How one man spent over 50 years inspiring young people to play cricket
While Bruce Jones may seem like an ordinary grandfather, the recently retired cricket coach has had his fair share of extraordinary experiences and challenges in his 54-year career.
When Bruce celebrated his 80th birthday this year, he decided to call stumps on his career as a coach, player and volunteer.
Born in Wellington, New South Wales before moving to Wollongong in 1951, cricket has been a part of Bruce’s life since he was a child and in 1985, Bruce was instrumental in setting up the Illawarra Academy of Sport Cricket Program as part of the first regional academy in Australia.
As an inaugural coach of the cricket program, Bruce trained the likes of Phil Jaques and Anthony Mcguire, as well as Shane and Brett Lee who came through the program when they were early in their teenage years.
Bruce said the idea to start the program was born from a lack of connection between junior and senior ranks.
“I was approached by a parent in 1964 whose kids were playing at the junior level and he felt more could be done to look after them.
“He didn’t know much about cricket so I put my hand up to help and that’s the start of my 50-year-plus coaching career,” said Bruce.
With so many years of involvement in the grassroots cricket landscape, Bruce was able to witness the growing increase of female involvement in the sport.
Bruce said he saw the change begin in his early days at the Illawarra Sporting Academy, with the introduction of the academy instigating enough interest to field a full all-girls side that went on tour.
“Within a couple of years of the academy, I started to notice a few girls were interested and we were able to put together a team that was quite successful and even toured New Zealand a few times,” said Bruce.
Bruce has had to overcome many battles away from cricket, including open heart surgery and prostate cancer, but nothing has deterred his love and commitment to the sport.
In overcoming these challenges, Bruce’s life has been dedicated to a lifetime of increasing opportunities for rural Australian communities, both on and off the field, playing a fundamental role in developing grassroots cricket to be the sport it is today.
His tales continue off the field, from working with Fred Hollows in the early stages of founding the Fred Hollows Foundation, to sponsoring children in developing countries.
Bruce Jones’ story is part of Cricket Australia’s Community Champion initiative that aims to share the stories of local heroes making cricket a great game for all.
Know someone whose story deserves to be told? Nominate your Community Champion.