By Nick Creely
Amidst all of the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, it’s been a bumper off-season in the Dandenong District Cricket Association, with some big name recruits set to bolster the competition when community sport is given the green light to resume. Here are some of the signings and departures from the top two grades with cricket hopefully not too far away:
Runners-up Berwick have been busy, both with recruits and departures, with Wookey Medal winner Ruwantha Kellepotha off to Premier Cricket to try his hand with Casey-South Melbourne, while Brendan Rose is another notable departure with the reliable paceman off to Richmond in a coaching-playing role at the Premier club. Cory Bevan (Knoxfield) and Josh Holden (Buckley Ridges) are two reliable players who’ve also departed the Cave.
But the Bears have landed three big names as they look to once again remain in the premiership hunt, with ex-Tasmanian quick Andrew Perrin returning to the club after winning a premiership with Prahran in a major coup that will bolster the bowling, while talented leggie Riley Siwes comes across from Dandenong West where he will help fill the void left by Kellepotha. Mordialloc premiership skipper and champion keeper-batsman Damith Mapa Ralage is also bound for Arch Brown Reserve as he seeks a fresh change of scenery.
Buckley Ridges have undergone some changes to its playing list with coach Chanaka Welegedara departing, while their pro pair, Benny Howell and Ian Cockbain won’t return and champion all-rounder Daniel ‘DJ’ Watson is also 50/50 to play for the club this season.
But the Bucks always have something up their sleeve and have landed quick Nimesh Kariyawasam from North Dandenong as well as batsman Josh Holden from Berwick.
It has also landed former Glamorgan batsman and ex-England Under 19 player Ben Wright as the club’s new skipper, in a huge signing for the club and competition. It is expected that the Bucks will likely look to further bolster their batting stocks.
Narre South are also hoping it has the cattle to compete for the Turf 1 flag this season, but will need to do so without star pair Josh Dowling (Springvale South) and Scott Phillips, who have both departed Strathaird Recreation Reserve. Phillips, who will play with Willamstown Imperials, is one of local cricket’s most decorated champions and one of the MPCA’s greatest ever players, leaves a big hole at the Lions. But the Lions are hopeful that Jersey international gun Jonty Jenner can return to the club to help bolster the batting, while hard-hitting top order batsman Harsha De Silva joins the club from West Coburg.
Springvale South – as they usually are – have had a bumper off-season, with two star quicks, Josh Dowling, and ex-State and BBL paceman Jayde Herrick linking up with the Bloods in what is a potent new-ball duo in the making. Star all-rounder Blade Baxter, who most recently has been performing strongly in the Northern Territory and was named in the Darwin District Team of the Year, has also joined the club from Ormond. Mitch Forsyth has also returned to the club after a stint with Dandenong and will add plenty of class through the middle order. Spots will be tough to obtain in the Turf 1 side down at Harold Road.
The Bloods have lost a few, however, with destructive all-rounder Nathan King off to Lakes Entrance as captain-coach after he moved to East Gippsland, champion batsman Clint Tomlinson has retired after a short stint, while reliable batsman Stephen Hennessy has departed for Keysborough.
St Mary’s have been busy locking away its senior list and are looking incredibly stable under skipper Wendyl Pires, but have added a quality recruit with top order batsman Nanayakkarawasam Kalumshehara signing on after two strong seasons for North Dandenong.
Cranbourne has had a fairly busy off-season, with the Eagles landing attacking wicket-keeper batsman Matt Collett from Dandenong West, with the top-order batsman a quality addition.
But it’s been Heinz Southern Districts who have really gone on a substantial recruitment drive after a tough Turf 1 season in 2020/21, with a scattering of new names down at the Snakepit.
Under new coach Craig Hookey who has joined the club from Cranbourne, the Cobras have been busy, landing Matt Blanch (Frankston Peninsula), leg-spinner Maheesha Gamage (Casey-South Melbourne), all-rounder Jason Ward (Richmond), gun paceman and former Victorian Under 19 player Triyan De Silva from Dandenong who has first XI experience at Premier level, as well as off-spinner Jordan Margenberg from Cranbourne.
As previously mentioned, Keysborough has bolstered its batting with the signing of Stephen Hennessy from Springvale South, with the top-order batsman expected to really relish his opportunity after mixing between the first and second XIs at the Bloods.
And the Parkmore Pirates have also steadily locked away the majority of its playing list and looms as a side to watch, but have added top-order batsman Abhinav Bhatia who took out Coomoora’s club champion award last season after a sensational individual season.