By LIAM DURKIN
COVID wreaked even more havoc than usual as local cricket returned for the 2022 component of the 2021/22 season last month.
With cases surging across the state, clubs in the Latrobe Valley and District Cricket League and the Traralgon District Cricket Association found themselves absolutely decimated of playing stocks.
Players who had either tested positive or were awaiting results could not be selected, meaning in some cases, clubs had to scramble to find players in order to fill teams.
While clubs generally had enough players to bring up to the first grade team, the real challenge was getting teams on the park for the lower grades, which became a case of finding genuine fill-ins or ‘mates of a mate’ to help out.
Rovers in the TDCA reportedly had an entire team worth of players that couldn’t play, while Gormandale and Glengarry had around five that were unable to be selected.
The TDCA has informed member clubs they need to fill their A Grade first and foremost, while a degree of leniency will be given to the lower grades if it is clear clubs cannot field a team due to COVID.
To avoid any potential to manipulate points or ladder positions, clubs will need to provide significant proof COVID has affected their ability to select players.
If this is proven and teams have to forfeit, points will be split between the opposing teams.
In the LVDCL, the majority of clubs reported player shortages due to isolation or pending results.
Latrobe had five players across the club unavailable, while Morwell, Centrals, Moe, Raiders and Jeeralang-Boolarra had between two and four.
Trafalgar faced the incredibly bizarre situation of finding itself so desperate it needed to bring Jacob Baldassa, who had not even played a game of cricket in six years, into the A Grade team.
For Baldassa, who has lived in Brazil for the last three years and came back to Trafalgar to play a token game in C Grade before he flew back out – playing a game in the firsts was surely the furthest thing from his mind.
The current COVID situation looks to be very much a week-to-week proposition for clubs, who will have to think on the run to an extent and navigate as best they can with whatever players they have to choose from.
Things could get very interesting come finals time, as there is a good chance the team that wins a semi-final could be forced to make half-a-dozen changes a few days later.
They say cricket is an impossible game to master, and given what is happening at the moment one could argue cricket administration is just as impossible.