STICKY WICKET: The unavailability of Ellem Oval is the focus of frustation for organisers of the CHS cricket carnival.
STICKY WICKET: The unavailability of Ellem Oval is the focus of frustation for organisers of the CHS cricket carnival. Bill North

GROUND TO A HALT: Tournament organisers miss out on top oval

CRICKET: Organisers of a prestigious high school competition to be played in the Clarence Valley for the first time are disappointed Grafton's premier oval won't be available for the carnival.

Organisers of the CHS open boys cricket carnival said the tournament is due to be played in Grafton in the first week of November but the town's main ground, Ellem Oval, will be out of action with resurfacing works planned.

One of the carnival's volunteer organisers, Gary Nichols, said he was disappointed with Clarence Valley Council for repeatedly delaying the start of the works.

Nichols said minutes from Clarence Valley Sports Council meetings show the works were originally scheduled to start in early 2019 but had been put back first to August, then October and now November.

Nichols said he had spoken with council staff and a councillor about the delay and was less than satisfied with their responses.

Frustrated, he has written letters to the council complaining "they (staff) have been unprofessional and appear to have no interest in a carnival that will attract over 300 cricket enthusiasts to Grafton".

The council's director works and civil, Troy Anderson, dismissed the criticism.

"Our staff and organisation has worked with the organiser of this event to ensure that our fields are able to cater for the carnival's requirements," Anderson wrote in reply.

"In fact, it was only yesterday that the organiser requested a number of games be moved to fields that are further away from Grafton than they were initially planned upon.

"A number of our staff, including the general manager, have responded to your repeated inquiries and requests regarding the use of Ellem Oval and have advised you of the unavailability and planned works at this site."

Nichols said the unavailability of Ellem Oval was no threat to the tournament going ahead as games could be played on Yamba Oval, which gave organisers the full complement of five grounds.

But he said it was a bad look for the city that its "showcase" ground could not be used for such a prestigious carnival.

Ellem Oval will however be used later this month when Grafton hosts the under-14 and under-15 NSW cricket state carnivals.

Nichols said council could then delay the resurfacing works on the ground until mid-November to allow the CHS carnival access to the ground.

A spokesman for the Clarence River Cricket Association said it was unaware of the CHS carnival but had no problem with the unavailability of the ground from the beginning of October.

Association media officer Andrew McLachlan said both the CRCA and the junior association, the CRJCA, had factored in the planned works at the ground.

He said the work at Ellem Oval has been booked in for more than eight months.

"We have under-14 and under-15 state carnivals for Cricket NSW coming to town at the end of September and early October," he said.

"Bruce Whitehouse, the event co-ordinator, had known about the work on Ellem Oval for eight months, which is how long these carnivals have been in planning for."

He said the CRCA and the NSW Country Cricket were not aware of the CHS carnival being played in the Clarence.

"There's not much we can do to help if we're not made aware of it," McLachlan said.

"It's unfortunate these things happen but council has had contractors booked in to do these works on Ellem Oval for about eight months."

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