Premier A Grade

AN extreme contrast saw the inaugural regular season of Cricket Latrobe Valley finish the opposite of how it started.

Where rain had wiped out the first month of Premier A action back in October, players battled oppressive heat at the weekend just gone, as temperatures soared into the high 30s.

The weather pattern appeared to be running two months behind schedule, as conditions usually reserved for summer made their way to autumn.

Ultimately, the heat provided a minor nuisance as results and ladder positions were finalised following the completion of Round 14.

In the end, there was also a great sense of anticlimax.

The top four was virtually set before Day 2 had even started, while the same could be said for the bottom two sides, who succumbed to relegation.

Former Traralgon District powerhouses Ex Students and Glengarry showed just how strong they really are, finishing well clear as one and two at the top.

Their opponents for this weekend’s semi-finals will be Moe and Raiders respectively.

Raiders, runner-up last season in Latrobe Valley District (Trarlagon District and Latrobe Valley District merged this season), face a Glengarry side many consider the strongest in the competition, while the Lions are up against a club many consider the strongest in all of Gippsland.

While Moe will be long-odds to win, there is perhaps some poetic justice associated with their finals qualification, having got in one spot ahead of Morwell. The Tigers beat the Lions in a hotly contested and equally controversial Latrobe Valley District semi-final last season, pulling off a reverse outright before going on to win the flag.

CATS meanwhile ended the season in sixth position, well clear of both finals and relegation.

The team from Traralgon South have managed to stay in the top flight the last two seasons, seemingly negotiating their availability as best they can from week to week in order to do so.

At the foot of the ladder, Churchill and Mirboo North finished equal-last on 19 points, the consequence of which means they will both be heading down the grade next season.

The Tigers can possibly count themselves a little unlucky, as this will be the only season that sees two teams from Premier A demoted (to allow eight teams in each division).

On the other hand, Toongabbie can consider themselves extremely lucky to have avoided relegation, as the Rams finished a mere one point ahead of Mirboo North.

Churchill and wooden spoon in the same sentence is not something you would say too often, in any sport, unless you were to go back to Churchill’s football days in the Gippsland League.

The Gippsland League is the only major football league in the region.

No doubt Cricket Latrobe Valley officials will be hoping to reach a similar standing during summer.


Moe v CATS

MOE cracked the first winning beer/soft drink well before 3pm.

The Lions only took the best part of 20 overs to get the remaining five wickets they needed against CATS, who were knocked over for 107 in pursuit of 148.

With virtually nothing to play for once a first innings result was reached (keeping in mind it was 37 degrees), both teams were happy to shake hands and call it a day.

CATS, needing to win outright to be any hope of featuring in finals, fell away rapidly after the dismissal of returning batsman Josh Moore.

Moore departed with the score 6/57, which became 9/98 before too long.

Paul McGill joined Moore at the crease to start the day, and was the last wicket to fall, making 34 after sticking around for 84 balls, most of which were recorded on Day 1.

Moe used five bowlers, all of whom chipped in with wickets.

Aaron Johnstone set up the win with three on Day 1, in eventual figures that read 3/36.

Benn Zomer nabbed 2/7, Reverend Clinton Taylor 2/16 and Callum Grant 2/23.

The Lions are now preparing for another finals series. Moe has had little trouble making finals either side of the last decade, missing only twice in the last 10 seasons (ironically those two times saw them finish last).

Moe’s run since 2019/20 deserves a nod of approval, having gone runner-up, runner-up, premier/promoted, narrow semi final loss, and now qualifying for finals in an expanded league.


Raiders v Mirboo North

RAIDERS got a good hit in before finals.

Chasing 208 against Mirboo North on Yinnar Turf, the home side got the job done for the loss of only four wickets in the last week before finals.

Perhaps most pleasingly for Raiders captain Liam Maynard, his top and middle order spent more than 60 overs out in the middle.

Runs to opener George Cheshire provided a stable base to set up victory, and his 56 off 107 balls served a number of purposes.

Mirboo North remained a sneaky chance after getting three wickets in relatively quick succession to leave the scoreboard reading 4/143.

Raiders however appeared to have just the right number of resources, and were helped by handy contributions from most of the top order.

Youngster Ben Burrows batted through until the winning runs were hit, making 41 not out, while Tom Robertson did similar, scoring an unbeaten 38.

Mick Higgins added to his career tally, knocking off 28 runs, and Boyd Bailey got his hit in last week, making 25 before being subbed out.

Darin Matthews was the pick of the bowlers for Mirboo North, finishing with 2/28.

Raiders have proven perhaps the surprise packet of Premier A, finishing the regular season in third, well ahead of teams identified in preseason as likely finalists such as Morwell and Toongabbie.

While the Raiders narrative every season revolves around them being too old, the fact of the matter is players like Higgins are still churring out handy runs and bowling more than handy overs.

Adding Rob Webber at Christmas has added even more experience, while getting Bailey as a diplomatic recruit provided someone who offers something in both departments.

Whether or not it is enough to beat Glengarry remains to be seen, but one expects Raiders will have to bat for as long as they did in this game, and then some, if they are to be any chance.

The desolate look on Maynard’s face after the Grand Final last season when his team lost after needing only 40 to win with six wickets in hand will surely provide motivation trying to get back on the big stage.

For Mirboo North, the Tigers will be back in the lower division for the second time in four seasons.

Such an outcome should make them more competitive in theory, although the jury could still be out on the whole promotion/relegation structure.

Granted this is the first season in an expanded league, the danger lies in the gap between the two divisions becoming too wide.

If that happens, there is a good chance the same teams will just keep going up and down.


Toongabbie v Glengarry

BOTH teams got what they wanted in the match between Toongabbie and Glengarry.

The Magpies got the win, and the Rams avoided relegation.

Chasing close to 300 was probably always going to take something extraordinary from Toongabbie, and in a final scorecard that read 9/82, that was perhaps all that was needed to indicate the mindset of the two competing teams.

Glengarry have finals, and really a flag, to worry about. Toongabbie had more than likely checked out on the season before the day even started.

The Rams bowled for a couple more overs at home on Saturday, taking the last two wickets to be presented with a total of 281.

The home side was never in the hunt, and seemed happy to hit out or get out as Mad Monday loomed.

There was more getting out, so much so Toongabbie only last 37.5 overs, and were bowled out for 82.

Nathan Allen continued on his wicket-taking ways, finishing with 3/11, while new ball operator Cam Graham took 3/14.


Morwell v Churchill

MORWELL won by nine wickets.

The Tigers had an emphatic end to the season, although unfortunately for them, last Saturday was exactly that – the end of the season.

Chasing 156 against Churchill at Keegan Street, the home side got the required runs for the loss of only one wicket.

Needing to win outright and rely on CATS beating Moe to play finals, the Tigers went at a rate-of-knots, winning on first innings in just over 40 overs.

However, keeping an eye on scores, it became clear fairly quickly CATS were not going to beat Moe, so Morwell ended their game as soon as a first innings had been achieved.

It was better late than never for Blair Clymo, as the Morwell opener finally made a sizeable contribution with the bat, remaining not out on 80.

That he scored 80 not out in one hit and made 154 runs for the season perhaps summed up the horror season he endured.

Cyrus Shafi helped the win with 57 not out off 110 balls, allowing the rest of the Morwell card to put their feet up.

Churchill meanwhile failed to make more than one inroad, and will now head down the grade for the first time since promotion/relegation has been around Latrobe Valley cricket.

There will be a degree of interest connected to how long the Cobras remain in the ‘lower’ division, and if it will in fact prove detrimental in their efforts to recruit international or even gun local players.

Regardless, has anyone had time to consider JK in A Grade? That could be absolute carnage.


EX STUDENTS had the bye.


A Grade

THE end of the Cricket Latrobe Valley regular season finished in some anticlimax, with the top four in A Grade remaining virtually unchanged from the start of the round.

While there was a number of hypotheticals on the cards leading into Round 14, there was no last-gasp efforts that came to fruition.

In the washup, Rovers finished on top of the ladder, while Centrals secured the other home final on offer.

Gormandale had a finals berth sewn up heading into the round, but could go no higher than third owing to a bye in the last round.

Imperials meanwhile rounded out the top four, winning a virtual elimination final against Willow Grove to make sure of it.

The Wolves dropped to second-last in the finish, meaning Traralgon West was the only real ‘mover’ after the round, ending season 2023/24 one spot outside the top four.

In a somewhat farcical ladder, the Eagles won the same number of games as Imperials, yet fell a whole six points short of going equal with them.

At the other end of town, Centrals finished second on five wins, one less than Gormandale.

Points however were divvied up during the home-and-away campaign, with some outrights and even reverse outrights thrown into the mix.


Centrals v Rovers

WOULD you be worried if you were Centrals?

While the Lions finished the home-and-away season second on the ladder, another batting failure at the weekend will surely carry fears it is the same old story as the semi-final approaches.

What made last Saturday’s loss to Rovers even more bizarre was the fact Centrals started the day having already won the game.

The Lions won on first innings by one solidary run, but fell apart completely in their second innings to hand the visiting Rovers side a relatively easy reverse outright.

Starting Day 2 at Apex Park 3/19, the Lions failed to build much of a lead, and were bowled out for just 78.

If the total wasn’t enough to send alarm bells off, the sight of the entire Centrals top order and middle order going out bowled or lbw surely was.

Only Mark Rawason, with another Mark Rawson-like 32 made any contribution, as an astonishing seven batsmen fell leg before.

Ewan Williams did the damage for Rovers, taking 3/5 off 10 overs. He was ably supported by first innings villain Simon Duff (3/22), Oliver Hannam (2/11) and Lachlan Patterson (2/28) against his old side.

Given the one-run margin on first innings, the scoreboard was essentially nil-nil when Day 2 started, and come Rovers’ second innings, they found themselves needing only 79 to win.

Hannam and Dougal Williams ensured six points for a reverse outright, making 33 and 28 not out respectively, securing not only the win but the minor premiership as well.

Tyron Gamage took 2/6 in the second dig for Centrals.


Willow Grove v Imperials

IMPERIALS won outright via more conventional means.

Travelling to Moe Racecourse Turf for Day 2, Imps took care of Willow Grove, giving themselves a good warm up for this weekend’s semi-final in the process.

Resuming at 6/131, the technical visitors had a 20 over slog and took their score to 215.

Shane Galea led all comers with 65, while Scott Aitken and Todd Mann both made 28, the latter smacking two sixes.

For someone who has publicly said he hates batting, Mann goes alright at it – he has a few A Grade tons to his name.

Young gun pace bowler Dylan van der Stoep was able to end his season on a high, taking exceptional figures of 6/31 off 15 overs for Willow Grove.

The Wolves batted again and made 144 in just under 50 overs.

Luke Payton again shouldered most of the burden, making 40 off 51 balls, while veteran Anthony Wilkes peeled off 36 batting at number 11.

Dilshan Thilakarathne nabbed 4/29 in the second dig, while Mann took his season tally to 50 with 3/53. Scott Aitken also chimed in with 2/38.

Imperials got maximum points quickly, getting the 50 or so runs needed in 5.1 overs, thanks mainly to James Skingle scoring 29 not out off 23 rocks.

Imperials are set for an enjoyable week at the club, as it has all three senior teams in finals.

The team from Catterick Crescent reported a huge buzz during preseason, which it attributed to the formation of Cricket Latrobe Valley.

With all three teams now about to play finals, Imperials will surely view their decision making as overwhelmingly positive.

From a first grade point of view, Imperials will play Rovers for a place in the Grand Final.

Given the form lines of each, and notwithstanding the fact semi-finals are generally the hardest games to win, pundits could mount a case for whoever wins this weekend will just about win the premiership.


Latrobe v Traralgon West

TRARALGON WEST ended the season with a win.

The Eagles got the job done against Latrobe, and were able to celebrate not only a team victory, but a couple of individual performances as well.

Chasing 194 at Peter Siddle Oval, the visitors got through relatively unscathed, losing six wickets on the run home.

Openers Hayden Kimpton and Ben Edebohls put on 97 for the first wicket, broken when Kimpton fell for 45.

From then, the innings largely belonged to Edebohls, who fell just five runs short of an A Grade century.

Nevertheless, it was 95 made rather than 100 lost for the veteran all-rounder, who got his side to 212 before declaring.

A highlight for Latrobe was woman’s cricketer Stacey Rockliff taking two wickets.

Needed to win outright to be any such chance of playing finals, Traralgon West sent Latrobe back in.

The Sharks played some shots in their 15 over stint, getting to 3/74 before it was decided to call it a season.

The end of the game marked the end of another season for Anthony Bloomfield, who despite being well into his 50s, is still making plenty of runs.

Bloomfield made 28 off just 18 balls in Latrobe’s second dig, while Ronnie Chokununga made 26 off just 14.

Leg spinner Adam Thow finished with figures of 2/16 off five for Traralgon West.


GORMANDALE had the bye.