Friday, May 19, 2006

Team of the Year 2005-06

It has become a habit of mine to put together a Team Of The Year for the Presentation Night each season. As I did not attend this season I had not done so, but after some gentle persuasion I have now complied that team. As always, there are a number of people who may feel miffed that they missed out. Let it be known that I miss out every year...

Dale Scifleet (vc)
416 runs at 26.00. Highest score 94. 3 half centuries.
25 wickets at 9.44. Best 4/8.

Dale's season has been adequately summed up in previous responses. Though he probably did not quite go on with his season as he would have liked following the New Year break, his figures are still mighty impressive. He became the man everyone in the Club looked up to in regards to putting runs or wickets on the board, which proves how highly he has become regarded. One of four genuine all-rounders chosen in this season's team.

Jaya Hartgerink
348 runs at 21.75. Highest score 91*. 1 half century.

Jaya's was once again a season unfulfilled, where he was unable to emphatically put results on the board that would once and for all stake his claim as a class 1st Grade batsman. Again he got starts, only to have them frittered away by strange shot selection. Occasionally he was filmed for television in the middle of one. He began the season in 1st Grade's middle order, which simply doesn't suit his character. A short stint in 2nd Grade saw him re-elevated toward the end of the season, where he again made starts without capitalising on them. He and Dale still comprise Kiama's best opening partnership, and hopefully next season will prove to be the real awakening of the Hartgerink talent.

Matt Meurant (c)
334 runs at 23.86. Highest score 74. 1 half century.
25 wickets at 11.52. Best 5/14. 1 5WI.

Matt's initial season with Kiama turned into a successful one on a personal level, when he picked up the John Watts Medal, and had a successful all-round season. He should also feel pleased with the way the younger cricketers in the Club have responded to his leadership. Matt was also influential in giving his young charges more responsibility, to which most responded well. Kiama need a strong presence in the top order of the batting to both stabilise and dominate, whatever the match situation. Though personally it would be better to see Matt performing this job batting at three, his stated preference is four. After a successful return to the game last season, his next season should make great viewing.

Anthony Savage
336 runs at 37.33. Highest score 87. 1 half century.

Sav's stated intention at the 2004-05 Presentation Night was to “come back next season and show everyone exactly what I can do”. While he may not have done that to his satisfaction, he certainly had some of the younger members in the Club in awe at his stroke play. While Sav was still unable to open his 1st Grade run account (2 matches, 2 ducks over 2 seasons), he played some impressive cricket again during the summer, dominating most 2nd Grade attacks without actually going on to make lots of big scores. With Sav being posted elsewhere over the winter, lets hope we haven't seen the last of his flashing blade. And Sav wielding the willow...

Jeff Lawler
394 runs at 21.89. Highest score 75. 3 half centuries.

The 3rd Grade captain had yet another consistent season with the bat, though this season Jeff batted a lot more up the order than has been the case in recent times. Jeff continues to be one of the most consistent cricketers in the Club, having made this team all but one of the years it has been chosen. Once again he chose times when the team was in trouble to shine the most. His respect within the Club is universal amongst the Grades, as is his competitive nature. Though naturally disappointed at not snaring that elusive 3rd Grade premiership, he will hopefully back up again for another crack next season.

John Simon
325 runs at 23.21. Highest score 53. 2 half centuries.

For a guy whose ambition at the start of the season was to play a few games in 3rd Grade, John has only himself to blame for not even seeing one game there. Displaying all the natural talent that was the whisper around the Club, John was in 1st Grade before December and played out the season there. His ability to play to the situation required was uncanny. He proved far too good for 2nd Grade attacks, and by the end of the season was doing the same thing to 1st Grade attacks. If he had been able to steer clear of problems with umpires, who knows what he may have achieved! With luck, John will return next season with the same hunger.

Luke Bombaci
426 runs at 32.77. Highest score 65*. 3 half centuries.
54 wickets at 8.98. Best 6/47. 3 5WI. 1 10WM.

Luke's was one of the best all-round season's ever seen in 3rd Grade for Kiama. More importantly, when the crunch came, he performed. His 65 not out in the semi-final's first innings rescued the team from disaster, and put them into a position from which they never surrendered. He then turned on the finest display of bowling in his career, taking ten wickets on the second day of the final to almost snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. There is little doubt that for the sake of his own cricket he must now be given an extended spell in 2nd Grade, in order to utilise his ability to the greater good.

Mick Norris
169 runs at 18.78. Highest score 64. 1 half century.
34 wickets at 11.78. Best 6/13. 2 5WI.

Another belated arrival in the higher Grades, Mick had an excellent first up season in 2nd Grade that should see him progress even further in the near future. Mick's batting on turf has not yet developed from the play usually seen on astro turf, and will be something he will be looking to improve upon next season. His nagging accuracy with the ball, however, was tailor made for turf, and he reaped the rewards. Though a natural leader, and one people are already looking at to captain again, one hopes he is given the opportunity to develop his cricket further first before being handed the reigns of captaincy once again.

Ben King-Gee (WK)
141 runs at 14.10. Highest score 37.
22 catches and 4 stumpings.

To have made so much advancement from the beginning of the season, and yet still have so much improvement in him is something that probably only Ben himself can fix. He undoubtedly has the best hands in the Club. I am not scared to say that he is one of the three best keepers I have bowled to, and yet he still needs to remove the laziness from his keeping. Toward the end of the season he finally began to show the talent he has as a batsman, and yet he still needs to concentrate more on the task at hand. No one impressed me more nor frustrated me more this season gone than Ben King-Gee. His future is in his hands. How hard he wants to work will determine how far he goes.

Matt Cook
106 runs at 11.78. Highest score 56*. 1 half century.
34 wickets at 11.44. Best 4/24.

The leaps and bounds this young kid has made last season is a joy. With so little Grade cricket behind him, Cooky quickly found himself taking the new ball in 3rd Grade, and holding onto it for the entire season. Matt is a real old fashioned slinger who, on closer inspection, looks to have room to improve his pace substantially in the next couple of seasons. He has impressed all who have watched him, and figures for his first season are phenomenal. Not only that, he scored a miraculous 56 not out from number eleven during the season. Add it all up, and it looks like we have a real star of the future on our hands.

Matt O'Brien
21 runs at 5.25. Highest score 9*
33 wickets at 15.03. Best 5/13. 3 5WI.

OB has probably outplayed just about every other player in the Club this season. By being thrust into the Club's number one spinner role at such a tender age and experience, he was placed under an enormous amount of pressure. Countering that, he came out and took 33 wickets in the season, and was 1st Grade's highest wicket taker for the season. Not only that, but his batting has improved to the stage where he is not just a token wicket – he is a batsman that has to be dismissed.
Josh Elliott said two years ago that Matt O'Brien would be a 1st Grade wicket taker, but even he could not have expected OB's rapid rise and development. With this season under his belt, the sky is the limit for the Club's favourite leg spinner.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Season Review 2005-06

In reviewing a season where the top three Grade sides reached the semi-finals, with one of those teams going on to compete in the final, where the Club ran a very credible third in the Club Championship, where individuals won District awards and represented District teams, perception must be taken into account.
In September, if someone had said to our Club that we would have the kind of success that I have mentioned above, I would venture to say that most people would have said that we had had a successful season. As it turns out, I don't think it is unfair to say that come the end of the season, most of the Club would be disappointed at the end result, believing that more should have been made of the opportunities that came our way.

The acquisition of Matt Meurant as Captain/Coach of the Club was a terrific achievement, before a ball had even been bowled. The loss during the off season of a number of very talented players, including Scott Cox, Will Sheridan, Nick Hattersley and Mitch Gowland (who subsequently stayed with the Club until Christmas) meant that Kiama were going to rely rather heavily on their junior base, and the truckload of young players between the ages of 18-22. In order to do this, and be successful, it was imperative that an experienced coach was found to help these players progress and improve, and also find an experienced person to lead the First Grade team. In Matt, the Club was fortunate to find both. It is safe to say that his experience was what allowed First Grade to be such a competitive unit during the season. Though he began the season barely knowing any of the players, their abilities or their quirks, by season end he would have been very familiar with all of those things. Next season will provide new challenges for him. In many respects this season was a trial run

First Grade's season, though culminating in a semi-final appearance against the reigning premiers, ultimately will be seen as disappointing, one that showed so much promise, but was unable to be capitalised upon. Kiama were probably never in the same class as Albion Park and Oak Flats, but they were a better side than latter season results suggested. Kiama as a Club has a very special knack of being able to perform a collapse with either bat or ball that stupefies the critics at least once a season. This season got repeat treatments.
The phrase best suited to First Grade's season is “When they were good, they were very very good... but when they were bad, they were horrid!”
The Club rejoiced early in the season. A termination of The Rail in round one. An unprecedented outright victory over Warilla in round two – the first time since 1990 that Kiama had tasted victory in this derby in First Grade! A further defeat of Jamberoo in round three. Top of the table after three rounds. It was a dream start for the new captain and his young side.
First Grade lost only six of their fourteen regular season matches. However, it was not the fact that they lost these matches that was a cause for concern. It was the way that they lost them.
Why did the wheels fall off against Lake Illawarra, with Kiama bowled out for 48 when chasing only 115? After a wonderful bowling and fielding effort against Albion Park in the one day game, why were the batsmen unable to chase down a relatively gettable target? Following on from this, having again done a magnificent job in restricting Park to a mid-sized total in the two day game, how did the batting again fail to get even close to this score? What happened in the return match against The Rail, where the batting again failed to meet the task asked of it? Where was the spirit of the side as Oak Flats ran roughshod over them in the two day match at Cavalier Park? How, in all honesty, could this side possibly allow themselves to lose to Shellharbour City in the final round of the season, when that side had not won a single match in two seasons???
These are questions to which answers must be found if our First Grade side is going to become a real premiership threat. The fact that Kiama gave Albion Park, the eventual premiers, a run for their money in both matches this season doesn't stack up against the fact both matches were lost. The other losses listed here were dire. The reasons for that must be discovered and put right.

Dale Scifleet's coming-of-age season is to be applauded. He has had to deal with the weight of expectation that his talent has demanded since he was 15 years old. He has always shown glimpses of what he can do, without being able to cut loose. Even this season, he began like a steam train, and finished like a coal train. Carrying a team on your back can have that effect. He became the first player since Ken McDonald in 1969-70 to win both the First Grade batting and bowling awards in the same season. He won the District bowling average (not a bad feat for a part-time bowler), and also claimed the Club's Cricketer Of The Year trophy. He was selected in the Southern Zone representative side for the first time. He made his debut as First Grade captain as well. Not a bad seven months work. The future of our First Grade side lays in his hands.

Second Grade started the season on the back foot, and finished it the same way. Theirs was a season that never really seemed to move out of second gear, and the side struggled as a result. Looking to overcome the disappointment of the past two seasons, the side's momentum never got going, stalled by wet weather, weeks off at inopportune times, some woeful opponents and a revolving door in regards to player availability and selection.
The loss to Shellharbour City in the first round was a grave disappointment, and always a danger for Second Grade at that time of year with so many regular players unavailable. Despite losing first innings points to Albion Park in the two day game at Kiama, Seconds put on a great fightback on both days, and almost stole an outright victory that had Park rattled late on the second afternoon. That was almost reversed in the one day match at Christmas, when what looked as though it was going to be an easy victory for Kiama turned into a nail-biter as quick wickets fell late in the match.
Two easy outright victories against very average outfits after the two week New Year break left the team under prepared. The loss to Oak Flats was by an understrength team, while the inability to defeat The Rail outright left some huge question marks.
Another two week hiatus due to the bye meant that Seconds had had a very ordinary preparation for a semi-final. Combine this with ten dropped catches, some lazy batting and unfortunate selections, and you have a thrashing, which is what Kiama endured. Though it was not the major bearing on the result, the decision to allow Seconds to go into such an important match with only five recognised batsmen was a mistake that should never be repeated. It gave the side very little opportunity to recover once they were 3/5 in their first innings, and meant they were bowler heavy, with three very capable bowlers not even used during the first innings.
What it meant was that Second Grade, with very good teams over each of the past three seasons, had failed to win a premiership in any of them. The opportunity may well have passed them over.

Captain Steve Holz put in a very creditable effort in his first season in the job. If nothing else, he can be extremely proud of the youngsters he has brought on this season. The strides taken by Matt Unicomb, Ben King-Gee, Jason Dowling and Andrew Ross this season can be almost directly attributed to Steve's desire to have the future stars of the Club experiencing top grade cricket now. Their labours this season may be the key to challenging for that elusive premiership next season.

Mick Norris, in his debut season in Second Grade, proved that he should have been there three or four seasons ago. Though not as successful with the bat as he would have hoped, his bowling was a revelation, tying the opposition in knots and weeding out batsmen who were set. In the process he won the district bowling average and aggregate. His aggression and competitive nature make him the ideal team mate, and it was somewhat surprising that he did not play more First Grade cricket this season. One suspects that may change come September this year.

Third Grade spent most of the season as a team telling anyone who would listen that they were sure things to win Kiama's first premiership in that Grade. To those outside of the Club it may have been seen as an arrogant position to take, but it spoke volumes for the way the team approached each match during the season. Though not always the better team in the contest, the fight for Kiama was never over until the final ball was bowled.
Having won the first four games of the season fairly comfortably, the wheels fell off well and truly in the match against Lake Illawarra. With the hosts having posted a good total of 230, Kiama were then dismissed twice in under 50 overs, losing outright by an innings and plenty. Though the side was not at full strength it was a fairly hefty blow to their premiership aspirations. There was another unexpected defeat for the team in the round nine match against Shellharbour City Blue, when Kiama were dismissed for a paltry 36 in reply to 163. The match was salvaged by good runs in the second innings, but it did nothing for their confidence.
Third Grade were suitably fortunate to have the experience of two elder campaigners – Jason Wills for much of the first half of the season, and Joe Murphy for the second half. No doubt their influence played an important part in the teams season. Twice during the season Kiama came back from first innings deficits to record resounding outright victories, against Oak Flats White and Gerringong. It was an unrealised sign of what was to come, and one that experience no doubt played its part in.
Thirds won nine of their eleven matches during the regular season, in the process claiming Kiama's first Minor Premiership in Third Grade, a wonderful achievement. They then crushed Albion Park in their semi-final, despite an initial stutter in their first innings. Rescued from oblivion by Luke Bombaci, who scored 65 not out of the team total of 139, they then bowled Park out for 45, with Russell Park gathering an amazing 5/8 off 8.5 overs. Though the match pushed well into the second day, it had been over from that moment.

The Third Grade Final of 2005-06 was one of the most exciting matches seen in this Club, and all those that saw those two days would agree. Playing at home at Bonaira Street Oval, Kiama looked a nervous team as they won the toss and batted, and they stumbled to just 93. Lake Illawarra, the side that had destroyed them earlier in the season, then batted out the remainder of the first day. The opening partnership of 126 was perfectly played, giving no chances and taking every run available to them. At 2/139 at stumps, Lake celebrated like the match was already over. Many supporters thought it was too.
The fightback on the following day was one of the proudest moments in Kiama Cricket history. Ignoring the odds they were against, Kiama came out and snared 8 wickets for just 26 runs in 90 minutes, to bowl Lake out for 173, and a lead of 80 runs. Bombaci had taken 6/47 from 25 overs in a marathon stint. After a good start Kiama were only three runs to the good with three wickets in hand when Russell Park and Andy Sheehy put on a 44 run partnership that had panic beginning to creep into the Lake team. When they were finally dismissed for 128, they had at least given themselves a chance, with 48 runs to bowl at. The following 75 minutes was fascinating and heart-stopping – and that's just for the spectators. Needing only to draw, or score 49 runs, Lake had a brain explosion, and Kiama found the strength that had already nabbed them two such comeback victories during the season, crashing Lake to 6/23, and pandemonium broke out in all camps. A mini recovery was staged by the visitors, before another two wickets left them at 8/41 – two wickets or eight runs for a famous victory.
It was left to poor young Matt Cook, whose debut season was an absolute sensation, to be punched over the boundary to bring up the winning runs, and the premiership for Lake Illawarra in a sensational game of cricket.
That maiden Third Grade premiership will have to wait at least another twelve months.

It would be remiss not to mention the role of skipper Jeff Lawler in this season. Respected by all who have played with him, he took on more responsibility this season than he has in the past, batting in the top order and scoring a lot of runs. His competitiveness and yet easy going nature is a big reason for Third Grade's recent success. His leadership will be needed again next season.

Luke Bombaci has, for all intents and purposes, played his final game in Third Grade for awhile. In a season which reaped him 426 runs and 54 wickets, there is little for him to prove at this level. Not only does the Club need him to advance, he needs to do it for himself. The opportunity for success in higher Grades awaits him, and the time could not be more perfect. One can only hope that both he and the Club selectors see this as well, and ensure the opportunity is not wasted.

Fourth Grade completed their best season since 2001-02, and in the process appear to have discovered a truckload of young talented cricketers who will hopefully begin to populate Kiama's higher Grades in the coming seasons.
Nine wins from their 18 matches during the season was an excellent effort, especially considering the ages of most of the team, and their relative lack of experience compared to the sides they played against. Albion Park, Lake Illawarra and Oak Flats all have Fourth Grade sides that are populated by older experienced men, and playing against them can be a daunting task. This season, Kiama handled them with aplomb.
Though the team had only one win in their first six games, they commenced a streak of five wins in December and January that had them on the cusp of a place in the top four. A desperately disappointing loss to Shellharbour City White cost them a sixth consecutive victory. The team commendably won their final three matches of the season quite convincingly, thus finishing the season in 6th position. There is little doubt that the experience that each player has received during the course of this season will be of enormous value come next season. The good oil is that a number of these players will be in line for promotion up the Grades as early as 2006-07, which is good news for the Kiama Club.

Ageless captain Bruce McNaught toned down his playing this season, eventually passing on the captaincy role to Josh Grosse. Between the two, the team has been well led, with all players given the opportunity to play and perform in all positions. This is invaluable at the Fourth Grade level, to ensure that the players are not only happy, but improving their skills along the way. Players like Grant Regan, Lindsay King-Gee, Brendon Czulowski, Matt Stewart and Josh Runge are players whose future may lie at a higher level.

Kiama's chances of glory in the Country Cup knockout competition fell victim to the weather, with their second round match against Keira washed out without a ball being bowled. As a result of no spare day being scheduled, Keira progressed through to the next round by having a better rate rate after the first round. Having defeated Nowra in the first round, this was a disappointing end for Kiama. Players and supporters can only dream of the 'road trip' for the final 16 to Dubbo for another 12 months.

Former Cavalier Will Sheridan provided one of the season highlights for the Club, even though he was no longer affiliated with us. Having moved to Canberra to play with A.N.U. Will was selected in the A.C.T. Under 19's team to play in the National Championships in Perth. Batting at three and bowling first change, he did enough to be chosen in the Australian Under 19 team to play in the World Cup in Sri Lanka, a great honour. He made a couple of appearances in Australia's doomed campaign, top scoring in their match against U.S.A at a time when the match hung in the balance.
For a player who averaged under 10 with the bat and over 20 with the ball for Kiama in 2004-05, it was a huge jump. The Cavaliers loved every moment, and look forward to Will continuing to build his career away from home base.

Off the field, the Club continued to be extremely sociable, though not always together, which is something that still needs to be worked on. An extremely successful Mexican Night was held at the Kiama Golf Club in February, and the great atmosphere of the evening should ensure that it becomes a regular event. The Punters Club, run by the tireless Josh Elliott was a fantastic success, its formula of selecting runners every Saturday proving to be a winner. The day held at Randwick on Sydney Cup Day was an unmitigated triumph, with everyone involved having a great time. The Punters Club should be bigger and better next season if everyone gets involved. Further bonding sessions were held with great attendance. With more organisation in the coming season, we could see off-field spirit rising to unheard of levels.

The Club executive, headed by President Ross Wolf and Treasurer Wayne Richardson have again done themselves proud with the administration of the Club as a whole. Their tireless efforts are to be applauded. It is to be hoped that the new administration for the coming season can continue the great work that has been done in the past decade.

The 2005-06 season has concluded, with advancements in most areas. If this can be continued into 2006-07, there is no telling what may be reported on come this time in twelve months. Let's hope it is all positive.