Cricket merger mooted

CRICKET

The Latrobe Valley’s two cricket associations could become one in a radical shake-up which would see teams competing across two divisions complete with promotion and relegation.

The proposed changes follow a review of cricket in the region conducted by representatives of the Traralgon and District and Central Gippsland cricket associations and overseen by an independent chairperson, facilitator and governance advisor.

A discussion and consultation paper released as part of the review recommends the two associations merge and play the coming season under the current structure before merging to form the Latrobe Valley Cricket Association.

The proposed merger needs the support of 75 per cent of clubs from both associations to go ahead and if adopted would result in some form of promotion and relegation being adopted.

Latrobe Valley Cricket Review Committee member Tim Darby said the premise of the proposed system was “the strong clubs at any one time get to compete against each other and the developing clubs get to compete against teach other”.

“There’s obviously different ideas about how you initially structure that and clubs have to look at – if it goes ahead – they have to look at what it looks like in five years (time) for their club,” Darby said.

“If you’re good enough at that point in time you’re playing and if you’re not you have to go back to the second tier to push up.”

Members of the review committee will meet with representatives from the two leagues next week to discuss the proposal.

“That’ll be the first phase of the consultation part where we’ll answer questions and take some feedback and meet with clubs individually if they want to do that,” Darby said.

The report identifies three potential models for Saturday cricket and following the consultation a final model will be presented for clubs to vote on.

The first model features promotion and relegation between a Premier League and a Division One in all three grades of senior cricket.

Eight teams would compete in the first grade Premier League and would play seven one-day and seven two-day matches.

The top four would play finals with the bottom two relegated at the end of the season.

The first grade Premier League would feature 10-12 teams with a playing structure that mirrored the Premier League.

At the end of the season the minor premier and the next highest after finals would be promoted.

This model would feature promotion and relegation across all three grades of cricket.

The second model would restrict promotion and relegation to the firsts and seconds, with the thirds to play in separate divisions along TDCA and CGCA boundaries.

Under a third option, the two tier structure would be restricted to first grade with other grades playing across the old league lines.

A working party would also be established to assess the viability of a women’s competition in the new association and to boost the region’s participation in the Gippsland Women’s Cricket League.

Morwell is the only club which features a women’s team in the GWCL, with CATS failing in its attempts to get a side up last season.

But the proposal doesn’t have unanimous support, with TDCA administrator Gavin Foenander saying the proposal offers “minimal benefits” to his league.

“We have a set a really good standard, we’ve been very innovative and we’re always looking to benefit ourselves,” Foenander said.

“To me, I think it would be a backwards step to suddenly merge where the possibility of five or so Traralgon clubs would then then be playing in a new division to what they are now.”

He said the TDCA offered players a “compact” competition along its existing boundaries with six Traralgon clubs and five clubs in surrounding towns from Yinnar to Toongabbie.

But he said he would accept the new structure if it was approved.

“If the eight or more clubs (of the TDCA) think this is the way, then… fantastic,” Foenander said.

“I’ve always said it should be the clubs that decide these things.”

A proposed combined Latrobe Valley cricket association would aim to capitalise on the popularity of Twenty20 cricket with an FA Cup-style tournament which would end with a night grand final on the eve of Australia Day.

Establishing the T20 tournament is identified as a key priority in a report conducted by the Traralgon and District and Central Gippsland cricket associations which proposes the two organisations merge.

The proposed tournament follows a modified version of the T20 Tonk competition run by the TDCA earlier this year which was successful in drawing spectators to the grounds.

Tim Darby, a TDCA representative on the committee which drew up the report, said the proposed new association could not afford to ignore the format.

“It’s the fastest growing and most popular format of the game, you’can’t ignore it because traditionalists don’t like it,” Darby said.

“Traralgon had a really successful T20 Tonk-style tournament last season.”

The league would complement Saturday cricket and would give all 23 clubs in the proposed association an opportunity to field a team.

Clubs would be divided into pools of three with games played as a triple header on the last Sunday before the Christmas break.

The winner of each pool would progress to quarter finals, which would be played as two sets of double headers on the second Sunday of cricket after matches resume in January.

Semi-finals would be played on the weekend before Australia Day either under lights on the Friday night or in the afternoon on the Sunday.

The report also raises the possibility of a separate Saturday T20 competition which would run alongside traditional one and two-day cricket in a bid to lure former players back to the sport.

“There’s a lot of ex-cricketers or soccer players who don’t want to be committed on every Saturday of the summer,” Darby said.

“The idea being that there’s the potential for a lot of clubs to easily fill a side in a shortened season (of) eight or 10 games.”

The proposed Saturday T20 league would be primarily played on hard wickets and designed not to compete with traditional Saturday cricket.

Darby said players would only have to commit three hours of their Saturday to playing.