New league now off and running

Small club, big heart: Willow Grove won its first A Grade game since coming back into the top grade at the weekend. Photograph supplied






THE second-biggest country cricket league in the state finally got up and running at the weekend.

Following two abandoned rounds, it was a case of third time lucky as Cricket Latrobe Valley saw its first lot of matches played.

Some old opponents from the Traralgon District Cricket Association renewed hostilities in Round 3 action that returned no shortage of talking points – not just in the top grades either.

Gee there’s a lot of games to write about now.

CHURCHILL couldn’t put a foot wrong early against Morwell.

The Cobras had the Tigers 3/17 at Andrews Park West, only to then see the next wicket fall with the score on 142.

A rescue effort from Morwell skipper Jordan Campbell led to him making 74, partnering with new recruit Cyrus Shafi who made 43 amid the chaos at the top of the order.

The pair dug the visitor’s out of trouble, and laid the foundation for Blake Mills to come in late and score an industrious 34, enabling Morwell to post more than 200 after being asked to have a hit at the toss.

Wickets were shared among the Cobras line-up. Chris Williams took 3/34, Ryan Harvey 2/25 (back after a season out with an ankle injury) and John Keighran 2/19.

Steve Warr was miserly as always, only going for 18 off 10 overs.

You could nearly pencil in figures like that every game for the man known as ‘Tugga’.

The Cobras capitulated with the bat, and were shot out for 86 inside 40 overs.

Half the team was either bowled or lbw, while the top-scorer was the number 10.

Brendan Brincat picked up where he left off from the Latrobe Valley District Cricket League Grand Final last season, taking 3/13 off seven overs, with three maidens for good measure.

His apprentice Connor Seymour nabbed 2/19, while Tim Ford and Ross Whelpdale also took a pair of wickets each.

That 3/15 must have felt like a lifetime ago by the end of the game for Churchill.

As The Grade Cricketer would say – “When is cricket ever good?”

MIRBOO NORTH got a win on return to Premier A.

The Tigers played out a competitive game against CATS on the Mirboo North Turf.

CATS won the toss and decided to bat. Most of the scoring was done by Nathan Harrup, who came in first drop and walked off with a magnificent 111 not out to his name.

Harrap, who came of age in the 2020/21 LVDCL A Grade Grand Final, scoring 77, showed that performance wasn’t a once-off, again spending considerable time at the crease to help his team along.

His effort saw him partner with five different batsman, and although the second-highest score was extras on 20, teamwork took CATS to a total of 6/212.

Darien Matthews ended with two wickets for the Tigers, as the rest were all shared around.
Stand-in skipper Ben Heath (who captained Jeeralang-Boolarra last season) then played a similar knock to Harrap, remaining unbeaten himself batting first drop.

While Heath didn’t score a ton, his 86 not out won the game for Mirboo North.

Like the Brownlow versus premiership debate, there is little doubt what Heath would have preferred.

Heath found willing allies in Mark Graeme and Dom Davis, who made 39 and 32 respectively.

A late flurry of wickets kept things interesting.

As Mirboo North always does, the Tigers went from seemingly cruising at 3/166 to 7/184.

However, like they did in the semi-final last season, Max Woodall and Will Lawrey held their nerve, with the former scoring a vital 20 and the latter seeing out three crucial balls to allow Heath the chance to win the game.

Mirboo North eventually crossed the line in the penultimate over with two wickets in the shed. Such a margin and timeline was eerily similar to a premiership they won 10 seasons ago when Mirboo North won the Central Gippsland Cricket Association flag by two wickets in the very last over of the Grand Final.

Left arm orthodox Harry Cooper bowled well for CATS, and can now hold the title of first-ever Premier A five-fa in Cricket Latrobe Valley.

Cooper, who bowls left arm but throws right arm, took 5/33.

Josh Moore also chipped in with a welcomed 2/31.

Cal Stewart featured on the team sheet for CATS, in an interesting subplot as local pundits wait to see just how many games he plays this season.

The former first class allrounder bowled 10 overs for 35 runs, and scored four opening the batting.

Stewart was dismissed off a low full toss from Woodall that appeared to dip as he went through with his shot.

Watching the replay, Stuart slumped in disbelief at how he didn’t hit the ball into the stratosphere which perhaps offers a good lesson as to why the everyday cricketer shouldn’t fear bowling to high calibre players.

After all, they are often facing a pace they aren’t accustomed to.

THERE was another interesting name on the Raiders team sheet.

The team from Yinnar made the hike out to Toongabbie for the first time since season 2016/17 (and not 2017/18, the last season Raiders played in the TDCA as Raiders’ game against Toongabbie at Toongabbie in 2017/18 was abandoned).

Raiders won the toss and decided to bat, and ended up putting on a good total of 8/182.

An all-round effort with the bat saw George Cheshire score 46 and Luke Thornton 33, while a couple of others chipped in with 20s – one of them being Brad Knowles. The soon-to-be 42-year-old hasn’t played much in the last couple of years, and could just be playing as a batsman if he does feature in a few more games this season.

Keenan Hughes led the way with the ball for Toongabbie, snaring 3/40, while Matt Barry’s bowling continues to go from strength-to-strength. The left arm orthodox took 2/28 off 10 at the weekend.

Unfortunately for the Rams, that is where the good news ended.

Toongabbie didn’t put up much of a fight with the bat, and were skittled for just 116.

The home side got off to an okay start at 0/33, but the loss of one wicket led to a procession that saw a top order collapse of 4/1.

Thornton was the destroyer with the ball, taking 4/20 off 10 overs with four maidens. Others to bowl well were Mick Higgins, claiming 2/20 with his off breaks, and Chesire taking 2/28.

EX STUDENTS had some revenge in the TDCA Grand Final rematch.

The Sharks got the better of Glengarry in a good game decided by just 17 runs.

Ex Students batted first at Terry Hunter Reserve, and put together 8/170 from their 50 overs.

Mitch Harris led the way with a half-century opening the batting, while the ever-reliable Rick Battista ended 48 not out.

Glengarry premiership hero Max Merton took three wickets, while Brayden Mayberry chipped in with two.

Sharks skipper Jimmy Pryde got the defence off to an ideal start, bowling both Frank Marks and getting the big wicket of Nat Freitag for just two.

At that stage, Glengarry was 2/18, and it was left to Al Jenkin to shoulder most of the workload.

Jenkin did all he could, getting to 37 before becoming one of leg spinner Michael Warne’s three victims.

Mayberry kept Glengarry in with a fighting chance, but was the last man out for 35, giving Pryde his fourth wicket.

Pryde ended with figures of 4/24 off 10, while Warne took 3/33 off the same amount.
MOE had the bye.

The Lions will face the unique situation of playing their first game in a new league as a two dayer.

A few Moe players expected to be in calculation for A Grade selection got some time out in the middle in Premier B at the weekend.

Moe unveiled their newest recruit Josh Keyhoe, who scored an unbeaten 67.

Captain of CATS last season, Keyhoe has made the move to Ted Summerton Reserve, where his wife played netball in the season just gone.

While a good team on paper doesn’t automatically mean wins, there is no denying Moe’s batting line-up is looking unbelievably strong now: Riley Baldi, Noah Kane, Andrew Philip, Joel Mitchell, Benn Zomer, Rob Phoenix and Keyhoe.



ON a day when Cricket Latrobe Valley celebrated its first ever weekend of actually playing cricket, it was perhaps ironic a member club also celebrated its first A Grade win in some four decades.

That the team they beat to do so also carries the Latrobe name perhaps just added to the irony.

Willow Grove was the toast of CLV on Saturday, after defeating Latrobe in Round 3 of A Grade action.

The Wolves mauled the Sharks, beating the traditional local cricket powerhouse by eight wickets – and in double-quick time too.

After deciding to have a trundle on their home hard deck, Willow Grove enjoyed a dream start.

Young leg-spinner Darcy Walsh caused a sensation, taking a wicket with his very first ball in the second over of the game, dismissing key Latrobe bat Ronnie Chokununga.

Walsh didn’t stop there, in fact he hardly stopped at all. He backed up with another scalp a short time later, combining with new coach Todd Mann who took a catch to see Latrobe 2/7 early in the piece.

Some calmer times followed, but Walsh could not be denied, and before too long, had a five wicket haul sewn up after taking the first five wickets of the innings.

Walsh dismissed Navin Gomez first ball, and when Mann took another catch to see the back of Jacob Bloomfield, Latrobe were in all sorts of trouble at 6/30.

Veteran Anthony Bloomfield, arriving late and batting at nine, showed his class, scoring 28 to save the team from total embarrassment.

The Sharks however still folded for less than 100, meaning Willow Grove had to get 97 runs to cement their place in history.

Walsh ended with figures of 5/19 off 10 overs with three maidens, while Josh Hammond took a lazy 3/1.

Mann took the initiative to open the batting, and after having a look at a few, started teeing off.

The coach scored an unbeaten 39 off 69 balls, which included a maximum.

His partner in crime Luke Payton joined him in the six hitting competition, sending two balls over the fence.

Payton, who has joined the Wolves this season from the UK, arrived with a reputation for big hitting – and he certainly didn’t disappoint at the weekend.

He made 34 not out off just 21 balls, with 24 of those runs coming in boundaries.

Willow Grove got the required runs in 25 overs, meaning not only did they win, but they also secured a bonus point.

After fielding A Grade for the first time in close to 40 years last season and not winning a game, to have now essentially played well enough to get two wins in one game in some effort.

Before the season, Mann said he would be “happy with one or two wins”. The coach might be raising the bar a little bit higher now.

Jubilant scenes surrounded Willow Grove players postgame, a memory sure to live long in the minds of those who have been with the Wolves for a long time.

To see Willow Grove with three senior teams, two women’s teams, a full complement of juniors and now, what looks to be, a competitive A Grade side, is certainly a far cry from the club that very nearly went under just on a decade ago.

Mann said there was plenty to smile about.

“It means the world to the club and the group to see their faces after a long 40 years and last year too,” he said.

“Just to get a win was fantastic. We celebrated like we should of and enjoyed it … it means everything to the whole club and community also.”

Speaking of the game itself, Mann said he was pleased with the attitude of the players.

“We approached the game with a mindset we’re winning this and we’re staying positive if things don’t go our away,” he said.

“I said to the boys at tea the game isn’t over, we gotta get these runs first!

“We won’t be getting ahead of ourselves. We have the bye now so we will get to training to support the other grades playing this week and then our focus is on Traralgon West in the first two day game.

“Our goal now is to keep being positive and keep playing our style off cricket and enjoy it.”

KEEPING with the trend of the round from A Grade, the other two games were fairly one-sided. Imperials didn’t make a great first impression in the new league, after being knocked over for 87 by Centrals.

Imperials just didn’t get any output from the top order, as the dots kept piling up at Apex Park.

All bowlers used by the Lions proved effective.

New addition Tyron Gamage snared 3/19, while left arm swinger Marc Fenech grabbed 3/28. Rob Webber completed a very ageing trio, but showed exactly what experience can do, taking 2/7 off six overs.

Centrals got the required runs for the loss of just three wickets. Webber did what he had to do, making 30 opening up to see the team home.

The Lions will have no doubt been pleased to chase down a small total without losing too many wickets – something that hasn’t always been the case at Centrals in the last few years.

A CENTURY to Dougal Williams highlighted the match between Rovers and Gormandale.

Williams came to the crease with his side in some trouble at Stoddart Oval, sitting on 2/18, before he and Tyler Pearce stabilised the situation.

Pearce made a fighting 55, as he and Williams combined for a 106-run partnership.

Williams continued on, and ended up scoring 112 out of a total of 221.

Gormandale bowlers toiled away, and were rewarded with the sharing of wickets. Tyler Reynolds took 3/21, Nick Scammell 2/23, Dylan Freitag 2/26 and Campbell Peavey 2/34.

Disaster struck for the Tigers, as before too long they were 3/11 in pursuit.

From there, Gormandale struggled to wrestle back any momentum, with captain Matt Hibbs the only one standing tall with a gritty 83.

In the finish, the Tigers fell well short, and were all out for 154.

Daniel O’Keefe led the bowling for Rovers, taking 4/23. Veteran Simon Duff played a hand in three wickets, with a catch adding to his 2/36.

TRARALGON WEST had the bye.


THE Eagles took full advantage of the opportunity to send a player back to B Grade, and duly put Rami Zafar in the team.

Adding to the irony of the round, Zafar may have set a league record that will never be broken in the first-ever week the competition has been running.

Zafar’s effort to whack 230 in a B Grade one dayer will take some beating.

Seeing as though the next highest score was extras on 21, it made for one of the more unique-looking scorecards ever seen in local cricket.