Mid North Coast Cricket Council president Gordon Cross has put the success of the start of the Mid North Coast McDonalds Premier League down to the cooperation of all clubs that have helped establish the competition.
As the competition breaks for Christmas and New Year, Gordon has reflected on why the new format is working for all Manning, Hastings and Maclaey based sides.
“First half of the season has progressed well thanks to all the clubs’ cooperation in establishing the league,” he said.
“I am very pleased with the way the clubs and players have conducted themselves in making this new competition happen.”
He said that all players and umpires have been “rejuvenated” by a more competitive competition since the merger of the former Manning, Hastings and Macleay first grade cricket competitions.
“To me now players and clubs are being challenged more to be better, and what club or player for that fact wouldn't want to be part of history in winning the first McDonalds Premier Cricket League trophy,” Gordon said.
Gordon said he is amazed by the quality of the competition which sees Macquarie on top with 43 points, closely followed by Wingham on 38 points and Wauchope RSL, Nulla and Rovers on 34 points.
United and Port City are right behind on 33, followed by Taree West on 28 and the Pirates on 14.
“Winning matches from now until the end of the season is vital to the top eight of the nine clubs,” he said.
“Port Panthers Pirates are yet to win a match (but) they have a very young team and will be better for the competition come next season.”
Gordon said the extra travel doesn’t seem to be an issue for players and the later start time of 1.30pm on Saturdays has helped.
Gordon can’t look passed the form that Macquarie captain Josh Hyde is in this season and said he is paving the way to be named player of the year.
Josh is a consistent run scorer and is the pick of the competition’s bowlers with 19 wickets.
He also identified big hitting Rovers batsmen Danny Powick who has the only ton so far this season,
Port City’s Jesse Schmidt, Taree West captain Josh Meldrum, United’s Murray McCartney and Pirates young gun Jared Humphreys as the strongest batsmen.
Wauchope’s Anthony Brown, Nulla’s Ben Taylor, Taree West’s Ryan Williams and United’s Sam Whitbread have also impressed Gordon with the ball.
Whitbread is set to leave a hole in the United bowling attack after moving away from the area to join the army.
An opportunity for juniors
Mid North Coast Cricket Council secretary Craig Lobegeier said the Premier League competition has allowed for more junior players to be exposed to an elite competition at an earlier age.
At just 14, Port Pirates batsman Jared Humphreys is already creating attention after falling just four runs shy of a century in round seven against Wingham.
Connor Cook, Charles Adnum and Jackson Horn are others who are relishing the opportunity to play in the region’s top competition.
Under the old format, they wouldn’t have had this opportunity at quality cricket, Craig said.
He is also happy with the strong start to the season.
“It took a long time to get to this stage and it’s exceeded expectations,” he said.
“Teams that looked good on paper have been challenged while the ones that didn’t look as strong are doing well which is great to see.”
He added that the standard of cricket across the competition is “only going to get better.”
Craig also highlighted the friendships players are making through travelling to new areas to play.
In one such instance, Rovers and Port City Leagues shared a drink after their game earlier in the season.
He thanked all sponsors for their support, David Burley for his work on the council and all the clubs for their co-operation with the cricket council.
The competition resumes on January 13 when Taree West and United will face off in the local derby.
Wingham will travel to play Wauchope RSL, Port City League take on the Pirates and the Rovers will play Nulla.