2019 was an incredible year for English cricket and another productive year for Tilford Cricket Club, which once again saw growth and progress across both Senior and Junior Sections.
Starting with on-field activity and the Senior sides, the main feature was the strengthening of the 1st team which, in 2018, had been threatened with relegation until a late upswing in availability and form. The acquisition of new players proved transformational, particularly to our batting consistency with Henry Clinton becoming the Div 1 top run scorer and George Ellis not far behind. Huw Town-Jones was the divisions leading wicket taker with, remarkably, 4 TCC players figuring in the top 14 bowlers including returning Skipper turned bowler, Andy Hall-Hall. A final finishing spot of 3rd, together with further recruitment during the Winter, bodes well for our chances of regaining the title in 2020.
The 2nds were very unfortunate to find themselves drawn into a relegation battle and a final match shoot-out against Frensham. That they prevailed owed much to a splendid and nerveless century by Alex Beard, whom we hope to see a lot more of in this and seasons to come. After a number of years doing an amazing job as skipper of the 2’s, a role which many see as the toughest in the Club, Martin Cantwell has decided that he needs a well-earned break and I would like to record our thanks to him for all of his efforts. His lucky successor will, of course, be appointed later this evening.
The 3rds had a very solid season, consolidating with a mid-table position after promotion to Division 6 which, as anticipated, fortunately saw a reduced level of concessions. Additional recruitment, which will be discussed as a separate agenda item later, will help to strengthen all of our teams due to the cascade effect which it produces.
Sunday cricket, which is suffering a decline at many clubs, remains a critically important part of our offering and we once again had a strengthened programme of fixtures which ran throughout the season. The match-manager system worked well and thanks to all who undertook this role, but the main plaudits should go to Adi Walker and Terry Cartwright for the hard work that they continue to undertake in improving our Sunday calendar.
A enjoyable tour to Brighton was well organized by Ben Matthews, who is in the process of organizing a repeat visit, assuming that we are allowed to return.
Our excellent Junior Section coached a remarkable 165 local children in its third year of existence and continues to go from strength to strength. The older kids enjoyed their first taste of friendly but competitive fixtures and were highly successful, winning 13 out of 16 games, including against some much larger clubs. In 2020 there will be two boys and one girls team entered into the newly-formed Surrey Junior League and so these are really exciting times for the development of our future talent stream. One of our main challenges is going to be to expand our coaching and playing facilities to ensure that we continue to provide the best possible experience for the growing number of children as we add in further age-groups. We will be investing in further portable nets, as a stop-gap but Terry Raven and Steve Windsor are also initiating discussions with Waverley Abbey school to see if a more permanent solution can be found by jointly funding a refurbishment of the nets and cricket square at the school.
On the subject of investment, during 2019 we once again attracted, for the third year in succession, grant-funding in four figures which on this occasion was provided by the ECB World Cup fund, enabling us to purchase our own large gazebo, new chairs and some cool boxes to use alongside our fairly newly acquired BBQ. Early last year we also had to replace our old bowling machine at a cost of over £3,000 which was funded from reserves. The new machine is currently being repaired having blown a fuse on its first outing ! We have, of course, continued to heavily invest in the ground with the outfield re-seeded and weeded for a second time since the 2018 drought. Martin Knott continues to do amazing work for us as Curator and I know that he is very hopeful that the grass will return to better condition this year.
Additional potential investments which are being actively pursued include long-awaited shower improvements with two visits by plumbers having recently taken place and the purchase of an IT platform. Pitchero is the market leader and could potentially help us in a number of ways including communications, selection, the collection of subs and data protection and safeguarding.
The Social Committee once again organized a series of excellent events for the Club including a successful Quiz Night and well-attended awards dinner with a further highlight being the visit of the iconic World Cup trophy in May. We should be very proud that the ECB and Surrey chose to honour our club in this way reflecting the high esteem in which we are held by these governing authorities. Another programme of events is being worked on for the coming season, a major highlight of which will be a Race Night, due to take place on Saturday June 13th and which I would like you to all please now mark in your diaries. This season the I’Anson league is not allowing ‘rest weeks’ to accommodate village fetes and so this is jeopardizing our usual local presence via a tombola, which Gemma has masterminded so well in recent years. If we do lose this source of regular income, then it really is incumbent upon all of us to fully support our other social and fundraising events.
The club remains financially secure, as you will shortly hear in more detail from our excellent Treasurer, albeit that our reserves have reduced due to the aforementioned large capital outlay. We retained our Clubmark status for a further 12 months upon our first annual review last Summer, albeit that the Clubmark system is currently being overhauled by the ECB with a revised accreditation anticipated to be launched in 2021.
An area in which we need to make more progress is in the engagement of our younger members in helping to run the Club. Whilst we do have an excellent main Committee, the average age continues to increase and we would greatly benefit from an injection of relative youth. A club in which the majority of players turn up, enjoy a game of cricket and do little else is a club which is heading towards failure, as we have seen from numerous local examples. I am certainly not saying that we are yet in that position but we must take action to prevent any slide in that direction. An increasing number of our leading players are based out of the local area but this should not mean that they don’t have the ability to contribute to off-field activities including attendance at roughly bi-monthly Committee meetings. I would therefore strongly encourage all of our younger playing members to consider how they might be able to help shape the future of our Club and, if not standing for a position this evening, to contact me if they are willing to assist.
In conclusion, we have materially strengthened our Senior squad and our Junior section continues to grow apace. We remain financially secure but are likely to have to invest and seek external grant funding to upgrade our practice facilities for the benefit of the whole club. We have built an excellent base from which to enjoy success in 2020 and beyond and we need the engagement of all elements of our membership if we are to maximize these exciting future opportunities.