Premier A Grade

GET those calculators out.

No shortage of subplots emerged as the last round of the Premier A season in Cricket Latrobe Valley commenced at the weekend.

While finals-bound teams are more or less set, teams in the bottom half of the ladder will be frantically crunching the numbers this week to ensure they are not one of two sides heading down the relegation path.

Fourth-placed Moe are 10 points clear of Morwell and CATS, whom they are currently in the midst of playing.

The clash between the Lions and CATS looks unlikely to lead to a CATS first innings outright – the only result giving CATS any chance of playing finals.

Morwell meanwhile has a fairly standard chase on its hands against Churchill.

It could be too little too late for the Tigers however as far as finals are concerned, as they are 10 points outside the top four and would need to take maximum points (10 with a first innings outright) to be any show of reaching the post-regular season.

The Cobras are second-last on the ladder with 19 points, and can avoid relegation with victory provided Mirboo North and Toongabbie lose.

The Rams (seventh on 20 points), face an uphill battle against premiership fancies Glengarry, although they do have the option of batting out for a draw.

If Toongabbie can salvage three points from a draw, and Churchill and Mirboo North (last on 19 points) loses, the Rams will live to fight another season in Premier A.

Mirboo North isn’t done with just yet however, and has its game against third-placed Raiders delicately poised.

The South Gippsland Tigers’ best chance of avoiding relegation will be beating Raiders, and relying on Churchill and Toongabbie to lose.


Moe v CATS

AN unusually high number of wickets fell on Day 1 at Ted Summerton Reserve between Moe and CATS.

In a throwback to the last decade when scores of 150 were considered competitive at ‘Ted’, the Lions scratched their way to 148 off 61.5 overs batting first at home.

Runs came from Josh Keyhoe, who made 40 opening the batting after being recalled to the side in time for finals, and Andrew Philip with 32 off 75 balls.

The usually proactive Keyhoe was tied down by some good bowling from ex-teammate Cal Stewart, who proved he only needed to bowl off five strides to be just as effective off 20.

The former pro knocked over Keyhoe, Philip, and had another ex-teammate in Evan Sheekey caught and bowled, on his way to extraordinary figures of 4/45 off 21 overs.

Statistically at least, Stewart has taken a huge liking to bowling against Moe with the red ball, with figures of 7/31 and 7/21 in his last two outings.

Given this, the Express understands a few Moe players identified this as a huge danger game, and as it turns out, they had every reason to believe so.

While Stewart bowled half of the first innings overs, he received good support from those around him.

Ben Hagley chipped in with 3/13, and fellow new-ball bowler Josh Moore went for just 20 off 10, taking a wicket himself.

Despite perhaps being unders with the blade, the Lions threw back to a key facet of their own from the early part of the last decade – defending low totals.

Moe was only out in the field for 24 overs, but that was still enough time to have the scoreboard reading 5/46 at stumps.

Aaron Johnstone continued on this wicket-taking ways, nabbing 3/21, cleaning up the entire CATS top three.

The medium pacer recently took his 200th club wicket for the Lions, in what has been a meteoric rise of sorts in the last 12 months.

Having enjoyed A Grade premiership success with Moe in 2010/11, Johnstone has spent the time since shuffling between the grades, even going as far down as C Grade where he scored a century in a semi-final against Trafalgar in 2019/20.

He was sensationally drafted into the A Grade team for the semi-final last season, and hasn’t missed a beat since, with 16 wickets at 18.88 – the second-most for Moe this season.

CATS will resume Day 2 with Josh Moore and Paul McGill at the crease, after the pair defended manfully to stumps.

The visitor’s still have Stewart and Tinashe Panyangarra to bat, who were possibly protected by (in the greatest respect) a couple of sacrificial lambs late in the day.


Raiders v Mirboo North

THIS Mirboo North miracle might be on.

The Tigers made 208 against Raiders at Yinnar Turf, although the home side has already knocked 54 runs off that total.

Needing to win to avoid relegation, Mirboo North responded to the challenge of being asked to bat first.

Dom Davis was thrown to the top of the order, and made 47, partnering with co-captain Zac Hollis who made an innings-high 73.

Mirboo North veteran Matt Snell showed he hasn’t lost any of his touch, making 36 from number five during the Tigers’ 68.3 overs out in the middle.

Raiders searched for answers, and ended up using eight bowlers, four of whom took two wickets each.

Left armer Boyd Bailey (2/21), spinner George Cheshire (2/23), beanpole quick Harri McColl (2/28) and skipper Liam Maynard (2/33) shared in the spoils.

Raiders’ plans of blasting the Tigers out cheaply didn’t exactly come to fruition, although they perhaps showed just how many runs were in the deck when they went out to bat.

The home side only batted for 16 overs before stumps, but ended the day one-quarter of their way to the total.

Bailey was in a hurry, and got to 25 not out off 26 balls, and will be joined by Cheshire who is unbeaten on 22.

With 154 to get and nine wickets in hand, Raiders will be looking to avoid a similar situation that saw them drop a game against Ex Students when they needed 60 to win with seven wickets in hand.

Mirboo North has Max Woodall coming in this week, and the young express bowler does have the ability to run through teams.


Toongabbie v Glengarry

TOONGABBIE are holding onto a spot in Premier A by a fingernail.

The Rams are yet to bat against Glengarry, although even from this far out, it is hard to see anything other than a Magpie win.

Glengarry is currently 8/276, and has the option of batting on for another 10 overs at Roger Ries Oval.

The Magpies continued on their run-scoring ways last Saturday right from the outset.

Frank Marks, fresh off his double ton, had to settle for 33, however, his opening partner Al Jenkin then took his turn at raising the bat.

Jenkin played a busy hand, getting himself into prime form before finals with a majestic 106. The left hander hit 14 fours and one maximum in his 160-ball stay.

Toongabbie had some joy, dismissing a couple of players in the middle order cheaply, but Cam Graham was able to keep the runs coming, playing a supportive role for Jenkin.

Graham’s patience was rewarded with a half-century, which turned into 53 off 103 balls.

Once again, Toongabbie captain Keenan Hughes did the bulk of the bowling, and took 2/86 off 35 overs. Fellow left armer Matt Barry also put in a good stint, sending down 29 overs for an economical return of 1/79.


Morwell v Churchill

WILL slow and steady win the race here?

Churchill put in a serious block-a-thon against Morwell, but managed to get themselves to a total of 156 by the end of the day.

Taking to Keegan Street, the Cobras reasoned their best chance of putting up any defendable score predicated on their ability to stay in, so that is just what they did.

And when John Keighran was dismissed for two – they were left with virtually no choice.

While it was a snooze-fest, the visitor’s succeeded in eliminating most chances Morwell had of winning outright – the only result that will see them possibly play finals.

With former Churchill players Brendan Mason and Ross Whelpdale switching to Morwell in recent years, there can be little doubt seeing Morwell miss finals was absolutely a motivating factor for the Cobras.

Steve Warr hit just one four in his 32 off 146 balls, while Ross Parker struck just the two in his 28 off 76 balls.

The Churchill lower order did as those higher up did. Ashton Ceeney saw off 84 deliveries and made 19, while Chris Williams (the bowling one) played surely one of the greatest innings of his life, making 26 off 62 balls.

On the downside however for the Cobras, the sheer amount of dot balls made for a very quick over rate, and Morwell will be entitled to at least 90 overs on Day 2.

This will give their top order no shortage of time to chase down the runs, and maybe, just maybe, Morwell will look to make a sporting declaration and roll the dice going for an outright.

The Tigers used four main bowlers at the weekend, and all went for less than two-an-over.

Some farcical figures were recorded, notably Whelpdale, who took 3/51 off 31 overs (13 maidens), and Tim Ford, 3/53 off 31.2 (10 maidens).


EX STUDENTS had the bye.


A Grade

IT’S that time of year when strange things happen.

Finals positions were all but secured for A Grade teams on Day 1 of the final round of Cricket Latrobe Valley, but not before some staggering scorecards came to hand.


Centrals v Rovers

IS the curse slowly being lifted?

For once, Centrals was on the winning side of a tight game in March.

Having built up an unwanted reputation for dropping close games in this month, particularly semi-finals, the Lions broke through in truly astonishing fashion against Rovers.

After being bundled out for just 91 at Apex Park, no one in their right mind could have foreseen what was to follow.

Rovers, having made 200-plus scores most of the season, unimaginably found themselves needing one run to win with one wicket in hand.

While there remained a remote chance Centrals could win, Rovers had 200 game veteran Simon Duff on strike, and all appeared ready for him to knock a couple into a gap to secure first innings points.

Instead, Duff went for glory, only to be caught at mid off trying to launch one over the top, meaning a mere one run loss.

Like the captain of the Titanic, it was perhaps a case of 20 years of experience working against Duff, although in his defence, he should never have been in that position in the first place.

In fact, neither side should have been, for the Apex wicket by all reports was a belter.

Another Centrals batting failure earlier in the day saw Mark Rawson the only player to make a contribution, with 31 off 51 balls (is there a player who consistently makes 30s more than him?).

The bowling for Rovers was of high quality, and saw wickets shared between the Ewan Williams, Liam Little, Duff and Stefan Sbaglia quartet.

Sbaglia cleaned up the tail with 3/4, while Duff took 3/33 with his finger spin.

Williams took the wickets of both openers to finish with 2/12, and Little the next two to follow (2/30).

What Rovers could do with the ball however, Centrals could do even better – if only very marginally.

Rovers as well perhaps didn’t think Marc Fenech was ready to unleash.

The veteran tore through the visitor’s top order, on the way to figures of 6/45 off 19.2 overs.

The left-arm swing bowler started by trapping Little in front for none, and then knocking over Oliver Hannam first ball.

He followed up with the big wickets of Dougal and Ewan Williams, before taking the winning wicket when the game was on a knifes edge.

Rovers appeared helpless in the face of the Fenech frenzy, apart from Tyler Pearce, who weathered the storm with 27 off 101 rocks, before succumbing to spinner Hiran Rajapakse, who took 2/12.

Fenech entered the record books in more ways than one.

His first wicket saw him record wicket number 500 for the Lions, and to top it off, his sixth made him the all-time leading wicket taker in Centrals Cricket Club history.

Fenech’s total now stands at 505, going past 1950s and 60s star Murray Bates.

Not a bad day at the office at all: win a game by one run on your home ground, take the winning wicket and become your club’s leading wicket taker in history.

For all the wasted Saturday’s in cricket, those are the ones that make it level out.

Among Fenech’s 500-plus wickets is 19 five wicket hauls, and he also holds another Centrals record – most not outs as a batsman (78).

The opening bowler is almost just as well known for his deeds at the other end of the batting order, and one sight of him walking to the wicket signals the Lions are nine down.

In an era when the game demands more out of tailenders, Fenech is one of the last of the old school Number 11s – the ones who seem to view batting as a problem for other people to solve.

Having taken more than 500 poles, why would he want to be involved in the game any more?

There was little time for Fenech to celebrate however, as before he or his teammates knew it, they were batting again.

The trend of the day continued, as wickets tumbled in the Lions second dig.

Ewan Williams and Lachlan Patterson blasted three front pads off the Centrals top order, to see them go to stumps at 3/19.

Amazingly, despite the anguish of losing on first innings by one run, the game is pretty much on level pegging now.

Despite both these sides already guaranteed a home final, the mental edge garnered from this game cannot be understated.

According to a Rovers insider, it is all “up here” (in the head) as far as their cricket goes, while for Centrals, there are surely warning sirens going off about another batting failure.

By all accounts, the Lions still haven’t recovered from the 2018/19 Grand Final loss to Latrobe when they were bowled out for 63 chasing 69.

And that’s when Centrals had Nat Freitag in their team.


Willow Grove v Imperials

IMPERIALS has one foot in the finals door.

Needing to beat Willow Grove in the last round, and rely on Traralgon West not winning outright, both those outcomes appear on course as far as Imps are concerned.

Imperials have already won on first innings, while the odds are staked against the Eagles pulling off an outright against Latrobe.

Taking to Moe Racecourse Turf for what was a virtual elimination final between the Wolves and Imps, the winner was more or less guaranteed a spot in the post-regular season.

Given their season appeared long gone three weeks ago, Willow Grove had a number of players already unavailable, while some even headed back to B Grade.

Amazingly, Nathan Weatherhead was one of them, despite taking 10 wickets in the match against Latrobe in A Grade the round before.

Sensing a weakened batting line-up, Imps elected to bowl first.

The Wolves only managed 117 from 46.2 overs, with veteran Antony Wilkes top-scoring with 30 not out off 47 balls down the order.

In slightly bizarre circumstances, Wilkes found himself up against Todd Mann, whom he has played with at Yarragon, Rovers and even Willow Grove.

Mann bowled double the amount of overs from anyone else on the Imps card, and was again in the wickets, taking 4/34.

Mann took the key wicket of Willow Grove import Luke Payton, fresh off 160, as well as Josh Hammond and Cal Polo in the top order.

The right arm quick has now taken more than 40 wickets for the season, adding further rise to the debate surrounding whether or not he will be eligible for the league best-and-fairest.

While 40 wickets would usually make someone a short-priced favourite, the fact Mann has played for two clubs in the one season (Willow Grove and Imps) makes it a tricky situation.

Dom Thompson also made inroads, taking figures of 3/27, before Imps went past the total and ended the day 6/131.

Anu Meenakshi got some runs for his confidence, making 32 off 34 balls.

Shane Galea is 42 not out, and will look to build upon his side’s current 14-run lead.

An outright is of no benefit to Imps, and they may well just look to bat until tea before calling it.


Latrobe v Traralgon West

LATROBE might be getting a Christmas card from Imps.

The Sharks staved off 93.4 overs from Traralgon West, who needed to win outright to play finals.

As it stands, the chances of the Eagles chasing the 194 set by Latrobe at Peter Siddle Oval and bowling Latrobe out again, not to mention either batting again themselves or building a lead, appear in the realms of fantasy.

Needing to bowl first in order to go for an outright, the Eagles did just that, but were denied by Shark veterans Mark Lawrence and Jamie Coltman.

The pair saw off close to 200 balls each, making 57 and 43 respectively.

This set the tone for the day, as Traralgon West used eight bowlers trying to find regular breakthroughs.

Adan Thow took 3/40 off 20 overs with his leg spin, while off spinner Ben Fleming nabbed 2/15 off 13.4, eventually getting his side off the field.

Ronnie Chokununga was the only Latrobe player to make a sizeable score and strike above 35, getting to 40 off 43 balls, launching two of them over the boundary.

The Eagles batted two overs before stumps, and got through unscathed.

That Grand Final last season might feel like a lifetime ago for Traralgon West. It certainly does for the team they rolled in the semi.


GORMANDALE had the bye.

The Tigers used the weekend off to host a charity match for favourite son Luke Henderson
Henderson, well known in the Traralgon sporting and business community, recently relocated to Queensland, where he is currently battling cancer.

Some of the region’s best cricketers came to Stoddart Oval for the match, played under the title of ‘Hendo’s Heroes’. Players and spectators were encouraged to wear floppy hats in tribute to Henderson.

His wife Kirstie Henderson provided the following update, which was posted to the Gormandale Cricket Club Facebook page on February 23: “We are now at 51 days in hospital, we never thought Luke would be in hospital this long.”

“During that time we have had many ups and downs. It seems like we take two steps forward and several back. Luke’s journey has been nothing short of challenging and overwhelming at times, but with the support of so many family, friends and the medical staff we have moved from hour-by-hour to day-by-day, looking forward to week-by-week when we reach that point.

“The outlook for Luke is going to be long and slow as we wait for his body to recover.

“After the second surgery here in Brisbane, some organs were quite damaged, some have recovered over the time we have been here but others need time to heal requiring drains to his abdomen. He had two drains for this and a third to drain an infection near his spleen.

“Earlier this week Luke went into AFIB and was moved to CCU for a couple of nights to get his racing heart under control, after some medication and monitoring they are happy it has stabilised and moved him back to the ward.

“Luke had a fourth drain inserted to help move a collection from his right side if his abdomen. Four drains across his abdomen is a lot and with the amount they are draining they will be in for a few more weeks yet most likely months.

“We continue to navigate the challenges that are presented including the distance of where Luke’s treatment is with the balance of keeping the family moving forward.”

A livestream of the Hendo’s Heroes match can be viewed via:

Those wishing to donate to the cause can visit