Murray & Roberts, in partnership with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) and The Sowetan newspaper, recently announced the 2010 winners of its Jack Cheetham Memorial Award and Letsema Award at a gala dinner in Johannesburg. The Tiger Titans Cricket Club from Bathurst is this year’s winner of the Murray & Roberts Jack Cheetham Memorial Award.
Tiger Titans receive prize money of R500 000, payable over five years. The Murray & Roberts awards are funded by the Letsema Sizwe Broad-Based Community Trust, part of the broad-based BEE shareholder structure established by Murray & Roberts in 2005.
Speaking to Grocott's Mail from Johannesburg on Friday, Ross said the award is "the start of amazing things for the Tiger Titans". Asked how he felt when Tiger Titans was named the winners, an emotional Ross said: "Speechless is an understatement, it was a feeling that ran through my spine." Ross said the initial phase would be to get more kids involved in the club, where they are hoping to get 100 involved.
The history of the club
When a 14 year old school boy from the small Eastern Cape farming community of Bathurst decided to start a cricket club for boys from the impoverished Nolukanye township in December 2007, he did it to give them something to do during the school holidays. What Ross McCreath may not have realised at the time was the miracle his plan would unlock.
When word got around, more than 30 boys from the township pitched in to help restore a derelict cricket field on nearby municipal land. Then, with nothing more than his own kit, Ross began coaching the boys. Their enthusiasm, commitment and raw talent was immediately evident and, within a few months an U14 Tiger Titans team was selected to test its skills against the more privileged St Andrew's College, which Ross attends. The Tiger Titans reached a winning target of 154, with seven wickets in hand, then Ross, who played for the St Andrews side, was bowled out for a duck – and a star team was born.
Getting stronger and stronger The Tiger Titans Club has unleashed a passion for cricket with significant potential that has materialised into a squad of more than 50 young boys between the ages of nine and 19 who make up three almost unbeatable teams.
Over the past two years, the club has maintained a winning record of over 80% against private and public schools in the province and further afield, and was recently invited to join the Grahamstown Cricket League. 35 of the players are enrolled in the President’s Award Programme, which enables them to effect transformation in their community.
Ross, now 17 years old, works tirelessly to develop the club and has demonstrated leadership qualities beyond his years, mobilising the support of the local community, the municipality, Eastern Province Cricket, the Department of Sport, local schools and his family to ensure the sustainability of the Tiger Titans.
He has received a number of awards in South Africa and abroad in recognition of his work and was the runner-up of the 2008 Jack Cheetham Award. In 2009, Ross was invited by HRH Prince Phillip to be the keynote speaker at a gala dinner at Lords Cricket Ground, and this year he was recognised by the Peter Cruddas Foundation as one of ten International Social Innovators.
A partnership with talented 22-year-old Port Alfred coach Mduduzi Mkalipi and community elder Gladman Xali has been instrumental in the success of the club. The players practice up to four times a week and play matches on Saturdays, and older players pass on their skills to newcomers.
During the winter off-season, fitness training continues and the Tiger Titans transform into the Scorpions Soccer Club. With additional funding, the club will be able to extend its reach to many more children in the Bathurst community and it will take one step closer to fulfilling Ross’s ultimate dream of producing South Africa’s next Makhaya Ntini.
About the awards
The Jack Cheetham Memorial Award was initiated by Murray & Roberts 29 years ago in recognition of the special qualities of Jack Cheetham, a former director of the company and the inspirational captain of the South African cricket team in the 50s who was able to instill in young people the belief that they could win. The award targets sports development projects, focusing on individuals or teams that have the potential to be champions.