MERRIVALE will host the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association division one grand final for a fourth consecutive season, with the city’s so-called premier sporting ground Reid Oval to sit vacant.
The association’s board earlier this week unanimously voted to allocate grand finals to the grounds considered the “best available” and Reid Oval was overlooked for any of the three senior grade grand finals next month.
The executive used match reports from captains and umpires which assessed the condition of pitches, outfields and facilities throughout the season, as well as their own inspections, in determining venues for the finals series.
Merrivale will host the division one grand final, confirming it as the city’s best cricket oval, with West Warrnambool’s Davidson Oval being used for the division two decider and Dennington the division three match.
For the first time, East Warrnambool-YCW’s Jones Oval will host a division one semi-final, along with Reid Oval.
But the omission of Reid Oval from hosting a grand final confirms a slide in the pecking order of the venue’s once-preferred surface. The oval had hosted the division one grand final for all but three times in 60 years before the 2010 season-decider was taken to Merrivale — where it has stayed.
Reid Oval was used for the division two grand final in 2011 and 2012 but it is understood the condition of the outfield — patchy and earlier in the season — had influenced this year’s exclusion.
While the pitches, maintained by volunteers, have been fine, regularly producing 200-plus runs from both sides in division one and two games, the outfield had been below standard early in the season. But it is now lush.
WDCA general manager Michael Harrison said the board had looked at every venue, including Reid Oval.
“The board decided to play the grand finals on the best grounds available,” he said.
He said Merrivale, which will also host a one-day division three semi-final the weekend before the grand final, had the runs on the board to be worthy of hosting the division one final.
“It is one of the best grounds around in the WDCA,” Harrison said.
The ground’s curators had produced good pitches throughout the under 17 country week competition and the association believed a one-dayer the week before the grand final would not limit the chances of having the ground in prime condition for the showpiece. He said Merrivale, Davidson Oval and Dennington had consistently rated well with players and officials.
Warrnambool City Council recreation and culture manager Russell Lineham said the council believed Reid Oval was in good condition.
“Associations make their judgments on what grounds are best for their activities,” he said.
“They made the assessment that the three grounds are better. I don’t know that they are saying Reid Oval is a basket case. They are saying the other three are better at this time.
“We would like Reid Oval to be considered as one of the best grounds, if not the best. If it’s not, they made the judgment.
“We know there is work to be done up there and we’ve started that but it’s not an easy fix.”