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Ken Borland

Lions CEO Leaf-Wright provides an education in leadership 4

Posted on July 10, 2023 by Ken

Central Gauteng Lions CEO Jono Leaf-Wright is usually the first to arrive and the last to leave the DP World Wanderers Stadium.

The finals of the Diadora Jozi Cup over the Youth Day long weekend drew the curtain on another jampacked, successful season at the DP World Wanderers Stadium, all overseen by CEO Jono Leaf-Wright, who continues to provide an education in leadership through his passion for Lions Cricket.

Just as the Diadora Jozi Cup brought together over 1800 players in 110 teams in a phenomenal competition for clubs, so too has Leaf-Wright united the talents of his staff and players as the union continues to lead the way in South African domestic cricket.

A good leader plays a pivotal role in setting the climate and reputation of their organisation, as well as affecting the attitude of its members. Leaf-Wright has been able to surround himself with good people in an empathetic environment that values integrity and does not waver when it comes to quality.

“Jono has such respect for individuals, it doesn’t matter who you are, he makes you feel amazing. He has time, compassion and appreciates everyone who works at Lions cricket and beyond, irrespective of your role in the ranks,” Chief Financial Officer Brecht Mohonathan says.

“He has resilience, he deals with difficult people and problems daily, but he doesn’t give up, he bounces back and manages to look at the bigger picture. It’s a refreshing new style of leadership at Lions Cricket, one that was needed.

“Jono brings the organisation together – all teams work together, towards a common goal. All ideas are considered, he has an open-door policy and never professes to know it all. Everyone feels included,” Mohonathan says.

Busi Radebe, an Independent Director of the Central Gauteng Lions, has been highly-impressed by the CEO’s influence at Board level.

“Working with Jono leaves me in awe all the time. He has amazing leadership ability and is a visionary and innovator of note. His committed focus on community, family, transformation and empowerment is always evident in all the events and was clearly visible throughout the Diadora Jozi Cup Finals.

“Jono’s leadership and passion seem to have permeated his entire Lions team. It has also been interesting for me to see the values of Central Gauteng Lions Cricket (PRIDE)  come to life in all that they do no matter how small. The Passion, Reliability, Inclusion and Innovation, Dedication, Excellence and Enjoyment that they exude in their delivery cannot be missed,” Radebe says.

Great leaders are also visionaries and one of Leaf-Wright’s strongest attributes is his ability to make other people believe in his vision. It’s also a lot easier to believe in someone when they lead from the front in terms of effort and dedication. Like so many of his DP World Lions players who put in hours of extra training at the nets, the 40-year-old Leaf-Wright is always willing to go the extra mile.

The CEO stayed at this year’s Lions awards evening at the Wanderers Club almost till the bitter end – carriages were preparing to turn into pumpkins – but the next day (a Sunday) he was up bright and early like on any work day and off to see as many of the 27 venues being used for the Jozi Cup as he could.

“Jono is a very hands-on CEO who constantly leads by example, he is often found on the ground welcoming people and making them feel comfortable. His compassion and respect for players, the spectators and cricket is truly rare and is appreciated by all,” 2022 DP World Lions Ladies Players’ Player of the Season Jameelah Shaikjee says.

“Because of his professionalism and perseverance, Jono pushes through despite late nights, early mornings and weekends. It’s thanks to his passion for the game and the people that he has this dedication – he leaves home early and gets back late every single day,” Mohonathan points out.

“Jono always shows such diligence – he does things properly and makes sure things are done properly. He also shows doggedness when he stands up for people, he doesn’t cave in, he’s courageous and meets challenges head-on. Jono just has that drive so he keeps pushing through in order to make sure it all gets done.”

Leaf-Wright speaks often about how important a balanced life is; despite the many times he no doubt wanted to spend more time with his wife, nine-year-old son and four-year-old daughter, he also is keenly aware that other families are depending on him to ensure Lions Cricket is economically thriving.

And his Midas Touch has been evident on the books with the union enjoying a financial turnaround despite the ravages of Covid. When Leaf-Wright took over, they were declaring losses of R12-14 million in consecutive years. In May 2022, after the redesign of the stadium and the implementation of his vision and business plan, Lions Cricket declared a nett profit for the 2021/2022 financial year for the first time since 2017, and it is set to declare another nett profit after this current 2022/2023 financial year.

A successful businessman and entrepreneur in his own right, Leaf-Wright always wanted, however, to be involved in elite cricket and he has worked his way up from carrying drinks and cleaning shoes as a changeroom attendant at the self-same DP World Wanderers Stadium.

Leaf-Wright coached at every level of grassroots cricket and has a CSA Level Three Coaching Qualification, has been a national U19 talent scout for 11 years and coached the Lions U19 team for 11 years as well. He was the manager of the Jozi Stars in the Mzansi Super League and spent time with the Royal Challengers Bangalore from 2009 to 2011 assisting the IPL side.

Under Leaf-Wright’s watch, Lions Cricket have won over 10 trophies since the 2019/2020 season when he took over as CEO at the back end of 2019.

In his business endeavours, Leaf-Wright has shown himself to be a disruptor, not always sticking to the norms and traditions, but trying things. But he has always wanted to do things for the right reason – to serve his organisation. He has said that the biggest part of leadership is the care factor for other people.

The all-round sports fan is on a journey that is not his own, the colleagues that travel with him are just as important.

“Jono is an incredible leader with great people skills. It doesn’t matter which walk of life you are from, he will make you feel welcome and special and go out of his way for you. His vibrant positive energy is infectious. He’s an out-of-the-box thinker, always looking for ideas to make things better and improve situations,” Reeza Hendricks, DP World Lions stalwart and Proteas white-ball star, says.

Leaf-Wright understands that he cannot do his job alone, that would be a very lonely task. Instead, he empowers the people around him to help achieve their common goals and the big dreams they have for Lions Cricket.

It is an approach that has certainly impressed the Lions’ chief sponsors, DP World.

“Jono has been integral to the ongoing success, strategic direction and innovation of the DP World Lions family and DP World Wanderers Stadium,” says Esha Mansingh, the Executive Head: Corporate Affairs and Sustainability sub-Saharan Africa at DP World.

“As a key partner to the stadium, we are proud of the immense growth of Lions cricket over the past few years, extending its footprint and impact both on and off the field, driven by Jono’s exceptional vision, passion and support of both professional and community cricket. Jono always ensures that the requirements of Lions Cricket’s partners, such as ourselves at DP World, are accommodated and that we work together towards a common goal that not only drives results but also supports our teams and communities,” Mansingh says.

Throughout his tenure, Leaf-Wright and his team have managed to attract multiple proud partners and built solid, genuine and mutually beneficial relationships with global brands such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola as well as many other brands just as impressive in the likes of Telkom, ENZA Construction, Sun International, Fidelity ADT, Masana Fuels and too many more to mention.

Lions Cricket is on a good wicket, enjoying their purple patch and clearly have no intention of stopping any time soon.

Notshe has the x-factor gene, but his focus is on the basics 0

Posted on April 25, 2022 by Ken

Sharks eighthman Sikhumbuzo Notshe certainly has the x-factor gene in abundance, but he says his focus is on the basics as he continues his comeback from serious injury. It is an attitude the profligate Sharks team in general would probably benefit from after their embarrassing lack of finishing cost them against Edinburgh last weekend.

Notshe ruptured his patella last May and only returned to action at the beginning of February. Starting in the Currie Cup, his form has been good enough to see him reinstalled as the Sharks’ first-choice eighthman in the United Rugby Championship side.

“There are always a lot of extras one can focus on in rugby and I know I’ve got x-factor,” Notshe said on Tuesday. “But that’s not my focus going into games.

“I just try and get into as many battles as I can, make as many tackles as I can, make sure I set the maul properly if that’s my job.

“I just try and do the industrial work first, my other abilities will come naturally. In terms of my best, I’m not there yet and I am still working hard.

“The road to recovery was tough, but I had the best rehab and support I could get here at the Sharks in Dean Macquet [head physio] and Jimmy Wright [head biokineticist]. But it was a helluva road,” Notshe said.

In terms of fixing the disgraceful finishing shown in their last match, when they spent much of the game in the Edinburgh 22 but could only score one try, Notshe said you needed to look at individual errors, which can only be fixed on the training field.

“Our conversion rate in the 22 has not been great, we know how to get there but we just can’t finish off our opportunities.

“It comes down to individual errors and we need to clean up our own personal games. You can only do that through time in the saddle, on the training pitch. We need to put ourselves in those situations over and over again.

“And you can never make the weather an excuse. We’re playing at home, in front of our people, so we must always have energy. We can control that but we can’t control the weather.

“We don’t want to be a side that makes excuses and you can’t wait for a sunny day in Durban. We must always express ourselves,” Notshe said.

Faf batting with same class, but same situation remains with Proteas 0

Posted on April 22, 2022 by Ken

Former Proteas captain Faf du Plessis continues to bat with the same class and explosiveness as he showed in his first match as skipper of the Bangalore Royal Challengers at the weekend, but his team suffered the same fate as they always seem to when they put a big total on the board – losing by five wickets with a full over to spare against the Punjab Kings in the Indian Premier League.

Du Plessis changed gears superbly in his innings as his 88 off 57 balls took Bangalore to 205/2 in Mumbai. Opening the batting, the 37-year-old only scored 17 runs off his first 30 balls in seamer-friendly conditions, but two sixes and a four off West Indian paceman Odean Smith in the 13th over took him to his half-century off 41 balls. He plundered 38 runs from his next 16 deliveries, adding 118 in 10 overs with Virat Kohli (41* off 29).

But then, in a recurring theme for Bangalore, their bowlers let them down.

As usual when Du Plessis is the star of the day, in what is still though a domestic league, his display led to plenty of questions over why the Proteas have not chosen him since he retired from Test cricket in February 2021.

The current situation is that Du Plessis is technically available for white-ball cricket, but it is difficult to rely on him at national level because his first priority is playing as a T20 free agent in the leagues around the world. Du Plessis wants a contract to play for South Africa, but CSA cannot afford to contract a player who is only available to them some of the time and in only one format.

Last year Du Plessis said he was taking a sabbatical from ODI cricket in order to concentrate on T20 cricket with World Cups being played in 2021 and this year. He has since made no mention of his ODI availability.

So it would seem Du Plessis has had his day in the Proteas shirt.

Budaza wishes he had not been playing cricket on 27/10/13 … but that day spurs him on to greater heights 0

Posted on October 12, 2020 by Ken

Knights pace bowler Mbulelo Budaza wishes he had not been playing cricket on October 27, 2013, but the awful tragedy that happened that day continues to spur him on to greater heights in his cricket career.

Budaza, then a 20-year-old playing for the University of Fort Hare in Alice, bowled a bouncer to Old Selbornians batsman Darryn Randall. The former Border representative tried to hook the delivery, missed and was struck a fatal blow below the eye, a freak and unimaginable accident because Randall was wearing a helmet.

The 32-year-old collapsed immediately and never regained consciousness. Amidst the horror and utter grief of the tragedy, Randall’s family forgave and offered support to the young Budaza, and said they wanted to see him rise up and go on to play for the Proteas one day.

“My grief for that day will never end, I could not believe it happened, I never stop thinking about it. But it means I badly want to succeed in my cricket career, because of the support I received from his family and mine, and from people like Greg Hayes and Mfuneko Ngam, plus Prince Dabula, the varsity psychologist.

“The Randall family said to Greg that they wanted to see me go on and play for the Proteas, they said it to motivate me and they have been very supportive. That pushes me and I’m very happy with the success I’ve had so far and I’m going to work even harder towards that goal,” Budaza says.

And an audit of Budaza’s career shows that it has certainly been onwards and upwards for the left-arm quick, who has now bowled himself into genuinely being in the conversation for higher honours.

He has been particularly effective in 50-over cricket and from 2015/16 to the 2018/19 season he played 43 games for the Knights and took 54 wickets at an average of 28.12 and an economy rate of 5.45 runs-per-over. And then last season was his real breakthrough campaign as he was the joint leading wicket-taker with Knights team-mate Shaun von Berg in the Momentum One-Day Cup, taking 18 wickets at an average of just 16.27 and an economy rate of only 4.71 as the Central Franchise reached the semi-finals before the season was cancelled due to Covid-19.

“It was a good season after a tough one the year before when everything just seemed to slow down, it was a struggle, I bowled a lot of no-balls and I just didn’t have good rhythm. But I was chuffed to come back strong and I felt very privileged to play so well, thanks to my team-mates’ support. The work I did with our new head coach Allan Donald was the first reason for my comeback and it was an honour for me to work with him. He changed some technical stuff and helped me a lot.

“I’m not really thinking about playing for the Proteas, although that is my dream. My focus is on winning games for the Knights and whatever comes from that will come. If I do well for them again this coming season then hopefully I will get a look-in with the SA A side, but I just have to make sure I am in form and winning games for the Knights.”

The lanky Budaza comes from the Eastern Cape cricket nursery that just keeps rolling out highly talented fast bowlers, but he is not so much an offshoot of township cricket as a product of the rural game.

“I was born in the farming district of Manley Flats and that’s where my cricket started. My first game was when I was watching my cousins play and they were one man short so they called me to help. I grew up playing on the streets and I was always tall. I played for the Willows Club [who Makhaya Ntini used to play for] because there was no cricket at my primary or high school, until in Grade X I got a scholarship to Woodridge College from Grade XI.

“Playing for the Willows Club in Grahamstown, Christo Esau, the Eastern Province provincial coach, and Piet Botha, the head coach –took me to Port Elizabeth for academy trials and I worked with them. Woodridge then said they wanted me and I did not hesitate because I wanted to play cricket,” Budaza explains.

Woodridge College is a private school situated between Port Elizabeth and Jeffreys Bay, so Budaza’s first provincial recognition came with the Eastern Province rural team.

“In 2010, I was chosen for the EP Rural team to go to Kimberley for the Senior Rural Cricket Week. That was a big thing for me, there is talent there and a lot of it is not recognised. So I didn’t take it for granted. I had two options after matric, to go to Fort Hare or the Eastern Province academy. I chose Fort Hare because as a bowler, to have Mfuneko Ngam as a coach would be brilliant. We worked very hard and we got very close, I was very fortunate to have him as a coach.”

Rural cricket is what used to be called Country Districts and it not only highlights the game being played in great spirit but also exposes the considerable talent that exists away from the cities. Leon Coetzee is the president of Rural Cricket South Africa and he says they desperately need more support especially after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I consistently argue that some unions are not spending enough to improve the quality of the many rural clubs in their area, to help them with coaching of coaches and better administration. SA Rural should have more to spend on developing talent, people like Ferisco Adams of Boland and Diego Rosier from Northern Cape came from rural areas and a couple of Black African stars like Mbulelo Budaza came through from Country Districts to get franchise contracts.

“If they didn’t play rural cricket then they would not have been noticed. There’s a massive amount of undiscovered rural talent, but South African cricket is focused more on the semi-pros and franchises. I have approached unions to see how we can improve relations and Covid could have a damning effect on the sustainability of many rural clubs, especially if we can only start playing next year,” Coetzee says.

In terms of style, Budaza is reminiscent of Lonwabo Tsotsobe, the last Black African left-arm quick to play Test cricket for South Africa, and although they do not come from the same community, the former number one ranked bowler in one-day international cricket is also a product of the Eastern Cape.

“They called me ‘Lopsy’ at Woodridge and we had these warm-up T-shirts and my number was also 68. The first time I watched the Proteas play live was an ODI against India in Port Elizabeth in 2011 and Tsotsobe took the first two wickets for South Africa. He was not quick but he got bounce and had a beautiful action. He was my early role-model.” Despite his talents, Budaza only played two first-class, four List A and one T20 game in two seasons with Border. But in a sign of his determination to succeed, he decided his cricket dreams should not suffer one of those long, slow deaths in a relative backwater, even if it was close to home, and he signed for Northern Cape ahead of the 2015/16 season. By that December he was making his Knights debut.

“But I did not get too many semi-pro opportunities with Border, and then Northern Cape signed me, with JP Triegaardt, who is also a very good coach, very active and works you hard,” Budaza says. “The call-up from the Knights was a surprise because I’d only been there a month or two. My first game was against the Cobras and they had all their Proteas back, bowling to guys like Hashim Amla and JP Duminy made me nervous, I had seen them on TV and now I was playing against them. But cricket is cricket so I changed nothing, I just tried to bowl in a good area for as long as possible.”

And the occasion was not too big for him as three of his first five overs were maidens.

Like Tsotsobe, Budaza is a skilful bowler, but he does not believe in bringing a whole backpack of tricks into play, preferring rather to squeeze the batsmen into submission.

“Playing a lot of cricket in Kimberley and Bloemfontein, you’ve got to be clever as a bowler and make sure your skills are up. You have to make sure you are fit and don’t get tired, because then the batsmen will punish you. Whenever I get the ball, I just try to do the right thing for the team. I’m not really chasing wickets, I try to contain and not concede runs whatever happens. But I can be aggressive if I need to be,” Budaza explains.

The member of the South African Emerging Players squad epitomises the Jewish word “Chutzpah” and the words of psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl certainly ring true in Budaza’s case “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Mbulelo Budaza has already overcome significant challenges and is growing rapidly into one of the country’s most exciting bowlers, as well as being, in coach Donald’s words: “nothing but a brilliant human being, it’s amazing how he has got himself up and made something of himself”.

Allan Donald sidebar

Allan Donald had a phenomenal record as a fast bowler and has built up a huge reputation as a bowling coach. In his new position as Knights head coach, he describes Mbulelo Budaza as being a larger-than-life character with a big work ethic.

“He’s been a solid performer for a while and is eager to learn, he tries really hard to execute whatever you’re working on and is a careful listener, before going away to do his drills on his own, he gets on with it. On his day he can swing the ball beautifully, but on some other days the wrist is not quite right and we’re working really hard on rectifying that.

“But he is a lovely character who everyone likes. A funny guy, the room lights up when he’s in it, Mbulelo is a terrific person, when I was consulting we connected very well and he’s a superstar in the making, one of the dependables. What sets him apart is that he stays competitive.

“He’s definitely got a bit more pace than Tsotsobe, but Lopsy used to swing it around corners and really late too. Mbulelo is still working on that side, but sometimes he’s fighting against that naughty wrist. But that can work in his favour because the batsman starts thinking about why it’s not swinging back in … ” Donald said.

“But he can make it move the other way and that’s why he’s so hard to face – he’s unpredictable. I tell him to just keep on faking it on those bad wrist days. But he keeps breaking partnerships on flat pitches, he has golden spells but he also just keeps plugging away. This is going to be a big season for him.”

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    Mark 7:8 – “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

    Our foundation must be absolute surrender, devotion and obedience to God, rising from pure love for him. Jesus Christ must be central in all things and his will must take precedence over the will of people, regardless of how well-meaning they may be.

    Surrender yourself unconditionally to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then you will be able to identify what is of man with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Then you will be able to serve – in love! – according to God’s will.

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