13th January, 2022

Cricket’s for everyone at Blowfly Cricket Club

Blowfly Cricket Club is based in Hornsby, north of Sydney. They make it their mission for everyone to be able to participate in an Aussie favourite game. 

Good Sports spoke to Mark Rushton, the founder and treasurer, to find out what makes this club different.

“To see them grow, develop their self-esteem and self-worth - it’s wonderful. Hearing parents saying they never thought they could see their kid do something like that. It makes me proud.”

Blowfly Cricket – what’s in a name?

Blowfly Cricket is designed with players with intellectual disabilities in mind.

When Mark and the team started the Blowfly program, all the players got their own whistle so that they could make noise and have a good time. When it was each child’s turn to bowl, they’d blow a whistle to get everyone’s attention. Then as they came through, they had to try to swat the blowfly stencil that was printed out on the stumps. 

“So, you’ve got the visual, audio and tactile elements. Everything’s for a reason. I firmly believe, you got to make it a lot of fun. It’s the noisiest sports game you’ve ever heard. It’s organised chaos!” laughs Mark.

Expanding their cricket empire

BCC has three active centres. They operate on Friday, Saturday and Tuesday afternoons. The sessions include complementary barbecues to allow members to socialise. Blowfly also works with the Sony Foundation to put on camps and do free clinics. 

They have even gone interstate to do a camp in Melbourne. That was fantastic, Mark remembers. The kids set it all up, and the adults did nothing. For Mark, this sharing of responsibility is important.

“You’ve got to empower [club members with intellectual disabilities] and give them a sense of responsibility. Assist only on a needs-basis and make it their club. It’s not my club, it’s theirs. They defy the odds and feel good about themselves. That’s the vision, they take on more and more responsibility.”

Cricket for all abilities 

Mark created the club around 15 years ago. A friend had told him that his autistic son was left out of birthday parties and sports. Mark had a vision. 

“I’m a paraplegic myself. I could see this group of people with intellectual disabilities is a missing link, overlooked in society,” said Mark.

“We’re breaking down barriers. Giving our members important roles on the management committee, coaching at our club and on mainstream teams.”

The club also has The Uncoachables Coaching The Uncoachables program. It’s very important at Blowfly that the coaches also have intellectual disabilities. 

“We think this is fantastic because they get where our kids are coming from. The young ones look up to their coaches so much. It’s powerful stuff.”

Supporting members through lockdowns

During lockdown periods in 2020 and 2021, the club set up a leadership group. They invited 30 to 40 people to come along and met weekly on Zoom. They had online cooking sessions for all members and other Zoom meetings which were noisy, chaotic and fun. 

Once cricket was back on, masks were an issue as a lot of members have sensory issues. Blowfly Cricket received a grant and purchased masks with logos, which helped the kids embrace it as part of their uniform. 

The club is dedicated to making it work despite the challenges.

The future of Blowfly Cricket

When it comes to planning for the future, Mark has deliberated targeted younger members. He does this to inject energy into the club and help mentor the leadership capabilities of young people. Blowfly Cricket Club’s 19-year-old President Jordan is the younger sister of Maddie Jones, winner of the 2020 Good Sports Club Champion of the Year for NSW.

Mark said it was outstanding for Maddie to receive the award. 

“It brings great recognition to people with intellectual with disabilities. It was enormous for the club. So many volunteers sent Maddie gift cards and letters of congratulations. It just lifted morale [during a difficult 2020] and it was fantastic.”

Maddie donated her prize money to the club, and they used it on renovations to their storage shed.

Mark loves being part of Good Sports. He thinks it’s a wonderful program and important for the longevity of the club.

You’ve got policies and information with the alcohol guidelines, such as how it affects young people. The resources are very educational. We promote Good Sports in our clubs, on our website, on social media, and we mail out to members.”

“The educational information is all relevant. It’s all there, so I don’t have to come up with the ideas!”

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