Last Thursday’s meeting of the Premier Leagues’ Management Board will not be one of the highlights of my season. I take my responsibilities as chairman of our league very seriously, and much though I would like to have attended the Rovers v Hull FC derby game, I went to Darrington for the Board meeting. 
Tickhill's Binura Fernando is stumped off Chris Durham 
Ross Diver in classical poise 
Hearing the news that we had beaten the ‘old enemy’ and gained two vital league points definitely improved my spirits, and it was good to meet up with my friend, Steve, a lifelong supporter, for his match report on the way home. 
 
My support for Rovers goes back over 50 years now, and in addition to being the club historian, I was privileged to be asked to take over as chairman of the Rovers Heritage Committee, and as a director of the HKR Community Trust, from Professor Tony Collins last winter. Tony is director of the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at De Montfort University, and is justifiably referred to as rugby league’s leading historian. I have heard him speak on many occasions now, he is invariably fascinating and I think his students are very lucky. 
 
Saturday morning dawned as warm as predicted, and after a coffee in the courtyard at the Beverley Arms with Gavin, Lucy and our grandchildren, we set off for Wickersley. Weather is so important for cricket watching – and photography – and it was a really enjoyable day. Apart, that is, from the fact that, once again, I brought Wickersley no luck whatsoever. I think that is four defeats in a row whilst I’ve been watching them – a point not lost on Andy Harrison. 
Whilst wandering around the ground, I was approached by a lovely old gentleman (I hope he does not mind that description) called Phil Robinson, who has been involved with the Wickersley club since 1947 – from junior player to president of the club. As you do, we were reminiscing, and it was fascinating to hear of the changes that have taken place over that time. He said that he had seen me at several games previously, but had obviously been hesitant to introduce himself before. The morale of the story is that if you do see me at a game, please do not hesitate to have a word! That is what going to cricket is all about! 
 
Following their record run chase at Treeton the previous week, it was a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ for the home side, and a comfortable Tickhill victory and an excellent win for Aston Hall over Sheffield Collegiate saw them drop back into eleventh place in the table. I said last week that I think that Wickersley are too good to be in that position, and nothing has changed. It will now be a case of seeing if they have the heart for what will undoubtedly be a fight to get out of the bottom two. 
 
Despite the on field problems, the ground is looking better than ever and the recent improvements to the pavilion facilities are top drawer. The new tea room attracted my attention, and I asked if it might be available for our use for committee meetings. Andy was sure that could be arranged. 
The story is very different for Tickhill though. I thought they were a bit unlucky to be relegated in their first season with us, 2017, and at the time I mooted the idea of us looking at having only ‘one up, one down’ on an automatic basis, with the next-to-bottom club having a play-off with the SYSCL Championship runners-up. That idea did not find favour with our SYSCL colleagues at the time, and indeed Terry Bentham made a point of mentioning to me recently how he was pleased to see Doncaster doing so well, and that their relegation in 2016 had done them good. Similar logic can be applied to Tickhill, who have come back stronger in 2019, and are now in a very respectable mid-table position. 
 
After the game, although Andy was still glaring at me, secretary Neil Peacock exhibited true Wickersley hospitality and very kindly organised Kirsty and I a drink ‘on the house’. I had Robinsons Pint of Thrones – and very pleasant it was too. A lot of people associate Robinsons with Lancashire, but it is in fact a very old-established Cheshire brewery. We were joined by umpires Alan Abdy and Duncan Jones, and had a very pleasant half hour with them before making our way home. 
 
On Monday, Richard and I went up to Scarborough. I think the day can best be summed up by the fact that when Kirsty asked me afterwards what the cricket had been like, I said, ‘to be honest I don’t really know, we spent most of the day talking.’ Richard and I went to the Eat Me Café for an excellent cooked breakfast before ambling down to the ground in no great hurry – then at lunchtime we met Keith Haynes, after which I got a call from Ray Knowles to ask where we were, and the four of us spent a very pleasant afternoon talking cricket. Brian Whitehead also joined us for an hour or so after tea. It was a very enjoyable social occasion and the cricket was quite incidental to me – although it has to be said that it was more important to the others! 
 
On Tuesday, I was asked to provide some background information and figures for Rovers’ forthcoming celebrations to mark thirty years at their current home. I must say I’ve never really liked the ground much, but as Kirsty says, it does have some history now and it is time I (and others) ‘embraced it’. I had nearly all the information they wanted, but pulling it all together in a useful format was a big job and occupied me for a lot of the week. 
 
Wednesday was the day of the captains’ meeting in Doncaster. Whilst I talk to players and officials as I go round the grounds on Saturdays, it is very useful to get everyone together so that we can discuss issues, and I very much appreciate the input. We had a very good attendance and some very constructive dialogue. The first agenda item was around umpiring matters. The Umpires Association chairman Dave Sharp should have been with us, but was unable to get to the meeting due to traffic disruption. I shall arrange to meet him and Simon Widdup over the next couple of weeks to discuss the points made. 
But the big agenda item was around the format of the league. As I said last week, the push for this discussion has come from both the committee and ECB. Both of us want to ensure that the competition is attractive to the players, that it is what they want – and if not, what we can do to make it so. The outcome of the discussion can be best summed up as 'it ain't broken so don't try and fix it'. There was an overwhelming endorsement of the existing 12- team 50-over red-ball Saturday competition and a rejection of any other form of cricket being played on Saturdays. As a result, the committee will probably be putting some minor proposals to the AGM around start times, bowlers' overs, fielding restrictions, and type of ball used. But there clearly is an appetite for more t20, and we shall be canvassing ideas on an additional t20 tournament, whether to be played mid-week or Sundays. There was also a prevailing view that Sunday competitions should be optional. 
 
Tomorrow, I shall be at Abbeydale for the clash between our second and third-placed teams, Wakefield Thornes and Sheffield Collegiate. Both will be wanting to get back to winning ways after losing last Saturday, and will not want to lose any more ground to leaders Doncaster, so I am anticipating a keenly fought encounter. Steve Ward will be there of course, so I anticipate taking some stick. 
 
Next Wednesday will be Dave Beldan’s funeral in Doncaster. Dave was a very good colleague and friend during the 18 seasons that we were in the old Humber Don league together. Although we had lost touch over recent years, I have happy memories of those times. The occasion I remember best was when Dave was umpiring at the old Fenners club in Hull and I went down to see him, as my game finished early. I went upstairs into the umpires’ room for a chat after they had finished and when we came downstairs nearly an hour later, everyone else had gone and the place was locked up. Although there were downstairs windows, they had solid grills fitted to deter intruders, so there was no way out – and we had no mobile phones then! Dave could often be a bit of a ‘bull at a gate’, and he forced and broke down the rather substantial front door – ‘I’m not stopping here all weekend,’ he said. We then went into the nearby Antler Club, where the teams drank after the game, to report the damage. The Fenners secretary, Dick Ollett, was (is) a real ‘Joe Blunt’ and he had some very choice words for Dave once he grasped that we were not pulling his leg. I, who was really to blame, somehow seemed to escape his ire! 
 
Till next week,  
 
Roger 
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