The season preparations of hundreds of cricketers across the Latrobe Valley have been thrown into turmoil after the newly-formed Latrobe Valley Cricket Association was denied affiliation with the Victorian Country Cricket League.
The LVCA, comprised of five breakaway Traralgon and District clubs and the Central Gippsland Cricket Association, was stopped in its tracks after an objection was raised at the VCCL annual general meeting in Melbourne yesterday.
The objection was raised by the TDCA and The Express understands it was supported by another 13 VCCL associations while four voted in favour of the LVCA's affiliation.
Sixteen associations abstained.
VCCL secretary Keith Thompson said all member associations were "entitled to a vote" but said the league had no reason to intervene.
"We have had further discussions after the meeting, but that's something we need to speak with the people from the LVCA, CGCA and TDCA about," Mr Thompson said.
"We will write to the associations out of courtesy and see where we can go from there. We want to see this resolved for the best interests of cricket in the area."
He also said there was no appeal process in place within the VCCL because the situation was "unprecedented".
"There is no bylaws or rules to allow us to intervene in this type of situation because the LVCA is not a member of the VCCL," he said.
The VCCL is the governing body for country cricket in Victoria and Mr Thompson said both the CGCA and TDCA could still continue to operate.
LVCA president Wayne Mills said he was "very disappointed" with the outcome but said it did not spell the end for the association.
"We'll be looking at what we can do at our board meeting tonight and will discuss where we can go from here," Mr Mills said.
TDCA president Steve Kay said "99 per cent" of his association's objection to the LVCA was based on the ramifications it would have for junior cricket in the region.
"Everything has been geared towards [looking] after some premier and elite clubs, whereas as a president I want to give all clubs a chance, and in particular, the juniors," Mr Kay said.
"Juniors are 99 per cent of what we're supposed to do as executives of associations and it's not set up a competition that's better for some clubs than others.
"The biggest problem we've got is that I've got parents ringing me all the time saying where are our kids going to be playing?"
Mr Kay labelled the process surrounding the formation of the LVCA and its effect on cricket in the region as "destructive".
"I really don't have much to say other than the whole this has been disappointing," he said.
"The whole thing has been destructive to all of cricket. We need to fix our own association, but not destruct the benefit of the kids, and that's what this is doing."
However, CATS - a foundation member of the LVCA - recently declared at its annual general meeting that the club would remain with TDCA if the LVCA was denied affiliation with the VCCL.
"CATS are in the TDCA and are a current member and will remain so until the executive meets and explores any future changes, but all club members will have to be notified to explore what we may do," president Peter Duncan said.
"But if CATS remain in the TDCA, I won't be an official at [the club]. I'll be part of the club but won't be an official."
While the LVCA was thwarted by yesterday's vote, Churchill secretary Wayne Reynolds said his club's belief in the association had not changed and it would now meet to discuss its options.
"Our commitment to the new league hasn't altered in any way and there are ways to pursue it that mean we might be able to achieve our ultimate goal," Mr Reynolds said.
"We're very, very disappointed but our resolve remains committed to a united and strong association in the region for the betterment of cricket. There are opportunities to explore - we're not dead yet.
Mr Reynolds would not rule out a return to the TDCA but said it was unlikely at this stage.
"That will depend on our members, but gauging from what I've heard from conversations I've had, there is really no movement to go back to the TDCA," he said.