By Nick Creely
For a day and a half, the young Casey-South Melbourne side certainly took it up to the benchmark of the competition, and they almost walked away with a memorable victory.
While the Swans lost at Schramms Reserve in the Saturday/Sunday clash to reigning premiers, Fitzroy Doncaster, it made two great strides in its season, climbing off the bottom of the ladder and showing enormous fight and pride.
The same issues that have plagued the Swans faced them once again; quick and denting batting collapses; when they won the toss and elected to bat.
Big Trent Lawford (4/55) struck early, removing both Dev Pollock (2) and Luke Manders (6), to expose an inexperienced middle order into the fray.
Michael Wallace (22) and Chris Benedek (37) did a fine job in getting the scoreboard ticking over, and put on 42 runs to set up a decent platform.
But the wicket of Benedek; courtesy of consistent spinner Ejaaz Alavi (3/32); also brought the undoing of Lachlan Sperling (5), Wallace and then Dylan Hadfield (11), and suddenly the Swans were 5/84.
Youngster Joel Mitchell (55) and pace bowler Brendan Rose (62) then got together, combining resilience with class, to spend some valuable time out in the middle, and the pair put on a brilliant 92 run stand.
The pair both crossed their maiden first XI half centuries, in a milestone for the two talented players, as the Swans reached a competitive 211.
The Lions were shaky on day two, with Rose (2/38) and Jackson Fry (1/34) taking three early scalps and suddenly the Lions were on the back foot at 3/13, and scrambling to get a partnership going
Skipper Peter Dickson (90 not out) oozed class as he has done for over a decade and eventually the Lions fought to a hard fought four wicket win, with Lawford (42 not out) helping guide the home side to victory with a late flurry of crunching boundaries.
But Swans coach Prabath Nissanka was proud of his troops for fighting tooth and nail; especially with the bat; and almost clinching the upset of the season.
Without spearhead Nathan Lambden; who is nursing a fracture in his leg; Peter Sofra (3/38) took his chance and bowled brilliantly for the Swans.
“It was a tough wicket to bat on, and we managed to put up a few good partnerships, but we were fighting, and we worked really hard to get to 211,” Nissanka said.
“And with the ball, we were pretty disciplined, almost two to three sessions we were on the money and bowling really well, it was good to see some fight.
“But we weren’t good enough to beat them, but lots of positives to take out, for sure.”
Those positives; according to Nissanka; were that of Brendan Rose and Joel Mitchell; who are part of an exciting future at the club.
“He (Rose) batted so well; if he had a couple of wickets to bat with, he would have actually scored a century I believe,” Nissanka said.
“Joel has a lot of talent, we all know that; he can play 360 degree shots, but it’s about spending more time in the middle, and that is something we work with him, and talking to him very often about how he will build an innings.
“He really set himself well, and saw a different side to his game.
“This is a young side, I was expecting a tough year; as long as they learn from their mistakes, and start learning to build an innings and get bigger runs, that will be good for our future.”
The Swans host Monash Tigers at Casey Fields on Saturday, as the look to find some late season scalps.