The AFL Grand Final has been and gone (along with the celebrations!), the Sherrin’s have been packed away, the curators are busy with the rollers and mowers and players praying to the ‘weather gods’ can only indicate one thing – a new Victorian Premier Cricket season is on the horizon again!
A total of 5 new head coach appointments (and a couple of returning) in Men’s Premier Cricket and 2 new head coaches in Women’s Premier Cricket will keep things interesting for the players at training, along with some ‘fresh faces’ that will be taking over as Captain for respective sides this season.
The opening weekend of Men’s Premier Cricket will see One Day matches commence at 10am due to Daylight Savings not in operation (this commences at 2am on the following day).
Reigning Premiers Carlton will begin their title defence under Captain/Coach Evan Gulbis at Princes Park against Preliminary Finalists Essendon. The Blues have seen a bit of player movement in the lower XIs and will field a near full-strength line-up with the only change being the loss of Aaron Smillie to the Subbies. The Bombers’ have seen some changes over the off-season, with Aaron Shellie returning to Coburg, Clint McKay ‘retiring’ from Premier Cricket, quick Andy Warrick returning to Ballarat and keeper Isaac Conway moving to the Camberwell Magpies, while Michael Hill has been appointed Captain. Englishman Jack Davies has arrived as the International flavour and Stephen Shaw comes in from Queensland as an All-Rounder to provide some more flexibility. A tough game to gauge for the opening round – suspect the home advantage and the loss of experience from the Bombers will see Carlton start favourites.
Grand Final Runners-Up Geelong host the Camberwell Magpies at Geelong Cricket Ground. The Cats’ have appointed Co-Coaches in Tim Ludeman and Matt Gunther and will go into this season with some experience having been depleted due to the movement of State contracted quick Jake Reed to Footscray and the possible retirement of crafty leg spinner Brenton McDonald. This will help to provide opportunities to the likes of Brody Couch and Joel Blain to step up. The Magpies have been busy recruiting with keepers Issac Conway (Essendon) and Akshay Kodoth (Kingston Hawthorn) coming in to strengthen the batting, along with ex-Tasmanian Premier cricketer Alec Smith and ex-WA Premier cricketer John Mackinnon coming in, while the lower order will see a vacancy due to Dylan Hodge returning to Geelong Cricket Association club Newtown & Chilwell and Sam Newell has moved to Kingston Hawthorn. While Geelong has the home advantage, they will need their batsmen to fire as bowling appears to be an early concern which the Magpies can capitalize on if the Geelong Cricket Ground plays like past seasons – flat wicket and lightning outfield. Tipping the Magpies with their ‘beaks’ in front.
Casey-South Melbourne host Prahran at Casey Fields #4. The Swans saw the return of former Coach Brian Keogh in the off-season to replace Nick Jewell and he has seen former Swan Nathan Freitag return to the nest after a stint in Tasmania. Last season’s Ryder Medal runner-up and Sussex cricketer Luke Wells will return to the Swans for a second season as Captain, while minimal movements outward may help the club push for that elusive Finals position. Prahran has also been active in the recruiting space, picking up spinner Yasiru Herath (Kingston Hawthorn) and quick Andrew Perrin (Fitzroy Doncaster) while not losing anyone of note as they look to push higher this season under Julien Wiener. Based on last season’s form the Swans will be favourites and will be keen to open their season with a win after the off-season passing of former President Ross Hibbins.
Dandenong host Melbourne University at Shepley Oval. The Panthers will see a vastly different line-up this season with the experienced Darren Pattinson retiring, quick James Wilcock has gone to Berwick and quick Adam McMaster moved to Melbourne after a year off. In response, the Panthers have recruited former Sri Lankan spinner Suraj Randiv who played in the Panthers’ winning Vic SUPER SLAM side and young quick Triyan De Silva is coming over from the Monash Tigers. Melbourne University will have a near-similar side to last season, with the key loss being batsman Thomas Rogers moving to Ringwood. This will see some quality junior players coming through the Uni ranks in line for opportunities after winning the 2nd and 3rd XI Premierships last season. The Panthers will be looking to the experienced heads of Tom Donnell, Brett Forsyth and James Nanopoulos to be competitive, with Uni certainly in with a chance of an upset if their batsmen can get on top of the Panthers’ bowling line-up.
Wednesday will contain the remainder of the Men's Preview, while Friday will contain the Women's Premier preview, Milestones and Umpire Appointments.