Gladstone Cricket Club is no more, for season 2017-18 anyway.
In a disappointing development for cricket in the colour city, the two-time defending second grade champions informed Orange District Cricket Association (ODCA) last week that they would be withdrawing from this summer’s competition, effective immediately.
The club was forced to nominate and potentially play in the newly-formed fourth grade competition – unless it affiliated with another club that didn’t have a second grade side – in line with the ODCA’s strategy to stream-line it’s competitions’ structures, and as a result player interest waned to the point Gladstone would have struggled to field a side regularly.
While the Central Western Daily wasn’t able to reach Gladstone officials for comment, a number of the club’s players had previously expressed their disappointment with being forced to fourths despite their success in the higher grades on social media.
Gladstone stalwart Greg Goodlock also reached out via a letter to the editor last week, doing the same.
The club would have been gunning for a third straight second grade title in 2017-18, and also a third second grade Twenty20 gong as well.
They’re four of the 11 titles the club has won since its inception two decades ago, Gladstone has also won five third grade premierships, a fourth grade gong and one other lower grade T20 trophy as well.
While ODCA president Mark Frecklington empathised with the club and labelled its withdrawal “very disappointing”, he explained the structural change has been discussed for several seasons and it was simply time to “draw the line in the sand”.
“(Gladstone official) Mark (Merchant) contacted us last week and said they would struggle for player numbers in fourth grade, and I can absolutely understand the Gladdy’s disappointment,” Frecklington said.
“It’s disappointing from our perspective too, you never want to lose a team from any competition but the structure we are aiming for (six clubs in first, second and third grade) is one we’ve been discussing for some time. We decided to move forward with it this season.
“That meant some tough decisions had to be made and we had to draw a line in the sand. If it wasn’t this season it would have been next season.”
The structure we are aiming for is one we’ve been discussing for some time. We decided to move forward with it this season.ODCA president Mark Frecklington
Despite its celebrated history, being a stand-alone club made the Gladdy an obvious target for relegation under the ODCA’s new guidelines.
Wanderers were another and will play fourth grade, however they have affiliated with Centrals this summer too.
Frecklington said the Gladstone will always be welcome in the ODCA’s competitions, should it re-form in future seasons.
“Absolutely, the Gladdy would be welcomed back, but fourth grade is where they would return,” he said.
The ODCA had two contingency plans in place already, should a team from third or fourth grade fold.
The first was seeking out Molong’s interest in combining with Orange’s third grade competition, which didn’t eventuate, although there remains potential for that to happen in 2018-19.
Plan B, and the one the ODCA has moved forward with, is simply to tweak the third and fourth grade draws.
The sides which have the bye in each grade each week, will now play each other for competition points in their respective leagues, starting this weekend.
“Without the Gladstone, fourth grade was left with three teams and while not playing every few weeks might actually suit some players we want to make sure those sides are playing as much as possible,” Frecklington said.
“We’ve re-done the draws for third and fourth grade and those will be available on MyCricket very soon.”
While it remains unclear what many Gladstone players will do early reports suggest star all-rounder Ben McAlpine will return to his junior club at CYMS, with Cal Townsend also touted to where green and gold.