It has now been 25 long years since South Australia last won the Sheffield Shield and four years since the team made a final.
Since that final, the Redbacks have finished at the bottom of the table every year. The South Australian side has only won four matches in the last four shield seasons.
it is now time for some serious questions.
For an extended period of time changes have been needed at South Australian Cricket. In response to criticism from fans and the underperforming on the pitch, the South Australia Cricket Association launched an independent review of all aspects of the game.
Former Australian cricketer Michael Hussey was tasked with heading up the review.
Hussey’s report outlined aspects of culture, systems, and high performance that need to change to improve the South Australian side’s results.
” As one of the smaller states, South Australia will always need to punch above its weight,” Hussey said in unveiling the report.
Jono Baruch, Sam Tugwell, and Zac Standish discussed the South Australian Cricket Associations issues and the Hussey Review on episode 12 of the Over and Stumps podcast.
“It’s embarrassing we are becoming a laughing stock; we shouldn’t get to the point where we are saying that is a typical South Australian loss,” Tugwell said of the South Australian form, following the Redbacks defeat to Western Australia in the One Day Cup competition at the WACA after being on track for a rare victory.
Standish, a proud South Australian, and unashamed Redbacks fan agreed, “You get used to looking at the score and seeing losses. The Redbacks have a sustained culture of losing.”
The Hussey review identifies these sentiments. The report noted that South Australia has a culture of mediocrity rooted in a premier cricket system that is generally not strong.
The review identified a need to fix the quality of the first-grade competition. A reduction in teams from the current 13 to 10 teams was identified as the way to improve. The reasoning, SA having a smaller population than other states therefore also has a much smaller talent pool. Currently, the ‘first-grade talent is being spread too thin among 13 teams.
A reduction in teams has been the most controversial aspect of the review. Merging or axing teams is obviously an emotional subject for many. Yet reducing teams seems necessary to improve the South Australians results.
“the SACA are hellbent on reducing the number of teams to 10, if not by next season absolutely the one after. They have launched independent reviews into each club to give them a score and identify the teams which should merge.” Tugwell explained
Tugwell went on to further explain a merger option that is currently before all Premier cricket clubs in the inner city of Adelaide.
“Currently there is a proposal for Adelaide Cricket Club, a very successful club to merge with Southern Districts. The Southern District club has less financial success and less success in terms of state players and titles. However, Southerns do not want to lose access to that large community. The mergers have been tough to deal with.”
A big criticism of South Australian cricket in the Hussey review was the lack of High-Performance coaching in premier cricket.
The review explained that premier coaches needed to be in an advisory capacity to ensure messaging is clear and aligned. Deeper connections should allow for players to be more aspirational and find clear pathways into the Redbacks squad.
“High-performance people need to bridge the communication gap between Premier Clubs and the state level, starting with Jason Gillespie and Tim Nielsen. It feels like there hasn’t been a relationship there for ten years.” Tugwell said on this issue.
What the South Australian fans really want to see is results. South Australia has consistently suffered from batting collapses, including the Redbacks most recent One Day match in which the Redbacks lost 9/76.
“The issue for me in the last few years is we haven’t rotated enough batsman through the line-up. We seem to stick to the same guys.” Tugwell said.
Standish agreed later, adding, “South Australia needs to start being more ruthless in their selection, especially with the batting.”
The Redbacks seem to be now getting this message. With Callum Ferguson now retired and Tom Cooper practically finished with red-ball cricket, younger players are now getting an opportunity. In the two matches since Christmas, we have seen young batsman Henry Hunt and Liam Scott have received opportunities.
There are positives for fans of the Redbacks with quality talent coming up the ranks, such as Wes Agar and the debutant against NSW Joe Medew-Ewen. It is now time for Jason Gillespie and the coaching team to develop the side into the Redbacks former glory.