WGCA PREMIER DIVISION
REVIEW – ROUND 14 (Day 1)
IF A draw in footy is like dancing with your sister – as Denis Pagan once so famously said – then how can we describe the final home-and-away round of the WGCA Premier season?
Cardinia, Kooweerup, Merinda Park and Tooradin have all sewn up their finals’ spots, and they all know who they’ll be playing against in the semi-finals regardless of who wins or loses this week. Only positions two and three (Kooweerup and Merinda Park) can change at this point, and they would only swap. Yes, this definitely carries significance when it comes to a home final and that added bit of security if bad weather was to intervene, but aside from that – at least on face value – a win or a loss in Round 14 won’t mean a hell of a lot to any of the contenders.
Still, winning form is good form and bad form can be mighty tough to reverse in the space of just a week.
Cardinia player-coach Simon Parrott admitted both the Bulls and Seagulls were particularly quiet out in the middle on day one of their clash on Saturday. It was like the calm before the storm.
Cardinia finished the day well on top, having dismissed Tooradin for just 127, and sitting on 0/16 at stumps.
The Bulls’ bowling attack, from top to bottom, was outstanding – as it has been for much of the season. It’s probably the biggest reason they remain undefeated at this late stage. Brayden Browne (3/26), Travis Welsh (2/13), Travis Wheller (2/20) and Dean Henwood (2/27) were the multiple wicket-takers, while the attack as a group only conceded three wides.
The Bulls know how to pile on the pressure on their home deck; they know exactly where to bowl and to what fields. The key for them, now, is remembering this when they face the Seagulls again – at the same venue – in two weeks.
But as for this week?
“I guess it doesn’t do too much,” Parrott said.
“I put everyone on notice prior to the game and the difficulty I’ve got, in a way, is that all the bowlers stood up… we’ve got 12 players fighting for 11 spots.
“Brayden bowled an absolute jaffa to Cal and we got Huss out early, but did it show much?
Parrott said both sides wanted to carry positive momentum into the finals, but they each knew what the other was about by this point.
“They bat deep – we know that – and I still rate them and Koowee as the best sides in it,” he said.
“We go into the semi-final with a lot of confidence in how we play this ground, but you have to play to the conditions – it’s not easy early… you have to get yourself in and be patient.”
As for this week – Parrott told his boys to play with freedom. They really don’t have anything to lose.
“Ideally we want the two openers to get a good hit and knock over the runs but with Azz (Avery), Hammer (Hamill), Tim Lenders, Lowndsey (Josh Lownds) and Thommo (Jarred Thompson) they’ve got a really good attack and we have an opportunity to get a good look at it.”
Ben Darose (7 not out) will resume this week at the top of the Bulls’ order with Daniel Strahan (9 not out) – a deliberate move to get him some more time at the crease ahead of the finals.
“Look, we respect Tooradin extremely highly but we’re very focussed on ourselves,” Parrott said.
“It was pretty quiet out there on Saturday but I think both sides know that the verbal between us doesn’t work.”
While he said “it would be nice” if his side went through the home-and-away season undefeated, Parrott added “no one will remember you did it if you go out in a semi-final.”
With just 112 runs left for victory this week, and a full day to get them in, the Bulls are almost un-backable favourites to finish undefeated heading into next week’s game. But they’re not taking anything for granted.
“They’ve got some clear match-winners who know what it takes to win premierships,” Parrott said of the Gulls.
Bring on the semi-finals.
PAKENHAM v KOOWEERUP
‘SCRATCHY’ is probably the best word to describe Kooweerup’s performance with the bat at Toomuc Reserve’s main ground on Saturday.
Demons skipper Michael Giles won the toss and elected to bat, and it was business as usual at the top of the order as he and Chris O’Hara put on 85 for the first wicket.
But from there, things fell away rapidly.
A series of ill-advised shots, in combination with 27 stellar overs from the man of the moment Russell Lehman (7/54), led to the visitors being dismissed for just 202 in the 68th over.
O’Hara (29) wasn’t particularly impressed when it comes to summing up his side’s batting effort – and he included himself and Giles (48) in that.
“If you look back you could say almost every one of us got ourselves out,” he said, bluntly.
“They bowled really well but some pretty poor shot selection brought about a lot of our downfalls.
“Doof (Giles) and I really should have gone on with it and it’s just disappointing that we didn’t bat out our overs – that’s a cardinal sin.”
O’Hara said the patience that his side showed even in its recent loss against Cardinia disappeared on Saturday.
“We just didn’t dig in,” he said.
A close look at the scorecard backs that statement up. Giles was the only Demons batsman to pass 30, while seven other batsmen got at least double-figure starts.
Still, if any team would back itself in to win with a relatively modest 202 on the board, it’s the reigning premiers Kooweerup. These Demons are ruthless with the ball and they’ve got no shortage of in-form options to turn to this week.
Saturday was Ayden Mills’ first day back in Premier for the season, and O’Hara said he’d earned his way in.
“After our washout against on day one against Emerald we went and watched the twos and he batted beautifully in that game,” O’Hara said.
“He bowls well and he’s a good fielder too – he’s great to have in the side.”
As for his own partnership with Giles, O’Hara said the pair was “getting there”.
“We’ve been pretty consistent setting a pace over the past couple of years but we need to capitalise,” he said.
“We’ve been blessed this season to have Matty (Davey) and Mush (Matt Bright) bat so well but someone in the top four needs to go on with it and not leave it up to them.”
O’Hara paid credit to Pakenham and its committee for the way in which it hosted Pink Ladies Day on Saturday.
“Full credit to the club and their hard-working committee – they do a fantastic job,” he said.
“They always do things extremely professionally and they should be really proud of their efforts.
“Sometimes you need clubs to set the standard and I know other clubs are envious of their committee and how they go about it.”
EMERALD v MERINDA PARK
BOMBERS’ skipper AJ Walker managed to again enhance his reputation as one of the association’s most dominant batsmen with another 94 on Saturday at Chandler Reserve.
He enjoyed the freedom of playing on Emerald’s newly revamped home surface, with a quick outfield and a true pitch. Yet, things could have been so different… if a straightforward chance didn’t go begging when he was yet to get off the mark.
The Bombers went on to make 210 but Walker was again by far and away the side’s driving force. Julian Scott (24) and Andrew Alenson (20) both showed plenty against a strong Merinda Park attack, but they couldn’t go on with it after laying the groundwork for their innings.
“I don’t know what it is with AJ,” said Cobras player-coach Jamie Smith, who has an uncanny knack of picking up Walker’s wicket.
Smith did pick up one scalp on Saturday, but it wasn’t the Emerald stars.
“He just goes after us and he has this ability to hit it out of the middle from ball one.”
Brendan Fairlam was the unfortunate culprit who dropped Walker, but by his own admission the ball went right through his hands.
“A few guys maybe dropped their heads after that,” Smith admitted.
“We then probably bowled a bit straight and a bit short to him – myself included.
“AJ is one of the best batsmen in the comp and a little bit like Mick Giles from Koowee, you just can’t afford to drop him.
“We have to take these sorts of chances in the finals.”
The Cobras are taking some strong form into the business end of the season, having just defeated Tooradin at the Snake Pit, and they’ll resume on Saturday on 0/41 after just nine overs.
Smith praised his side’s whole attack – particularly Premier skipper and co-coach Danny Diwell (1/14), Craig Boswell (2/28) and the unlucky Jess Mathers (0/62 from 22 overs). But, testament to the Cobras’ depth with the ball, Smith, Fairlam, Caleb Boswell and Daniel McCalman also picked up wickets.
Smith said this round was the first round all season that the Cobras had their ideal side all playing together, and now it was a matter of finding some more form with the willow against a quality seam bowling attack including Darcy Hellriegel, Clinton Marsh, Cam Williams and Alex Cann.
“I’d love a few of the guys in the top five to get over 50,” Smith said.
“We want positive momentum with the bat heading into the finals.”
So far, so good. Merinda Park will resume on Saturday on 0/41 with openers McCalman (18) and Anthony Craddock (22) at the crease.
BEACONSFIELD v UPPER BEACONSFIELD
THE Maroons are well on top after day one in the last Beaconsfield derby for the foreseeable future.
Frustratingly typifying their season, Chris Savage’s men saved their best for last with the willow – turning in a stellar performance from the top of their batting lineup to the bottom.
Savage won the toss and elected to bat, with his side eventually dismissed for 298 in 77 overs. All but one of the side’s batsmen reached double figures, with Savage (66), Robert North (45) and young gun Jack McHale (40) leading the way. McHale – an under-17’s player – was particularly impressive, with a career-best innings.
The Dandenong and District Cricket Association (DDCA) turf-bound Tigers have their work cut out for them if they’re to bow out of the WGCA in style in an historic final day of their season at Holm Park Road this Saturday.
Callan Tout (3/55) and youngster Mitchell Hayes (3/56) led the way with the ball on day one.