*ORGINALLY PUBLISHED BY THE HOBART OBSERVER
YOUNG members of the North Hobart Cricket Club (NHCC) went head-to-head against Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland recently when he visited the club as part of his nationwide tour for National Play Cricket Week.
Highlighting the importance of grassroots cricket as a 'sport for all', the first of it's kind tour saw Mr Sutherland traverse the nation over six-days to play a game of cricket in each state and territory.
Mr Sutherland said local cricket clubs were the heart of the game.
"There are nearly 4000 cricket clubs around the country and they play a hugely important role," he said.
"They are often the place where we first learn the skills, where we understand what it takes to be part of a team and where we build lifelong friendships."
"It doesn't matter what age you are, a cricket club is where you become a part of your local community."
Among those to rub shoulders with Mr Sutherland was NHCC member Luke Williams who said his club had enabled him to do more than just play cricket.
Luke said it was the platform that inspired him to establish 'Lend a hand to Hugo' when he was just 14 years old - a charity to support his nephew with autism.
"We turned our Lend a hand to Hugo logo into a sticker, which we put on our cricket bats during a particular season," he said.
"We earned a sponsorship from a local grocer who donated money for every run and the charity just expanded from there as we got ambassadors on board.
"The initial aim of the charity was to boost Hugo's house of therapy, but it was also to raise awareness for autism and other different abilities and disabilities."
"Since then, we have branched out to assist one seperate families."
Luke, now 17-years-old, said that the support of the club had led to the charity's success.
"I think our coaching structure and Board are really passionate about making sure the community benefits," he said.
"We are really inclusive, which is fantastic, and I could never ask for a better group of people to help launch the charity."
"I think what makes the club so great is that we have people with different cricket abilities - we have people who don't only play, but people who are involved through scoring and cooking barbecues."
"The cricket club is like a family in itself, it motivates me more than to just play the sport." "Our work has been able to not able help those kids grow with funding for therapies and learning resources to develop their motor skills, but has also helped them to feel as though they're not any less because of autism, which the definitely aren't."For more information about National Play Cricket Week, visit www.playcricket.com.au. For more information about the North Hobart Cricket Club, visit www.northhobartcc.com.