Thumbs up for cricket merger

By TONY WHITE

THE Clarence River Cricket Association (CRCA) and Coffs Harbour District Cricket Association (CHDCA) are considering a merger for season 2006-07.

The bold new concept arose following impromptu discussions between respective Association presidents, Jeff Hackett (CRCA) and Ken Robinson (CHDCA).

Combining the two competitions in first grade only is seen as a means to inject some much needed interest into local cricket in both areas, ensure quality games and help shore up the sport's future.

"I spoke to Ken last year during a representative match on behalf of the CRCA and as Coffs are in the same boat as us with limited numbers ? they have five local sides plus Dorrigo-Belingen to make up their competition ? we both agreed there was merit in discussing it further," Hackett said.

"Since then they (CHDCA) have had a committee meeting and a fair few positives came from that.

"The plan is to have a meeting of our local club executive, captains and one other person from each club to sit down and discuss the issues involved prior to holding a combined meeting with Coffs Harbour at Woolgoolga RSL in mid-February.

"There are a lot of matters to discuss. Hopefully we can all sit down and come up with some common ground."

Hackett stressed the second and third grade competitions in the CRCA would remain unchanged as would the Interdistrict competition.

Hackett admitted the local Premier League competition was in need of strengthening and a plan to ensure the code's future viability.

"I believe, and my views are supported by several other members of the executive, this would certainly strengthen cricket in Grafton," he said.

"It would provide a stronger competition, possible with 10 teams, and looks the way to go.

"I imagine it would also prove more attractive to sponsors.

"Soccer went the same way and it's been very workable.

"With East dropping out of first grade this season the other teams are playing each other too often and there is a bye each week.

"Several years back there were discussions opened with Lower Clarence to combine and again last season when Kevin Styles had a plan in place. They (Lower) didn't want to go on with it.

"Around 10 years ago the local competition was strong, but it has dwindled. We need to improve and move forward."

Reaction from captains and leading players of Premier League teams was generally positive towards a merged competition next season.

"I certainly think something needs to be done locally," Tucabia-Copmanhurst captain Damien Rouse said.

"If it's going to strengthen local cricket, good. We are going backwards at the moment.

"Cricket here can be a bit dull and anything that can get people interested in playing and watching cricket again is a benefit."

Star Westlawn all rounder Andrew Firth said there was 'good and bad' in the plan.

"Playing a lot better quality cricket every week is certainly a plus, but the downside is it means a lot more travelling for us and them (Coffs), particularly Harwood.

"Both times Lower have been involved they've shown they are not interested, maybe we have to look at Coffs. The local competition is stagnant. With all the best players playing that has got to make for a better competition."

South Services club president and first grader Jason Thompson thought it was a "great idea.

"It will only make our cricket stronger playing against new teams. Take Harwood out of our competition and we've only got four sides. It can't keep going the way it's going.

"You've got to have the quality players and for one reason or another there are not enough youngters playing grade cricket. They need a chance and something to aspire to."

Harwood's Tim McMahon was keeping an open mind on the subject.

"The CRCA does need an injection, no doubt," McMahon said.

"With us, the distance problem is difficult and might knock us out. A lot of our first graders have work and junior cricket commitments on Saturday mornings".



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