By Nick Creely
Talented young spinner Jonah Serong represents the future of the Casey-South Melbourne Cricket Club.
The 16-year-old Longwarry product is making waves in the elite Victorian Premier Cricket competition, after a string of impressive white ball performances that have left some of the top batsmen in the state scratching their heads.
In his first season down at Casey Fields, Serong – who has similarities in style and action with former South African captain Johan Botha – started the season in the twos, and despite bowling tightly, was unable to take a wicket in the first four games.
But coach Prabath Nissanka saw enough against Dandenong in Round 4, and called the youngster into the top side to add a different dynamic to his bowling mix.
On debut against Geelong at home on 11 November, Serong bamboozled the Cats to take 2/24 off his 10, before encouraging performances against Frankston Peninsula (0/37 off 10) and Carlton (0/44 off four).
But as the Swans look to resurrect their season, Serong has added the zest in recent weeks, with outstanding displays against Greenvale (1/11 off four), Northcote (3/16) and Melbourne Uni (3/16) in Twenty20s turning heads and frustrating batsmen.
The youngster is the first to admit he’s probably surprised himself with how well he is going so quickly in such a historic and famous competition.
“I didn’t really know what to expect (coming into Premier Cricket) – I couldn’t take a wicket in the twos and was brought up to the ones, and it’s started to happen,” he said.
Serong’s style of bowling isn’t defined as conventional, but has a passion for the game that will get him through any curveballs it throws at him.
“I’m not a massive turner of the ball, and I like to adjust my pace and flight – I’m probably not a traditional off-spinner who turns it, so I like to change it up somehow,” he said.
“I started teaching myself how to bowl spin at a junior level – it’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve had a bit of coaching on it.
“I just enjoy my cricket – if I’m up or down, or bowling well or not well, I still enjoy it.”
While Serong has dominated the junior landscape of the Warragul District for several years, it was a terrific Under 17 National Championships in 2016/17 – where he took 10 wickets at 22.7 at a brilliant economy rate of 3.8 – that sparked his arrival at the Swans.
“I spoke to a few people at Casey about going down there, but making the Under 17 Victorian side and doing well there proved I had the potential,” he said.
And the club couldn’t be happier to have him in their ranks.
“It is his first season, and he’s got great pace variation – he’s not a big turner of the ball yet, but that will come,” Nissanka said of his young spinner.
“The way he takes on the challenges are very good – he’s very positive about his bowling, and he’s learning quickly as well, I’m very impressed.
“He’s a really good talent.”
And Serong himself believes he has a great future at the club, which is building with a host of young players that will take the club forward.
“There are lots of young players there (at Casey) – I think the oldest player at the club is 26, so that’s how young we really are, and we have potential.“