By Jackson Russell

Cricket is set to return to regional Victoria after Cricket Victoria released its return to train and play plan on Friday.

Cricket Victoria has provided clubs with a 25-page document that spells out the necessary protocols for clubs to adhere to when training and playing with the slogan ‘Get in. Play. Get out.’.

Protocols include no sharing of equipment, including bats and helmets; and sanitising balls every 10 overs and when touched by someone other than a player, and leaving them at the base of the stumps between overs or after a wicket.

Players will also not be permitted to come together on the field and must observe the 1.5 metre social distancing rule where possible.

Gisborne and District Cricket Association has set Saturday, October 17 as its start date while Seymour District Cricket Association is hoping to commence before the end of October as it waits on clubs to receive council approval on COVID-safe plans.

With clubs split between regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne, the GDCA will begin its season with four rounds of one-day friendly matches between regional clubs, before teams from Hume and Melton councils are permitted to play when Melbourne moves to step three restrictions.

GDCA president Rob McIntyre said it was important the association had some form of competition while waiting for eased restrictions in Melbourne.

“Players are desperate to play sport after being starved of community competition for the past six months,” he said.

“Our clubs have already seen increased interest in people wanting to play cricket and this is reflected in the 73 senior teams nominated for this season, up from 66 last season”.

McIntyre said the association reduced its affiliation fees to help clubs struggling financially.

“The current guidelines restrict players from using change rooms and limit access to social facilities which will impact heavily on club revenue,” he said.

“Clubs will also see a potential loss of sponsorship as local businesses struggle financially. With this in mind, the association has significantly reduced its club affiliation fees to ensure clubs can survive during this period.”

The SDCA is taking a more careful approach, waiting on clubs to receive council permission to begin training and playing, as per Cricket Victoria’s plan, before setting a definitive date for the season to start.

SDCA president Ben Trezise said the association wanted to start as soon as possible and it would do all it could to assist clubs.

“With our competitions, we’ve got clubs in three different councils, Mitchell, Murrindindi and Strathbogie,” he said.

“I don’t see any problems with the council side of it but clubs will have to comply with all those measures.

“We’d like to think we could give clubs four or five weeks to get the plans in place and then they have to start preparing wickets and getting numbers.”

Trezise said two aspects of the guidelines which most restricted clubs were not allowing players from metropolitan Melbourne to play in regional Victoria and a ban on the use of ovals on school grounds.

“Because our clubs are so close to Melbourne, we’re the closest regional competition, a lot of our clubs rely on players that live in Melbourne so those guys can’t travel outside the ring of steel,” he said.

“Poor Broadford, their president lives in Melbourne and one of the parameters is we can’t use school grounds so they can’t use the high school oval.

“A couple years ago, they re-did their wicket and didn’t have a ground but got around it so they’re pretty resourceful but with them having two C Grade teams it does make it a bit hard.”