This week Bill Carne met up with award-winning cricket coach Rick Walton to chat to him about his passion for cricket and his yeoman work in coaching junior players in Pembrokeshire . . .

The second day of the test match between England and Australia at the Swalec Stadium in Cardiff saw a special presentation made to someone known in Pembrokeshire Junior School Cricket as 'The Cricket Man'.

Rick Walton is the Community Cricket Coach for Pembrokeshire, regional coach for the talented under 13s team, and someone who is eager to promote the game at every level, especially with regard to getting more girls and ladies into a sport which he clearly loves.

It was this coaching zeal that saw Rick invited to the Swalec Stadium to collect his prestigious 'Outstanding Contribution to Cricket Coaching' award from the England and Wales Cricket Board.

"I regard it as an amazing honour," Rick told us when we bumped into him at the recent junior schools’' cricket festival in Haverfordwest, "but I felt I was collecting it on behalf of a considerable number of people in our county who work so hard to promote the game here.”

Rick has been involved in his current post, established by Cricket Wales and 'Sport Wales' as part of the 'Chance to Shine' Scheme, for the past three years and although it is part-time he spends far more hours in the job because he enjoys what he does.

Yet Rick set out in cricket coaching almost by accident, having been a useful pace bowler in his younger days 'Up North' near Grimsby, but finding that work commitments brought about a halt to his own playing days.

But then he and his family, who are incredibly supportive, moved to Pembrokeshire and when his son wanted to play cricket Rick took him to Haverfordwest Cricket Club, where father and son were made most welcome.

When it was discovered that Rick had played in his earlier days he was quickly roped in to play and help with the coaching on a Friday evening, and it wasn't long before he had undertaken the first of his coaching badges and became more and more involved.

"That was about eight or nine years ago and I never dreamed then that one day I would be coaching for a living," admitted Rick.

Rick has passed his level one and two coaching awards and is a whisker away from achieving his level two with diploma - and fully intends aiming for his level three award as a viable target some time in the future.

When his current post was advertised Rick decided to apply and was jubilant when he was offered the post since it allowed him to pursue his belief that cricket is a smashing game for anyone to get involved.

"It is never more evident than in the Primary Schools of Pembrokeshire," said Rick, "where it is amazing how keen the kids are to participate, and how quickly they develop their skills.

"I got my nickname from one visit to a school where I saw a head pop up by the railings and the youngster shouted excitedly,

"The Cricket Man is here!"

"It's a name that has stuck and I use 'Cricket Man Wales' as the tag for my own web blog, where I try to promote positive ideas, like the good sportsmanship of the New Zealand Cricket team on their recent visit to this country."

Ask Rick about his remit and he would say that he enjoys working closely with Matt Freeman, the Cricket Development Officer for Pembrokeshire as his line manager, and someone equally eager to promote cricket.

The respect is mutual because Matthew told us,

"Rick is totally committed, very enthusiastic and with a special ability to communicate well with primary school children.

"He is also doing an excellent job with the girls' and ladies' cricket as well as the under 13 regional team as a bonus."

Ben Field, the manager of Sport Pembrokeshire, in County Hall, where Rick is based, added,

"Rick is a valued member of our team and is proving to be an asset in our work to encourage participation in cricket, so long may he continue."

Ask Rick about his formative years and he might well admit that it was football that occupied a great deal of time in his younger days because the sport was ingrained in his family because his grandad, Vic Dodsworth, played centre half or full back for Manchester United before a serious knee injury curtailed his play at that level, although he did manage to play for a while for Doncaster Rovers and Grimsby Town.

Vic was at one time the UK's most expensive footballer for just a day when Doncaster £2,000 for him but within 24 hours Alex James moved from Scotland to Arsenal and the record was well and truly smashed!

Rick himself played at semi-professional level but readily admits that he under-achieved because he just wanted to play for fun.

When he moved to Pembrokeshire he joined a Solva side that included great characters like Nobby Howells, Matthew Raggett and Dai 'Ball' Phillips.

"I played there for about seven seasons," Rick told us, "had a great time and was chuffed to be picked as captain for three of them."

Rick also played village cricket but his work at that time as a landscape gardener meant his appearances were limited, a problem which stayed with him until he moved to Pembrokeshire.

Then came his start in coaching here and he's been fully involved ever since, including helping out as a player with Haverfordwest Cricket Club in the lower divisions.

As we chatted Rick was involved in the organisation of the Pembrokeshire Primary Schools Festival, where there were 14 teams involved and a great number of participants; where the emphasis was on having fun, rather than winning at all costs - and a few days later he and Matthew Freeman were also involved in a similar festival for girls from around the county's comprehensive schools.

Rick is delighted so many young girls are taking up the game, with the growing number of Welsh internationals as positive proof, and is planning to start a cricket league for year seven and eight girls, using a soft ball so no pads or batting gloves are needed, with an element of competition but again with the fun side of the game being paramount.

Rick's work with the regional under 13 team sees them take on other strong regions like Mid Glamorgan, West Glamorgan, North Wales, plus Cardiff and the Vale.

"It means a great deal of travel for us but we have terrific parental support, the boys are fully committed and growing in confidence as they take on some teams which are more experienced but certainly no better than us," said Rick.

"Last year we went on a tour to Bromsgrove, where we played two T20 matches and two games of 40 overs per team - and it was such a great trip that we are repeating it towards the end of this season.

Being ready to go away with the players again shows Rick's commitment to the cricketing cause and we were delighted to see Rick Walton receive his 'Outstanding Contribution to Coaching' award because no-one could have deserved it more than he did!