THERE was controversy on the last day of the Victorian Country Cricket League’s Melbourne Country Week competition on Friday when doubt was cast over the shape of the competition next year.
And all because the powerhouse team of the Provincial competition, Geelong, was left in the relegation window, not only after being thumped on day one by Ballarat but also because bad weather and the condition of wickets robbed them of a chance to redeem themselves.
However, instead of the winners of Division Two Leongatha and runners-up Bairnsdale being automatically promoted to Division One (Provincial) next year, VCCL officials were hedging their bets on Friday.
President of Gippsland Cricket Region 7, George Munro, made rumours official of a possible 10-team competition in the Provincial Division next year, not the traditional eight, allegedly to accommodate Geelong and the other association in the drop zone, Traralgon, at the award presentations after the Leongatha versus Bairnsdale final in Division Two.
It was immediately decried as foul play by officials from both Leongatha and Bairnsdale.
Manager of the LDCA team, Kristian Gray, told Munro the idea was ridiculous.
“It’s always been an eight-team competition. That’s what we play for,” he said.
“Geelong and Traralgon have got to go down.
The Bairnsdale captain agreed.
“Hope to see you in Provincial next year and leaving it as an eight-team competition.
Mr Munro had indicated the VCCL was looking at three divisions next year of 10, 10 and eight teams.
He said the week had been made very difficult for teams and officials by the weather and unavailability of grounds.
He gave special thanks to the officials of the Kingston Hawthorn Cricket Club which prepared the Parkdale oval for Friday’s final.
By finishing second on the Division Two ladder, Leongatha had to play on Friday to win the week.
They set up their victory with an impressive effort in the field, restricting Bairnsdale to 158 off 44.5 overs including a pesky 31 runs for the last wicket before Jack Gaskill, stumped Wal Taberner for 22 runs.
Leongatha looked to be coasting to victory at various stages in their chase, when Sahan Perera 24 and Daniel Mock 34 were at the crease and in the middle stages, when Amila Ratnaike smashed three sixes and a four.
But two runouts cost Leongatha any chance of a comfortable chase and it was down to “the best number 11” in the business Tim Wightman and Jack Ginnane, with three well-timed boundaries, to get them over the line.
Regardless of what cricket’s officialdom comes up with, Leongatha will be promoted to Provincial next year and LDCA manager Kristian Gray believes they go in with real prospects of victory.
“If we can keep this team together, we’ll certainly be competitive or better. I’m going to keep going to Country Week until we win Provincial,” he declared.
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