Sydney: Australia's top cricketers have dug deep into their pockets to fund a new initiative that will narrow the gap between club and first-class cricket.
The 'Premier Cricket Program' will support Australia's 87 Premier (Grade) Cricket clubs in utilising former or non-contracted domestic cricketers to either play, coach or mentor club sides.
The unprecedented contribution of more than $1 million from Australia's elite players comes after an increase in estimated income during the 2012-17 Memorandum Of Understanding period, the same period that covers the current Cricket Australia media rights deal.
Clubs can now apply for a $10,000 grant per year for three years to allow current Australian Cricketer's Association (ACA) Members (former and current first-class players) to continue to be involved in Premier Cricket.
"Every player who represents a State, Big Bash League or Australian team comes through the Premier Cricket system," Australia Test captain Michael Clarke was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au on Thursday.
"While for some of us the opportunities at the moment to play at club level are limited, having competitive and testing competitions influenced by experienced and knowledgeable players is vital."
The decision to devote the surplus funds in the Player Payment Pool was a unanimous one by Australia's contracted players, with the Premier Cricket Program the first step in strengthening club cricket around the country.
"As current players, we're passionate about strengthening Premier Cricket and remember the influence that many former first-class players had on our careers as we came through," said Australia allrounder and ACA Executive member Shane Watson.