CORONAVIRUS has claimed another major sporting scalp with the Victorian Country Cricket League scrapping Melbourne Country Week for the second-straight year.
It comes as the omicron variant of COVID-19 runs rampant across Victoria, forcing the competition's sub-committee into a decision on Wednesday night.
Victorian Country Cricket League president Kelvin White, who is based in Cobden, told The Standard there were too many risks to stage the century-old tournament.
Teams losing infected or isolating players and having to replace them, fears of participants taking the virus home, potential negative impacts on families and work and no guarantee the pandemic would improve in the next month were factors in the verdict.
I think if we're lucky enough to get it off in 2023 we'll see a real upsurge in interest.- Kelvin White
"Duty of care is fundamental to good management and it was thought to be (unsuitable) if we put players, officials and umpires at undue risk," White said.
"Many associations across country Victoria are currently struggling to play scheduled home-and-away fixtures so it seemed sound to not put extra loads on volunteers by asking them to organise, support and field country week teams."
White said the appetite for representative cricket remained strong among country cricketers.
"I really believe there is a strong appetite for it," he said.
"I think if we're lucky enough to get it off in 2023 we'll see a real upsurge in interest.
"I sat here last night and thought about how we can make next year - 100 years since the first was played - the biggest and best."
Melbourne Country Week was scheduled to run from February 14 to 18. It pits Victoria's country associations against each other in a pool and then finals-style tournament, similar to the UEFA Champions League's setup.
Warrnambool skipper Cam Williams said the decision was tough to swallow but understood the reasoning.
"It's been a really decent build-up for us. We had an under 23s game to give some younger players the chance to put their hand up and it was a raging success," he said.
"From our perspective it's just really disappointing but unfortunately it's just the way the world is at the moment. It's just a bit mental.
"What else do you do?"
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Williams said interest and respect for the trip was at an all-time high in the south-west.
"That's where you make a name for yourself. If you do well as a player down there, it cements you as a top cricketer down here," he said.
"It's very, very different conditions down here than up there and going up there and putting your best foot forward, making a case for Warrnambool cricket and winning for Warrnambool, it makes even the older fellas who've been up in the past proud as well.
"For years, Melbourne Country Week has been the absolute pinnacle for any local cricketer and that's still (where) people want to go."
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