LEAGUES Club coach Jeff McKenna has a simple message for any Panthers players still daydreaming about last weekend’s surprise win against Hanwood – don’t.
While the Panthers secured their first victory in nearly two years thanks to same tail-end heroics from Matt Peruzzi and a six-wicket haul from his brother,
Daniel, there is still plenty of work to do before the side can call itself truly competitive, McKenna said.
“It’s a work in progress. We can’t expect miracles,” he said. “And we can’t let a 67-run tenth-wicket partnership hide the fact that it was a pretty inept batting performance earlier in the piece.
“We were looking at trying to defend 110 there for a long time until Matt Peruzzi gave us something to defend.
“And Hanwood were missing a few key players, as well.
“It’s a good win and there were some good performances, but we can’t kid ourselves.”
Leagues Club will face its biggest test yet tomorrow afternoon against Exies, the side McKenna labelled the “team to beat” this season.
Key off-season recruit Paul Plummer is still on his honeymoon but the Panthers will be boosted by the inclusion of the man he made the move from Coro with, Ben Leach.
Connor Matheson will also come into the side having missed last weekend’s win due to injury.
“They’ll both strengthen our top order,” McKenna said.
“Exies have to be the team to beat this year. They look that good on paper.
“They always seem to get a little bit stronger every season.
“But we can’t be too focused on results. Wins are good for team morale but we have to get our own performances right before we start worrying about that.
“We’ve got to improve as individuals first and the scores will take care of themselves.”
Exies skipper Marc Tucker said he was surprised to see Leagues get away to such a convincing win over Hanwood – and warned his troops not to underestimate them.
“I thought it was going to be a close game – I didn’t think they’d win by that much. But it’s good to see the competition’s getting stronger,” he said.
“We’ve got to be on our A game. We can’t think of it like they’ve been playing in the past couple of years.
“They’ve had the same team for two or three years so I thought they were definitely going to be better this year, and they are.”
Opening batsmen Justin Winkler and Phil Burge will be missing from the Exies side that fell narrowly to Diggers last round, with youngsters Dylan Gillette and Tom Shannon to replace them, the latter on his first grade debut.
“It’s probably a good week to give them a go against a team that has a pretty similar age group,” Tucker said.
“I’m still thinking about who’s going to open. It’ll probably be myself and Jamie (Winkler), but we’ll see how we go.”
Tucker said he was looking for a stronger all-round batting performance from Exies in tomorrow’s day-nighter at Exies Oval.
Multiple batsmen made encouraging starts against Diggers but none had the discipline to turn them into big enough scores, he said.
“I think we needed a few more of those blokes, like myself, who made 20-odd to go on with it. We would have been all right if we did,” Tucker said. “I thought Alistair Burge batted really well for what he got – but he played a stupid shot to get out, a bit like all of us really.
“Someone’s just got to make a big one, that’s all.”