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Decades of dedication driven by love of sport

Saturday, 8th September, 2018

Denis Watts has stepped down as the BDCL Secretary after 24 years. PICTURE: Tyler Hannigan Denis Watts has stepped down as the BDCL Secretary after 24 years. PICTURE: Tyler Hannigan

By Tyler Hannigan

Having spent well over 20 years as one of local cricket’s main men, Denis Watts is stepping down as Barrier District Cricket League secretary.

Watts has been a tireless servant of the sport and was honoured on Tuesday night at the Broken Hill City Council’s Volunteer Awards where he was presented with the Nydia Edes Award.

He said that his love of the game had kept him involved for so long.

“I just enjoy the game,” Watts said. “I was never much of a player - normally just 12th man in B Grade - but I’ve always enjoyed watching cricket and I did want to be an umpire. 

“I’ve always enjoyed the umpiring having learned from Jack Nissan who was the umpires’ coach and it was a really good way to keep involved with the game.”

Watts’ career in administration started at the North Cricket Club where he joined the committee and was the North delegate to the league for several years. 

He was first elected league secretary in 1994 and, along with longtime president Peter Johnston, has overseen a raft of changes to the sport in Broken Hill.

Those initiatives included: 

- The amalgamation of the Barrier District Cricket League (BDCL) with the Mines Association in 1996 which gave the A Grade cricketers use of the turf wickets at the Zinc and NBHC ovals.

- The transfer of the NBHC Oval turf wicket to the Jubilee Oval and installation of a turf wicket at the Alma Oval by the Broken Hill City Council.

- The arrangement of major sponsors for the cricket league.

“It was really the players, the club delegates that got me to do the secretary’s job,” Watts said.

“You sort of grow into it as you go on but the clubs have been very helpful. The club delegates have been wonderful.”  

While he admits that the aforementioned achievements were important to cricket in Broken Hill, it’s been the BDCL’s ability to move with the times that he been most pleased with.

“One of the most pleasing things we’ve done over the journey is that the league has done pretty well to adjust to modern society,” Watts said.   

“Especially with the changes in shift work and all that, shortening the games of cricket, bringing in one day cricket and more recently Twenty20.

“That’s been one of our big plusses.”

Watts has held a variety of other roles in cricket such as umpire (1989 to 2017/18), scorer and on the committee of the North Broken Hill Cricket Club, He was also on the original Outback Emus cricket overseas tour in 1991 and is still a part of the group’s committee. 

He was also an integral part of the annual Broken Hill-Bankstown sporting exchange having taken over from the late Geoff Goulding and was a regular on the junior and senior cricket country carnival trips with the Barrier sides.

“It’s been the trips that have been the most enjoyable.

“And it’ll be great to stay involved with the senior carnival for years to come.”

Outside of cricket, Watts has served as a committee member of the North Football Club and remains their timekeeper and he would also commentate local rugby league games with Goulding in the 1980s.

That dedication to sport has seen Watts awarded life membership of a number of different organisations including the BDCL, North CC and North FC.

Given how long he’s been involved in cricket, Watts said he owes a lot to a many different people but one certainly stands out.

“Absolutely it’s Peter Johnston. He’s been the rock. He conducts meetings so well, keeping them rolling.

“But people like Trevor Thomas and Robert Barrett. Trevor got me involved with cricket in the first place.

“And Gouldo (Geoff Goulding) was magnificent. I was so fortunate to meet Geoff and he got me involved in the Bankstown exchange.”

Johnston, who is staying on as BDCL president for the 2018/19 season, was glowing in his praise of Watts and said working alongside him was a breeze. 

“Denis and myself have a few things in common that have made it very easy to work with each other,” Johnston explained 

“We both, for a start, can separate club loyalties when it comes to making decisions in what we believe is for the betterment of the game in Broken Hill. 

“Denis is an excellent communicator, both to myself and the clubs and general public as a whole. Denis has always shown great respect for myself and has used my experience as a sounding board as part of his decision making. 

“Likewise, I have used Denis to support most of my decision making.”

Johnston said that it was Watts’ nature that made him so effective in the role.

“Denis is a very social person and this has endeared him both to the local and interstate cricket fraternities with his ability to sit down and have a beer, or several, and discuss cricket matters until the wee hours of the morning,” Johnston said. 

“I will miss Denis’ organisational ability, his impartiality and the friendship that we have shared over working with each other closely for 25 years. 

“Those 25 years saw many significant changes in the local game and Denis was an important cog in all of that decision making.” 

While Watts will still help out with scoring for North when required and remains heavily involved with the Outback Emus, he plans to spend time just watching cricket and also hitting the bowling green, hopefully with more luck than his early days of playing cricket. 

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