Is an early start on the cards?

The WGCA is planning for an early November start. 227544 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Nick Creely

The West Gippsland Cricket Association is planning for an early-November start, with a mixture of two-day cricket involved this season.

While the target date is on the basis of vaccination rates and Victorian State Government restrictions at the time, the WGCA is planning for a season start date of Saturday, 6 November despite Cricket Victoria’s recommendations that associations plan for a start the following weekend.

WGCA president Rob Hansen said the decision was simple for himself and the senior cricket committee – they want to see cricketers back on the park as soon as possible.

“One of the things we’re looking for is to maximise the number of playing days this season,” he said.

“We could easily play 14 one day games which limits the number of weeks playing cricket. It is possible to play more than 14 days and have some two-day cricket. It’s what we’re attempting to do.”

Under the Cricket Victoria Community Cricket roadmap released last week, the recommendation was for one-day cricket to be played again, with permitted club training not expected to be allowed until 70 per cent double-dose vaccination rates, expected around the 26th of October. That then – vaccination rates permitting – would allow competitions to start from 5 November.

While it would mean a short pre-season, Hansen believes it’s important to get the ball rolling and to get back to playing the game, with opportunities prior to 26 October for cricketers to get practice outside of the club.

“The recommendation from CV is simply to have a one-day season again, so we’re trying to accommodate opinions I guess,” he said.

“It’s about addressing the balance between the draw.

“We feel it’s time to lead from the front rather than continually going backwards and forwards.”

The plan at this stage is for the WGCA to play one-day cricket until Christmas, before diving into five two-day games post-Christmas, with the possibility of one Saturday/Sunday fixture to maximise the number of available days.

Hansen believes that two-day cricket has an important place and will be embraced by clubs again, but admitted with the plan a clear and concise strategy must be put in place in case of a Covid outbreak in between a match forces players, clubs and close contacts to isolate.

“Nobody knows how this will work, we didn’t face it last season, we had one lockdown last year which was essentially a rain-affected weekend,” he said.

“We haven’t had to deal with outbreaks which impact a couple of clubs – we’ll develop a strategy. We don’t know whether it will impact a particular player having to quarantine, and whether that player can be replaced or if the whole team does. That needs to be clarified.

“Hopefully the roadmap will cover those contingencies. We’ll work with CV on that. There’s a lot of sharing across associations in Vicroria, so we won’t deal with that by ourselves.

“We’ll develop a process similar to that of the DDCA or MPCA.

“2020 was a one-off situation, so 2021 will hopefully be another one-off that won’t be repeated.”

On the vaccines and potential for it to be mandated to play this season, Hansen said they will continue to be guided by the State Government and Cricket Victoria, but like many sporting associations, reiterated that the easiest option right now is to go get the jab.

“In the long run, we’ll have to do what the State Government tells us – if it’s mandated, we don’t have a choice, simple as that,” he said.

“I think it will be a logistical nightmare to be honest – I can’t see how local clubs and associations will be able to cope with who is vaccinated and who is not.

“That’s not part of the make-up.”

Hansen said there is a meeting on Wednesday to go through the fixture and exact make-up of the season, as well as how clubs can appropriately enforce Covid restrictions at individual clubs and grounds this season.

“We’ll get some sort of reaction I suppose – we’re at a stage where we’ve communicated with clubs on numerous occasions. We’ve attempted to accommodate clubs as much as possible,” he said.

“We had Covid control in 2020, that was a mandated procedure – we had all the protocols and we’re expected to supervise on an individual basis, it was down to the individual clubs and down to the WGCA.

“Ultimately, there’s a limit to how much it can be individually supervised, and clubs have to take responsibility for their own actions.

“It generally worked well. The population generally accepts what needs to be done. Some people on the fringe believe they’re an exception to the rule, but that’s something I can’t speculate too much on.”