The Cheshire and Lancashire Grass Roots Cricket Awards took place on Friday October 7th 2022 at Emirates Old Trafford, bringing together some of the most talented and passionate individuals from the world of recreational cricket.

More than 800 people attended the second staging of the star-studded event, which runs alongside the Lancashire CCC and Northwest Thunder Player of the Year Awards.

The evening was compered by BBC Sports Broadcaster Hugh Ferris, whose opening address paid tribute to the thousands of Grass Roots heroes who had played such a pivotal role in driving the games forwards in 2022. Hugh’s comments were echoed by Lancashire’s Director of Cricket Performance, Mark Chilton, who underlined the importance of the contribution of volunteers throughout the recreational game.

Among the guests were the nominees from the Cheshire (ECB) Grass Roots Awards, together with representatives and administrators from the league, club and community network, including coaches, activators, umpires, scorers and grounds’ volunteers and those supporting our disability playing pathways.

Cheshire’s 2022 winners and their categories are listed below, together with some notes from their nomination.

Photography by: Matt Eachus

Connecting Communities – Mahmudur Rubel Rahman (Hyde)

Mahmudur’s passion for cricket is relentless and, keen to provide opportunities for children from the Bangladeshi community in Hyde, he recently completed his first coaching qualification. This summer Mahmudur supported the launch of a new All Stars & Dynamos programme at Millennium Park in Hyde. As lead Activator he built a fantastic rapport with the children and he has galvanised the local community in the process.

Unsung Hero – Jo Page (Warrington CC)

Jo does so much more than her official role as Club Secretary for Warrington CC. Other key roles include All Stars and Dynamos Coordinator, Women and Girls Ambassador, volunteer recruitment, selection administrator, Safe Hands Support, and social events organiser. On match days she coordinates the ground bookings and acts as chief scorer (for several teams) and also represents the club at league and county meetings. Jo dedicates an incredible amount of time and energy every week, supporting not only Warrington CC, but other cricket matters across the county with such an abundance of positive energy and a delightful way with everyone.

Rising Star – Archie Riley (Chester Boughton Hall CC)

This year Archie has made a huge impact both on and off the field at his club Chester Boughton Hall. As a Junior Activator he is a superb role model for the younger club members, demonstrating real enthusiasm and great leadership and organisational skills. The younger players have responded well to his coaching style, and the girls’ section is thriving as a result. He even organised the girls to deliver a guard of hour and subsequent skills session at the recent ECB showcase match between Cheshire and Warwickshire.

Growing the Game – Andy Bennion (Alvanley CC) and Sarah McCann (Cheshire Women’s Cricket League)

Andy Bennion is the heartbeat of his club side, Alvanley CC. His tireless devotion to club development has seen junior participation increase significantly over recent years, bringing dozens of new families to the club and creating a real buzz throughout the local community. He was the catalyst for the introduction and development of women and girls’ cricket at Alvanley and has galvanized many other volunteers to support in the delivery of high-quality coaching. A fundraiser, fixture coordinator and club committee member, the game is growing rapidly at Alvanley CC thanks chiefly to his enormous efforts.

Sarah McCann is an inspirational volunteer who has been the driving force behind women’s cricket in Cheshire for more than 25 years. After joining the Cheshire Women’s Cricket League (CWCL) as a club rep in the mid-1990s, she soon progressed into other key roles including that of fixtures secretary, manager of the league representative team, and joint chairperson in 2005. She was responsible for creating a long-term strategy for Women’s Cricket in Cheshire and continued to drive this vision despite time spent living and working in Australia. As sole chair of the organization between 2009 and 2021, Sarah oversaw the rapid and sustained growth of a league that now boasts 5 divisions and 49 teams. A long-standing member of the Cheshire Clubs’ Cricket Committee and chair of the Women’s County Club, she has done as much as anyone to grow Women’s cricket in the county.

Game Changers – James Warburton (Christleton CC)

James came through the junior ranks at Christleton CC before taking his Level 2 Coaching qualification, returning to the club to coach several different age groups over the last few years. He has led the All-Stars sessions since their inception in 2017 and his manner with the children has inspired them to have fun and develop their skills. From next year, he will also take on the administration of the club’s junior section, as well as becoming Junior Co-ordinator. James is a true ‘game changer’ for all young people at the club.

Cricket Innovators – Bernard Thorne (Neston CC)

Bernard has taken a pioneering approach to junior development at his club Neston CC, helping grow the player base to more than 200 children aged 9 and under. He has skilfully adapted the All Stars model to make cricket available to youngsters from the age of 3, combing core cricket skills with other sports to keep all children and their families engaged. Attracting sponsorship to offset the costs of equipment and clothing, the 20-week course was then extended to include older children and built towards a season-ending ‘Hundred tournament’ staffed largely by ‘Cricket Young Leaders’ from the club. Thanks to his innovative and tireless approach, the club has a fantastic platform to build for the future.

Inspired to Play – Ray Bell (Stockport Georgians CC)

A key volunteer at his club Stockport Georgians CC, Ray has also been the driving force behind the expansion of girls’ cricket in the East of the County. As coordinator for the Cheshire Girls Cricket League, he has been instrumental in creating formats and playing opportunities for girls of all abilities – including the ‘Get the Girls Game On’ initiative, enabling teams from outside the league structure to play one another. Away from girl’s cricket, Ray helped secure ECB Disability Champion Club status for Stockport Georgians, forging close ties with nearby Stockport Rugby Club in the process. He is forward thinking, passionate and an inspiration to those around him.

Lifetime Achiever – Les Pickford (Haslington)

Les arrived at Haslington CC in 1988 when his son Richard joined the junior section. First volunteering as a coach and junior manager, in 1990 he became the junior coordinator, and was responsible for overseeing a significant expansion of the junior section. He made many appearances for Haslington as a player (including a spell as 2nd XI skipper) and has also served as Club Secretary. He set up and ran for many years the cricket programme at nearby Shavington High School including coaching its most famous cricket product, England, Derbyshire and Durham’s John Morris. 34 years after his arrival, the journey has come full circle as he once again performs the role of junior coordinator and age group manager.

Safe Hands – Sarah Baker (Runcorn) and Pratham Shetty (Maritime)

Pratham has been the inspiration behind the rapid development of Maritime CC in recent seasons, culminating in the award of Clubmark in 2022. As secretary he has spearheaded a new era for the club, overseeing the introduction of a new junior section with 30 plus members. To support this, he took his ECB Coaching badges and encouraged others to do the same. He has helped to recruit three welfare officers and has taken responsibility for the Safe Hands Management System, ensuring all volunteers are DBS checked and that all volunteers have completed the relevant training. In partnership with Cheshire Cricket Board, he has rewritten several key club policies and an overarching club development plan that places juniors and the local community at the forefront of Maritime’s thinking.

Sarah is a truly outstanding volunteer that her club Runcorn CC simply could not do without. For the last 5 years she has been the safeguarding lead, and now acts as Safe Hands Coordinator, Clubmark officer and lead administrator for the junior section. Always first on the ground and the last to leave, she has a boundless energy and enthusiasm for junior cricket and is a calm and reassuring presence for all players and parents. She also oversees the club’s various social media platforms and has been the cornerstone of a safe and welcoming environment.

Tackling Climate Change – Romiley CCA new category for 2022, goes to Romiley CC – a strong community club with a forward-thinking committee who are determined to make a difference both on and off the field. Earlier this year they installed solar panels on their south facing pavilion roof, helping to reduce the club’s carbon footprint club and generate savings against soaring energy costs. The club also has plans to invest in other ‘green’ projects including the replacement of their aging gas fired cooking range and, in the long term, installation of electric vehicle charging points.

Grounds Management Team of the Year – Northwich CC

Northwich CC have played a crucial role in the development of grass roots cricket this summer, producing high quality wickets and outfields for players of all age groups and abilities. In addition to hosting club fixtures from U9 to U15 level and men’s and women’s senior cricket, the club became a central venue for many county boys and girls fixtures, hosting several games at short notice and many taking place during a difficult period when the pressure on grounds’ teams was magnified by the warm and dry weather. The team would often be found in the early hours of the morning and late after games making sure the quality of the wicket and overall ground was maintained to the high levels expected, leading to many exciting and high scoring encounters when team scorers of 300+ runs in 45 overs have not been uncommon

At the conclusion of the Grass Roots Awards, guests were treated to a three course meal before a short Q&A with current Lancashire and North West Thunder players Dane Vilas, Keaton Jennings, Ellie Threlkeld and Shachi Pai. The stage was then set for the end of season Lancashire (Men’s and Women’s) Player of the Year Awards, with former Bramhall all-rounder Emma Lamb among the big winners, as she took home the NorthWest Thunder Player of the Year and North West Thunder T20 Player of the Year trophies.

Cheshire Cricket Board would like to thank everyone who completed a Grass Roots nomination on behalf of a club or community colleague, and the fantastic network of volunteers who have helped to ‘get the game on’ in 2022. Please continue to use the Volunteer Shout Out initiative on the CCB website to say ‘thank you’ to those you wish to recognise for their individual and collective contributions to the Grass Roots game.

Photography by: Matt Eachus

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