A leading Warrnambool and District Cricket Association bowler admits he endured "sleepless nights" weighing up a move from one of the region's most powerful and successful clubs next season.
Gun spin bowler Joe Kenna has landed at Merrivale, alongside his great mate and champion pace bowler Matthew Petherick for the 2023-24 season, with the multiple Russells Creek premiership winning players set to lead the club on-field moving forward.
Kenna, one of the association's leading spinners, joins the Tigers as captain after 12 years at Creek and 209 division one wickets, four premierships and multiple country week appearances, while Petherick will serve as the new senior coach at the club where he played all of his junior cricket.
The Duggan Civil worker told The Standard it was an agonising decision to leave Creek after playing his whole career at the club but was "excited" for a fresh start.
"It's weird as hell to be honest leaving Creek," Kenna said.
"I'm so excited for the opportunity at Merrivale, I'm keen to get into cricket season, but I've played all my cricket at Creek and over 200 senior games there so it's difficult.
"There's always been years where Matt (Petherick) and I have considered it but I think now is the right time to do it in a way."
He said the Creekers would always hold a special place in his heart, labelling the premiership dynasty one of "the great sides".
"To this day I'll always be so proud of what we achieved as a group," he said.
"It's going to kill me having to play them next year, it was one of the great dynasties and I was so happy to be part of it.
"It was one of the hardest decisions I've had to make to leave Creek, I've had a few sleepless nights thinking about it.
"But I just hope now that I can bring something (to Merrivale) similar and achieve some success."
Petherick will step into the coaching role at his junior club after also departing Creek, where has been one of the most successful and dominant players during the club's four premierships in 2017-18, 2018-19, 2020-21 and 2021-22, captaining the last two.
He even snared an astonishing 51 wickets in his first season as captain, a record during the MyCricket era of statistics and has been a regular country week player for the association.
Petherick is currently in the UK playing club cricket and will return in time for the start of the season where will re-join forces with his brother Jarrod, who is expected to return from injury next season to further bolster the attack.
The addition of the duo means the Tigers will possess one of division one's most lethal bowling attacks with young gun Daniel Hawkins, the returning Jarrod Petherick, Ryan Fleming, Hugh Fleming, Mark Jones and Marcus Bunney all regulars in the side.
Kenna admitted it was exciting to see the amount of talent within the bowling ranks at the club.
"They've got such a young and talented list and especially with the bowlers in Hawkins, Jarrod coming back, 'Pepsi' (Petherick), myself, Bunney and the Fleming boys, there's a massive range of people to be able to use," he said.
"It's so exciting and it helps a lot having so many options. I can't wait to work with those boys and get stuck into it."
Kenna confirmed last season's mentor Justin Lynch will remain involved as a player and be a valuable leader to lean on while are also keen to add further to their list with some recruits.
"We've got a few things we're working on at the moment," he said.
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