By Lance Jenkinson
Aura Vale Cricket Club has made a hasty exit from the West Gippsland Cricket Association.
The Lakers and the WGCA were locked in a bitter stoush on the eve of the season, which ended in the Lakers transferring to the Ferntree Gully and District Cricket Association on Monday night.
Fixtures were thrown into chaos and players’ immediate futures were left in limbo when the Lakers officially pulled out of the WGCA’s Sub-District division on 4 November.
In the two days following the Lakers e-mail to the league, some testy back and forth discussion between the club and the association took place.
It ultimately saw Aura Vale take their stance a step further and request to leave the WGCA permanently.
While there had been some dialogue between the Aura Vale hierarchy and WGCA president Bob Taylor in recent weeks about the club’s inability to compete in Sub-District, WGCA vice president Rob Hansen said the association had received nothing official in writing about the club’s decision to withdraw until 4 November – just 10 days out from this Saturday’s season opener.
However, Aura Vale vice president Paul Harman disputed the timeline, saying his club had e-mailed the WGCA two months ago to express their desire to pull out of Sub-District and have their first XI team placed in a lower grade, but never received a response.
“We sent them an email about two months ago to say we’ve lost a lot of players,” Harman said.
“We lost nine players from last year’s team.
“We just can’t field a team that would be strong enough, let alone be competitive in that grade, so it would’ve been embarrassing [to play at that level].
“They never got back to us.”
Hansen insists the first e-mail correspondence the WGCA received on the matter came last week.
He said the WGCA would have been happy to work through Aura Vale’s issues had it been given earlier notification of their intentions.
“If we had’ve been having a serious discussion with them indicating that this is what they were thinking about, we would’ve been able to negotiate with them, but we had the rug pulled from under our feet basically,” Hansen said.
“You haven’t got too much room to manoeuvre when something like that comes out of the blue.”
Aside from the inordinate amount of top-end players that exited Aura Vale in the off-season, the club is struggling financially.
The Lakers cannot compete in the player recruiting stakes because the money is simply not there.
With the WGCA reverting to a one-day only schedule this summer, the cost of changing from traditional red balls to white limited overs balls and the expense of coloured clothing would have severely impacted the Lakers.
“It’s quite a few thousand dollars to get the uniforms, get all the equipment and then most of those opposition clubs have spent $10,000 on players,” Harman said.
“They [the WGCA] know our financial situation and they didn’t care.
“They were like ‘bad luck’ and I’m like ‘you’ve got to be joking?’.
“With Covid-19, sponsors [dropping off], I thought they would’ve been accommodating, but everybody that they spoke to, our president, our treasurer, our secretary, myself, it was all just do as you’re told sort of thing.
“We said we’ve got to do what’s best for our club [and leave the competition].”
Aura Vale was removed from the draft Sub-District fixture with a bye inserted last week and Harman received confirmation over the weekend of the FTGCA including his club in its fixtures.
The WGCA clubs voted in favour of granting the Lakers a release to the FTGCA on Monday night.