Minister John Eren announces the National Inclusion Cricket Championships to be played in Geelong

MORE than 200 of the country’s best blind, deaf and intellectually disabled cricketers will descend on Geelong for the first National Cricket ­Inclusion Championships.

The region’s standing as a supporter of people with a disability has helped it secure the week-long annual championship for the next three years.

The tournament, which will run from January 17-24, will bring together Australia’s top all-abilities cricketers.

It will, for the first time, bring together male and ­female players from the three divisions and will pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into the region’s economy.

It would form part of Geelong’s growing major events sports calendar, leading into January’s Festival of Sails and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Sports Minister John Eren said.

Cricket Victoria chief executive Tony Dodemaide said the establishment of the Melbourne All Abilities ­Cricket Association in the past 12 months was helping drive growth in the sport.

“We have the highest participation numbers for people with a disability (in Australia), with more than 6500 participants,” Mr Dodemaide said.

The region’s best cricket grounds will be used for the event, which will feature 14 teams playing Twenty20 and one-day matches.

Geelong council community life general manager Linda Quinn said Geelong was chosen because of its profile as a leader in disability.

The championships have been created after Cricket Australia struck memorandum of understandings with other peak sporting organisations.

The MoUs mean greater support for high-performance programs, including access to coaching and facilities, as well as enhanced grassroots participation opportunities.