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By Russell Bennett

Gridiron in Melbourne’s south-east is about to enter into a new era in 2017 with the Pakenham Silverbacks and Berwick Miners amalgamating to form ‘Casey Cardinia United’.

The stunning move comes after about three weeks of discussions between the two clubs about the best way forward.

The Miners have had their struggles in recent seasons but have 30 years of rich history in the sport, while the Silverbacks have won back-to-back Gridiron Victoria Division 2 titles in their short four-year existence.

Both clubs believe the decision to join forces puts them in a position of strength, both now and into the future, and they also believe it provides the perfect opportunity to continue to grow the sport in the local area.

Silverbacks secretary Ashlee Trimble will continue in the role as part of the new Casey Cardinia United committee, led by president Richie Howlett – the Silverbacks’ founder and former Miners player, alongside vice president and another former Miners player Damien Belsham, and treasurer Jye Healey.

“After examining all our options moving forward it didn’t take long for us all to be excited by this,” Trimble explained to the Gazette.

“It’s the logical progression for both clubs.

“Together we’ll have the committee, the resources, the players, and the facilities and we also have the drive.”

The Gazette understands that the Miners would have otherwise struggled to survive long-term. The amalgamation provides them with the opportunity to continue to build on their history in the sport.

The Miners have an established home base at Sydney Pargeter Reserve in Endeavour Hills, while the Silverbacks have battled to find a long-term home in Pakenham.

It’s no secret that sections of the two clubs haven’t always seen eye-to-eye.

A lot has transpired over the past two-and-a-half weeks, but the decision to join forces was a unanimous one at committee level.

Trimble said the move would provide both clubs’ members with the best possible resources, facilities, and playing group and was met with “huge excitement”.

The new club, which will feature the colours of both the Miners and Silverbacks, will enter into the 2017 Division 1 men’s season mid-year. Pakenham’s current women’s side will continue to take to the field in 2017 as the Silverbacks.

The amalgamation provides one go-to club for anyone from Dandenong to Pakenham looking to get involved in the sport of gridiron.

“It’s about promoting our sport so there’s no disconnect between a club in Casey and one in Cardinia,” Trimble said.

“There’s one message coming from one club.

“This is about making gridiron a mainstream sport, not a minority one.”

While there will be arrivals and departures in the playing group for 2017 – as there will be for every club – Trimble said the CCU move will only strengthen the side made up of former Silverbacks and Miners players.

Further specifics of the amalgamation are still being ironed out, with more announcements to follow over the coming days.

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