The DDCC T20 League got underway last weekend and set up what promises to be a competitive Premier Grade competition that commences on 9 April and follows with a seven week 50 over series – a final to be played on 29 May.

Reigning premier, Southern Districts, has been actively recruiting during the off-season and while some “guns” including joint 2021 Ralph Wiese medallist Jackson Isakka and ace batsman Mathew Gilkes are unlikely starters during the early stages of the season, a couple of South Australians including Corey Kelly and a similar number of Victorians are high on the Croc player agenda.

Districts have also gained the services of celebrated PINT batsman Tim Garner – a three-time Premier Grade flag winner where he was chief among the Green Caps in setting up that trifecta – Garner’s LOA bowling, while not explosive, will on occasion be useful albeit down the bowling pecking order. 

Matt Hammond will again lead the rural men and fellow allrounder Dean Fry believes replacements will more than compensate for the missing players. “At this stage we’ve got a few certainties but there remains some doubt about others especially with England opening up, so we’ll just wait and see,” said Fry.

Waratah was the other high-flyer last season and without the services of prolific batsman / ‘keeper Isaac Conway simply didn’t have the willow-wielding wherewithal in the final and fell well short in the batting arena. Tahs also relied heavily on its quartet of spinners to knock over the opposition and while they were for the most part successful, the final was played on a “road” with their opponents in red hot form - the task for Tahs in 2022 will be to unearth some quick bowlers with an ability to take early wickets. Fortunately, batting mainstay Conway has decided to extend his stay at the club following an outstanding season in Adelaide which included three centuries and some SACA Second XI games. 

“The club lost the premiership last year and obviously I didn’t play because of injury. Waratah means a lot to me so that was the motivation to come back,” Conway said.

“Recruitment wise, we’ve looked at securing a couple of quality quicks and that will strengthen us.”

Darwin won’t have the services of outstanding batsman and 2021 skipper Jacob Dickman on a regular basis – first class players Harry Chamberlain (NZ) together with Aussies Beau Webster and former Club junior Tom Andrews will also not be regular players.

New captain Connor Hawkins is philosophic about the missing talent and believes it can establish a silver lining by including its array of promising rising batting talent. The Eagles have relied heavily on the penetrative power of quicks Luke Zanchetta and Troy Ryan in the past and the pair rarely let their side down especially in red-ball cricket, but both will be unavailable during the early parts of the season – Ryan injured and Zanchetta personal – so the burden will fall on others including the newly installed skipper, but Hawkins remains unfazed saying it’s about bowling to a plan.

“We will bowl to plans and keep it simple,” Hawkins said.

“Losing Jacob Dickman for periods is not ideal but we’ve recruited players to fill gaps and believe our local talent - Will Pilkington and Tom Menzies will rise to the occasion if given the chance - Anthony Adlam who was so solid at the top of the batting order is returning and a former player in Matt Calder is also coming back after being away for a couple of seasons.

“Jake Reed is the new club coach, and he will also slot into Premier Grade – Reed is a former Victorian Shield player who has also spent time with the Hobart Hurricanes.”

Tracy Village relied heavily on its import array last season although a shining light was the form of local opening batsman Jackson Edmondstone who had a break-out season after being elevated to the top-of-the-order in all formats of the game. Unfortunately, Edmondstone is considering taking a break from the game while his younger brother may just be seeking greener pastures (Hmmm!) - Tracy will miss their precocious talents. 

The Villagers have retained joint 2021 Ralph Wiese Medallist Josh Kann, but selective recruiting may just ease the Kann burden and see a more evenly balanced team performance.

PINT simply couldn’t bowl out the opposition last season and while the Green Cap batting had some admirable moments, opponents regularly ran down some extravagant totals against disorderly bowling that seemed without structure or strategy. That equation has not gone unnoticed by newly appointed coach and captain Sanka Wijegunaratne who has a philosophy on cricket that includes getting all players involved with the plan to ensure a common effort.

Wijegunaratne made his name in his Sri Lankan homeland and in various parts of the cricketing world as a top order batsman and he intends to return to that spot in the order despite not being able to settle in one position during recent Darwin seasons. He is also aware of the club deficiency and is keen to improve the bowling stocks through recruitment and the elevation of local talent.

Nightcliff has appointed Michael Hancock as a non-playing coach. Hancock is an extremely experienced coach who hails from Victoria and takes the task based on a request from a long-time Nightcliff friend. Hancock is new to the Territory and while research into his new club shouts underperformance, his initial impression is positive during limited time at pre-season sessions.

“I’ve checked the results over the past couple of years, and with the import rules, bringing in huge numbers of players is simply not an option so we want to develop some of the kids that have been identified and are currently in the Under 19 squad and they will not just fill spots – we intend to bat and bowl them in positions they have been playing while rising through the ranks.” Hancock said.

Hamish Martin has assumed the reigns at Palmerston – at least during the white-ball components - and while his bowling talent is clearly a feature of his game, his journey has included stints in Queensland and more recently Adelaide, will hold him in good stead as a leader.

Recently returned from a successful season in Adelaide Premier Grade Cricket, Martin is keen to put his mark on the game and while he excelled with the ball in Adelaide, he is keen to return to his best with the bat where he has been outstanding, although recently, starts rarely result in personal scoreboard excellence.

Martin said the club has recruited selectively and is hopeful that the local talent begins to show results on a consistent basis because the Maroons are a club that vacillates between the appealing and the appalling too often (my words) and rolls over too easily when opponents exert scoreboard pressure whether batting or bowling.

“We need to get better across the board and that can be achieved by doing the simple things a bit better. Also, when we are not going so well, we must learn to compete and play games out rather than just go through the motions,” is Martin’s message.

Rd 1 Fixture Saturday 9 April
Nightcliff v Tracy Village at DXC Arena #2 (11am)
PINT v Palmerston at DXC Arena #1 (11am)
Southern Districts v Darwin at DXC Cazaly’s Arena (11am)
Bye: Waratah.