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HISTORY OF DISTRICT/PREMIER CRICKET
District Cricket was introduced at the commencement of the 1906-07 season, however it was by no means the beginning of inter-club cricket. By the 1850's many clubs were in existence, though in the early years matches were generally arranged on an informal basis, often with the local press determining each season's leading team. In December 1870 a regular series of Challenge Cup matches between the leading clubs was commenced - this ushered in a period of more structured competition which continued through the 1870's and 1880's.
The next major advance occurred in the 1889-90 season with the introduction of a program of Pennant Matches - this represented the start of the modem era of club competition. The original competing teams were Carlton, East Melbourne, Essendon, Fitzroy, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Port Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda, South Melbourne, University and Williamstown. Eight rounds of matches were played in the initial season. There were no residential qualifications, and in the seasons that followed, some clubs, especially East Melbourne, Melbourne and South Melbourne tended to attract the leading players, whilst certain teams remained very weak. By the late 1890's it was clear that the unevenness of the competition was resulting in a lack of public support.
As a consequence, moves for a system of Electoral or District cricket gained strength, as it was felt that residential qualifications for clubs would even out the playing strengths of the various teams. In 1903 a sub-committee consisting of Messrs LA Adamson, WH Dow, F Lampard, FJ Laver and R Mitchell was appointed to consider the issue. Their report was submitted to the VCA, and, after much discussion and consideration of different options, District Cricket came into operation in the 1906-07 season.
The twelve inaugural 1st Grade District teams were Carlton, Collingwood (a brand-new club), East Melbourne, Essendon, Fitzroy, Hawksburn (which changed its name to Prahran in 1907), Melbourne, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda, South Melbourne and University. The Melbourne Cricket Club, which did not accept the residential qualification rules, was not permitted to compete for the premiership until the 1914-15 season, though in the intervening period it was included in the draw, and played regular matches against the other clubs, though these, of course, did not count for premiership points.
It was originally decided to implement a promotion and relegation system - and as a result, at the end of the 1906-07 season, Northcote, which won the 2nd Grade competition narrowly from Malvern, was promoted to the 1st Grade. Collingwood, which finished last in 1906-07, was initially relegated, but was soon after permitted to continue in 1st Grade, perhaps because it was a new club. By 1908 it was realised that a system of promotion and relegation was unworkable, and the clubs taking part in District Cricket were divided into District and Sub-District teams - the latter comprising Brighton, Caulfield, Coburg, Elsternwick, Hawthorn, Malvern, Port Melbourne and Williamstown.
With the addition of Northcote to the twelve original 1st Grade teams, a bye was created and this remained until the 1929-30 season, when a fourteenth club, the VCA Colts, was included. The Colts team competed for eleven seasons, when, owing to the outbreak of war, it was disbanded after the 1939-40 season. This again created a bye, and from 1940-41 to 1947-48, an arrangement was made whereby the District team with a bye played the Sub-District team who also had a bye that round. These were colloquially known as "bye-matches" -though it should be noted that results in these games counted for premiership points. The admission of Footscray to District ranks in 1948-49 finally ended the bye. The competition consisted of fourteen teams until 1974, when two Sub-District clubs, Ringwood and Waverley were promoted. Eighteen sides have participated since 1993-94 when teams from Geelong and Frankston Peninsula were admitted.
Competition for premiership points was suspended during both World Wars - from 1915-16 to 1918-19 and between 1940-41 and 1944-45. Regular matches were still played, however. In 1942-43 and 1943-44, owing to the difficulty of many cricketers obtaining leave on consecutive Saturdays, the program consisted entirely of one-day matches. In 1943-44, the leading eight clubs played off in quarter finals - the only time this occurred until 2006-07. A Final Six operated in all elevens between 1997-98 and 2006-07, when a Final Eight was introduced.
Several clubs have amalgamated. In 1921, East Melbourne merged with Hawthorn, following the loss of the former's ground, to become known as Hawthorn-East Melbourne (or the "Combine"). In 1989, after the club relocated to Glen Waverley, it dropped "East Melbourne" from its title until becoming Hawthorn-Waverley in 1994. In 2001, when the club merged with sub-district club Monash University, it became Hawthorn-Monash Uni. The club operated teams in both VCA and VSDCA competitions for 2001-02 only. The Hawks made Monash Uni's Clayton Campus their home in 2005-06. Cricket Victoria took over the lease at Central Reserve between 2006-07 and 2010-11, utilising both grounds extensively to assist clubs with ground availability issues for a number of reasons. The Hawks, after losing their ground at Monash Uni in 2015, merged with Kingston Saints to become Kingston Hawthorn, playing at the Walter Galt Oval in Parkdale.
In 2011-12, Richmond took over the occupancy of Central Reserve, moving from its traditional home at Punt Road after 155 years.
In 1985 Fitzroy joined Doncaster to form Fitzroy-Doncaster and another merger occurred in the same year when North Melbourne and Geelong joined forces. The North Melbourne-Geelong partnership broke up after only three seasons, when North Melbourne decided to continue on its own. In 1989, Waverley merged with Dandenong, moving its headquarters to the latter's ground, and became known as Waverley-Dandenong - in 1992 it underwent another name change to Dandenong- Waverley and dropped the Waverley from the name altogether prior to the 1994-95 season.
Collingwood amalgamated with sub-district club Camberwell to become Camberwell Magpies for the 1996-97 season, and Footscray became Footscray-Victoria University prior to the 2000-01 season and then Footscray Edgewater CC prior to 2004-05 with another business partnership with the residential development adjoining the Merv Hughes Oval. The club resumed as Footscray after the 2016-17 season.
For the 2013-14 season, North Melbourne merged with Greenvale to become the Greenvale Kangaroos, with their home ground in the City of Hume.
With the abolition of residential "zoning" in 1990, the competition is no longer known as District Cricket, but Victorian Premier Cricket .
Victorian Premier Cricket was basically run by the CV Pennant Committee up until and including 2013-14. In an historic decision by the CV Delegates in July 2014, the governance of the overall competition was transferred to Cricket Victoria management and staff. All aspects of grounds, fixtures, playing dates, venues, umpires, ladders, player eligibility and registrations, disputes, rules, etc are now overseen by the Premier Cricket Management Team (PCMT).
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