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District Cricket History

 

Extract from Making the Grade, A History of WACA Club Cricket by WP (Bill) Reynolds.

 
Birth of the Competition and its Formative Years 1885-1900
Prior to the formation of the West Australian Cricketing Association, all matches played in metropolitan Perth and Fremantle were challenges or "pick-up" games. A number of clus had been in existence for some years, but only played matches by invitation. 

The 1885-86 season saw the first official competition on a club basis in Western Australia and the WACA was responsible for its conduct. Matches generally took place on Saturday afternoons and were concluded the same day. The club winning most matches was declared the premier team.
 
Finding its Feet and Consolidation 1901-1910
The West Australian Cricketing Association, formed in 1885, ceased to exist on 25 August 1899. The Association had decided to transfer control of the ground from the committee to the trustees. The way they chose to do it was repeal all the existing rules and disband the Association. On 7 September 1899 a meeting of cricketers voted to form a new Association to be called the Western Australian Cricketing Association.

A Cricket Council was formed to manage the local competition that saw the formation of Electorate cricket. There were now four Perth teams (North Perth, South Perth, East Perth and West Perth), a western suburbs team (Claremont-Cottesloe) and two Fremantle teams (South Fremantle and East Fremantle). One of the aims of the new body was to play the entirety of their competition matches on turf wickets.

In 1905-06 the old Perth/Fremantle factionalism flared again and the Electorate cricket system died. It was replaced by the old club competition. The WACA competition became a six-team affair with two new clubs bolstering the ranks, King's Park and Wanderers. Fremantle revived its old competition and also hosted six clubs. 

A truce was negotiated the following season and a unified 12-team competition was conducted, with new teams Corinthians and Subiaco entering for the first time. The 12-team competition in 1907-08 was thought to be too cumbersone and the standard was not improving. It was therefore divided into two sections for the following season with the addition of two new teams. The following season, 1909-10, saw the formation of an official WACA Second Grade, though not every First Grade team fielded a Second Grade team. 
 
More Changes and World War I 1911-1918
The Cricket Council decided the sensible idea would be to have clubs based on suburban localities and, as a direct consequence of that decision, District cricket was implemented in 1911-12. There were eight senior teams, Claremont, East Perth, Fremantle, Midland Junction, North Perth, North Fremantle, Subiaco-Leederville and West Perth. Only North Fremantle did not field a second team. This situation lasted two seasons before World War I caused some major interruptions. In 1914-15, the Second Grade expanded to eight teams when Subiaco-Leederville had sufficient numbers to provide two sides. Next season saw University withdraw and Midland-Swan, as they were then known, drop to Second Grade. This meant an unsatisfactory five-team competition.

Over the next three seasons the War took its toll as the Second Grade was suspended due to lack of numbers. The War also had a significant impact on the careers of many club cricketers. Some fine players and inimitable characters had started their careers prior to the commencement of the War, but many lost part of their prime playing years. 
 
Between the Wars
On resumption in 1919-20 after the War, the team from Midland altered its name to Midland-Guildford, the name they still bear today, and the competition had six teams in both First and Second Grades. 
This situation lasted two seasons before the Fremantle group were returned to the fold in 1921-22, fielding a First Grade team and two teams in Second Grade. The uneven number of seven teams in First Grade existed for two seasons. However, in an effort to prevent the bye, the North Perth team, having a surplus of players, agreed to field two teams in First Grade in 1923-24.

Two major developments occurred in 1924-25. Firstly, parts of the North Perth and East Perth teams became Maylands-Mount Lawley thus displacing the second North Perth team in First Grade. Secondly, a C Grade was formed due to increasing player numbers. Five teams took part, but it was not compulsory for a club to field in each of the three grades. Second Grade was now composed of ten teams.

The increasing popularity of cricket was placing demands on the administration - and on local councils to provide suitable playing areas for the summer sport. Twelve teams nominated for Second Grade and the Cricket Council opted to have an East and West division, with six teams in each. Meanwhile, the C Grade increased by another team to make seven in all.

At the WACA's 1928-29 Annual General Meeting, Members present voted to change the word "Cricketing" in the Association's title to "Cricket."
 
Experimental Formats and World War II 1933-1945
In 1932-33 Province cricket was introduced. Players from neighbouring clubs merged to form the respective "Provinces." North Perth and West Perth became Central Province; Midland-Guildford and Mount Lawley became North-East Province; Fremantle and North-East Fremantle became Port Province; Claremont and Subiaco became West Province; and East Perth and Southern Suburbs became South-East Province. With the addition of University these six teams formed the elite club competition of the era. The remainder of the teams competed in a separate club competition.

The experiment of Province cricket lasted only one season. In 1933-34, the WACA competition returned to District cricket which comprised 11 First Grade clubs who combined to field 12 teams in B1 Grade, nine in B2 Grade and five junior teams. 

The years of the Second World War witnessed some major adjustments to the WACA competition. The impact of the War reduced the number of players taking part during the next three seasons of 1942-43, 1943-44 and 1944-45. The Cricket Council wished to continue with a re-vamped competition and, through necessity, devised a system of one-day matches for those seasons. The lower grades were replaced by a single (usually six teams) junior competition.
 
World Peace and WA Enters Sheffield Shield Competition 1946-1960
Once peace was signed in 1945, cricketers were anxious to get back to regular competition for the 1945-46 season. The competition reverted to two-day cricket with Southern Suburbs retaining their temporary Wartime position, but had now altered their name to South Perth, the name the club bears today. Fremantle also returned to the fold, making it a First Grade competition of nine teams. The Second Grade competition had ten teams, while Third Grade fielded six teams.
With the Wartime difficulties behind them, cricket officials saw a need for standardisation in club, or District, cricket. The Cricket Council decreed that, wherever possible, all First Grade teams should field a team in each of the three lower grades. In 1949-50, the competition comprised 12 teams in each of the four grades. This enabled the introduction of a club championship, with weighted points for each of the grades. For the next eight seasons that was how club cricket was played.
 
More New Clubs, Amalgamations and Name Changes from 1961 onwards
The expanding metropolitan area saw clubs in several newer, more populated, areas applying for admission to the competition. To accommodate this expansions, in 1957-58 two new clubs, Scarborough and Melville, entered teams in the Second and Third Grades. In 1959-60, Floreat Park was permitted, on application, to do likewise. This situation continued, with minor exceptions, through until the 1968-69 season. 

At this point, the number of teams in First Grade was increased to 14, with the promotion of Scarborough and Melville. In 1961-62, the Bassendean club had altered its name to Bassendean-Bayswater, in keeping with its district. In 1977-78 the Subiaco and Floreat clubs amalgamated and all 14 clubs fielded teams in each of the four grades.

In 1979-80, the rapidly expanding north suburban district of Wanneroo, which spawned the Wanneroo Cricket Club, applied for entry into the competition. They were allowed to enter four teams, two in each of Second and Fourth Grades. Then in 1981-82, the Bassendean-Bayswater club altered its name again - this time to Bayswater-Morley.

In 1987-88, the southeast metropolitan corridor suburbs warranted representation in the WACA competition. The large catchment district of Gosnells was successful and the competition then encompassed 16 teams, and four grades. 

In 1989-90, the Claremont-Cottesloe and neighbouring Nedlands amalgamated. This reduced the size of the competition back to 15 teams and created the unwanted bye. 

There was significant residential development south of Fremantle - and it came as no surprise when a cricket team from that area sought admission to the competition. After much negotiation, Rockingham-Mandurah was admitted to the competition on a restricted basis in 1995-96, fielding teams in Second and Third Grades, and they added a Fouth Grade team in 1997-98. The Cricket Council accorded Rockingham-Mandurah First Grade status in 2000-01. This made it a 16-team competition which remains today and eliminated the need for a bye. In the same season the once powerhouse club of the competition, North Perth, moved to the northern central coastal suburb of Iluka and change its name to Joondalup Districts.

 

In 2014-15 the District Cricket Competition re-branded as WA Premier Cricket as part of a move align all District/Grade Competitions across Australia. However, in a historic move at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, the WADCC decided to remove District Boundaries from senior competitions, this moving to open cricket and implementing a Player Points Cap in First Grade only.