By Jackson Russell
The Gisborne and District Cricket Association will welcome back its metropolitan Melbourne teams as the season proper gets underway next weekend.
With the State Government dismantling the ‘ring of steel’ and allowing freedom of movement between Melbourne and regional Victoria, GDCA clubs in Hume and Melton local government areas can now join their regional counterparts.
The season kicks off with under 17 girls, under 14 girls and under 11 boys on Friday night, with senior men and under 17, under 15 and under 13 boys joining in on Saturday before the newly-formed Kookaburra Women’s League starts on Sunday.
The start date was timed with the easing of restrictions and gave metropolitan clubs three weeks of preseason before their seasons began.
The new women’s competition includes teams from Lancefield, Darley, Bacchus Marsh and Sunbury playing T20s on a fortnightly basis.
Increased interest in the game has seen the association’s 24 clubs nominate a total of 74 senior men’s teams, 74 junior boys’ teams, four senior women’s teams and 19 junior girls teams this season.
Romsey kicks off the McIntyre Cup season at home hosting Diggers Rest Bulla, while Wallan will open its Johnstone Shield campaign against Rupertswood at Greenhill Reserve and Lancefield hosts St Anthony’s in its division two opener.
All competitions will be played in an exclusively one-day format to prevent any potential cases of COVID-19 threatening the result of two-day matches.
While the season is condensed due to a late start, the one-day format has allowed the GDCA to schedule a full 14-round season in its higher divisions.
GDCA president Rob McIntyre said most clubs were happy to get out on the park regardless of the format and there had been an influx of new players after six months without community sport.
“They understand the reasons why it has to be one-day matches. Some players at the highest level are disappointed they’re not playing two-dayers but they’re understanding,” he said.
“We’ve seen a big reaction in the number of players. We’ve got 10 extra teams across our senior divisions, so the one-day format is more suitable to players that are working part-time and not available for both days of a two-day match.
“There are quite a few footballers who are playing this year because they missed six months of playing any local sport so they’re keen to get out there for a game, whatever it is.”
McIntyre said the fortnightly women’s competition was only the beginning of a pathway for girls to play senior cricket and continue through to sub-district and premier cricket.
“At the moment, it suits the women who are playing with their busy schedules on the weekends. A lot are mothers with children playing on weekends, and Sunbury and Lancefield also have teams playing in other competitions,” he said.
“It’s something we’ve been hoping to get up and running in the last few years because… we needed a senior competition for those girls to progress in.
“We’ve had four clubs interested and hopefully we can progress that to a greater number of clubs over the next few years.”
In the final round of the GDCA’s regional club competition, Romsey had nail-biting four wicket win over Bacchus Marsh with the winning runs coming on the last ball of the day.
Wallan continued its strong preseason with a seven-wicket win over Gisborne 2, completing its run chase with 15 overs to spare.
Lancefield also heads into the season proper on a good note with a five-wicket win over Hanging Rock.