January 5, 2001

Norfolk Island: Cricket is reborn on the island of the Bounty mutineers

The history of Norfolk Island, an Australian territory 1610kms east north east of Sydney, is inextricably linked to the time where it served as a convict settlement, as a tool of renewal for humanity's flotsam and jetsam

The history of Norfolk Island, an Australian territory 1610kms east north east of Sydney, is inextricably linked to the time where it served as a convict settlement, as a tool of renewal for humanity's flotsam and jetsam.

That theme of rebirth flows on to its cricket, where ironically the catalyst for the game's resurrection was a match played on the anniversary of the Bounty's famous mutineers' resettlement from Pitcairn Island in 1997, a chance for a new start.

There had been no cricket activity for several years when the '97 Bounty Day Cup match rekindled interest, with senior clubs, Cascade CC, Kingston Warriors and Sports & Workers Club, competing in a season which lasts from October until the end of April.

The off-season is interrupted by one of the major events on the volcanic outcrop, the previously mentioned Bounty Day Cup, an annual match, of which its first known reference was in the diary of settler, Elisabeth Colenso, on June 11, 1876.

Players owning a mutineer's name earn automatic selection in the Bounty XI to take on an All Comers XI, although where form or ability warrants, it may only entitle them to consideration for selection. A small percentage of Norfolk's cricketers are eligible for this honour.

The three clubs usually contest a pre-season knockout, the Westpac Shield, followed by the main domestic competition, the Prime Minister's Cup. This is normally played over four or five rounds, with the top two teams playing a one-off final. All matches are played on a limited over basis.

To ensure a competitive league, the three clubs are encouraged to distribute the better players evenly, and any cricketers new to the island with experience are normally offered to the weaker of the three teams at that time.

Matches are played at the historical Kingston Oval, home to Norfolk Island cricket since 1838.

The pitch is a concrete base covered by artificial grass matting, with a lush outfield.

Overlooking the ground are buildings belonging to Norfolk Island's second settlement, which lasted from 1825 to 1856. The backdrop to Kingston Oval includes Norfolk's main swimming beaches, Slaughter Bay and Emily Bay, a leisurely 300 metres or so away.

The history of the ground is typical of the roots cricket has in Norfolk's past. It's proximity to second settlement was due to the military's desire to keep troops close to the gaol in case of a convict revolt.

According to the diary of an Ensign Best, the ground was cleared by solidiers on the 8th and 9th of October, 1838, and a match was played on the 10th.

The significance of the site to Norfolk's heritage raises an interesting dilemma for Norfolk Island Cricket Association officials. The area behind the bowler's arm is said to be very dark, and the erection of sight screens may contravene heritage rulings. While the use of white balls is a possible solution, that would incur an increase in the cost of balls.

As cricket competes with football for the use of Kingston Oval, making ground preparation troublesome, the association is lobbying for an additional oval to be devoted to cricket with a permanent synthetic wicket and a suitable fence.

Another hurdle is the fact that with no local sports store, replacement of equipment is through mail order, meaning high freight costs, especially with balls.

Apart from Kingston Oval, the Island now has practice facilities, located at the school grounds. This was made possible due to financial assistance from the Doug Walters Club and the New South Wales Cricket Association.

This will allow the NICA to extend its junior development programme, which it sees as vital to the future of the game on the island. Previously the strength of cricket on Norfolk Island varied according to its economic prosperity and deployments from the mainland.

A junior competition started during the 1998-9, and is backed up by midweek coaching sessions. Two teams play each weekend in 25 over per side matches. As well the NICA provides gear to children to use during their lunch breaks. Former Australian fast bowler, Mike Whitney, has also conducted coaching sessions for both adults and children.

The success of the junior development programme has been mainly due to the work of Bob Wellham, the NICA's Director of Coaching. Bob is a Level 3 accredited coach, who has worked extensively with the NSWCA and has received an Australian Sports Medal for his work in cricket on both Norfolk Island and the mainland.

For now, Norfolk Island's cricketers have experienced the odd game against visiting teams, with the Canberra Cavaliers, the NSW Cricketer's Club and Castle Hill RSL CC visiting the past three seasons. The island's representative team were victorious against Canberra and Castle Hill.

However, the NICA wants to give its cricketers greater experience against different types and standards of competition. It is keen to host more visiting teams and send players on tours.

With this in mind, the NICA was disappointed to be excluded from next month's Pacifica Cup, but is pushing on with plans to seek Affiliate status with the International Cricket Council.

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