By Nick Creely
VICTORIAN PREMIER CRICKET MEN’S
SEASON PREVIEW – DANDENONG CRICKET CLUB
HOME BASE: Shepley Oval, Dandenong
PRESIDENT: Gary Davidson
COACH: Warren Ayres
ASSISTANT COACHES: Craig Slocombe, David Newman, Brett Forsyth, James Nanopoulos
CAPTAIN: Tom Donnell
LAST YEAR: 9th
MOST RUNS: Brett Forsyth (577 runs at 33.94); Comrey Edgeworth (369 runs at 26.36)
MOST WICKETS: James Nanopoulos (46 wickets at 12.50); Suraj Randiv (34 wickets at 17.71)
INS: Jack Fowler (Kingston Hawthorn), Adam McMaster (Melbourne), Aaron Fernando (Casey-South Melbourne), James Maxwell (Casey-South Melbourne), Braden Taeuber (Monbulk)
OUTS: Akshat Buch (Springvale South), Josh Shaw (overseas)
PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON:
After losing his Victorian contract, bowling outfits should be on notice this season with the clean-striking Newman one to seriously keep tabs on. Newman made terrific gains last season, and is a proven white-ball performer, so look for the Panther to be a real x-factor with the bat with his power hitting and provide genuine excitement to the side. Also an incredibly strong fielder, Newman looks ready to explode at Premier Cricket level, such is his talent and hunger.
2019/20 was an incredibly promising season for the classy top-order batsman, nailing down a spot in the firsts and finishing second for runs with 369. Edgeworth’s strong technique and temperament were on show in an impressive campaign, which included a gritty 181-ball 51 on a tough pitch against Carlton. Now a regular member of the first XI after steady improvement each year, look for the right-hander to keep churning out the runs this season at Shepley Oval.
The reliable seamer was a big improver last season, netting 15 wickets at 18.20 in his nine first XI matches and will take great confidence out of some terrific performances, including 4/28 against Casey-South Melbourne. With the Panthers bringing in plenty of depth in the bowling department, positions will be tight in the pace-bowling group and the bowlers will have to be at the top of their game, but the quick will get his chances and could be one to help the side back into finals calculations.
It was one truly remarkable season from the champion Panthers all-rounder with a sensational 46 wickets next to his name and once again a solid contribution with the bat. In many games, Nanopoulos managed to keep his side in it – or provide the difference – and once again this season he will be a vital cog for the Panthers in looking to break back into the finals. There’s few better white-ball cricketers in the competition than Nanopoulos, so there’s no reason to think he won’t once again be a dominant force.
AREAS OF STRENGTH: Depth is going to be so vitally important in this different looking season, and Dandenong under legendary coach Warren Ayres has plenty of it. Basically retaining the majority of its core list, and adding four to five players who will be desperate to break into the first XI, the pressure for spots is going to be fierce, which is an incredibly good problem to have. With champion top-order pair Tom Donnell and Brett Forsyth, a strong middle-order, plenty of all-rounders, quicks, spinners and kids looking to make an impact, there are opportunities there for the taking, so expect the standards to lift across the board. This depth is most notable now in the bowling department, with the recruitment of Jack Fowler, James Maxwell and Braden Taeuber, and the return of Adam McMaster.
AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Despite its glittering amount of stars in the batting department, Dandenong did struggle at times with the bat last season, ranking in the lower end for total runs scored. A lot of that can come down to a variety of factors, including Shepley Oval being a tougher place than usual to make large totals last season, as well as several dominant efforts with the ball in the first innings, but largely it was a down year in comparison to other successful years for the club on-field, but with plenty of room for improvement from some just consolidating a position in the first XI. The Panthers in recent years have always been a strong batting unit, and a pacesetter, so there is no reason they can’t bounce back in a big way and start piling on the runs.
FIRST FIVE GAMES:
Round 1: vs Frankston Peninsula, Saturday 28 November, AH Butler Oval, 11.00am
Round 2: vs Melbourne, Saturday 5 December, Beaumaris Secondary College, 11.00am
Round 3: vs Monash Tigers, Saturday 12 December, Shepley Oval, 11.00am
Round 4: vs Kingston Hawthorn, Saturday 19 December, Shepley Oval, 11.00am
Round 5: vs Casey South Melbourne, Saturday 9 January, Casey Fields, 11.00am
WHAT THE CAPTAIN SAYS:
On finishing just outside the finals last season
“We were around the mark last year, we just had some bad losses in games that could have gone either way, but that’s the way it goes.
“It’s an incredibly tight competition, and sometimes that’s the way it goes. You have to be on your game each week to perform well.
On the challenge of pushing back into the top-eight
“Hopefully we push back in (to finals), and with a few new players it’ll be interesting to see – the season will be all one-day, so you need to get off to a fast start with a short season.
“The aim is obviously always to play finals and see what happens from there, but it’ll be interesting, we’ve got a few new players, bowlers, which is good.
The abundance of pace options after recruiting in that area
“If you look at the quicks that have come and gone from the club in the last few years, the turnover has been huge, so we needed to get some depth in and some consistency in those blokes to support the veterans and guys that you can count on, like (James) Nanopoulos and (Peter) Cassidy.
“We wanted to get some guys with a bit more pace, and even if they were a little bit more raw that’s something we’re after.
“We feel like we can control things pretty well with those guys like Nano and Cassidy, but we want some unpredictability I suppose and that’s what we’re looking for.
“There’s plenty of spots up for grabs, so hopefully these new guys can push and perform well.”
Why there will be selection pressure at the club this season
“There are a lot of options, and I reckon we’re going to play a lot of players. I think spots are going to be keenly challenged, and I think we’ll look to get both young batters and bowlers through.
“Playing some of those young guys is just as important, we need to be looking to the future too when the older guys move on.
“We’ve got a great group of young players, so now it’s just about giving them games and opportunities to get used to the standard and know the game a bit better.”
On how the Panthers will look in Round 1
“Because the season isn’t going to be normal, you possibly can mix things up a bit and see how things can work.
“It may depend week-to-week on conditions, or opposition, so we need to be flexible which is a great thing for our club to give guys opportunity in different positions.”
– Dandenong captain Tom Donnell
One of the most admirable qualities about a club like Dandenong is that they’re always around the mark for silverware, and always competing hard.
And with names such as Brett Forsyth, skipper Tom Donnell, James Nanopoulos and Suraj Randiv still going strong and a host of others playing a brand of cricket that stands up at this level, there is reason to believe the Panthers can well and truly put some of the disappointment behind them of last year and rise back into finals.
For large parts of last season, the Panthers were around the mark, well-drilled and with plenty of players emerging to complement their stars, but the cut-throat nature of the competition meant that just a few untimely losses saw them just miss out on the eight.
But under the watchful eye of the legendary Warren Ayres – a man that really does not need any introduction in Victorian cricket circles – the Panthers will be bouncing into 2020/21, in a season like no other, with plenty of excitement, and some added expectation.
The club will be unpredictable when it comes to selection and structure, something that it will use to its advantage, with indomitable depth being built after bringing in a host of new recruits, including the return of Adam McMaster, who is a quality fast bowler, as well as a host of other players developing strongly and expecting to push the senior core for selection.
A key area of focus through the off-season has been to continue building its fast bowling stocks after a large turnover in recent years – hence the recruitments of McMaster, James Maxwell, Jack Fowler and Braden Taeuber who are all impressing ahead of Round 1 – and with that will come selection pressure, an element of any sporting club that instantly results in higher standards at training and on match day.
Tom Donnell will once again captain the side as he nears 250 first XI games, and anticipates plenty of youngsters to get a chance at some stage this season, as the club looks to stay contending but also keep an eye on developing the next generation of Dandenong players.
The Panthers are a settled club, they have plenty of exciting youth developing strongly, but its core group remains steady. The storied careers of opening duo Donnell and Brett Forsyth will continue, while James Nanopoulos will once again loom large after his most dominant season yet, while spinner Suraj Randiv was incredibly impressive last season.
But in what is a tough competition, and in a season where depth, leadership and consistency will be as important as ever, the Panthers will be hoping it can put a tough year behind them last year and return to finals where it has been a force for many years.