By Nick Creely
There’s going to be a tinge of unpredictability about Dandenong this season, with plenty of emerging players set to be given a chance to lock down spots in the Victorian Premier Cricket powerhouse’s side throughout the year.
With the Panthers’ men’s side set to kick off its campaign with a one-day clash against Melbourne University at Shepley Oval on Saturday 5 October, champion skipper Tom Donnell told the Journal that the group is excited to bounce back after an untimely exit in last year’s semi final against Fitzroy-Doncaster.
“We’re really looking forward to it (the season), it’s going to be good,” he said.
“I really enjoyed last year, it was a fun year for all of the boys, but we probably expected to challenge and be good enough to beat the better sides, but we tried our hardest and fought it until the end, which will hopefully leave us in good stead.
“Hopefully we can continue to do that, work hard and keep trying to improve – finals is always the goal, and whatever happens from there, happens.
“We’ll look to try and make the eight this year, and go from there.”
There has been very little movement in terms of the Panthers’ batting group for this season, with stars in reigning Ryder Medal winner Brett Forsyth, Lincoln ‘LJ’ Edwards, Donnell and James Nanopoulos all ready and raring to go around again.
“We’ve got some pretty good players (in the batting group),” he said.
“If Brett (Forsyth) can have anywhere near his year last season would be great, LJ’s (Edwards) hundred against Fitzroy was one of the best innings I’ve ever seen, so those two will always get some good scores, but it’s just a matter of staying consistent and not having a weakness in our side. We want to be even all the way through.”
Donnell also said he expected a heap of improvement from developing batsmen Comrey Edgeworth, Josh Slater and Ed Newman, as well as Cameron Forsyth – who will all be looking to nail down first XI spots – in a sign that the depth of the batting is as improving year by year.
But the Panthers have lost a chunk of its fast bowling stocks ahead of this season, with Adam McMaster transferring over to Melbourne, Darren Pattinson retiring, James Wilcock returning to local level with Berwick and Paddy Turner moving to the Gold Coast.
Donnell said that while it’s not ideal to lose so many quality quicks at once, the club understood these changes were going to happen last year, and have planned accordingly.
In a way, Donnell believes it will make the Panthers quite an unpredictable, at times youthful bowling unit.
“There’s probably going to be a bit of movement within the team, certainly in the bowling perspective, but we had a bit of a taste of that last season not having Darren (Pattinson) for a lot of the season,” he said.
“We didn’t have McMaster last season, and Wilcock had a great start to the season and struggled with injury from there, so the transition probably started last year.
“Going into this year it’ll be similar – we’ll chop and change, and it’ll come down to form and how the guys are going, and depending on weather and conditions, we’ll go from there.
“We’re far from settled, there will be some young guys that will get good opportunity this year in those roles – we had Jakeb Thomas come along well last year, so it’ll be on guys like that to step up this year and keep improving which is good.”
Donnell hinted that the Panthers could inject its fair share of spinners into the side throughout the season, with the club recruiting Gehan Seneviratne from Carlton, as well as former Sri Lankan test spinner Suraj Randiv – who was in Dandenong’s SuperSlam side last season and played club cricket with Dandenong District Turf 1 club, Heinz Southern Districts.
The Panthers also have left-arm tweaker Akshat Buch, who was second on the wickets tally last year and was incredibly impressive with his control.
“He (Seneviratne) bowls leggies and bats well, so he’ll really add to our depth in that department – he’ll be close (to Round One) selection.
“And Suraj Randiv will play for us all year, so we’ll look to play a couple of spinners anyway and see how that all kind of fits in.
“However many bowling spots we have I’m not sure, but we’ll just look to play our best side and figure out what fits.”
Donnell also said the club is excited by young quick Triyan De Silva, who has crossed over from Monash Tigers.
“He’ll be in and around the mark, and certainly play first XI cricket this year at some point which is exciting for us,” he said.