MANNING Cricket officials will speak with the Great Lakes club in a bid to increase the number of sides in first grade next season.
The 2016/17 competition started last Saturday. Only four sides will again contest first grade and Manning Cricket secretary Gordon Cross said this is both disappointing and a concern.
“We’ve got five teams in second grade – one less than last season, and eight in third grade,’’ he said.
“We're bottom heavy.’’
Two of the four first grade teams – United and Taree West, are based in Taree with Old Bar and Wingham the other two. Mr Cross said the Great Lakes is the only other area in Manning Cricket’s boundaries that could sustain a first grade team.
Great Lakes haven't played first grade in recent seasons. However, the club has been among the front runners in the second grade competition and were grand finalists last summer.
Great Lakes started the new second grade season off with a crushing win over United at Cundletown. United batted first and made a competitive 189. However, Great Lakes lost just one wicket in the run chase, with Jay Withers remaining 85 not out and Liam Simpson 73 not out.
Mr Cross has no doubt the club would field a competitive first grade side with this season’s second grade roster.
“They’ll probably be in the second grade final this season,’’ he said.
“The majority of the side has been together since they were about 15. There’s some good young players there who should be playing first grade.’’
While they might lack experience, Mr Cross pointed out that Old Bar first grade side this season is captained by 19-year-old Blake Polson and contains up to three members of last summer’s premiership winning under 16 side.
Mr Cross said one option open to the association is to grade the entire Great Lakes second grade team into firsts. However, he assured the executive will be talking to the Great Lakes hierarchy before any decision is made.
One current first grade player, speaking confidentially to the Times, believes the Forster-Tuncurry area should be represented in first grade.
“There are some good young players out there,’’ the player said.
“They’re not going to improve by playing second grade.’’
Mr Cross said the loss of last season’s second grade premiers Hallidays Point was an unexpected blow. The club initially nominated a side defend the title.
“The majority of the side has had to leave the area for work,’’ Mr Cross explained.
“If the players aren’t there you can’t pick them.’
Meanwhile the Mid North Coast T20 championship will be played at the Chatham Park on Sunday.
Manning. Macleay and Hastings will be involved.
This will also act as a selection trial for the Macquarie Coast Stingers side for the Plan B Regional Bash – the NSW Country-wide T20 competition inaugurated by Cricket NSW last year that culminates in the final at the SCG.
Macquarie will play the Tamworth-based Northern Inland Bolters at Port Macquarie's Wayne Richards Oval on Sunday October 30 from 2pm in the opening round of the competition.