LVDCL 2021/22 season outlook

Ready to roar: Mirboo North top order batsman Hudson Kerr and captain/coach Jesse Giardina will be out to defend the Tigers crown. file photograph


THE wait is finally over, as the 2021/22 Latrobe Valley and District Cricket League gets set to begin this Saturday.
Cricketers will put the longest preseason in history behind them as on field action returns for a full one day season.
Starting the A Grade action is Morwell taking on Jeeralang Boolarra, Moe hosting Mirboo North, Raiders and Centrals going head-to-head, Trafalgar travelling to Peter Siddle Oval to take on Latrobe and CATS making the trip to Traralgon West.
Churchill has the bye.

Mirboo North
Last season: Premier.
Captain/coach: Jesse Giardina.
Ins: Sean Viotto (Jindivick).
Outs: Madura Perera (MTY Raiders), Will Cheatley, Josh Taylor, Damien Turner, Jacob Blair (all retired).
IF ever there was a team that ‘finds a way’ it is Mirboo North.
The Tigers weren’t overly convincing in one day games before Christmas last season, winning five and losing four, but put it all together after the main break, not dropping a game on their way to the premiership.
Mirboo North ‘found a way’ in the semi-final to escape with a draw to get through to the decider as the higher ranked team, and again had to dig themselves out of a hole in the grand final after stumbling to 7/88.
Perhaps it is the lure of a premiership that sees the Tigers generally win grand finals when they get to them, or perhaps it is the laconic country attitude seen by those who play for Mirboo North that has enabled them to be successful.
It looks like a philosophy of keeping it simple will again be adopted as the Tigers enter season 2021/22, albeit with a slightly different line-up.
“There is a lot of youth so we have to play them, it is an exciting time, we still have four-five core players in the side like Jed Alexander, Choco (Shane Peters), Dale Banks, myself, so it is a good time to blood a few young blokes and teach them the way,” returning captain/coach Jesse Giardina said.
“Hopefully we can click and start to build a good one day cricket team.
“We’ve got enough there to be a decent bowling attack.
“You only have to bowl full and straight and make the batsman play … you don’t need to be quick.
“We just try and keep the batting team going at three or under, just try to keep it boring and outside off stump.”
In today’s world of over-analysis and sport science, Mirboo North have well and truly done things their own way in recent seasons.
And while it has been successful, there would appear little reason to change it.
Durkin declares:
They’re a team you can never write off. Look to be going down the Hawthorn path this season of developing young players and being competitive at the same time with the experienced players that are left. Don’t discount the Shane Peters effect either, as long as Choco is there, literally anything is possible.

Last season: Runner-up.
Captain: John Keighran.
Ins: Nick Duncan (Jeeralang-Boolarra).
Outs: Ross Whelpdale.
CHURCHILL looks set to once again provide a strong challenge to all opponents in season 2021/22.
The Cobras have been a mark of consistency in recent years, with their A Grade side playing in the last four grand finals.
Classy batsman John Keighran will lead the side this season, and is again tipped to be one of the most prized wickets in the competition alongside Brendan Mason.
The pair have the ability to take games away from the opposition in less than a session if they are let off the chain with the bat, while their presence in the field is also strong.
Fielding has been a hallmark of Churchill’s cricket in the last few seasons, and those who have played the Cobras will attest to how it often feels as though there are 15 fielders on the ground.
Keighran said the emphasis on fielding was basically to make up for any potential shortcomings with the ball.
“Pressure is a massive thing for us,” he said.
“We probably don’t have a bowling attack where we are going to skittle teams for not a lot of runs so we really rely on playing a dot ball pressure game.
“At the standard of cricket we play people tend to get themselves out once the dot balls start piling up.”
Durkin declares:
No game against Churchill is ever easy. See them as the New Zealand of the LVDCL – a handful of match winners complemented by dependable role
players that field very well.

Morwell Tigers Yinnar Raiders
Last season: Third.
Captain/coach: Liam Maynard.
Ins: Madura Perera (Mirboo North).
Outs: None.
EXPERIENCE and class will again be words closely associated with Morwell Tigers Yinnar Raiders this season.
The experience of Raiders has meant the nucleus of the team has played together for what feels like an eternity, while their class is paramount in players such as Brad Knowles and skipper Liam Maynard.
Adding express bowler Madura Perera to the line-up will add to this class, and as Maynard explained, will also serve a two-fold purpose in allowing some of the clubs youngsters another brain to pick.
“He’s a professional, he applies himself with his training, we’re looking forward to having him this season and I think the way he holds himself when he trains and plays is a good example to the rest of us,” Maynard said.
“We’ve probably had some guys that have played a lot of cricket together but we’re now starting to get some of the younger guys coming through.
“It’s great they can learn from the guys with all the experience and then they can keep developing and improving.”
Raiders dominated the one day games last season, winning seven of nine, with six of those wins netting margins by seven or more wickets.
“In the one dayers we did have a pretty good record so we can definitely take some confidence from that,” Maynard said.
“We looked at our side last year as a better two day side but just didn’t perform when it came down to it.”
The skipper himself has overcome a calf injury sustained toward the end of last season, and should now be able to perform at full fitness.
Although there are no official outs, seasoned Raiders campaigners such as Mark Andrews and Jason MacFarlane might only be available on a semi-regular basis this season.
While talk at the end of every season for the last few years has generally gone along the lines of ‘surely some of these Raiders blokes will finally retire’, Maynard himself saw the funny side.
“You never sort of know with us Raiders boys, they just keep going,” he laughed.
Interestingly, Raiders elected to bowl first every time they won the toss in one dayers last season, so perhaps some mind games might be on the cards from opposition captains this season when the team sheets are exchanged.
Durkin declares:
Maynard will have a huge luxury this season with Knowles and Perera taking the new ball. If there is a better pairing than that in local cricket I would like to see it.

Last season: Fourth.
Coach: Tyron Gamage.
Captain: Benn Zomer.
Ins: Navin Gomez (Hawthorn).
Outs: Jack Gay.
LATROBE will be looking to have another strong season in 2021/22.
The Sharks would have to count themselves extremely unlucky not to make the grand final last season, after having Mirboo North 5/25 in pursuit of 218 in the semi-final, only for the Tigers to hang on for a draw and advance through as the higher ranked team.
A new season brings further opportunity, and Latrobe might be licking their lips at the thought of playing all one day games.
Latrobe proved its capabilities in one day games last season, winning six on the trot after the first three rounds.
Referencing specific performances in these limited overs games is sure to give the Sharks confidence as well, especially considering they bowled Mirboo North out for 86 and defeated Moe chasing via Duckworth/Lewis, which showed they can adapt to different situations on the fly.
These efforts have been symptomatic of how Latrobe has operated for most of as long as the current generation can remember. The Sharks have always appeared to be well organised either playing or warming up, which has no doubt led to them putting in clinical performances on the field.
Pace bowler Tyron Gamage will coach the Sharks this season, and said it would take a group effort to see the ultimate success.
“We had a good season last season, a few mistakes cost us,” he said.
“We have a job to do in the one dayers, we can’t carry one or two players, everyone needs to contribute.”
Latrobe could potentially look to use the number of left handed batsman in their top six to their advantage. Brett Duncan, Anu Meenakshi and skipper Benn Zomer might play an important if unheralded role in making sure fielders have to change sides more often than not.
Latrobe might hold the trump card as well if the white ball does happen to start reversing. Gamage back for a second spell with a reverse-swinging ball could spell absolute carnage.
Durkin declares:
Amazingly, the Sharks only used 14 players in the ones last season, and 11 of those played 12 or more games. There is no doubt this played a big part in helping them achieve a level of consistency. If they can get a similar run of availability this season it will surely hold them in good stead.

Last season: Fifth.
Captain/Coach: Jordan Campbell.
Ins: Blair Clymo (Casey South Melbourne/Trafalgar), Scott Douglas (returning).
Outs: None.
MORWELL will seek a return to finals cricket this season.
The Tigers won’t really have to improve in a whole host of areas for this to happen, as they only missed out on a place in the top four last season by 0.15 per cent.
Morwell has lured Blair Clymo across from Trafalgar. The addition of Clymo will mean Morwell has four genuine all-rounders, joining Brendan Brincat, Mark Cukier and Blake Mills.
Mills and Clymo played together at Casey South Melbourne, and Morwell will be looking for the pair to combine for some big partnerships in 2021/22.
Morwell was a team prepared to take risks in one day games last season with the bat.
This approach paid off when it all clicked, best highlighted by a win and score of 245 against Raiders.
Captain/coach Jordan Campbell said he was happy to let people play their natural game.
“We have got firepower in the top order with Blair, Sam Mooney, Sugar (Cukier), Blake, Brincat, guys who like to score pretty quickly so hopefully we can capitalise on that,” he said.
Signs appear to be promising for Morwell given they haven’t lost any players, but Campbell said this would not automatically mean on field results became a given.
“I think we have a pretty good side and we should compete, we haven’t lost anyone at all from last year’s team which is good, but in one day cricket anything can really happen,” he said.
“Blair is a big in and also kept hold of Travis Pickering which is big.”
Morwell has been a hub of activity in recent years, and now has one of if not the best cricket facilities in Gippsland.
With access to ovals side-by-side with turf wickets, the Tigers are indeed blessed.
“Not many clubs are lucky enough to be in a position we are in with the facilities we’ve got, we make full use of them,” Campbell said.
Durkin declares:
Having multiple all-rounders in the line-up provides plenty of versatility, especially in one day games. The catch-22 is if guys batting at eight and down haven’t had a hit in a few weeks it might be hard for them to come in and score freely. Other clubs can surely only dream of having the resources Morwell has been provided, so it may now all be up to the players to see that any advantage garnered from this is not wasted.

Last season: Sixth (relegated).
Coaching group: Rhys Holdsworth, Daniel Heathcote, Jackson Noonan.
Captain: Rhys Holdsworth.
Ins: Aiden George (Mill Park), Jack Hart (Yallourn North) Kaleb Chapman (Yallourn North), Colin Parnall (Officer), Billy Andrews (Drouin), Brett Tonkin (Trafalgar Tennis Club).
Outs: Blair Clymo (Morwell), Ryan Bishop (gone fishing).
JUST where do you begin when trying to get a read on Trafalgar?
The Ships defeated Premier A grand finalists Mirboo North and Churchill last season – and lost to A Grade wooden spooners Traralgon West.
They also defeated a CATS team that contained a test and first class player – and were bowled out for 40 against a Raiders attack with one first class player.
Trafalgar had no trouble chasing 123 against Morwell in tricky conditions, but had plenty of trouble chasing 158 against Moe in perfect conditions.
Like supporting Richmond in the early 2010s, it appears you are never entirely sure what Trafalgar side is going to turn up on the day.
While this might make the Ships every bit a danger side, they would be well advised to find a better recipe for success than trying to ride their luck every week.
The Ships will have Aiden George returning to the club this season, which is sure to stabilise things at the top of the order.
While the bowling was solid last season, with Jackson Noonan, Daniel Heathcote and Rhys Holdsworth all taking 20 or more wickets, there is no escaping the fact the batting effort at times was absolutely horrific.
Returning captain Holdsworth acknowledged the need to get better with the blade.
“Definitely our batting we need to improve at the top of the order and just spread the load,” he said.
“Aiden coming back will be a boost, he’s a really good batsman, probably one of the best batsman to come through the club in the last decade.”
A visit to Trafalgar would suggest the Ships are very much a working class club, just one look at their nets held together with cable ties to stop balls going through would be enough evidence to support this.
However, as a team of all local players, it is clear those who play for Trafalgar play because they
genuinely want to, and this, coupled with those working class values should see the Ships fight hard in every game they play this season.
Durkin declares:
The general consensus from last season was that Trafalgar worked so hard to get opposition wickets, and then gave their own up so easily when they went in to bat. If they can address this, or find a happy medium, they should see their inconsistent form line improve.

Last season: Premier in A Grade (promoted).
Coach: Davin Charleston.
Captain: Ben Julin.
Ins: Mitch Bellingham (Imperials), Sam Hoch (returning).
Outs: Jack Blythman (moved to Melbourne).
CATS make the move up to Premier A after winning the premiership in A Grade last season.
The team from Callignee and Traralgon South will be greeted with new challenges against familiar opponents this season, as it returns to the top flight after a 12-month
There was general agreement in local cricket circles last season that CATS was ‘too strong’ for A Grade, and now that they have been promoted, the next six months will give some indication as to whether or not this was in fact the case.
Returning captain Ben Julin believes the team is prepared for the step up.
“We’re well aware of the standard and how competitive the premier division is, with the likes of Churchill, Mirboo North and Morwell, those sorts of teams are always strong … we’ve got to be on our toes every week,” he said.
CATS performed well against Premier A opponents in one day matches last season, defeating Latrobe and scoring 239 against Mirboo North. This should give the team confidence to know they can not only compete, but win, against the best.
That being said, four of CATS six wins for the regular season were at home, meaning the greatest test for its players could come when they are taken out of their comfort zone and placed on wickets not as flat as what they are accustomed to at John Black Oval.
Durkin declares:
Genuine X-Factor players in Cal Stewart and Tinashe Panyangara could see CATS walk a few games in with bat or ball, while a top six of Jamie Cochrane, Josh Keyhoe and Julin should see at least one get a score most weeks. The question is do CATS have a plan B if all the front liners miss out.

Last season: Runner-up in A Grade.
Captain/Coach: Pat Spiteri.
Ins: Glen Sheekey (Yallourn North), Royce Colgrave (Latrobe), Toby Hart (Yallourn North).
Outs: Nathan Lee (moved to Melbourne), Ben Maslen, Trent Baldi (sabbaticals).
THE goalposts haven’t really shifted as far as Moe is concerned after two consecutive runner-up finishes.
With the hunger still burning from those shortcomings, the Lions will be aiming to break through for its first premiership since the fabled ‘eight in a row’ era came to an end in 2012/13.
While two grand final qualifications would suggest Moe was right in the window of contention, returning captain/coach Pat Spiteri said the group wasn’t taking anything for granted.
“There is no guarantees in cricket,” he said.
“But with the team that we put on the park each week I hope that we play finals again and hopefully go one better.”
Joining Moe for season 2021/22 are two left-arm seamers in Royce Colgrave, who comes across from Latrobe, as well as Yallourn North legend Glen Sheekey.
Moe will have no shortage of wise heads now that Sheekey is on board, and his time as a former Country Week captain in the Central Gippsland Cricket Association should bring some new ideas to the table of Spiteri and new vice-captain Noah Kane.
As developing leaders is essential to the success of any organisation, the appointment of Kane as second-in-command could prove a stepping stone to greater things.
Holistically at least Moe looks to have a healthy pool of players, and will be fielding an A Grade, B Grade and two C Grade teams this season.
Where the tendency in sporting clubs is often to make it all about the first picked team, the Lions have provided as many people as possible the chance to play cricket – much to their credit.
“The club is looking good as far as the amount of players go which is pleasing,” Spiteri said.
“We’re going to use one C Grade to develop some of the younger kids from Under 16 and maybe one or two of the Under 14s.
“It’s very important that we develop our juniors and have them come up through the grades and hopefully play A Grade.”
A hallmark of Moe’s cricket for as long as most players of the current generation can remember is their ability to just do the basics well and do them over and over again.
Spiteri however was quick to respond to this compliment, simply saying “we can always do them better”.
Durkin declares:
Would be dangerous to bank on Joel Mitchell and Andrew Philip again combining for a 1500-run season, but having said that, there is nothing to
suggest they couldn’t do it again. Moe made some huge totals in one dayers at Ted Summerton Reserve last season, with four being 220-plus and two of those 290-plus. Winning games while making scores that big will prove decisive in giving them percentage in sowing up a top two finish and a home final.

Last season: Third in A Grade.
Captain/Coach: Rob Webber.
Ins: Reghard Hefer (South Africa).
Outs: Rob Wilkie (Traralgon West), Tom Webster (moved to Geelong).
FOR Centrals, it has been a case of so close yet so far in recent seasons.
The Lions have had no trouble making finals, but have learnt how fragile a cricket season can be the hard way, crashing out badly in consecutive semi-final attempts.
If there is to be a silver lining however, players should now be even more determined to not let another opportunity slip by.
Rob Webber returns as captain/coach, and is again expected to be a brute force either opening the batting or bowling his trademark ‘heavy ball’.
Bowling stocks have always been relatively strong at the Lions, with Webber set to send down a lot of overs alongside medium pacers Mark Rawson, Corey Pollard and seasoned campaigner Marc Fenech, who can roll through sides with his left-arm hoopers if conditions suit.
Webber acknowledged Centrals strength in this department, but said it would need to improve in other areas if it was the break its semi-final hoodoo.
“Our batting let us down last season, we just need to be more consistent with the bat, we have the bowling to get through sides,” he said.
Helping the batting effort is South African recruit Reghard Hefer, who comes to the club after playing predominately in Pretoria.
Addressing the issue of inconsistency will be high on the list for Centrals this season.
The Lions won their first five games last summer, but then went on to lose the next five as well.
This inconsistency was perhaps best summed up in the last three weeks of the season.
Centrals bowled Moe out for 32 in the final round of the home-and-away season, but were then rolled for 97 against the same opponent a fortnight later in the semi-final.
Webber said stamping out complacency would be a key focus point.
“I think we just took it a little bit lightly thinking it was going to happen again (playing Moe in the semi), we need to get that out of our game,” he said.
“We need to learn from mistakes and step up to the plate when needed.”
Elsewhere, Centrals will face another challenge in not having any games on their home ground this season as Apex Park is being upgraded.
The Lions have been training at Traralgon and District Cricket Association club Imperials on alternative nights, in what has been a great show of clubs working together to help each other out.
Durkin declares:
The semi-final is often the hardest game to win in club cricket. If Centrals can firstly qualify and then get past the first hurdle it will surely be a huge mental weight off their shoulders. As they say though, ‘ya gotta get there first’. Don’t underestimate just how much of an impact playing away every week will have either – the burn-out factor is sure to hit at some point.

Last season: Fourth in A Grade.
Coach: Ashley Spowart.
Captain: Ben Heath.
Ins: Nila Thillekarathna (Traralgon West), Hasitha Hewawasam (Traralgon West), Rhy McNaughton (Paynesville), Stan Urbanic (returning).
Outs: Sanitha De Mel (playing in Melbourne), Leon Risdon (Bruthen), Nick Duncan (Churchill).
SEASON 2021/22 will represent another opportunity for Jeeralang-Boolarra to continue on their journey toward bigger things in the cricket world.
While Rome wasn’t built in a day, the Panthers have ticked off a number of landmarks since entering an A Grade team in the Central Gippsland Cricket Association in 2015/16.
It took them just three seasons to make finals, and they have qualified for finals in every season since.
Building on this will be a major point of call for Jeeralang-Boolarra this season as they look to at least get past the semi-final post.
The Panthers have added a number of experienced campaigners to the line-up with allrounder Nila Thillekarathna coming from Traralgon West and Stan Urbanic returning after a season off.
A new coach in Ashley Spowart is also on board, and will relieve some of the burden on returning captain Ben Heath.
Heath was full of praise for the new coach, who has also previously played for Jeeralang-Boolarra.
“He’s a cricket nut, has a lot of great insights and implanted a lot of good regimes,” he said.
“Everyone has bought into his regime, no matter what grade you play, everyone has a role to play.”
Jeeralang-Boolarra underwent a season in 2020/21 that could perhaps best be described as ‘random’.
Due to circumstance, a number of young players were thrown to the wolves so to speak, and the Panthers suffered a few hammerings.
That being said, they did make finals, in what was surely one of the most bizarre qualification pathways in local cricket history.
Jeeralang-Boolarra got in after winning just two regular season games and gaining a place in the top four of a five team competition.
Heath believed the young players in the team would be better for the experience of 2020/21.
“Last year was a bit of a transition period for us, we had a very, very young team,” he said.
“By the end of the year the young guys were definitely comfortable in A Grade so it will be very exciting to see how they perform and see how they have developed their game this year.”
Durkin declares:
For a team that has made four finals series in a row the Panthers don’t seem to get the credit they perhaps deserve. This is unlikely to phase them, and at the very least, they should provide nuisance-value to opposition teams this season.

Traralgon West
Last season: Fifth in A Grade.
Coach: Tim Fitch.
Captain: Rob Wilkie.
Ins: Rob Wilkie (Centrals).
Outs: Luke Sumner (Bruthen), Nila Thillekarathna (Jeeralang-Boolarra), Hasitha Hewawasam (Jeeralang-Boolarra).
AFTER missing out on finals by just one point last season, Traralgon West will be hoping this is the year they break the glass ceiling and join in on the March action.
The Eagles finished last season on a high, defeating eventual A Grade premier CATS reverse outright in a match that has gone down in Traralgon West folklore.
Internally at least this should provide some reassurance to the Eagles knowing that they are genuinely capable, as should their performances against other teams.
For whatever reason Traralgon West does have a decent record against Trafalgar in one day games, having defeated the Ships in their last two encounters.
As they are still relatively youthful, the Eagles might go through peaks and troughs this season, but new captain Rob Wilkie has liked what he’s seen in preseason.
“Our thought process is young (Ihraam) Zafar and (Josh) Monacella now being 18-19 should continue their improvement and take up a spot in the top six.
“We’re really putting a lot of time into the kids to ensure they get as good as their potential would suggest.
“With the lads putting in so much effort I’m quietly confident we should be able to shake up some top sides.”
The Eagles have dramatically improved their depth in recent years, highlighted by the second grade side finishing last season on top of the ladder by 16 points and the Under-16s winning the premiership.
Traralgon West will be wanting to see this success in the lower grades translate to the top flight.
From the outside looking in there is plenty to suggest Traralgon West is doing a lot of things right as a club, which is always encouraging as the best clubs are always the most organised off the field.
Durkin declares:
EARLY season wins will be on the cards as all teams in the competition find their feet. If Traralgon West do happen to grab a handful of wins in the first few rounds it will then be a matter of keeping a lid on it to make sure November victories aren’t distant memories when the competition resumes after Christmas.

Captain Eagle: Rob Wilkie (right) has made the move from Centrals to captain Traralgon West. file photograph

Step up: Ben Julin will again lead CATS this season. The team has been promoted to Premier A Grade after winning the Latrobe Valley and District Cricket League A Grade final last season. file photograph

Wise heads: Leading Trafalgar Cricket Club this season is the coaching group of Daniel Heathcote, Jackson Noonan and Rhys Holdsworth. file photograph