Australia's elite cricketers have launched a program to help bolster Premier (Grade) Cricket and ensure it remains the lifeblood of Australian cricket.
The Premier Cricket Program is a key initiative of the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA), the funds for which are an unprecedented contribution by the current male players for the betterment of the game.
More than $1 million has been dedicated to the Program, in which each of Australia's 87 Premier Cricket clubs will be able to receive grants to utilise former or non-contracted first-class cricketers in playing, coaching or mentoring capacities.
The Program has been developed in conjunction with Cricket Australia (CA) and the state associations, and is one of a number of joint ACA-CA projects on which there has been collaboration to develop cricket at all levels.
Each club can apply for a grant of $10,000 per year, with the current funding allocated for three years. The Program will provide a platform for ACA Members to remain in Premier Cricket and help narrow the gap between this level of competition and high performance/ first-class cricket. It will also help excite, inspire and improve the next generation of Australian and elite domestic cricketers.
The funding for the Premier Cricket Program comes as a result of an increase in the estimated income for players from CA's most recent media rights deal than was originally projected for the 2012-17 MOU period.
At the completion of a research project during the 2013-14 season, the current players unanimously chose to dedicate some of this increase to the Player Payment Pool to initiatives that will help strengthen the game. The Premier Cricket Program is the first of these initiatives.
ACA Chief Executive Alistair Nicholson said the proposal by the players was an important one.
"The decision by the current male players to support Premier Cricket and fellow ACA Members with this unprecedented financial contribution highlights their commitment to the game at club level," he said.
"They want to ensure that Premier Cricket remains the lifeblood of Australian cricket by providing a platform for ACA Members to remain in the game through playing, coaching, talent identification and administrative roles.
"The current players strongly believe that former first-class players and those recently delisted possess a wealth of skill, experience and expertise that can be utilised to help strengthen Premier Cricket and narrow the gap between this level and high performance cricket.
Australian Test captain Michael Clarke said:
"Every player who represents a State, Big Bash League or Australian team comes through the Premier Cricket system. While for some of us the opportunities at the moment to play at club level are limited, having competitive and testing competitions influenced by experienced and knowledgeable players is vital."
Fellow Australian player and ACA Executive member Shane Watson said:
"As current players, we're passionate about strengthening Premier Cricket and remember the influence that many former first-class players had on our careers as we came through. The decision to invest in the Premier Cricket Program is therefore one that's close to home and hopefully a way that we can ensure the generations to come receive the best possible education at club level."
The Premier Cricket Program is managed by former Tasmanian paceman and current Premier cricketer Brendan Drew.
Clubs are encouraged to engage uncontracted ACA members in a role that will harness the playing and coaching experience of the individual member. Ideal candidates will have at least Level 2 coaching accreditation and the desire to identify, coach and develop players with the Australian Cricket Pathway.
Expressions of Interest and Application forms must be completed by 31 July 2015.
Further aspects of this and other player-driven game development activities will be announced closer to the start of the upcoming cricket season.
Additional details of the ACA Premier Cricket Program: