Umpire and coach Vernon Coon - one of Devon's six nominees for the NatWest cricket Oscas

SIX of the best! That’s the winners of this year’s Devon Cricket NatWest Oscas.

The Oscas – Outstanding Service to Cricket Awards – are cricket’s way of saying ‘thank-you’ to the hundreds of volunteers who make cricket happen from the village green through to county Premier Divisions.

Robert Bradshaw-Smith - leagues nomineeThe categories are umpiring and scoring, leagues, heartbeat of the club, lifetime achiever, young volunteer and the NatWest Cricket Force award.

This year’s Devon winners range in age from a 74-year old committeeman, groundsman, president and former captain at Kentisbeare to a 19-year-old volunteer and youth organiser at Plympton.

All 38 Cricket Boards in England and Wales submit their county winners to the ECB, which then selects national winners in each of the categories. The announcements are made at a gala lunch hosted at Lord’s.

The awards have been running for more than a decade. Previous winners have included former youth county coach Jon Mears (2005), umpire David Moseby and Axminster official Phil Spong (both 2007), Exmouth chairman Richard Butler (2009) and Thorverton’s Jock Spry (2015).

Exmouth’s Steve Horler has been nominated by his club for the NatWest Cricketforce award. Cricketforce is an initiative run annually by the sponsor to help club members spruce up their grounds.

Horler, an Exmouth member for eight years, became the club’s groundsman by accident.

He volunteered to help out with work on the ground while the club were looking for a new groundsman – and two years later has grown into the job.

Horler’s nomination papers say: “In a time where the financial restraints of modern living are suffocating cricket clubs all over the country, individuals like Steve allow so many people to enjoy our beautiful game. 

“His selfless efforts have been noticed by every and all members of Exmouth CC. Nigel Gillett - and friends - at Kentisbeare

“His actions have now sparked more members coming forward helping and providing for the club. 

“Steve has no idea how good he is and what he does and how impactful his contribution has been.”

Vernon Coon is Devon’s Osca winner in the umpiring and scoring category, although his involvement in the game goes far beyond that,

Coon played nearly 200 Premier and A Division games for South Devon CC before getting involved with Ashburton as a coach.

When village club Lustleigh wanted help setting up a nursery section, Coon was one of the coaches they approached to help out.

Coon remains a club coach at Ashburton, where is also welfare officer and 1st XI umpire. No wonder the club has made him a life member.

His nomination says: “Vernon has been incredibly instrumental at the two clubs he is affiliated with.

“His professionalism is second to none and he is a huge asset to the Devon Cricket League as a whole.

“Vernon is always ensuring that his knowledge and skills are up to date to ensure he can officiate at the highest possible level.

“Having played a vast amount of Premier and A Division cricket, I have no shadow of doubt that Vernon would not look out of place if given the opportunity to officiate in such divisions.”

Devon’s winner in the Heartbeat of the Club category is Plymstock’s Nick Langridge, who has 37 years’ service in one capacity or another under his belt.

Langridge totalled more than 12,000 runs for the club during a playing career that spanned 400-plus games. He has been club treasurer for more than 25 years.

Early retirement from his job in finance in 2011 on health grounds signalled the start of a new career as groundsman and tea-maker.

Langridge’s nomination points out his excellence as a cake baker is matched only by is commitment to working on the ground, which is shared with Plymstock United FC,

Stephanie Hutchins“Throughout the winter Nick can be found spending thousands of hours on our roller getting the outfield in some sort of safe condition to allow for cricket,” says the nominee. 

“His trusty radio and Test Match Special keep him blissfully cut off from the outside world.”

Stephanie Hutchins was put forward by Plympton CC as the young volunteer of the year.

Hutchins, who plays county cricket for Devon Ladies, coaches and does the match-day scoring for Plympton’s youth teams.

“Additionally, Stephanie goes into local schools and helps run inter-school competitions and holiday camps,” said her nominee. “As well as playing for Devon Women, she coaches and inspires the future young ladies of Devon in the under-15 girls’ squad over the winter.”

Robert Bradshaw-Smith took over as chairman of the Bradleys East Devon Youth League in 2010 and has been in charge ever since.

Strong youth leagues are crucial to the development of players for club cricket and county age-group squads.

Bradshaw-Smith’s nomination says: “Rob has worked tirelessly to promote, organise, support, supervise and encourage youth cricket in East Devon as chairman of the East Devon Youth Cricket League.

“Without Rob the league would struggle to carry on. I believe everyone involved in East Devon youth cricket would support this nomination.”

Nigel Gillett has been a Kentisbeare member for more than 35 years – 30 of those as head groundsman and pavilion caretaker.

Gillett will be 75 in October, but age seems no barrier to the jobs he is willing to undertake. In addition to 26 seasons as fixture secretary, he arranges sessions on the ground for the local primary school.

According to his nomination papers” “Without Nigel, Kentisbeare CC would not exist.

“His hard work and dedication is admired, respected and valued by all at the club. 

“Nigel is the first to help out at club events, and give support when needed. He truly does epitomise everything that is good about village cricket.”