CRICKET: It was far from a unanimous vote but the decision was final: two grades will be merged for the upcoming cricket season.
At an extraordinary Clarence River Cricket Association meeting, clubs voted to merge second and third grade after a shortage of teams nominated for the second grade competition.
With only two weeks to go before the season begins, CRCA needed to make a decision on its format for 2017/18.
CRCA vice-president Andrew McLachlan said second and third grade would now merge into a combined one-day competition.
For finals, the top four teams will split into second grade and the remaining teams will become third grade.
Not every club agreed with the merger, but there was an understanding at the meeting that something needed to be done.
"We didn't have a huge amount of time to think about it, but we have an idea of what will work for this year,” McLachlan said.
"Now, it's all about making the sport more attractive and making it easier for people who have family and work commitments.
"There were a lot of discussions for plans for next year.
"With Premier League, we need to have it as it's the top tier, we need to have a strong second grade competition and a third grade competition to help feed that top tier.
"We need to look at ways to increase our numbers.”
Finding ways to encourage people to play the sport will be one of the biggest things McLachlan and CRCA president Tim Kinnane aim to tackle in the coming year.
"It is a big role, it's a big thing to deal with, looking at next year, there is a lot of good positive ideas on the table,” McLachlan said.
One option is a 20/20 third grade competition next year to encourage people with less time to play.
Another option is another mid-week competition, if fields can be found.
"Family and work commitments trump recreational activities,” McLachlan said.
"We've got to tailor the packages to be more enticing to people.”
McLachlan's own club, Coutts Crossing, is impacted by the decision, with it deciding to field a Premier League side and a second grade team.
Before the meeting, Coutts was to field only second and third grade teams due to the loss of several leading players in the offseason.
"We were looking at a rebuilding year with a loss of players... but we decided to bite the bullet and get back into first grade,” McLachlan said.
The CRCA season will start on Saturday, October 7.