FIRST grade cricket around the Hastings will take on a very different look from next season.
The 10-team Mid North Coast Premier League will start on October 7 and replace the first grade competition.
Port Pirates, Macquarie Hotel, Port City Leagues Magpies, Wauchope RSL and Bonny Hills will occupy five positions.
Three Manning sides – United, Wingham and Taree West will be involved with Macleay to fill the remaining two spots.
Interim Hastings River District Cricket Association president Matt Day said the new competition was an exciting one.
“Over the last four or five years the amount of first grade teams in the Hastings has been diminishing,” he said.
While Day didn’t believe cricket would have ultimately died, players would have gone and played elsewhere.
“We don’t want that because we want the best players playing locally which makes stronger teams,” he said.
Day was hopeful the premier league would revitalise interest in local cricket.
“The good thing for us is it means more cricket in the Hastings so now hopefully we can get the word out there and get people attending matches,” he said.
MNC council secretary Craig Lobegeier said the competition would be played over two rounds with a provision to play T20 fixtures on Sundays around Christmas.
These would be selection trials for the following season’s Regional Big Bash tournament, with players seeking a place in the Macquarie Stingers side.
Mr Lobegeier said the format of the finals series was still to be determined.
“It hasn’t been decided yet whether it will be a four or five team finals,’’ he said.
The premier league will be for first grade sides only, would be run by the MNC Council and be a 40-overs-per-side one-day setup.
The two-day format will be scrapped and the home associations will be in charge of the lower grades.
Mr Lobegeier said the Mid North Coast under 19s and over 35s inter-district competitions will continue, but the First XI will not.
He added that next season matches featuring Manning sides against those from the Macleay will be played at Hastings to cut down on travel.
This will change once improvements to the Pacific Highway have been completed.
Mid North Coast development officer Martin Garoni was closely involved with planning for the premier league and described the competition has a “huge boost for cricket.”
“The beauty of this is that it is player driven and players can see the benefit of being involved in a strong competition.’’