Manning Cricket axes first grade grand final

Howzat: Wingham players celebrate taking a wicket in the recent clash against United.
Howzat: Wingham players celebrate taking a wicket in the recent clash against United.

MANNING Cricket Association has decided not to play a first grade grand final this season.

Association secretary Gordon Cross said there just isn’t time to fit in a game because of commitments with the Mid North Coast Premier League. He added the decision was made in consultation with the three Manning clubs involved in the premier league – Wingham, United and Taree West.

This will be the first time since World War II that there won’t be a Manning first grade (or A-grade) premier.

There had been some consideration to playing a Manning grand final between the two highest placed sides in the nine club premier league at the conclusion of the competition-proper.

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However, Mr Cross, who is also chairman of the Mid North Coast Cricket Council, said the premier league grand final is scheduled for the last week before Easter on March 24.

“That doesn't leave us time to organise a local grand final, particularly if we have sides involved deep into the (premier league) semi-finals,’’ he said.

Going into this weekend’s round Wingham sits in second place on the ladder with United third. Four sides will play in finals. Taree West is seventh, but still in contention for a berth in the playoffs.

“I think we’re going to have a photo finish,’’ Mr Cross said.

“Eight of the nine sides can still make the top four, so it's going to be close.’’

Mr Cross also questioned the value of playing a local grand final given all the focus is on the premier league.

Before the start of the competition United captain Ricky Campbell argued against playing a local grand final. Speaking on the Friday Sport Talk on the Manning River Times Facebook page, Campbell said he thought playing a localised grand final would be an anti-climax.

The premier league takes in clubs from the Manning, Hastings and Macleay associations and is in its inaugural season. It is run by the MNC Council.

“It’s been a bit of a learning curve but generally it’s going well,’’ Mr Cross said.

“We have a good, close competition and that’s an improvement to what we had here in the Manning A-grade, when we only had four sides involved.’’

However, Mr Cross added a decision will be made at Manning Cricket’s meeting later this month on whether to honour the A-grade major awards for Manning batsmen and bowlers at the association’s presentation based on performances in the premier league.

This would be for the batting aggregate and average and bowling aggregate and average. The premier league continues tomorrow following a general bye for the Australia Day weekend.