FOR the first time since 2001 Manning Cricket's first grade grand final will not be played at the Johnny Martin Oval next weekend.
United will now play the winner of this weekend's Old Bar/Wingham final at Chatham Park to decide the 2013/14 premier.
This is because the Martin Oval - Manning Cricket's traditional headquarters, has been booked by the AFL Auskick - a junior AFL program, for Sunday March 29. Auskick has been based at the Martin Oval since its inception in Taree two years ago.
Manning Cricket president David Burley explained that the association could only book the Martin Oval for the first two weekends in March under Greater Taree City Council policy. However, there generally isn't a problem with securing the oval for the first grade cricket grade final.
Mr Burley concedes the association didn't take into consideration the Auskick program starting in late March. But Mr Burley said his association hasn't approached Auskick about the possibility of moving off the ground for the day to allow the grand final to be played at the Martin Oval.
He stressed the Auskick organisers have done nothing wrong.
"We're not trying to make any enemies here,'' he said.
Mr Burley said all clubs were made aware of the situation at the most recent meeting of the association.
"The vote was put to play the grand final at the home ground of the winning team in the major semi-final,'' he said.
"All clubs voted that way. If there'd been any dissenters then we would have looked into it.''
Mr Burley said the Martin Oval wicket has been extensively used this year and this has impacted on the standard of the wicket.
"It's copped a flogging,'' he said.
The Martin Oval will also be fenced and Mr Burley hopes that if the cricketers aren't using the ground it might speed up this process.
This will be the first time Chatham Park has hosted a grand final. There is limited parking in the area and no covered seating but Mr Burley is confident that the park will be an adequate venue.
"We'll get a big crowd there - we'll have a barbecue going. It'll be fine,'' he said.
He'll be playing in the grand final with the United side.
He was also president the last time the grand final was moved from the Martin Oval back in 2000/01. He was also involved in the game as a member of the Harrington team. On this occasion Harrington played Taree Leagues at Cedar Party Reserve at Wingham.
Harrington won the match.
Ironically AFL played a role in that decision.
The association moved all matches away from the Martin Oval because of problems with the wicket following a string of low scores early in the season. This followed a wet winter when the oval was used by the now defunct Taree Hornets in the North Coast AFL competition.
"In my opinion the AFL club has played on the ground when it was too wet,'' Mr Burley, then in his first term as association president, told the Times on Friday November 10 2000.
This was strenuously denied by Hornets president Greg Trevaskis, then the general manager of Greater Taree City Council.
This weekend's first grade final will be at Old Bar.