Gloucester Bushmen part of six team Manning Cricket open grade or tier I competition

Matthew Higgins batting for Gloucester at Central Park, Wingham. Gloucester will play in Manning Cricket's tier I competition next season.
Matthew Higgins batting for Gloucester at Central Park, Wingham. Gloucester will play in Manning Cricket's tier I competition next season.

Gloucester will be part of a six team Manning Cricket open grade or tier I competition when the 2021/22 season finally gets underway.

The various senior and junior competitions usually start the Saturday after the October long weekend, however, State government regulations regarding community sport due to the lockdown will mean the first ball probably won't be bowled until November.

The Bushmen will join premiers Great Lakes, Taree United, Taree West, Old Bar and Wingham in the tie 1 premiership.

This will be Gloucester's third season in Manning cricket. Gloucester have played second grade for the past two campaigns

The Bushmen were semi-finalists in 2018/19 and 2019/20.

However, last year's finals series was marred by wet weather, with Gloucester bowing out of title contention when their game was washed out. Great Lakes eventually played United in the grand final.

Manning Cricket president Michael Steinmetz said a six team tier I competition is 'good for cricket'.

He expects the competition to be closely contested, especially as Wingham will be fully committed this season.

Last summer Wingham was the only Manning club involved in the now defunct Mid North Coast Premier League so the club will devote all its resources to the tier 1 next summer.

This will be the first time the association has played an open, or first grade, since the premier league started in 2017/18. In the years since the association played second and third grades.

However, Mr Steinmetz said the return of a top grade competition won't mean a return of two day games.

He said there was no love at association-level when adding two day fixtures to the calendar was mooted. Mr Steinmetz said there were concerns about players being unavailable for both days due to work or family commitments.

However, he expects T20 games will be included on the season's calendar. This will be decided when a starting date for the new season is determined.

"I know a lot of players are keen to get on the park,'' he said.