Lofts escapes suspension
By STEVE SPINKS
SOUTHERN Districts batsman Brad Lofts has escaped suspension and will be able to play in the Far North Coast LJ Hooker League cricket 2004-05 final rematch against Tintenbar-East Ballina at Kingsford Smith Park South, Ballina, this afternoon.
Lofts was handed a six-match suspended sentence for the rest of the season from the North Coast cricket zone executive committee on Thursday night for his part in an on-field altercation in an SCG NSW Country Cup match between Lismore and Clarence River at Oakes Oval, Lismore, two weeks ago.
The executive committee also sent a letter of censure to Clarence River's Andrew Firth for his part in the confrontation, in which the players 'chested' each other after Lofts took exception to alleged sledging by Firth and his Grafton team-mates.
North Coast administrator Geoff Gaggin said he was satisfied with the outcome and that Lofts' exemplary record and the fact he admitted fault had helped him in the investigation.
The fact that Grafton players went some way to provoking the confrontation by sledging was also taken into account.
In fact, Gaggin hoped the message to come out of the situation was that sledging should not be happening at all throughout the whole zone.
"There are things to hate about all sports," Gaggin said.
"In rugby league, it's the coathanger behind play.
"In rugby union, it's the bloke who tramples on someone's head at the bottom of the ruck.
"In soccer, it's the bloke who goes down screaming after only being tapped on the ankle.
"In cricket, it's sledging."
In the next few days, Gaggin will send out information to all clubs regarding the appropriate action that should be taken to eliminate the unsavoury act from North Coast cricket.
"The captains are responsible at all times for ensuring that play is conducted within the spirit of the game as well as within the laws," Gaggin said.
"It is against the spirit of the game to seek to distract an opponent either by verbal harassment or by persistent clapping or unnecessary noise under the guise of enthusiasm and motivation of one's own side.
"I guess to emphasise matters, what we are really saying is that if the player is guilty, then equally so is the captain."
Lofts' availability will be seen as a blessing by his Souths captain Richard Nind and by his Lismore District representative captain Bruce Jobson.
The right-handed opening batsman has been in solid form early in the season and he is a key figure in both outfits.
The clash between Souths and the 'Bar this afternoon is an enticing match-up.
Both look to be contenders for the Hooker League title again this season, with Souths going for a third straight premiership.
In the final last season, Nind turned the match with a fluent 92 at No6, while all-rounder Lennard Blok chimed in with 61 in Souths' total of 284 after the defending premiers had slumped to 5-120.
In reply, Tintenbar-East Ballina were bowled out for 180.
In other Hooker League matches starting today, Lismore Workers and Norths-Goonella-bah RSL will each look for their first win of the season when they meet at Oakes Oval, Lismore.
Ballina Bears captain Andrew Gordon will have his newly promoted father, Mick, along for the ride when they head to Casino to play the Cavaliers at Queen Elizabeth Park.
Eastern Districts take on Marist Brothers at Nielson Park, East Lismore, while David Ryan makes his return for Lennox Head, which should bolster their inconsistent batting line-up against Alstonville at Saunders Oval, Ballina.
Teams in Lismore District matches today have been asked to observe a minute's silence in memory of Northern Districts club stalwart Warren Bryant, who died this week.