By Nick Creely
VICTORIAN PREMIER CRICKET
SEASON PREVIEW – CASEY SOUTH MELBOURNE
Captain: Luke Wells
Vice-captain: Lachlan Sperling
Coach: Nick Jewell
President: Ross Hibbins
Assistant Coaches: Prabath Nissanka, Mathew Pearson
Cricket Operations: Craig Lambden
Last Year: 17th (2 wins, 1 draw, 13 losses)
Club Championship: 17th
Most Runs: Michael Wallace (467 runs at 24.58), Dylan Hadfield (370 runs at 20.56) and Chris Benedek (302 runs at 18.88)
Most Wickets: Nathan Lambden (25 wickets at 18.64), Jonah Serong (18 wickets at 22.33) and Brendan Rose (18 wickets at 37.44)
Ins: Luke Wells (England), Ryan Quirk (Dandenong), Josh Dowling (Narre North)
Outs: Brendan Rose (Berwick), Leigh Diston (Western Park), Luke Manders, Cameron Dinger (HSD), Peter Sofra (Hallam Kalora Park)
Players to watch:
Luke Wells – The experienced batsman joins the Swans from Sussex in England’s County system, and will captain the club when he comes to the country in Round 2 or 3. Wells averages almost 37 at first class level with 18 tons, and will add plenty of experience, knowledge and wisdom to a young playing group. Also is a handy leggie who will bowl plenty of overs for the Swans.
Ryan Quirk – The gritty young opening batsman has joined the club from Dandenong where he topped the Second XI run scorers last season. Moving to Casey Fields to get a proper crack at First XI cricket, Quirk is expected to slot straight in to the side with immediate impact. Capable of batting for long periods, which is something the side desperately needs.
Nathan Lambden – A towering quick with immense passion for his side, Lambden could be set for a big season after a brilliant pre-season. Was solid last year, but will look to take his game to the next level and break back in the Victorian second XI. His speed, aggression and leadership will be crucial for a young team.
Jordan Wyatt – A powerful middle order batsman, Wyatt has all the capabilities to become a bona fide star of the competition, and finished last year off on a bright note by scoring a century in the seconds. At his best, Wyatt is a destructive, fearless player, and the type of player the Swans need to have a big year.
Home Base: Casey Fields, Cranbourne
First match: vs Frankston Peninsula, Casey Fields, 6 October
Last First XI premiership: 1967/68
Strengths: Top order depth: Last year the Swans struggled in the top-order, and while the loss of Luke Manders definitely hurts, it could be one of their strengths this season after bolstering that department significantly. The addition of Wells and Quirk, adding to Wallace and Pollock, gives the Swans some great options to see off the new ball. It will ensure they can shield the middle order and pile on big scores with the firepower of the likes of Wyatt, Hadfield and Benedek later in the innings.
Weaknesses: Inexperienced bowling attack: The Swans have some extremely talented young fast bowlers and spinners, but lack experience, with Nathan Lambden and Dylan Hadfield the most seasoned of the bowling group. In two to three years, they will benefit from first XI exposure, but could struggle at times this season.
The Burning Question: Can the Swans bounce back and re-capture their 2016/17 form?
After a horror 2017/18 campaign, the first thing that the Swans did in the off-season was look to shore up its leadership and find the right people to help get the club back in finals contention this season.
The addition of highly esteemed coach Nick Jewell – who has been lauded for his work with Frankston-Peninsula a few years – as well as Craig Lambden into Cricket Operations, will give the Swans a new found edge to their game and is sure to improve their standards both on and off-field.
While the majority of the core group remains down at Casey Fields, the loss of the highly talented Brendan Rose will certainly hurt, but the addition of quality quick Josh Dowling, as well as Dandenong youngster Ryan Quirk – who claimed the Premier Seconds player of the year award last season – will see them with an exciting amount of depth and talent across both grades.
And in the first ever Twenty20 Super Slam, where the Swans are in the Melbourne Stars conference, they will welcome in former international quick Nuwan Kulasekera, who will immediately make them a threat. The squad – which is yet to be finalised – is going to be an exciting, new look team.
Last season, the club ranked 16th in the competition for total runs scored, a statistic they will need to majorly improve on if they’re to be in finals contention. The likes of Dev Pollock, vice-captain Lachlan Sperling, Ryan Eaton, Jordan Wyatt and Chris Benedek all proved that they have what it takes at stages last year, and if they can start converting their 20s to 50s, and their 50s to 100s, it will make them a formidable batting line-up capable of putting a big score on the board.
Sperling, in particular, without the pressures of captaincy, could be one to really make a mark in the middle order. The Swans made a habit of losing clumps of top-order wickets, making it difficult to recover and post a competitive total. Adding Quirk, who is a class young opener, as well as the sturdy Michael Wallace and overseas gun Luke Wells – who is expected to arrive in Round 2 or 3 – and the Swans have a strong nucleus that can help support the bowlers and provide a shield for the middle to late order.
But with the losses of Rose, Sofra, Dinger and Diston from the bowling department, the Swans will look to unearth some new bowlers and look for improvement from within, with James Maxwell, Jackson Fry, Ashvin Adihetty, Jonah Serong and Jordan Wilkinson all expected to get their chances throughout the season.
The importance of regaining some respect in the competition can’t be understated, the Swans will be desperate to ensure that 2016/17 wasn’t an anomaly, and be a consistent side in all formats of the game. While finals are not out of the question, general improvement and further development of their talent will be a pass mark.
Potential Round 1 First XI
Lachlan Sperling (captain)
Devin Pollock (keeper)
James Maxwell/Jackson Fry/Jonah Serong