Mirboo North adds to the collection

Tiger Time: Mirboo North won the Latrobe Valley District Cricket League A Grade premiership. Photographs: Liam Durkin





THEY’VE done it again.

Every season it seems Mirboo North give you a reason to write them off. And every year they walk away with a premiership.

Write them off at your own peril.

Too old and too slow?

More like too good.

The Tigers were certainly too good for Traralgon West in the Latrobe Valley District Cricket League A Grade Grand Final.

Mirboo North ended Day 1 with a slender lead of 14 runs, but with only two wickets in hand, the match was still well and truly up for grabs.

No one thought to tell Dom Davis and Dale Banks that.

With first innings points, and therefore a win, the pair walked to the crease on Day 2 knowing all they had to do was bat.

And that is exactly what they did.

They batted, and batted, and batted some more, until eventually the Eagles could stand no more. The match coming to an early close after 54 overs on Day 2.

Davis and Banks had denied Traralgon West the opportunity to get back into the game.

As every over ticked down, it put Mirboo North one step closer to the premiership.

The steps kept accumulating, the race rope was in sight at tea when the lead was 80, and was crossed once the lead got into triple figures.

Davis and Banks put on 93 for the ninth wicket. While a ninth wicket partnership of that magnitude is somewhat unheard of – this is Mirboo North we are talking about.

The week before, the 10th wicket pair of Max Woodall and Will Lawrey put on 58. The Tigers may not have even made the Grand Final had it not been for that.

They just have a knack of producing miracles come finals.

Banks was part of a 91-run partnership for the ninth wicket when Mirboo North won the flag in 2013/14.

He’s now done it again.

Banks ended unbeaten on 33, while Davis scored 66 not out, an effort that saw him awarded man-of-the-match.

The premiership meant Mirboo North took the flag after finishing the regular season in fourth.

Speaking of four, the Tigers have now won four A Grade flags since breaking the drought in 2013/14 (flags have followed in 2015/16 and 2020/21).

Banks has played in all four, as has Jed Alexander, this being his first as captain.

The skipper made the bold move to bowl first upon winning the toss at Keegan St, but his men responded with an exceptional performance.

An accurate Tigers outfit reduced the Eagles to 4/41, all four of these wickets coming either bowled or lbw.

Key Traralgon West bat Rami Zafar threatened to be the difference, getting to 37 before succumbing to the leg spin of Banks.

Zafar and Tim Fitch had stabilised the situation, getting the score to 4/72, but their dismissals came in quick succession, meaning Mirboo North was able to finish off the rest of the order with relative ease.

Traralgon West was bowled out for 115 in 54.5 overs. With Grand Final conditions being 100 overs minimum in a day, there was still essentially half a day left for the Tigers to negotiate with the stick.

All six bowlers used by Mirboo North secured wickets.

Zach Hollis, Will Cheatley, Banks and Alexander snared two apiece.

With 116 runs their first assignment, the Tigers set about getting past this landmark.

Mirboo North recovered from a precarious start that saw them 2/24, adding another 20 runs before the next wicket fell.

From there, Hollis and Jesse Van Rooyce set up the game with a 51-run partnership for the fourth wicket.

Hollis made exactly that when he was dismissed, while Van Rooyce departed a short time later for 22.

This is where things started to get interesting.

From 5/102, the Tigers lost their next three wickets for 21 runs.

Although Mirboo North had gone past the first innings total, and went to bed on Saturday night with the game won, the match was still very much in the balance.

If Traralgon West could get the remaining two wickets early the next day, there was plenty of time to set up a reverse outright.

In the end, they didn’t get those two wickets. They didn’t even get one.

Davis and Banks resumed their positions on Day 2, and did not move for more than two sessions.

Traralgon West threw everything they had at the pair. Pace, seam, finger spin coming into the right handed Banks, wrist spin going into the left handed Davis.

Nothing was removing them on Sunday. Not even the new ball. Not even chin music.

The Eagles took the new second new ball just after tea, but to no avail.

Davis looked totally untroubled, playing a number of controlled pull shots when the Traralgon West quicks decided to go upstairs.

Banks was equally stout. In a nice touch, the bat he used was handcrafted not far from Mirboo North in Berrys Creek by batmaker Clare Johnston – possibly the only female bat maker in the country.

What a story.

Another great story came from Davis. Returning to cricket this season, he started the 2022/23 campaign with an insane one handed diving catch, and ended it with a best-on-ground performance in a Grand Final.

Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath was surely beaming to see an old Leongatha Imperials player performing on the big stage.

For Traralgon West, desperate times called for desperate measures.

Having gestured a few times with a rolling shoulder motion, wicket-keeper Josh Monacella was thrown the ball.

Trading the gloves with captain Rob Wilkie, Monacella’s time with ball in hand lasted just one over.

After that, Wilkie had seen enough. It was time to concede.

Teams shook hands before gathering under the pavilion of the Morwell Cricket Club for the post-match presentation.

Umpires Tony Flinn and Theo Poursanidis congratulated both sides for making the decider, making particular mention of their good conduct.

For Traralgon West, while it was a disappointing way to see the season end, it served as another step in the right direction.

The Eagles, down on their knees only a few seasons ago, have been slowly building their way back up to the top. With three senior sides in finals this season, two of which made the Grand Final, it appears the Eagles are on the right track.

Mirboo North players were presented one-by-one, all carrying their own stories as they left with medals draped around their neck.

For Will Lawrey, he can now proudly say he is an A Grade premiership player. Having toiled manfully during some struggling times at Yallourn North, a premiership might have acted as just reward for those days.

By all reports, Anton Thomas had no great intention of playing A Grade this season, and can now lay claim to being one of only two known LVDCL opening bowlers to play in an A Grade premiership without spikes. The other is Sam Price, who played in a number of flags for Moe during their eight-in-a-row dynasty.

Like Thomas, players such as Cameron Schellekens and Will Cheatley made it two premierships on Keegan Street in as many years, as did Max Woodall – rated by Banks as the best junior he has seen.

Another Mirboo North player, Brett Pedlow, might just be calling ‘class dismissed’ for a few days given his work as a local high school principal.

Perhaps the only question for Pedlow, who was song-master for the Tigers’ 2013/14 flag, is how is he going to work ‘LVDCL’ into the famous premiership song sung by cricket teams across the country?

For those unaware, the song, thought to have its origins in Tasmania, ends with ‘because we captured the monster of the (insert league name)’.

The issue however is the song’s lyrics only rhyme if the league name ends in ‘A’ (TDCA, WDCA, SMCA etc).

With a flag won however, that is probably the least of Mirboo North’s worries.

Reflecting on what the Tigers achieved presents a complex case study.

Statistically at least, Mirboo North wasn’t the best side during the home-and-away season.

In the last five games before finals, they lost one outright and were bowled out for 70 in another.

How then did they manage to win the premiership?

Speaking post-match, skipper Alexander said it was simple.

“We just never give up, that’s just how we roll,” he said.

“We’ve been in that situation (where the game looks lost) plenty of times before.

“It’s just a good culture, we’re all mates and we’re reasonable at sport so we have a good time.”

Having put together another remarkable finals series, Alexander paid tribute to his players for the way in which they performed across the two weekends.

“Max (Woodall) and Jesse Van Rooye and Will Lawrey, we wouldn’t be here if they didn’t bat the way they did last week, so it’s all credit to them, and Anton (Thomas) bowled brilliantly last week,” Alexander said.

“Banksy has done it before, Dom, new to the club, he is a very talented cricketer, you can’t ask for anything else other than that, it was absolutely brilliant (to bat all of Day 2).

“We bowled really well, bowling them out for 115 is what you want, we fielded not too bad, everything went well.

“The pitch looked good and I thought the only chance we’re going to get anything out of it is probably in the first couple of hours,.

That is pretty much how it played out for the rest of the day.

“We just had a plan to try and bat for at least 20 overs (on Day 2, as it turned out it was a lot more.”

Mirboo North not only won the A Grade

premiership, but also led the LVDCL in the FrogBox stakes. Every week without fail, and regardless of results, there would be video highlights available on YouTube for all in cricket circles to see.

They might not need to edit a highlights package from the Grand Final – just do the whole game.

Amid the euphoria of winning the premiership, the greatest achievement for Mirboo North may well have been glossed over: Relegation lasted a grand total of one season.

With good reason: Mirboo North players get stuck into the post-match celebrations.
Herculean: Dom Davis and Dale Banks walk off after their Day 2 heroics. The ninth wicket pair batted the entire day to secure the flag for Mirboo North.
Best on: Dom Davis drives during his innings of 66 not out.
Hugs all round: Mirboo North players celebrate after winning the premiership.