By David Nagel
Cardinia Cricket Club may have had the glow of a post-premiership winning pre-season taken away – but expect the Bulls to be charging into action when ‘play’ gets called on the WGCA this summer.
The Bulls claimed their first top-flight WGCA premiership in 12 seasons earlier this year in an absorbing contest against Kooweerup that rubber-stamped the Bulls as the new benchmark of the competition.
Early-season losses to the Demons and Pakenham were quickly pushed aside with the Bulls remaining undefeated from round four onwards.
Skipper Jake Prosser – who drove the standards that the Bull’s’ success was built on – said the current Covid-enforced lockdown had made it virtually impossible to engage in any sort of pre-season.
But he warned all challengers that the Bulls would be ready to defend their precious first crown in more than a decade.
“A few of us had a couple of hits in early July, and we’ve been keeping in touch via social media, but the general chat around the place is that everyone is really keen and ready to go…when we’re allowed to do so,” Prosser said.
“We’ve been keeping active, just walking and running really, just to keep the body moving because we’re only going to get two to four weeks of training and then it’s straight into games.
“It’s going to be similar to last year and we want to be ready.”
Prosser said the club was keen to build a dynasty, and while social media and phone calls are important lines of communication – they’re not the ideal scenario when trying to build the resilience required for such a challenge.
“I haven’t had the chat that I’d like to have to the players just yet, but we have as a coaching group,” Prosser explained.
“We were planning on a pre-season trip, but that got cut short, and that was going to be a chance to set our goals for this year.
“But hopefully we do have some preparation time, and a chance to get away in some capacity, even for a night, to set our goals and lay down those plans and expectations for this year.”
And those expectations are?
“After last year, obviously this year the main goal is to win the flag again,” Prosser said.
“And hopefully the Twenty-20 competition goes ahead and we’d love to add that to the list as well.
“It’s going to be challenging, but I think we’re in a strong position from last year and we’re really looking forward to the challenge.”
Prosser said he expects his side to adapt well to the traditional two-day format, which makes its return this season after one-day cricket was the sole decider of the 2020/21 title.
“To be honest, I see us as being a really good two-day side,” he said.
“Obviously, we adapted to the one-day season pretty well and I think it’s really important in two-day cricket to have spinning options.
“If you don’t have spinning options in two-day cricket you can be caught out, but we’ve recruited in that department and I think we’ll go from strength to strength this year.”
“Especially on our home ground…we know how to bowl well and defend on it.”
The Bulls’ spinning options will be enhanced this season with the recruitment of leg-spinning all-rounder Lachlan Volpe, the brother of premiership-winner Nathan.
Lachlan has taken wickets for fun playing for Templestowe in the Box Hill Reporter Cricket Association over the last three years, taking an astonishing 145 wickets – across all competitions – at an average of 12.90.
“He’s a proven wicket-taker, and a good lower-order bat who can hold the stick…we’ll be improved with Lachie in the team, no doubt,” Prosser said, before explaining the current situation with legendary spinner Dwayne Doig.
“We’re not sure what’s happening yet with Doigy, we’re just hoping he’ll get itchy fingers when training starts.”
And Prosser believes there is still plenty of room for improvement as the Bulls begin their season.
“It took us a little bit to get going last year, so our start needs to be better, but I think even if you go through a season undefeated you can still improve,” he said.
“In some games we lost huge chunks of wickets all at once, and at other times we probably got over frustrated, so those types of things, and just individual improvement which will add to the whole group.”
The premiership-winning skipper said the Bulls have a nice depth of talent, with Josh Grogan a young pace-bowler on the rise, while Jack Bacon will be keen to crack a regular senior berth after narrowly missing out on last year’s premiership.
“Jack Bacon could have a really big year for us…he just missed out on our premiership side and with a nice pre-season will be really important to us this time around,” Prosser said.
And he thinks the challengers will come thick and fast this year.
“From what I’m hearing every club has picked up one or two and hasn’t really lost much, so everyone will improve, so if we don’t improve we’re going to take a step backwards,” he said.
“Tooradin have strengthened their squad, with Huss (Tom Hussey) coming back in. Kooweerup and Pakenham, you know what you’re going to get from them, and Merinda Park has kept most of their squad as well.
“Cranbourne Meadows has also picked up a few so the comp is going to be pretty strong this year.”
The Bulls are also currently building some new training facilities, with their aging and dilapidated nets being replaced with a four-wicket surface that should hear the crisp sound of bat on ball by early November this year.