Sixteen days earlier than last year, season 21/22 is upon us. ‘August hands’ have given way to hot-spot riddled palms; new spikes, bats and gloves have been purchased, and much to the chagrin of Mitch Domann, the BOM is enjoying increased website traffic as anxious Premier cricketers check for “rainfall since 9am.”
Disjointed though it may have been, the preseason once again highlighted how lucky we are to be part of the Melbourne University Cricket Club. Blessed to have a committee that work tirelessly for the club, they have again ensured our safe and seamless return to the Uni Main.
To that end, the challenges kept coming once we were back inside the pickets, as rain made a frustrating habit of falling on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Ostensibly unperturbed, new head coach, Daniel Hutton has been endlessly flexible; designing sessions to suit conditions and ensuring all players have been able to maximise their training load in preparation for Round 1.
To the cricket…
ROUND 1 V CASEY-SOUTH MELBOURNE
Though he was In Absentia from Thursday’s Season Launch, Derek Bennett’s traditional congratulations on “the best decision of your cricketing life” can be extended to six players making their debut in MUCC colours this weekend. Best of luck to Josh Hahnel, Harrison Barnes, Yuvraj Singh, Hamish Connor, Hendro Dias and Harrison Preiss.
E-tags loaded, the First XI will travel to Casey Fields to get their 21/22 campaign underway. Training base of the Melbourne Demons, Mark Stafford, Andrej Yaksender and Fergus McKenna – whose hearts all beat true – will feel right at home, inspired by the ghosts of Gawn past, present and yet to come.
Though he questions the validity of the BOM (and hasn’t the Bureau gone out on a limb this weekend?!), there can be no queries over the way Mitch Domann has been hitting the ball throughout the preseason. Included for his second First XI match, ‘Whooda’ will bring a great deal of class and some modelling experience to the middle order.
On that middle order, Alex Gregory – who would like a word with Dolly Parton (9 to 5? Tell her she’s dreaming!) – returns to the Students’ line-up. Unequivocally one of the most dominant all-rounders in Victoria, it is fantastic to welcome Gregs back and we look forward to seeing what he can do with both bat and ball this season.
A youthful side led by McKenna (C) and Noah Croes (VC), the First XI blends in some valuable experience, particularly in the bowling stocks, with Ahmed, Mackin and Stafford leading the charge.
Player to watch: Ben Rolfs
‘Wagon’ will be riding a high this weekend. It is thanks to Ben that the Students will return to the field looking resplendent in their new Masuri kit, and now that everyone has signed a permission slip to be filmed at the Main, MUCC TV will only go from strength to strength. Moreover, having recently moved out of home, Rolfa has taken to cooking a range of culinary delights, seasoning his way through whatever Hello Fresh has to offer. Look for a bit of added spice in his leg-breaks this week.
The Uni Main at 11 O’clock and the first ball is bowled with the bells. Does it get better? An unbelievably strong line-up, the Second XI boast a range of new players with some of MUCC’s most experienced as they look to take the points off the Swans.
Josh Hahnel will play his first match as a Student on the weekend; having dominated at Yarraville, Josh (who will quickly receive a nickname the longer he spends around James Bett) is a stylish opening batter who adds to the already rich teaching stocks in the Second XI. As Bettsy would say, “University club!”
Hahnel will be joined at the top of the order by young gun, Ali Khan. Playing his first match in the Second XI, Khan is frighteningly talented, plus he debuted a pair of bright orange sunglasses and a zippy haircut during the week so it’s all systems go.
With Bienve-deux (that’s Hugo and Lucien) providing power in the middle order, the Second XI will be skippered by Isaiah Borgas. A man who is currently on the hunt for his dream home, Borg has a lack of patience for agents who don’t know the code to the key safe, and a penchant for pounding medium pace. Look out, Swans.
Player to watch: Om Patel
Dubbed ‘Wizard’ for his ability to swing the ball both ways, Om would fit right in at one of Professor Sprout’s Herbology classes at Hogwarts. The young left-armer has taken to selling plants in the off-season and suffice it to say business is booming. “Accio 5fa.”
A pencil, a rake(s) and a stockpot walk into a bar… Only the bar is Casey Fields #5 and they are accompanied by the rest of the Third XI.
For the sake of clarity, pencil is Harrison Barnes (HB, pencil…) who has joined the Students from Frankston this year. A quality all-rounder, he joins an emergent clique of left arm wrist spinners at the Main… The rake refers to Rithin Rakes, who still bowls leg breaks, and stockpot; the ever-reliable Tama Stockley.
Under the esteemed leadership of Tom Savill and Sam Skinner, the Third XI are a well-balanced and exciting young side. With a wealth of all-rounders, the Students can get excited to see Yuvraj Singh make his debut on Saturday, too. With crafty off-spin and devastating power, “UV rays” could be something of an X-factor and we can’t wait to see what he delivers.
Player to watch: Elliott Durrant
One of the most aesthetically pleasing players at the club, KD was quick to turn down a pair of slim fit tracksuit pants during the week – his laidback personality better aligned with a loose fit garment. That said, his personality does align with big scores; he is coming off 75* and 2fa last week in the Sale Maffra Cricket Association, and is primed to go big again.
Exam season must be coming to an end because the Fourth XI is choc-full of youth. Harrison Preiss, Hamish Connor and Hendro Dias are all in for their first matches as Students, playing at Princes Park against Casey.
With Ed Savill taking the reins, the Fourth XI are in good hands (contrary to the Mr Potato Head hands that Ed wore with such distinction to pub crawl last year). Additionally, John McLaughlan will provide some added experience, playing as a batter and mentor as he recovers from a dislocated shoulder.
Having found his rhythm of late, Ram Nayak will lead the attack on the weekend, his propensity to attack the knee-roll sure to challenge the Swans first up.
Player to watch: Jimmy Anderson
Winning the mental game as soon as the Swans check the team sheet, our Jimmy Anderson doesn’t need a Duke ball nor a green seamer in order the thrive. Instead, his dynamic all-round style will pose a threat in every facet.