swanston said.

“Without that, we would be pretty much in big trouble. Delta Agribusiness, Al Tora Ag and The South West Slopes Credit Union have been a tremendous help in covering all the shirts for many years.”

The Cootamundra Bulls won the SWSCL A-Grade competition last season, while the Bribbaree Rams, a side that could not win a game three years ago, improved dramatically to win the B-Grade title.

The SWSCL started the 2015-16 season with a total of 13 teams, five of which were A- Grade sides, the remaining eight lining up in B-Grade.

In season 2024-25, Swanston is looking to have as many as 18 teams across three grades. Along with president Ray Death and a strong committee of dedicated cricket enthusiasts, Swanston continues to be motivated to grow the game in the bush.

He hopes that the SWSCL can be the premier bush league in NSW, and he is fuelled by a desire to keep country cricket developing, so “my kids can still be playing bush cricket long after I retire.”

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