THE GREAT DIVIDE
By ADRIAN MILLER
AFTER 13 seasons, Far North Coast LJ Hooker (Ballina) League cricket is no more.
The Hooker League, which involved clubs from the Ballina and Lismore district cricket associations plus the Casino Cavaliers, will be dissolved after the BDCA decided to join the Tweed DCA to form a 10-team competition from next season.
The move came after Lismore rejected a Tweed proposal to join the Hooker League and form a 16-team 'super-competition'.
Ballina voted unanimously earlier this week to back the expanded league but after Lismore's decision, will go it alone with Tweed.
BDCA president Greg Daniels said the 16-team competition was the preferred option for their clubs.
"If Lismore don't want to be part of a 16-team comp our No 2 option is the 10-team comp with Tweed," he said.
"Our No 1 option is definitely the 16-team comp, but if Lismore don't want to be part of this we see more future in going ahead with Tweed."
Lismore clubs have rejected the 'super-competition' because of travel concerns, but Daniels said it would have provided more benefits than negatives.
"I'm at a loose end as to why Lismore are so negative about it; every sport in our area are all playing Northern Rivers' stuff and it's the way to go," he said.
"Tweed has five strong clubs with a lot of depth, they all have top quality turf wickets and they have some really good cricketers up there."
The Ballina and Tweed proposal involved the five Tweed clubs ? Pottsville, Terranora, South Tweed, Cudgen and Murwillumbah ? and Brunswick-Byron joining with the existing 10 Hooker League teams.
The competition would then have been spilt into two eight-team divisions, with the Tweed teams, Brunswick-Byron and two from Ballina in one division and the remaining clubs in the other.
But LDCA president Jeff Walsh said there was no way the Lismore clubs would agree to join such a competition.
"Our blokes are dead set against it; they don't want to travel to the Tweed to play cricket," he said.
"We play in the (representative) Webb Shield every couple of weeks, which means we play up on the Gold Coast anyway and that's a big help to the younger kids."
Eastern Districts captain Bruce Jobson said he was against the move because it would not necessarily benefit the region.
"All Lismore clubs and captains are not doing it under any circumstances," he said.
"We think it will weaken Lismore cricket in the long term because it doesn't change things much.
"Just because there's more teams in the competition doesn't necessarily make it stronger."
But Tintenbar-East Ballina captain Brett Crawford said it was the only way forward for cricket in the area.
"You can't tell me it won't be good for junior cricketers coming through the ranks," he said.
"Everyone was against the Hooker League starting (in 1994-95), but that was pushed through and now everyone thinks it was a great idea.
"We have to give this a go because it will provide new faces and new challenges."