The Victorian Premier Cricket competition kicks off this weekend, with the Dandenong Cricket Club set for another huge season in both the Men’s and the Women’s competitions. Can the Men bounce back from a tough grand final loss despite a raft of off-season changes? Can the Women go back-to-back and continue a dominant chapter in the club’s history? TYLER LEWIS previews the Panthers’ prospects for season 2020/21.
Last season: Runners-up. The Panthers had a dream run in the post-season, defeating both Melbourne and Geelong before going down valiantly to Prahran in the grand final.
Last First XI premiership: 2017/18
Notable Ins: Sam Newell (Kingston Hawthorn), Matt Wilson (Carlton), Aryaman Bhardwaj (Northcote).
Notable Outs: James Nanopoulos (Frankston Peninsula), Jacques Augustin (Frankston Peninsula), Lincoln Edwards (Elsternwick), Comrey Edgeworth (Mentone), Jack Fowler (Dromana), Pete Cassidy (Brighton), Adam McMaster (Kooweerup), Suraj Randiv (Edinburgh), Ed Newman (St Kilda).
Off-season talking point: Early in the off season the departures of a large chunk of players was well-documented. It was a turn over rarely seen from the club out of Shepley Oval. However, the continuous talking point through winter was ‘will he or won’t he’. Was the club’s pantheon Tom Donnell going to strap on the pads for one last season? After much deliberation, Donnell will go on, a great boost for the Panthers after the aforementioned partings.
What the Journal says: With a fresh side looming to take the field in round one, what to expect from Dandenong this year is currently unclear. With such quality of players departing – especially on the bowling front – it is hard to see the Panthers achieve the same results as it did last summer.
Yet, as such a proud club, it is also hard to see it plummet out to the bottom. With a sense of unpredictability – which is so rare when in association with Dandenong – the expectation of the side will be evident after round five.
With Richmond, Camberwell, Footscray, Frankston and then Casey-South Melbourne to kick off the season, the Panthers will reveal where it sits in the pecking order.
In a white-ball season and a now less experienced side, a great start will be crucial if Dandenong are to make another tilt at some finals action.
Stat/milestone to look out for: Brett Forsyth (8496 – 22nd all-time) and Tom Donnell (8615 – 20th all-time) should both reach 9000 First XI runs this season, but an interesting stat to look out for is that as Forsyth etches closer to Tom in total runs, he also gets closer to becoming Dandenong’s all-time run scorer. Perhaps they are batting together when Forsyth levels with Donnell, and they exchange the record multiple times in an innings.
Round 1 opponent: Richmond – away.
Team prediction: 9th – with the balance of the side, expect some big scores in both innings.
Individual prediction: Josh Slater: 500 runs. 2021/22 will the year the right-hander announces himself through a weight of runs.
Last season: Premiers. Who could forget the mesmeric comeback win from the Panthers, looking done and dusted in its defence, before causing a Box Hill collapse on its way to premiership glory.
Last First XI premiership: 2020/21
Off-season talking point: Up until a couple of weeks ago, the Panthers had a relatively subtle off-season, making very little movement and losing very little players. But in recent weeks, Dandenong have been left without its two-time premiership coach Andy Christie, as he joins Cricket Victoria as the Female Emerging Players Performance Manager. Assistant coach Shame Lamour will step up to be the head coach of the program this season.
What the Journal says: After feeling the agony and ecstasy of Premier Cricket in the last two seasons, Dandenong looms to be one of the key contenders again.
Kelly Applebee has hung up the boots after a splendid career and Maryam Omar has shifted to Carlton for geographical reasons, but with the likes of Kim Garth, Tiana Atkinson and Emma Gallagher filtered through the side, it’s bound to head in the right direction.
Garth – as one of the best all-rounders in the competition – will play a key role once again and if WBBL form is anything to go by, she looks to have taken her bowling to another level.
Many Panthers had fantastic individual seasons last year, earning themselves positions in Victorian programs, whether that will impact the Premier Cricket season when the delayed WNCL season commences is yet to be confirmed.
Expect the Panthers to win its first two games of the season comfortably, but Dandenong will need to bring it’s A game in round 3 against Essendon Maribyrnong Park with the log jam that is the top four of this competition.
Round 1 opponent: Prahran – away
Team prediction: The expectation for this side has to be finals once again, it’s too rich in talent to settle for anything less.
Individual prediction: Tiana Atkinson to have a mammoth season where she blasts her first century.