By Nick Creely
In an off-season that has seen a number of notable senior players depart the club, Dandenong has received a mighty boost with the great Tom Donnell signing on for another Premier Cricket season.
The champion left-handed premiership skipper weighed up retirement as well as a few local cricket offers, but has committed to what is going to be a new-look Panther outfit as he closes in on 9,000 Victorian Premier Cricket runs in what has been a storied career.
Donnell, however, has handed the captaincy reins to his long-time opening partner, Jack Ryder Medal winner and fellow club great Brett Forsyth who will lead a new era for the club out of Shepley Oval under Warren Ayres.
He’s a big boost to the Panthers’ side, not only with the bat but his experience as the club goes through a youthful phase after years of on-field success.
The Panthers have had an interesting off-season to say the least after playing off in the 1st XI grand final, with a huge chunk of their grand final side departing – legendary all-rounder James Nanopoulos (Frankston Peninsula), Jacques Augustin (Frankston Peninsula), Peter Cassidy (Brighton), Comrey Edgeworth (Mentone), Suraj Randiv (Edinburgh), Jack Fowler (Dromana), Ed Newman (St Kilda) and Lincoln Edwards (Elsternwick) all departing – while fringe players such as Dasun Opanayaka (Elsternwick), Zac Grundmann-Perera (Elsternwick) and Mitch Forsyth (Springvale South) have also found new clubs.
Under Forsyth, the Panthers have added talented keeper Brodie Eccles from Frankston Peninsula, all-rounder Matt Wilson from Carlton and are hoping to get plenty out of other recruits such as Aryaman Bhardwaj (Northcote), Visura Fernando (Kingston Hawthorn) and Sam Newell (Kingston Hawthorn) as they look to prioritise the club’s developing players and give more opportunities to the likes of Angus Newman, Braden Taeuber, Jarryd Wills, Josh Slater, Cameron Forsyth and Gehan Seneviratne.
There could be as many as eight changes from last season’s grand final side which fell narrowly to Prahran, however with the experience of Forsyth and Donnell once again leading the charge, the Panthers will be confident of making a significant impact.