It’s set to be a season like no other in the Dandenong District Cricket Association’s highly-regarded Turf 1 competition, and finally the on-field action begins on the weekend in a welcome relief to the cricket-loving community. DDCA reporter NICK CREELY takes a look at how the Turf 1 clubs are shaping up ahead of the 2020/21 season…
President: Andrew Moore
Coach: Brad James
Captain: Matthew Chasemore
Last Season: Premiers
Most Runs: Matthew Chasemore (635 runs at 57.73); Lachlan Brown (281 runs at 23.42)
Most Wickets: James Wilcock (35 wickets at 11.26); Ruwantha Kellepotha (27 wickets at 17)
In: Nathan Pilon (returning)
Out: Isaiah Jassal (Casey-South Melbourne)
Home Base: Arch Brown Reserve, Berwick
Turf 1 premierships: 7
Most recent premiership: 2019/20
First match: vs Narre South, 21 November, Arch Brown Reserve
It was a golden season for Matthew Chasemore’s side in 2019/20, and despite the season coming to an unfortunate end and preventing the club playing off in the grand final against Buckley Ridges, there’s no doubt that the Bears were the benchmark side all year and thoroughly deserved its Turf 1 flag after being awarded the crown by the DDCA. Champion cricketer Matt Chasemore was at his very best last season and will be looking to carry on with the momentum for the club, who will be well and truly hunting back-to-back Turf 1 flags for the first time. The combination of quick James Wilcock and spinner Ruwantha Kellepotha was incredibly dangerous, combining for 62 wickets last season, with the pair set to play another vital role for the Bears, while the batting group worked well around Chasemore all season. The highly destructive Nathan Pilon returns for a full season and in the one-day format will cause plenty of headaches with the Bears’ batting side featuring a great mix of experience and developing talent. With just the loss of one player, and to the Premier Cricket ranks, spots will be tight once again, which is sure to lift the standards of the club as a collective.
Can Matthew Chasemore’s Berwick go back-to-back?
198809 Picture: ROB CAREW
President: Sonny De Silva
Coach: Chanaka Welegedera
Captain: Jayson Hobbs
Last Season: Runners-up
Most Runs: David White (715 runs at 47.67); Jerome Jones (526 runs at 58.44)
Most Wickets: Jerome Jones (30 wickets at 18.67); Greg Todd (25 wickets at 20.28)
In: Michael Davies (HSD), Hussain Ali (Kooweerup), Ian Cockbain (East Torrens), Chanaka Welegedera (Strathmore), Roshan Anurudda (Sunshine United), Zafar Sheikh (North Dandenong), Benny Howell (Gloucestershire)
Out: Greg Todd (retired), Jerome Jones (overseas), Adrian Neill (overseas), David White (overseas)
Home Base: Park Oval, Dandenong
Turf 1 premierships: 3
Most recent premiership: 2018/19
First match: vs North Dandenong, 21 November, Park Oval
The 2019/20 season came to a disappointing end for the Bucks, who were unable to defend its Turf 1 title after the grand final was cancelled and the premiership awarded to Berwick. The Bucks didn’t have it all their own way last season, finishing fourth at the end of the home-and-away season, but lifted itself up for the finals series with wins in the semi and preliminary finals. With overseas pair Jerome Jones and David White unable to return after taking the association by storm, particularly White over the last two seasons, the Bucks have lost a massive amount of firepower, but like all powerhouses do, they have recruited sharply and welcomed in many great cricketers, including former Wookey Medal winner Michael Davies from HSD, County stars Ian Cockbain and Benny Howell, ex-international quick Chanaka Welegedera and a host of others set to push for a Turf 1 spot. It’s a list of ins set to send shivers down the spine of opposition clubs. With newly appointed skipper Jayson Hobbs to lead the group and Welegedera to coach, and the season to be played in a one-day format, this well-drilled group is well poised to push hard for another Turf 1 title and continue on what has been a brilliant few years for the little powerhouse out of Park Oval.
Buckley Ridges will be hoping for a second Turf 1 premiership in three years.
HALLAM KALORA PARK
President: Craig Hillard
Coach: Richard Hammond
Last Season: Sixth
Most Runs: Leigh Booth (234 runs at 21.27); Ben Hillard (213 runs at 21.3)
Most Wickets: Chris Pereira (21 wickets at 16.24); Sachith Jayasinghe (16 wickets at 29.88)
In: Jordan Hammond (Casey-South Melbourne), Lee Brown (Lower Plenty), Matthew Cox (Tooradin)
Out: Chris Pereira (Endeavour Hills), Dulaj Ranathunga (overseas)
Home Base: Hallam Recreation Reserve, Hallam
Turf 1 premierships: 2
Most recent premiership: 2001/02
First match: vs St Mary’s, 21 November, Hallam Recreation Reserve
The Hawks were once again around the mark last season but fell short in a few crucial matches to miss out on a Turf 1 finals appearance. Welcoming back star all-rounder Jordan Hammond after an incredibly impressive stint at Premier Cricket level with Casey-South Melbourne, the Hawks will be confident that they can make a splash this season and return to the finals, and from there, do some serious damage with plenty of quality in its ranks. The loss of seamer Chris Pereira to Endeavour Hills does hurt after he snared 21 wickets last season, but Hammond’s inclusion with both bat and ball, as well as Lee Brown – a man who is no stranger to the competition – will give the Hawks plenty of depth and quality with the ball. Excitement machine Matthew Cox joins the Hawks and will significantly bolster the batting department, with his ability to score big hundreds, and at a fast rate making him a huge inclusion for the club, particularly in a purely one-day season which will rely on those types of players. While missing out on finals last year, the Hawks are a proud club, and one that will be confident it can break back into the four and do some serious damage in finals.
Hallam will be hoping to bounce back into the Turf 1 finals.
190592 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS
HEINZ SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
President: Matt Downe
Last Season: Fifth
Most Runs: Kaushalya Weeraratne (558 runs at 46.5); Trevor Davies (327 runs at 23.36)
Most Wickets: Udara Hettige (21 wickets at 16.43); Chandima Abeykoon (15 wickets at 25.47)
Out: Kaushayla Weeraratne (Narre South), Michael Davies (Buckley Ridges), Cameron Dinger (Narre Warren), Josh Dinger (Narre Warren)
Home Base: Reedy Reserve, Hampton Park
Turf 1 premierships: 0
Most recent premiership: N/A
First match: vs Springvale South, 21 November, Alex Nelson Reserve
The Cobras were once again ultra-competitive in Turf 1 last season, narrowly missing out on yet another finals appearance with seven wins. But the 2020/21 side is set to look drastically different with champion pair Kaushayla Weeraratne and Michael Davies departing for fellow Turf 1 rivals. It’s arguably the biggest losses of any club this off-season, with the pair producing stunning cricket for a long period of time at Reedy Reserve, and ‘Slick’ Davies only winning a Wookey Medal a few years ago. The club has also lost quality leg spinner Cam Dinger to Narre Warren. But instead of going hard on the recruitment front, the Cobras are set to back in their juniors coming through the grades, so spots are well and truly open for young players looking for a taste at the association’s top level. Expect some short-term pain, with long-term gain with the club looking to build back up again through strong development and home-grown talent.
Despite some significant losses, HSD will back itself in to be competitive in Turf 1 cricket.
President: Nathan Tracy
Coach: Matt Brooks
Captain: Matt Brooks
Last Season: Fourth
Most Runs: Morteza Ali (457 runs at 32.64); Scott Phillips (339 runs at 30.82)
Most Wickets: Morteza Ali (28 wickets at 14.29); Scott Phillips (20 wickets at 21.8)
In: Kaushayla Weeraratne (HSD), Josh Dowling (Casey-South Melbourne)
Out: Rumesh Rangana (Fountain Gate), Jakeb McVicar (Devon Meadows), Jonty Jenner (overseas), Joe Thomas (overseas)
Home Base: Strathaird Reserve, Narre Warren South
Turf 1 premierships: 5
Most recent premiership: 1979/80
First match: vs Berwick, 21 November, Arch Brown Reserve
The club’s entry into Turf 1 last season was outstanding, and if not for a little bit of luck the Lions could have been just one game away from a grand final, exceeding expectations in every single way. But off the back of an impressive season, there will be added expectation that the Lions will back it up and push hard for what would be a memorable flag in the DDCA’s top tier. Crucially, legendary all-rounder Scott Phillips will go around again after initially retiring, and that in itself is a major boost for the club looking to make that flag tilt. But the Lions have identified some key areas to recruit in, and the addition of champion DDCA all-rounder Kaushalya Weeraratne and impressive quick Josh Dowling from Casey-South Melbourne is a major coup as the Lions look to catch up to the heavyweights, but also consolidate its position as a top-four side. Dowling, in particular, will provide plenty of strike power with the ball, while Weeraratne’s ability in the DDCA is well established. With strong retention, including reigning Wookey medal winner Morteza Ali, the Lions are looming as one of the sides to keep an eye on in 2020/21.
Narre South has been bolstered by the inclusion of quality seamer Josh Dowling. 202308 Picture: GARY SISSONS
President: Jason Shaw
Coach: Leroy de Alwis
Captain: Clayton McCartney
Last season: Last in Turf 1
Most wickets: Nimesh Kariyawasam (16 wickets at 23.38); Matin Sultani (9 wickets at 32.67)
Most runs: Clayton McCartney (327 runs at 25.15); Syed Mehmood (279 runs at 18.60)
In: Javid Khan (Kingston Hawthorn), Buddhika Janith (Springvale), Mahesh Kumara
Out: Austin Heldt (Endeavour Hills), Zafar Sheikh (Buckley Ridges)
Home Base: Lois Twohig Reserve, Dandenong North
Turf 1 premierships: 2
Most recent premiership: 1997/98
First match: vs Buckley Ridges, 21 November, Park Oval
While 2019/20 was an incredibly difficult season for the Maroons in Turf 1, Dingley’s departure out of the association leaves the club in the top-tier. It’s certainly seen as a blessing in disguise for the club as they look to re-invent themselves under a new skipper in Clay McCartney, and with plenty of enthusiasm also under new coach Leroy de Alwis, a man that knows and understands success at community cricket level. The Maroons don’t just want to make up the numbers, in fact they want to bounce back in a big way and become one of the hardest clubs to play against in the competition. Crucially, the Maroons have kept the majority of its first XI players and added ex-junior Javid Khan, who is a quality cricketer with plenty of Premier Cricket experience and genuine match-winning ability, Buddhika Janith from Springvale and wicket-keeper batsman Mahesh Kumara. A few handy names do come out of the club which will hurt the batting department, including Austin Heldt, but the Maroons will back in its youth and are expecting a big lift from its senior core to rise up the ladder and stay in the top-tier of the DDCA in the long-term.
North Dandenong is excited at staying in the DDCA’s top-tier.
President: Jason Quirk
Coach: Darren Arter
Captain: Nathan King
Last Season: Third
Most Runs: Ateeq Javid (616 runs at 47.38); Nathan King (471 runs at 29.44)
Most Wickets: Jarryd Straker (31 wickets at 14.23); Nathan King (21 wickets at 18)
In: Akshat Buch (Dandenong), Paul Hill (Coomoora), Matt Wetering (returning)
Out: Akshay Ballal (overseas), Craig Slocombe (retired), Ateeq Javid (overseas)
Home Base: Alex Nelson Reserve, Springvale South
Turf 1 premierships: 8
Most recent premiership: 2010/11
First match: vs Heinz Southern Districts, 21 November, Park Oval
The Bloods are the prototype club for consistency, and once again the club enjoyed a strong 2019/20 season before going down in a brilliant preliminary final against bitter rivals Buckley Ridges. But the Bloods will once again be chasing its ninth Turf 1 flag after winning its last a decade ago, and it’s expected that the side will have a bit of a different look to it. The legendary Steven Spoljaric – a man that sends genuine shivers down the spine of opposition sides – was originally set to return, but has parted ways with the club just prior to the season, but with the recruitment of Dandenong left-arm spinner Akshat Buch, a quality tweaker and a handy lower order bat, keeper-batsman Paul Hill and seamer Matt Wetering returning, the Bloods have an abundance of depth and quality to add to the likes of skipper Nathan King and spinner Jarryd Straker who have been at the top of their game in the last few seasons. The club has lost DDCA legend Craig Slocombe to retirement, and overseas pair Ateeq Javid and Akshay Ballal won’t return, but it shouldn’t unsettle the side too much so expect the club to once again be right up in the thick of it.
Nathan King on the drive for the Bloods
President: Troy Cashman
Coach: Archy Rajapakse
Captain: Archy Rajapakse
Last Season: Seventh
Most Runs: Rob Peat (354 runs at 31.18); Lewis Palmer (278 runs at 21.38)
Most Wickets: Rajika Fernando (17 wickets at 20.53); Corey Ely (13 wickets at 28.54)
In: Archy Rajapakse (Beaconsfield), Deeshan Vimukthi Umagiliyage (Leongatha Town), Senadhi Miyanwala (Cavaliers), Kusal Hewage (Lang Lang), Jamie Fox (East Oakleigh CC), Dinuka Perera (returning)
Out: Rob Peat (overseas), Lewis Palmer (overseas), Rhys Serpanchy (work commitments)
Home Base: Carroll Reserve, Dandenong
Turf 1 premierships: 7
Most recent premiership: 2002/03
First match: vs Hallam Kalora Park, 21 November, Hallam Rec Reserve
For large parts of the 2019/20 season, the Saints played some strong cricket, but would still be disappointed to have finished seventh on the Turf 1 table despite its competitiveness, which included a few scalps, including Springvale South. It’s been a huge off-season for the club, who set about recruiting after the loss of Rob Peat in particular, who once again had a solid season for the club. Archy Rajapakse returns to the club to captain-coach, and he’s a quality addition who adds plenty of on-field leadership, while a host of other additions are going to significantly bolster the side and add depth throughout the club, which is key to buiding pressure on the first XI and lifting the collective standards of a club. While the association Turf 1 heavyweights from the last few seasons appear to have once again become stronger, it now raises the challenge for clubs like St Mary’s to find another gear and perhaps push into the finals in a season that is going to be like no other.
Archy Rajapakse is back to captain-coach St Mary’s.