Junior Chair: 1999 – 2015
Life Member: 2012 – 2020
President: 2014 – 2017
Stuart was not only a ‘Big Man’, he also had a big personality and contributed so much to our wonderful cricket club. His story began in 1997, when there was a small entry in the Club Magazine ‘Scoreboard’ welcoming new members, including Stuart as a social member. Within a season, he had joined the Junior Committee under Roger Strong and succeeded him as Chair in 1999, a position that he held for 16 years.
For anyone in a voluntary role that lasts for a significant time span, complacency is always a danger. However, Stuart retained his enthusiasm throughout and over time, moulded the Junior section to achieve his ambition of coaching his young charges – from ages 9 to 18 – and, irrespective of their ability, to give them the best chance of becoming senior cricketers, who played the game in the right spirit, respected the umpires’ decisions and behaved in a responsible manner.
It was not all sweetness and light because Stuart felt most strongly that juniors must be looked after properly by senior captains – they shouldn’t just make up the numbers because the team had a last minute cry off and then not be given an opportunity to bat or bowl. While Stuart was Chair of the Junior Committee with a small but loyal band of assistants, he advocated a change of Club Rules to give the Junior section a ‘voice’ on the Senior Cricket Committee, to prevent unfairness and give recognition of the value of the expert coaching provided to the younger element of the club.
Over the years, Stuart compiled an Annual Report that he presented to the AGM. It is much in evidence reading those reports that it was sometimes an uphill battle to keep the Junior section functioning, yet he was supported over the years by an amazing band of dedicated people, such as Keith Bolton, Roger Strong, Mike Bryant, Steve Davies, Richard Fretwell (a very capable V.C), Robin Grinter, Ade Mahon, Jordan Collins, Steve Goron, Adam Payne, Ian Schora, Darren Latter and Sophie Staniforth.
Apologies to anyone whose name has been overlooked.
After relegation from the Cheshire County Cricket League in 2001, the Club decided to bring in an overseas amateur. It was thanks to the generosity of the Collins family in offering to look after the Club’s first, and arguably best overseas amateur, that Brendan Lowen arrived from Port Elizabeth CC in South Africa. If memory serves, Brendan came over in 2002 and liked the club, its members and residing at the Collins home that he returned in 2003 and in 2005 and 2006, when we all enjoyed the tense final of the Cheshire Shield at a very damp Brooks Drive, beating Upton by 6 runs, with Brendan taking a superb diving catch to effectively win the match.
Stuart embraced the changes introduced by ECB in 2005 to ensure that all young people who play cricket have a safe and positive experience. This required adopting procedures and policies so that everyone would know and accept their responsibilities in relation to a duty of care for young people. This in turn led to the ECB Clubmark Accreditation, which had to be renewed every three years with those responsible for juniors having CRB or DBS checks. This involved many hours of work for Stuart, but was so invaluable for the Club, for without it, the Club could not run a junior section.
In 2012, Stuart was deservedly elected as an Honorary Life Member and he was nominated for the Cheshire Cricket Board OSCA’s for ‘Getting the Game On’ the following year – a tribute to his efforts to provide junior cricket for literally hundreds of kids over the many years. His reward was a wonderful day out and luncheon at Lord’s Cricket Ground courtesy of the ECB.
When Stuart finally stepped down as Junior Chair in 2015 and perhaps anticipated a more leisurely role, the Club nominated him as President. He was actively engaged in the development of the new dressing rooms, which opened in that season and was still active on the Pavilion and Ground Committees and still had time to be a Junior U9 Manager. He would be seen on most Saturdays walking around the ground to the area known as ‘Critics’ Corner’, where the retired playing members sat reminiscing of past glories and offering advice to any of the players who came within earshot.
However, it was not all hard work and no play. Stuart went on many of the Devon Cricket Tours relaxing, enjoying the company of all and was one of the pathfinders on the infamous bus, rail and ferry trips from Paignton to Dartmouth with Pricey, Finers, and Dave Allcock. He supported the Social functions, enjoyed the quizzes and even the prizes from the Pound Shop. There was also the never to be forgotten Duck Race held in The River Bollin at Wilmslow when Stuart’s net for catching the plastic ducks was not wide enough to stop them floating off in the direction of the Mersey estuary!
Of all Stuart’s wonderful achievements over many years, surely his proudest moment would have been when the 1st XI took the field for the Cheshire Shield Final in 2018. Of the eleven players selected, no less than eight had come through the Junior ranks. They were Chris Dodson, Ben Hicks, Sam Smith, Joe Fretwell Walsh, Ben Staniforth, Joe Cooper, Younas Saeed and Phil Dodd. Well done ‘Coach’.
Stuart was the beating heart of the Club. He worked ceaselessly to raise the standards of cricket at the Club and in recent times loved to be there with all his family.
All members are all very saddened by his passing and once this dreadful pandemic has subsided, the Club would wish to remember Stuart with an event that respects the Collins’ family’s own wishes to celebrate his life and times.