There's something new happening in the world of cricket. It used to be the only fireworks you'd see at a game were those between Aussie quick Dennis Lillee and Pakistan's Javed Miandad.
And the only crowd entertainment was from the fans on the hill as they sought some light relief from watching Geoff Boycott at the crease.I recall as a youngster watching a game in Devonport and eagerly wanting Allan Border's autograph – only to be left disappointed.
However, there has been a shift in how our cricketers interact with the community and the fans. With the advent of Big Bash League (BBL) has come a new culture of participation – and for this long-suffering cricket tragic's wife, it couldn't come soon enough.
Taking your family to a Hobart Hurricanes game at Blundstone Arena is now more a social occasion than just watching bat and ball. The crowd is enthusiastically pumped up beforehand, the players involve themselves with the fans and the action is both on and off the field. And it's a LOT of fun.
However, all of this hasn't just magically happened. There has been a lot of research and a lot of work behind the scenes to create the right product.
'BBL has brought a lot of new people to the game,' Hurricanes Fan, Community and Event Manager Chris Rawson said. 'Last year they had an average TV audience of more than one million people nationally. 'Last season we attracted about 66,500 people to Blundstone Arena, including more than 18,000 to our last game of the season.'
There was some concern originally that because the BBL team was Hobart-based, it would ostracise the rest of the state.'It was done this way because the competition needed to be different – not just watching Tasmania play in another national competition,' Mr Rawson said.'I think the best thing that could have happened in the first year was some players leaving their home states to play for other teams. This proved that it was a different sort of competition.
'We're getting more and more members and fans from the North and North-West. About 20% of our members are from outside greater Hobart. 'Mr Rawson said the secret to the Hurricanes' success was to really focus on the crowd and the entertainment. 'From the minute you buy a ticket to the minute you go home, we try to make sure it's a great experience,' he said. 'We take inspiration from a number of other sports, but we also look closely at entertainment brands like Disneyland. We see ourselves as a family entertainment product rather than straight-up sporting product. 'We encourage our players to engage with the fans at every opportunity – it's all about fan and community engagement. Our players are fantastic at this, they love the support they get from our fans.'
The Hurricanes' links to the community are strong. In addition to linking with local and junior cricket clubs, they work very closely with local charities and other organisations.
'We partner with a local charity at each home match to help them raise awareness and funds,' Mr Rawson said. 'We have seen some fantastic results from these partnerships and have helped provide some amazing experiences to kids and families around Tasmania.' The Hurricanes have worked with Camp Quality, Give Me 5 for Kids, The Smith Family and the MyState Foundation, as well as donating memorabilia and merchandise for local cricket club and charity fundraising.
Since BBL started in the 2011/12 season, participation in junior cricket in Tasmania has skyrocketed, with overall participation increasing by 13,000 participants in that five years. 'Our Game and Market Development team have been doing a huge amount of work in schools and the community to engage kids in cricket all over Tasmania,' Mr Rawson said.
RACT members receive 10% off Hobart Hurricanes memberships through our Royal Rewards member benefits program – see www.ract.com.au/royalrewards for more details.
What you need to know
Home game dates: 26 December, 2 January, 8 January, 21 January.
Tickets: Ticket windows are set up and open for game day, but it is advised that people pre-purchase their tickets to avoid disappointment.
Getting to the game: A complimentary shuttle bus will be running. Details TBC – check www.hobarthurricanes.com.au for the details. Free parking at South Street Reserve.
Food and drink: There is a range of food and beverage options available on-site. Sealed drinks and food are also permitted.
What can't you bring? Alcohol; Opened drink containers; Cans/glass/crockery; Musical instruments; Whistles/horns; Unauthorised temporary signage and or promotional products; Flags/banners with handles exceeding 1.6m; Offensive signs/clothing; Fireworks/flares/laser lights/smoke generators; Chairs/stools; Umbrellas/shade shelters; Hard cool boxes (collapsible cooler bags permitted); Cricket bats (only small autograph bats allowed); Beach balls; Roller-blades, skateboards, scooters or bicycles; Animals (guide and hearing animals excepted); Audio recording equipment/video cameras/ cameras of a professional standard (lenses more than 300mm).