Wet And Problematic start to season

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THERE was no scores in the house last weekend, as the opening round of Cricket Latrobe Valley was abandoned.

Flash flooding across the region meant it was impossible to get wickets prepared in time, and the decision to push the start of the season back one week came as no great surprise.

Local pundits therefore will have to wait to see the first lot of matches in the new Cricket Latrobe Valley league.

Unfortunately, just when those first lot of matches are remains to be seen, as more showers are predicted this weekend.

In one positive, by the time the season does eventually start, all three senior grades will be on the park.

Only A Grade and B Grade sides were scheduled to begin last weekend.

Generally speaking, players allow for two rain affected matches in October, so a second consecutive washout wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary.

Players are unlikely to experience anything near what happened last season, when the whole month of October was virtually wiped out, making for one of the wettest seasons on record.

Some intriguing contests were on the cards for Round 1, particularly the game between Glengarry and Morwell.

As the last two premiers of the Traralgon District Cricket Association and Latrobe Valley District Cricket League respectively, the ‘battle of the reigning premiers’ was tipped to be great viewing.

While the cancellation of matches became a foregone conclusion by the time the decision was made on Friday, there was some taking points to come out of the round as some clubs still selected teams.

Morwell surprised many by naming Blake Mills in the seconds, seemingly unable to fit him into the First XI.

Having been a key player in the Tigers’ Premier A premiership last summer, and enjoyed stints at first grade level in Victorian Premier Cricket, it is perhaps clear just how much depth Morwell has this season.

Ex Students were slated to play Toongabbie at Terry Hunter Reserve.

Lee Stockdale was a noticeable absence from the Sharks team sheet, while Rams veteran Tom Shippen was picked in A Grade.

There had been some suggestion Shippen would transition back to B Grade for a well-deserved break this season.

Shippen may well have been part of the reason MyCricket shutdown last summer, and surely came close to the most number of overs bowled by anyone registered during its 20-year operation.

Toongabbie trained indoors at Moe on the Tuesday leading into Round 1, while other clubs looked to do similar, improvising as best they could to get some semblance of practice in as rain continued to fall.

Gormandale made use of the undercover area near their nets, and have made a point of training every Tuesday and Thursday this season regardless of weather.

Willow Grove also trained indoors, and new coach Todd Mann is quietly confident his side can spring an upset or two in 2023/24.

The Wolves have reportedly had as many as 40 people at training, and will field three senior and two women’s teams this summer. Chairman of selectors Percy Walsh will work in tandem with Mann spinning the magnets.

At the other end of the scale, Latrobe named an almost unrecognisable side, with only Anthony Bloomfield, Ronnie Chokununga, Marc Metcalfe and captain Steven Freshwater names familiar to those who have been in local cricket circles for a while.

The Sharks had an unfortunate offseason where the outs far outweighed the ins, one of the outs being last season’s captain Benn Zomer.

Zomer was named for Moe, who were to play Raiders.

The Lions could have one of the strongest top orders in the Premier A competition, with Zomer now joining Riley Baldi, Noah Kane, Andrew Philip and Joel Mitchell.

Talk about a luxury – Rob Phoenix could be coming in at six, which could be absolute gold for Moe come the two dayers.

Raiders meanwhile, for so long carrying the title of ‘dads army’, only had one ageing player listed – that being Mick ‘Juice’ Higgins.

The same can’t be said for Centrals, who will surely have the oldest new ball pairing in the league in Rob ‘Barney’ Webber and Tyron Gamage.

The Lions also had a sprinkling of youth in the team. Lachlan Speairs is expected to bat higher up the order this season, while Brodie Howlett was picked in A Grade, hopefully in a sign of things to come for the youngster.

Churchill and CATS didn’t bother picking a side, although one inclusion for CATS came through after the Express’ season preview went to print last week – former Zimbabwean Test cricketer Tinashe Panyangara.

Although fellow first class player Cal Stewart isn’t expected to play much, if at all, this season, CATS did not officially list him as an out. Based off that, if CATS happen to find themselves in finals contention after Christmas, skipper Jamie Cochrane might just enquire as to his availability. You’d be mad not to.

Given how tight the fixture is already, there is unlikely to be room for any catch-up games later in the season.

It will be fingers crossed the weather holds out for Round 2.

Representative cricket also commences this Sunday, with the first round of the Gippsland Cricket League season.

CLV will play Leongatha District at Apex Park, Traralgon in senior men. The under 18s have a bye, while the women’s fixture is still being finalised.

Glengarry’s Nat Freitag will captain the senior men’s team.


Cricket Latrobe Valley Round 2 fixture:

Premier A: Morwell vs CATS (at Keegan St), Mirboo North vs Ex Students (Mirboo Nth Turf), Moe vs Glengarry (Moe Racecourse), Raiders vs Churchill (Yinnar Turf), Toongabbie – BYE.

A Grade: Imperials vs Traralgon West (Catterick Crescent), Willow Grove vs Centrals (Willow Grove Rec), Latrobe vs Gormandale (Peter Siddle Oval), Rovers – BYE.