HEATHCOTE Cricket Club leaders remain confident of a positive summer despite having to forfeit its first match of the 2017-18 season on Saturday.
Player unavailability due to a clash with the Heathcote Wine and Food Festival has been cited as the main reason the club was unable to field a side for its Twenty20 match against Elmore.
A number of cricketers also play football for Heathcote during the winter and it was the football club’s commitment to the festival which took up the players’ time.
Cricket captain Corey Gilmore said a lot of the players helped out at the festival with car parking and other volunteer duties.
‘‘We definitely tried to get a side together,’’ Gilmore said.
‘‘We spoke to the players but they were caught up in that commitment.’’
When it became clear on Thursday night that the club would be unable to field a side, officials contacted Elmore to let them know.
‘‘It’s unfortunate and a bit of a shame,’’ Gilmore said.
‘‘Elmore were pretty good about it and sympathetic. They know it’s not easy to field sides early in the season.
‘‘No one goes out to deliberately forfeit a game. It’s just a matter of circumstances.’’
The situation is not knew to Heathcote which only fields an A grade side in the Northern United Cricket Association (NUCA).
Finding 11 players each week can be a struggle at times. Even last season when the side played finals, it only had 10 players left at the end of the match with players having to leave the game early due to other commitments.
Gilmore said players from last season now have extra commitments through family and work making it harder to gauge numbers for this season.
He said the Twenty20 game was a new format introduced this season and it had crept up on the club, catching them unawares and hampering preparations.
Gilmore said while it was disappointing to forfeit the match, the focus is now firmly on being ready for the start of the regular home-and-away season on October 21.
‘‘We’ll have a light training run this week and get stuck into the season then,’’ Gilmore said.
‘‘We’ve got our new facilities completed so there’s a bit more shade to make it comfortable for people who want to come down and watch.’’
Gilmore will be sharing the captaincy duties with Pat Ring as the side looks to follow up on a successful 2016-17 season.
Heathcote won the premiership in its first season in the NUCA in 2012-13 and made it back-to-back flags in 2013-14.
It went a few years without seeing any finals action before bouncing back into the top four last season.
Heathcote lost the semi-final to Dingee which went on to win the grand final against Goornong.
Heathcote made a slow start in that campaign before a big second half of the season put it firmly in premiership contention, a path Gilmore is hoping will repeat itself this season.
‘‘We had a lot of trouble early in the season,’’ he said concerning player availability.
‘‘There’s a lot going on in early spring. We had a strong second half of the year and we got a home final which set us up nicely. Unfortunately we couldn’t get it done on the day.’’
Both Gilmore and Ring said Heathcote would largely field the same side as last season with hopefully a few newcomers.
Training tomorrow night starts at 6pm at Barrack Reserve for anyone keen to come down for a hit.