CRICKET in the ACT has emerged from the COVID-impacted era in strong shape, with participation numbers increasing in the two seasons since the pandemic began.
The 2021-22 Australian Cricket census confirmed registered participation numbers in the region increased from 11k in 2020-21 to 12.4k in 2021-22, an increase of 12.8%. The numbers have also improved from the last non-COVID impacted year in 2019-20 when there were 12.1k registered participants, an increase of 2.5%.
Junior club cricket numbers also enjoyed a 14.6% per cent increase from 2020-21, and a 10.4% boost from the previous season, breaking the 2000 barrier (2042).
This compares favourably to the overall national figures, which have increased by five per cent (321,655 to 337,060).
Overall club cricket is up three per cent on last season, and up seven per cent on 2019-20.
Female participation continues to be the biggest growth area in the sport and remains a key strategic priority across all components of the game.
Overall numbers have increased to just over 2500 in the ACT, an increase of 218% from 2020-21 and 204% from 2019-20, with an increase in indoor cricket numbers responsible for much of the growth.
However, attracting first-time participants in the youngest five-to-12 age group has been identified as a key issue to address nation-wide, after participation in the entry level Woolworths Cricket Blast (WWCB) fell during this period.
This comes after severe disruptions to all community sport over the past two years, but data proves it’s far more difficult to attract new players to the game once they reach their teenage years.
This has created a challenge to ensure there is not a ‘missing generation’, and increased participation among five to 12-year-olds is a key component of Australian Cricket’s soon-to-be-released strategy.
While feedback of player experience remains high, retention levels are low, and a sharpened focus on supporting and developing entry-level coaches has been identified as a solution. A complete review of WWCB will also be undertaken, with recommendations from it then implemented.
Cricket ACT’s Head of Cricket, Stuart Karppinen, said the numbers overall are encouraging, as the sport looks to build further on another season expected to have few disruptions.
“After two years of COVID impact, albeit less significant than winter sports, it’s encouraging to see so many players returning to our game” he said.
“The growth in registered participation, the number of juniors and females of all ages playing the game and club cricket is a pleasing result as we begin to plan our seasons with more certainty after two years impacted by the pandemic.
"We are also focused on ensuring the numbers registering for the Woolworth Cricket Blast return to the upward trend the initiative enjoyed pre-pandemic.
“We look forward to helping Cricket Australia drive their strategy to make sure this is achieved in our region.”
James Allsopp, Cricket Australia Executive Manager of Community Cricket, said:
“It has been a challenging time for all sport, so we are particularly pleased that our retention rates remain strong and kids and teenagers are continuing to enjoy the benefits of cricket in large numbers.
“We are also extremely proud of the great work that is ensuring cricket is a Sport for All. The sustained increases in female participation, particularly, continue to justify Cricket Australia’s strong investment in this area and the influence of the inspirational role models in the Australian Women's team and the Weber WBBL.
“At the same time, we are acutely aware that we need to attract more first-time players and their families to our sport. This is an integral part of CA’s strategic plan and we are working hard to ensure more people play the game so that community cricket has a healthy and sustainable long-term future.”