After years of thinking, planning, and hypothesising, Goulburn's junior cricketers now have a way of directly transitioning into the senior ranks.
This pathway has opened up via the new St Joseph's team which is currently playing in the Goulburn District Cricket Association's Second Grade competition.
The decision to field a team in the senior competition was not one made lightly by the Goulburn junior association, and had been contemplated for several years before taking the leap this season.
While it is not unusual to see a Second Grade side, and on the rare occasion a First Grade side, feature some age group players, St Joseph's is one of the first outfits in recent memory to be made up of primarily junior players.
Team manager, Amy Edwards, said in its first two matches the side was made up of 60 to 70 per cent players under the age of 16.
Teams such as St Joseph's are crucial, Edwards believes, if the GDCA hopes to successfully transition the majority of its junior players into the senior ranks.
"Once the kids get to 16, the really have nowhere to go," Edwards said.
"A lot of the clubs in town are already established with their players, and as a 15, 16-year-old you're at a pretty impressionable age and a lot of kids don't want to go in and play with a bunch of adults they don't know.
"It's a stepping-stone, so they can play with their mates but they've got a couple of the 'Old Hearts', as we've been calling them, there to guide them."
The GDCA was supportive of the St Joseph's side from the outset, Edwards said, and she believes that there will be more junior-dominated teams moving into the senior ranks in years to come.
"I think it will kick off massively, because whether you win or not, the kids are enjoying themselves and having a taste of what it'll be like when they get older," she said.
"Hopefully in years to come, they'll be the older group that will guide the younger guys through."
Though its first two matches were losses, St Joseph's has been highly competitive, and a closer look at the scorecard reveals just how good the side could prove to be this season.
In its first game, St Joseph's played Hibo Gold, semi-finalists in last year's Third Grade competition, and fell short by 24 runs while chasing in the second innings.
In its second match, the team lost an absolute nailbiter by the even smaller margin of just three runs against Hibo Green, who made the Third Grade grand final in 2020/21.
Both of these games prove, Edwards said, that the players are more than capable of succeeding in the senior grades, but just need time to acclimate.
"To be honest, the standouts in the team in both weeks have been young kids," she said.
"It's by no means the older guys in the team carrying them. They do have their input and are valued members, but it's the young guys who are coming up with momentum, taking wickets, and making runs."
What has been equally pleasing for St Joseph's is the reception from both Hibo teams, who were supportive and played each game in the best spirit.
"I've gotta say, both of the Hibo teams were supportive of the kids," Edwards said.
"Hibo Gold in particular showed good sportsmanship and guided the kids. I know that they're playing competitive cricket, but at the end of the day it's not all about winning. It's experience for the young kids and it's about having fun."
This Saturday, November 13, St Joseph's will take on last year's Third Grade champions, the Tatts Stags, at Carr Confoy 2. The match will begin from 1pm.
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