Marsh Sheffield Shield 2020-21
Hussey review finds 'culture of mediocrity' in South Australia
Mike Hussey details plan to overhaul South Australian cricket at all levels after comprehensive review following years of under-performance
16 July 2020, 03:20 PM AEST
A significant reduction in the number of Premier Cricket clubs and an overhaul of the Redbacks' recruiting strategy and pathways programs are among recommendations from former Test great Michael Hussey to lift South Australia's men's team from "a culture of mediocrity".
The executive summary of Hussey's 60-page review was released today, and SACA has already agreed to one of its 13 key recommendations – for immediate changes to the Redbacks' selection panel, including the appointment of an independent chair.
SACA president Andrew Sinclair today indicated his board was "excited" by Hussey's recommendations and committed to acting upon them quickly, although a proposal to merge the Redbacks and Adelaide Strikers BBL programs won't be pursued "at this stage".
Hussey was engaged to conduct the far-reaching review in April after the Redbacks finished bottom of the Sheffield Shield ladder for the third consecutive season and SACA parted ways with senior coach Jamie Siddons by mutual agreement.
A focus for the review was SA's inability to win Shield titles, having finished atop the six-team competition just twice in the past 44 summers with its most recent triumph coming under Siddons' captaincy in 1995-96.
Hussey interviewed more than 100 people, among them past and present SA players, opposition players and coaches, representatives of Premier Cricket clubs and parents of young cricketers, and found key themes in the areas of SA's culture, systems and high performance.
"Unfortunately, a strong view from the people interviewed is that South Australian cricket has had a culture of mediocrity for many years and acceptance of it has been a barrier to success," Hussey found.
"If the SACA wants to move forward then there must be change.
"There will have to be an element of letting go of the past and focusing on the future.
"As one of the smaller populated states, depth is always tested and as a result SA will regularly need to 'punch above its weight'.
"For this to happen, the SACA will need to think and act differently in some areas of its cricket high performance.
"The SACA must be process, rather than outcome driven."
As part of that future thinking, Hussey recommends the culling of at least three current Premier Cricket clubs to reduce the number of teams from 13 (which necessitates a bye every round of matches) to 8-10.
A previous review of SACA's performance led by former SA batter and selector Rob Zadow and completed in 2014 also recommended a reduction in Premier Cricket Clubs.
But after years of wrangling and opposition from grassroots ranks, the plan was eventually abandoned and the 13-team structure remains in place.
"The cricket foundations, ie Premier Cricket, club and junior cricket. are generally not strong making it difficult for SA to consistently compete with other states," Hussey wrote.
"Changes will need to be made to ensure a higher quality competition that provides tough, competitive cricket and in doing so, breeds players capable of performing at the next level and beyond.
"Player and coach development at all levels of the organisation must improve to help build depth, competitive players and teams.
"I appreciate that this is not a simple process but this is required if the Board wants sustainable success.
"The quality of coaching at junior level isn't good enough.
"The foundations of the game haven't been developed well enough for successful transitions from juniors to Premier Cricket.
"There are also gaps in the level of specialised coaching in the pathway programs, particularly in the seam and spin bowling departments."
Among the key recommendations, which was handed to the SACA Board earlier this month and discussed with players, coaches and staff yesterday, are:
* Vastly improve and value Premier Cricket (including production of pitches that offer more pace and bounce, introduction of bonus points among a reviewed points system, and encouragement for first-class players to appear more often in Premier Cricket)
* Improve recruiting strategy (including targeting of 10th-15th best players interstate to fill holes in current list, identify and sign best uncontracted under-19 players from around Australia, focus on developing SA players through Premier Cricket and pathways)
* Overhaul of Redbacks selection panel (with removal of current High Performance Manager (Tim Nielsen) and Talent and Pathways Manager (Shaun Williams), and inclusion of yet-to-be-announced senior coach along with two or three members – including chair – who are independent of SACA)
* Discontinue four-team Redbacks League 50-over pre-season competition (noting a couple of state trial games and an earlier start to Premier Cricket should provide sufficient early preparation for Redbacks players)
* Assemble a high-calibre Redbacks coaching unit (including senior coach who is "organised, planned, disciplined, focused on values, standards, culture and development of players", as well as a full-time batting coach and diversity in coaching staff to bring complementary skills sets and different personalities)
* Add highly-credentialed people with recent relevant experience to the High Performance Committee (noting these could be quality recruits from other states and sports, and also "encourage different people in the program to contribute at HP Committee meetings")
Hussey also recommends the recruiting strategy be extended to other roles within the organisation to ensure appointments align closely with SACA's broader business strategy, and a "talent review to assess employee performance".
And he identified the need to improve junior coaching at Premier Cricket level with past and present players better utilised to provide greater focus on skills development, as well as forging better relationships with schools and SACA's own Premier Cricket Committee.
"It is clear securing the right people, having strong junior cricket foundations and more reliance on Premier Cricket (and less reliance on pathway programs) will be outcomes of the pandemic," Hussey wrote.
SACA Chief Executive Officer Keith Bradshaw said today that Hussey's findings were released in unredacted form and the SACA Board, along with his administration, was "totally committed to implementing the recommendations that he's put in place".
Sinclair said: "South Australia has had a history of having short, intermittent success.
"The implementation of changes to ensure sustained, long-term success for the Redbacks has been endorsed as a key strategic priority by the SACA Board.
"The Board is determined to act on these recommendations.
"Some of the recommendations are 'quick wins' that will be implemented with effect in the upcoming season, while others require more work and consideration."
Bradshaw also confirmed applications for the vacant Redbacks coaching job closed last Friday and interviews would begin next week, with Strikers coach Jason Gillespie, former Test quick Ryan Harris, ex-Australia assistant coach David Saker and Ireland assistant Rob Cassell understood to be among the frontrunners.
"It's more than five and less than ten," Bradshaw told SEN Radio when asked about the coaching shortlist.
"We'd be looking to get through that over the next few weeks because it's really important that we make an appointment and get the coach here and get going.
"We have some really good candidates – there's some from overseas, some locally and it's a really good mix."