Maitland district cricket has cobbled together a last-minute compromise to allow the remaining two A-grade teams to play this season.
The headaches continued right to the end, with Windsor Castle withdrawing this week from the Maitland competition to field a team in the Newcatle City and Suburban A-grade comp.
The Maitland and District Cricket Association board met on Tuesday night and had decided to adopt an 11-team competition with two divisions of finals.
But that was reduced to 10 teams, when 2016-17 A-grade grand finalists Windsor Castle pulled out of the proposed competition on Wednesday.
The proposed Twenty20 competition in the top two grades will be cancelled to allow for the expansion of games to be played.
MDCA media spokesman Mark Warland said the combined A-B-grade competition would start on Saturday, with the existing fixtures for B-grade for this week remaining and the two remaining A-grade teams Port Stephens and Paterson playing each other at King Park 5 at Raymond Terrace.
The B-grade game between Port Stephens and Lochinvar which had been scheduled for the same ground will be moved to King Park 3.
Warland said the association had been left with an unviable A-grade competition when Hinton and Chelmsford Hotel had withdrawn in the week leading into the opening round leaving just three teams.
“Plenty of consultation took place within and outside of our association especially with Cricket NSW and with their guidance, combining A & B was the best solution,” Warland posted on the MDCA Facebook page on Wednesday.
“Since last night’s decision was made there has been another withdrawal of a club thus leaving two sides left in A Grade making that comp virtually non-existent.”
Warland said the new A-B-grade competition would be made up of 10 teams with a two-tier finals series.
“At the end of the season, the top four sides will play in A grade finals, then the next four will play in B-grade finals,” he said.
“A new set of rules/playing conditions will be drawn up knowing that some clubs have already purchased balls and have not catered in their fee structure for the use of umpires.
“The viability of this new competition will be monitored during the season.
“All B-grade draws will remain as per the current draw for this weekend with Port Stephens playing against Paterson.
“To complete a full draw under a 10-team comp we are going to have to do away with T20s just in this grade and just for this season only.
“This has not been an easy process to make this decision but one that had to happen.”