Horsham Saints president Simon McKinnon says he had no choice but to get involved in the cricket club - both on and off the field.
McKinnon has been heavily involved in the Saints junior program, and this season stepped up to take on the club's presidency role, after Brad Sproule stepped down.
RICHARD CRABTREE sat down with McKinnon to talk about what motivates him, the importance of developing the juniors, and the Horsham Saints' hunt for a breakthrough A Grade premiership.
RC: Simon - thanks for having a chat. First and foremost, how have you been going this year with bat in hand?
SM: Not too well to be honest. I'm just rolling along. It is what it is.
The A Grade side is in a good position, although nothing is guaranteed considering how tight it is for finals spots.
It's been really close, and we think from a club point of view what the association has done has been great with introducing a few new teams and making the A Grade really strong.
For our side, I think it's a really good mix of ages we've got. We've got wise heads in Davo (Gary Davidson), Belly (Tim Bell) and Chedda (Mark Crafter), then you've got the kids coming through. That's something we really pride ourselves on is giving those kids the opportunity. We're big on the junior development and pathways, because the kids are the future of our club.
How is the junior program going at the moment?
We've got a massive junior program, and that is pretty much thanks to Tim Lannen and all the hard work he did when his kids were that age. We've got 25 kids in the Cricket Blast program , and under-10 program with 15 kids, two under-12 sides, two under-14 sides.
We're just hoping to build on that and keep those kids around, so we can get back to that senior cricket where we were 20 years ago, when my Dad was playing.
Was that sort of the glory years was it?
Well we haven't won an A Grade, or a Pennant flag since then. That was in 1997-1998 I think, so we've just been sort of thereabouts without actually going that next step.
But it is what it is. It's a bit like footy where it can be a vicious cycle. Hopefully it's just a matter of time.
What do you think is the key to keeping those juniors involved with cricket?
It's just keeping them engaged and giving them opportunity. Someone like Corey Smith, he's worked hard and has been given a lot of opportunity to bat next to the likes of Davo and Timmy Bell. I think that's great for someone who has come through the juniors at the club and has got to that position in A Grade.
Guys like Jackson Davidson, Jono Carroll - they are learning off those older guys and to get them involved early is really important I think.
You're pretty heavily involved in the junior side at the club now?
I am a bit now. I didn't really have an option. Dad (Leo) was heavily involved back in the day, he was president, secretary, coached the junior programs and did all that sort of stuff, so now that I've got two young boys at that Cricket Blast age, it just makes sense for me to be involved.
It's the way I was brought up. To me, juniors is the key. We're really trying to get kids involved, and more clubs are doing it. Tony Caccaviello is doing stuff with the junior girls cricket as well, which is great. We've just been doing programs to really get people involved.
What fuelled your passion for cricket as a youngster?
I just didn't have a choice. I didn't want to go to tennis with Mum, so I'd go to cricket with Dad. From there, guys like Glenn O'Beirne, Marty Knight, Brian Bird, they took me under their wing and showed me how to score properly at an early age. Then the club makes you the 12th man or something like that, and it just keeps you excited.
Now there are those junior pathways which are a bit more focused on juniors, but that's how it started for me.
So your Dad obviously had a pretty big impact on your cricket?
Absolutely. And it was nice, I got to play A Grade or Pennant cricket with him for a little while. Me personally, I won't get to play the top grade with my kids because I'll be a bit long in the tooth, but to play with them is my ultimate goal. Just to see my kids come into cricket and I can say, 'yep, I got to play a few games with him'.
It's something that's really big for me. And the club has really tried to incorporate the family side of the club as well, trying to engage families to let them know that that is what we're here for, and success on the field is secondary to that.
You took on the presidents role this season - was that a big decision?
Well, the wife didn't like it. I haven't played a lot of cricket in a few years because I've been crook, but it made sense for me to take it on.
I've been a stay-at-home Dad for six months as well, so I've had time to take on some extra responsibility.
Tim Lannen had to step back from the turf duties recently as well, and they were massive shoes to fill, but I stepped up and hopefully my foot can be half the size of Timmy's footstep.
But for me, I've got the sounding board all there. I've got Dad, I've got Glenn Carroll, Brad Sproule or Timmy is only a phone call away, so I've got that network.
I just felt like the time was right for me to progress from the vice presidents role to the president. Someone had to do it so it was just the natural progression.
The Saints have already secured their position in the A Grade one-day grand final next week - have you played in many grand finals before?
I think I played in the last B Grade one, maybe a C Grade one. But it's not about me. It's about the club, and that's been ingrained in me since I started playing cricket.
It's never about you. If you make runs or whatever, fantastic, but you're ultimately there for the club.
Obviously it would be good to play, but if not that's fine.
I was about to ask about individual highlights...
Well I can safely say that I'm totally under-bowled. But really, I'm just happy to be playing. I'm just there to do my bit, if I make runs I make runs, but I'm just there for a bit of fun and I'm enjoying it. If I wasn't enjoying it I wouldn't be playing, so that's what it's about for me.
I'm happy to do whatever is best for the team.
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox twice weekly from the Wimmera Mail-Times. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the Wimmera, sign up below.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.