WEST Warrnambool is well poised to create a dominant era after yesterday clinching its second Warrnambool and District Cricket Association division one premiership in three seasons.
Captain Michael Threlfall and coach Dean Hurford are buoyant the Panthers have the ingredients for sustained success after they claimed an outright win over last season’s runner-up Dennington at Reid Oval.
With four players 18 or under, Threlfall is predicting the club, which had to wait 20 years for its second top-grade flag in 2012, will be setting its sights on adding more silverware to its Davidson Oval trophy cabinet.
“We have got five or six, even more players under 22 that are only going to get better with the more experience they get,” the youthful skipper said.
“They have got through this year with some tough cricket and they will take that and hopefully build up from that next year.”
The Panthers’ nine-wicket win capped a dominant year. They won the inaugural one-day grand final and went through the regular season with eight victories, one rain-forced draw and one loss.
For Hurford and Threlfall, the win was sweet.
Hurford, who played in the club’s historic first premiership in 1989-90, had not been around the club for 12 years before returning this season as coach.
“It’s absolutely sensational,” he said.
“An absolutely terrific bunch of blokes, especially when you have four under 18 players in the side.”
Hurford revealed his decision to offer the captaincy to Threlfall had been pivotal in enticing the talented batsman and wicketkeeper to return from England.
“Without a doubt he would have to be the youngest premiership captain,” Hurford said.
Threlfall, who is 20, said he was honoured to lead such a side.
“It’s a special feeling, I’m sure it will sink in a bit more over the next few days. It’s something I will always remember.
“There have been times when it’s been tough, obviously being younger than a lot of the blokes on the field. They have a lot of experience, but you lean on those blokes. The bunch of blokes we’ve had this year have been easy to coach. They have played some fantastic cricket and it’s made my job easier.”
Threlfall, brothers Leigh and Simon Johnson, paceman Jed Turland, batsman Alastair Templeton and paceman Tom Smith were part of the 2012 triumph while Jye Turland, Ben Threlfall, Paul and Josh Campbell, Englishman Karl Turner and batsman Andrew Niklaus experienced the winning feeling for the first time.
Simon Johnson was named player of the match by the umpires after setting up his team’s victory on Saturday. After Dennington skipper Dustin Drew won the toss and batted, Johnson ripped the heart out of the Dogs’ top order, claiming a wicket with his first ball, the seventh of the match, then another with his fifth ball in a stunning over. He then bowled six consecutive maidens, including another wicket, as Dennington slumped to 6-39 before dismissed for 59. Johnson finished with 3-10 from nine overs.
The 35-year-old savoured his second premiership medallion.
“You never know when it will be your last season. It’s good to see the young boys and help them along. We’ve got a great group of young kids,” he said.
Dennington’s inspirational leader Drew played despite taking a lateral ligament injury into the game that will require surgery “as soon as possible”.
He defended his decision to bat first on Saturday, saying his side had done well when defending scores. “We were just completely outplayed, credit to the way they bowled.”
Drew was pleased with the way his side fought out the match.
West resumed at 4-106 with a lead of 47 and was dismissed for 143. The Dogs then went in search of quick runs and an outright result, with Josh Squires making 25 off 18 balls. They were dismissed for 125, with spinner Paul Campbell grabbing 6-25 and Turner 3-61. Turner then smacked 20 off 18 balls before being dismissed as West reached the victory target of 42 with nine wickets in hand.