Cricket Club anomaly: survival against the odds
The Copley Cricket Club continues to break the mould of the outback village organisation, surviving despite growing challenges for the sport to remain functioning in regional areas.
Cricket clubs in outback South Australia are a rare breed, with diminishing player numbers seeing many associations following the trend of the more populated regional centres further south either folding or amalgamating as their inhabitants migrate towards the city.
The small village of Copley, with a population of around 150, is neighboured by the former Leigh Creek coal field and Leigh Creek township.
Leigh Creek has seen its population decline from its peak at around 3000 to just 200 since the closure of the town’s major employer at the coal mine in recent years.
While larger towns in regional SA struggle to find numbers to field sides, the seemingly impossible restrictions of its remote location and shallow player pool hasn’t been enough to draw a curtain on cricket in Copley.
Copley Cricket Club president Tyson Ridsdale said the club knows its limitations, relying on the commitment from other cricket clubs hundreds of kilometres away providing a contest beyond their usual competitions in their own associations when they can.
“We are a small community club that consists of mainly Copley, Leigh Creek, and surrounding station members,” Mr Ridsdale said.
“Our community is slowly decreasing in numbers since the mine closure and we are trying our best to keep the sporting community alive by encouraging locals to play cricket.
“We only play six games per year against other local cricket teams but have many expenses which are hard for our small club to afford.”
Hope for the towns rejuvenation and more local competition is pinned on new industry returning to the area, through the innovative in situ gasification technology trialled by SA fertiliser company Leigh Creek Energy (LCK).
The business is working together with the remaining locals, throwing its support behind community projects, recently offering a $1000 donation to the cricket club.
LCK is in the process of gathering data through its Pre-Commercial Demonstration to prove the viability of its business model at the old mine site, and Managing Director Phil Staveley wants to support locals to bridge the gap to when the company can provide long-term job opportunities and a boost in player numbers.
“Sporting clubs are the cornerstone for many regional and outback communities,” Mr Staveley said.
“The Copley Cricket Club has done extremely well to survive despite the adversity its faced over the past few years.
“It’s last remaining sporting organisation within 200 kilometres of the townships, so it’s important we help these determined cricketers keep their club alive.”