Somerset’s Rob Hake has been named Groundsman of the Year in WEPL Premier One for the wickets that he has produced for Taunton to play their home games on during 2016.
Although Rob is employed as a full time groundsman by Somerset, he spends more than six months of the year working at Taunton Vale Sports Club which also hosts virtually all of Somerset’s Second XI home matches as well as many boys and girls age group games.
Rob, who was born in Bridgwater and grew up in Durleigh where he still lives, said: “Taunton were in Premier One when I first came out to work here back in 2009 when I was runner up, so I am very happy to have won this award with Taunton being in the top division this year.”
He has certainly got his work cut out at Taunton Vale. There are 18 pitches on the main ground and during the season, on both grounds, he had to prepare for 176 days of cricket. “There are very few days in the summer when there isn’t any cricket,” he said. “When those days come around you need them for all of the prep time. In the summer I’m out at the Vale seven days a week because at the weekends it’s club cricket and junior cricket on Sunday and then I have to get pitches ready for Somerset when they start on Monday. In the winter I go back down to work at the Cooper Associates County Ground and come out to the Vale as and when I’m needed.”
Rob went on: “Next season will be my eighth season out here so I feel that I’m getting to know the ground by now! It’s very rewarding to see Somerset playing out here and it’s great when people give me positive feedback on what I am doing. At the start of the season just gone Somerset played all of their warm up games here and Jimmy Anderson was out here bowling. Marcus always likes playing out here so it gives you a buzz when you see how well it plays.”
Rob has been on the Somerset groundstaff since he responded to an advert in the Somerset County Gazette 11 years ago. “It’s been great to see the way that the ground has developed and improved in the time that I have been out here working,” he said. “It’s changed so much and hopefully the wicket is getting better. Until recently I had Tony Davies to help me and the ‘Dads Army’ who help on a Tuesday and know what they have to do. They are great and keep the surrounds looking good. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be able to spend so much time on the squares.
“On a typical day when Somerset Seconds are playing here I arrive at about 6.30am and will be here until they have finished and can often be here until half past eight or nine in the evening. I absolutely love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Steve Snell, the Second XI Coach and Academy Director said: “The wickets that Rob produces at Taunton Vale are top quality and the award he has won from WEPL is thoroughly deserved. The wickets here at Taunton Vale are very similar to those at the County Ground. There’s plenty of pace and bounce and they’re ideal for young batsmen to learn their trade on. Somerset are in a very fortunate position because they have got access to Rob and the facilities at Taunton Vale.”