Opinion

Cricket shake-up on cards?

by
March 20, 2018

Euroa will push to be an A-grade team next season after claiming the B-grade flag at the weekend. But what if there was a Goulburn Valley Cricket League across the region with it's own promotion and relegation system?

And just like that, it is over.

Another cricket season has come and gone, with Katandra breaking a 65-year drought to claim the Haisman Shield and a well-deserved premiership triumph after missing out during the final weekend last year.

But before the dust had even settled at Deakin Reserve, discussions surrounding the next Cricket Shepparton season had already moved quickly through the gearbox into overdrive.

If most of the rumours and mutterings I heard at the weekend are to be believed, A-grade cricket not only in Shepparton, but also the wider Goulburn Valley, could be in for a massive shake-up.

One of the earliest editions of this column floated the idea of a promotion-relegation system for country football in the region.

The idea was not overly well received and the format that Musings put forward definitely needs a few tweaks.

But what if the system could work for cricket in the area?

As floated this weekend from a number of areas, the idea of a Goulburn Valley Cricket League — with two divisions and room for movement between them — could have some sort of merit.

Teams such as Nagambie, Nathalia and Waaia have been thrown up as possible inclusions into the Haisman Shield competition in the next few seasons, while Euroa is making a concerted push to move back into the top tier.

Euroa captain Brad Gleeson said as much after his side claimed the B-grade flag on Sunday.

‘‘We’d love to get to A-grade, that’s our aim,’’ he said.

‘‘Cricket Shepparton knocked us back at the start of the year, we were keen to go up, but didn’t win the grand final last year.

‘‘We’d need to add a bit to our batting, but we’d love dearly to go to A-grade and really compete.’’

Let me plug a disclaimer in here — aside from Euroa — there is no confirmation that the rumours surrounding any team wanting to join the A-grade competition are true, and this column is not attempting to substantiate them at all.

The fact stands that a number of discussions at the weekend surrounded the immediate future of Cricket Shepparton’s top tier, and as with any discussion topic it is always good to thrash the bones of it out.

So now that that is out of the way, let’s do just that.

What would a GVCL look like? How would it work? Who would be involved?

Here’s how I would set the new competition out.

A premier division of eight teams, followed by a second division of 10 teams, would make up the GVCL.

From there teams would play their second sides back in their own associations, where lower-grade standalone outfits would also likely remain.

Which teams make the jump from association cricket to the GVCL would be hard to define, but at this stage I believe an application process would work best.

Put your case forward and let a panel of judges decide, with recent results and new recruits certainly high on the agenda.

As for the actual top tiers, it should look something like this.

The premier division would play each other twice during the season, with a top four system (I am going to go with the Goulburn Valley Bowls Division model) in place.

Fifth and sixth placed teams would be safe from relegation, while seventh would receive the opportunity to fight for its survival — meaning the wooden spooner falls straight out.

The second division is obviously larger, meaning a similar fixture to the current Haisman Shield would suffice.

Even though it is not exactly my favourite system, the Cricket Shepparton top six finals series would remain, giving more teams the chance to play for a division two premiership and promotion.

The grand final winner would go straight up, but here is where it gets slightly tricky.

In my humble opinion, the losing grand finalist in division two should not automatically move up.

They should have to play the seventh-placed premier team in a Twenty20 or one-day fixture in order to decide the final make-up of the next season.

The playoff — along with the GVCL as a whole — would certainly create a spectacle, and bring cricketers in the region closer together in a high-grade competition.

It would improve the level of cricket everywhere, and give teams something to strive for whether they are in the top tier of their association or dwelling at the bottom of the premier or division two tables.

But how would it look if implemented next season?

It is always hard to draw a line, but I would start with the top eight teams of the Haisman Shield as the premier division sides.

That would mean Katandra, Numurkah, Kyabram, Central Park-St Brendan’s, Northerners, Tatura, Mooroopna and Karramomus would remain in the top level of cricket in the region.

Shepparton United and Old Students would then headline division two, with standalone B-grade teams Euroa and Undera also jumping in.

To start with you would them drag two teams from neighbouring associations to fill the remaining spots.

Nagambie, Seymour, Nathalia, Barooga (Deniliquin misses out due to travel constraints initially), Kyabram Fire Brigade and Rochester United would certainly make for enticing match ups.

Obviously there would be a lot of water to go under the bridge before any of this could even be possible.

But it is definitely only good for the game in the region to discuss anything that could improve already high standards.

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