For Hawke's Bay Cricket Association it's a case of now, not later as it attempts to arrest the slide of numbers at high schools with development.

HBCA chief executive Craig Findlay says it's imperative when youngsters do well that everything is done to keep them in the code and is mindful cricket hasn't done that too well in the past.

Enter Craig Ross who last month assumed the new mantle of high-performance operations manager.

"We want to improve it now so we're not waiting for any other time later and Craig's the person to drive that for us," says Findlay of the former Central Districts director of cricket of more than four years.


"I'm rapt to be in the role and very excited about the future," says 46-year-old Ross who has signed a four-year contract, having moved here with Hastings-born wife Lou and their three children, Jasper, 15, Rogan, 13, and Ava, 7, in 2012.

Ross says the critical part is linking the schools to clubs with strategies around their development programmes.

"I will assist them to increase the quality of those programmes in the way of coaching, content and resourcing of those programmes."

His other key areas include overseeing all representative cricket and coaching development at secondary schools.

"Secondary schools are a challenging time for all sports where, at times, there's a drop-off so cricket wants to put more resources into that and that's part of my role."

The former Northern Districts Knights player and administrator says the core role is dealing with players and coaches at the coalface when juxtaposed with the CD position where strategies and management took precedence.

"It's a good move for me," says Ross whose previous job entailed doing contract work with Hawke's Bay as well as other catchment areas in the CD region.

"So I really did have a good sense of potential and Hawke's Bay has achieved a lot and I'm ready to take it to another level on the high-performance programming side of things."

Ross says there will still be a senior men's representative coaching contract and he will be involved with making appointments.

While he has been visiting a few schools to meet people, it is basically a familiarity exercise before a forum is established to make procedures more formal, structured and transparent.

His ND role also entailed development.

"It was working with teenagers and part of the development around school areas so, yes, it's nothing new to me to be linking with schools."

Ross won't have anything to do with the international academy drive that HBCA initiated a few years ago.

He will be instrumental in building structures around young female and male players to help pave a pathway for them all the way to the elite levels.

Ross also will help Findlay in organising the annual Riverbend Cricket Camp which lures thousands of primary and intermediate pupils as well as secondary competitions.

He believes the talent and depth of cricket in the Bay is as good as any major association in the country.

"You know, there's such a great cricket culture here and now this role of mine was placed to really focus on the high-performance area in producing more Central Districts Stags and Hinds as well as looking at the Black Caps [and White Ferns] of the future."

Having served both ND and CD, Ross believes the Bay is as good a breeding ground as any in New Zealand "with the climate and the access to grass pitches and, in general, the great cricket culture in schools".

The appointment is part of HBCA's 2017-2021 strategic plan as it undergoes restructuring.

Ross' portfolio includes talent identification, player and team development, including rep ones, and winter academies targeting 13- to 22-year-olds.

He will help HBCA conduct daily business as well as "provide leadership and strategic thinking".

Findlay says last season player numbers were up at primary and intermediate levels.

"Hawke's Bay Cricket hasn't put an emphasis on it [high school] before so I suppose it's been down to the funds in the past," he says, revealing HBCA has had to find money to invest on employing Ross' nous.

Findlay says it's evident in any code that at year 9-10 stage participants drop off and then recurring at year 13.

"I know Craig is extremely innovative, he's got lots of great ideas and makes high school cricket supported more than, I suppose, it's ever been."

Findlay says an experienced Ross knows the Bay well, has family here, including teenage children, and has kept up with changes in coaching styles.

"If we can create better coaches in Hawke's Bay then kids and teenagers will want to continue to play.

"If he's driving the coaches and the kids get a better experience then they'll want to stay with the game," he says of Ross.

The movement of teachers adept in coaching cricket means HBCA's programme becomes a no-brainer in providing that continuity.