Sport

Regional cricket revolution | Franchise cricket coming to the Goulburn Valley

By Tyler Maher

A regional cricket revolution will make landfall in the Goulburn Valley this summer.

Franchise cricket is coming to town, with the exciting new adventure set to pit the best players from Cricket Shepparton, Goulburn Murray Cricket, the Murray Valley Cricket Association and beyond against each other in a blockbuster tournament.

The Twenty20 super league is yet to be branded with an official title, but in essence will be a concentrated version of the myriad of franchise tournaments held arcoss the globe.

Four teams will be created with a coach and captain to steer the ship and from there the possibilities are endless.

A draft will be held where the teams will draw from a pool of interested players, leaving space for up to two marquee stars and snaring at least one under-19 prospect among the overall squad of 15.

The tournament will then be run throughout January as each franchise clashes against the others, with a grand final held between the two top-ranked sides.

But the bells and whistles is what really makes this new initiative exciting, along with the bash and crash of the shortest format of the sport.

The draft night will be streamed live for all to see, as will the final.

Matches will be played at major population centres to attract huge crowds, with free entry to boot, while the stars themselves can come from anywhere in the world — literally.

"We want to create something new, exciting and different," Cricket Shepparton president David D'Elia, who has been heavily involved in the planning of the franchise tournament, said.

"It's not just about the players, we want to involve kids and families as well. There will be no entry fee to any of the games, we'll just ask for a gold coin donation to a local charity.

"This competition will pit teammate against teammate and showcase the best cricketers in the district and beyond on a big stage.

"If Steve Smith has three hours free and you can sign him up for your franchise then Steve Smith can be one of your marquee players — nothing and no idea is out of bounds."

The finer details — including venues, franchise ownership and sponsorship opportunities — are still being fleshed out, but D'Elia encouraged any potential player, sponsor, host or owner to get in touch at [email protected] or on 0439 484 448.

The beauty of the tournament is the franchises do not need to be affiliated with any cricketing association at all.

The slate is clear and the only limit to what a franchise can achieve — on and off the pitch — is its imagination.

"We're open to anything," he said.

"If someone wants to host a game, host the draft night, sponsor the competition or start up a team get in contact with us."

The News will also take advantage of the star power on offer in the tournament to once again run its Shepp News Fantasy Sports competition.

It means that while franchise owners, coaches and captains will scour the draft for the perfect pick, the local cricketing public can do the same with the final squads in order to steer their own personal franchise to the top of the pops — with plenty of stellar prizes set to be on offer.

Last season's debut fantasy competition fanned plenty of interest as teams battled for a Shepparton News Mystery Pack — and the franchise adventure is certain to raise the stakes.