A THORNBURY man's towering contribution to club cricket has been celebrated with the dedication of a memorial bench.

Mike Collett, who died last year, was a former youth chairman, treasurer, chairman and life member at Thornbury Cricket Club, and also a founding member of Bristol Phoenix which played a major role in the development of dozens of girls and women players across the county.

Bristol Phoenix, which was established in 2008 as a three-way partnership between Thornbury, Chipping Sodbury and Shirehampton, presented the bench in a ceremony attended by his widow Jenny and son Andy.

Thornbury club president Les Summerfield said: “Mike came to Thornbury in 1989 whilst in the twilight of his own playing career. We did not know it at the time but a giant of grassroots cricket had just walked through our door.

“He was one of the most prominent and influential club members Thornbury have ever had. He had joined the club not for his benefit but for ours, we were truly blessed.

“Everything he did was for others.”

Mike, who also served as second team captain and then led the thirds from 2000-2003, won the Wicks Cup, for outstanding service, in 1998 and 2003.

He was also the key figure in opening negotiations with Tockington Manor School, securing the use of a 3rd /4th XI ground for Thornbury and a grant for the pavilion which stands there today.

Mike was also a driving force behind the formation of Bristol Phoenix amid the need to accelerate the growth of girls and women’s cricket.

Steve Forecast, former Phoenix coach and youth manager, said: “At the time girls and women were not getting enough, if any, club cricket. The Phoenix were very much ahead of their time.

“Mike was instrumental in the building of a junior section, visiting many schools and convincing the Bristol Youth League to let girls teams enter ‘a year down’.

“The profile of women’s cricket grew with the Phoenix playing a major role and Mike leading. He managed to get people to do things. Sometimes stern, assertive, persuasive but always gentle with the expectation that things would be done properly.

“This year the Phoenix came to an end. The ECB has a new model for female cricket but I would like to think that he would be happy with what he and the club achieved.

“There are now around 20 clubs with female sections and players are accepted into open teams on merit, all built on a foundation and example set by Bristol Phoenix.

“It’s fitting that this bench in his memory is placed here at Thornbury, especially when we see the number of girls training in the junior section.”