Cancellation hands premiership to Sale

Liam Durkin

SALE Cricket Club’s near 30-season first grade premiership drought ended in surreal circumstances, after the grand final was cancelled because of the growing concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Following a recommendation from Cricket Australia released on Tuesday that “all community cricket competition be cancelled for the remainder of the season”, the decision to abandoned the grand final was virtually taken out of the hands of the Sale-Maffra Cricket Association hierarchy.

After the interstate Sheffield Shield competition was abandoned this week and the title awarded to New South Wales for being the highest ranked team, the same thing happened to Sale. Due to play Stratford at the weekend, the Swans have been awarded the premiership for a dominant home-andaway season that saw them finish three games clear on top.

As expected, the coronavirus situation created a great deal of discussion in local sporting circles, with proponents against arguing games should not be abandoned because nobody in the local area has tested positive, while those for believed the SMCA could not go against Cricket Australia guidelines.

Social media was ablaze for most of Tuesday as speculation grew, with the decision to cancel the SMCA finals almost a foregone conclusion once it was announced the Victorian Premier Cricket season would also cease.

Once news of the SMCA cancellation was made public, the league made the wise decision to disable comments on a Facebook post detailing the outcome.

As phones began ringing wildly and messages bounced back and forth, the news wouldn’t have come as a complete shock as most players and club members would have known a cancellation was more than likely going to happen.

Because of the risks involved and the fall-out which would have occurred had someone contracted the disease while attending a game, the SMCA was left in a no-win situation.

The simple fact that there would have been saliva on the ball only weighted the argument more in favour of a cancellation.

SMCA officials met on Wednesday night and decided to award the first grade premiership to Sale.

Lower grade premierships were also awarded to Bundalaguah (seconds), Maffra (thirds) and Bundalaguah Bulls (fourths).

On the same night, the SMCA also cancelled its presentation night, with clubs to be handed trophies to pass on to the players who won, including cricketer of the year Coenie Nel of Sale.

At time of writing, the West Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley and District leagues also cancelled grand finals, with a Gippsland association official describing Tuesday as the worst day he had experienced in more than 20 years of sports administration.

The coronavirus situation has also thrown up a whole host of hypotheticals, such as will it count on a players’ record as being a ‘premiership player’, and will there in fact be a trophy given to Sale?

Some players have also jokingly toyed with the idea of getting premiership tattoos and asking if they qualify to have a reunion in decades to come.

Given the fact the Swans haven’t won a first grade premiership since 1991, no one would have thought a week ago this could possibly be the way in which they would end their drought.

It has taken a worldwide virus to determine the premier of the most even home-and-away season in SMCA history.

In what turned out to be a classic case of heart saying “yes” and head saying “no”, the finish to the 2019-20 SMCA season may go down in local folklore as the “Corona Cup”.

The Sale players could be tempted to drink a particular brand of beer at their premiership celebration.