During the summer holidays, our 1st XI Cricket Team travelled to Melbourne to compete in the 13th annual Neil Dansie Cricket Festival. After last year’s 2nd Place finish back home, the boys were eager to go one better against our friends from St Kevin’s College, Toowoomba Grammar School and Cranbrook School, and continue their learnings in one-day cricket to springboard into a successful second-half of the season. This edition of the festival was also the first since Mr Dansie’s passing, meaning that the team was especially driven to return the shield to its rightful place in Neil’s home city.
Some pre-flight booking drama gave us plenty of action, with the cool head of Mr Borgas ensuring that we eventually reached our accommodation at St Mary’s College a little after 2 am on Monday morning! However, torrential rains ensured that the group had a rest day to explore the sights of Melbourne, with the team undertaking a guided history tour of the Melbourne Cricket Ground amongst some leisurely shopping in the Southern Districts. With 4 consecutive days of cricket on the horizon though, our squad remained focused on getting our tournament off to the best possible start.
Day one saw us face hosts St Kevin’s on their pristine main oval, with their groundstaff producing a remarkably even pitch considering the recent weather. Winning the toss and bowling first proved to be a worthwhile decision, with 3 early wickets helping Saints restrict our opponents to 179 all out in 44 overs. Aadi Mittal, Lachlan Monu, Noah Latimer and Henry Xenophou collected 2 wickets apiece in a collective effort with the ball, with Krishen Nair also taking a wicket with his first ball in 1st XI cricket. Whilst this advantage could have been even greater if not for some loose bowling and fielding in the middle overs, it was nonetheless a great reward for a committed team effort to start the game. After an early wicket, Felix Polasek (88) and Noah Latimer (64) put on an unbeaten 177- run partnership to steer the team to a comfortable victory, and it was an ideal victory to avenge our grand final loss to St Kevin’s a year prior.
The second day of the tournament saw us pitted against a Toowoomba Grammar outfit that already looked to be formidable opposition. Saints chose to bat on a relatively flat pitch, but after a 70-run partnership between Charlie Moule-Hooworth (43) and Noah Latimer (33), we lost 8 wickets for just 28 runs. This saw us bowled out for just 125 in the 44th over, and would require a gargantuan effort to defend this total. Although there were a couple of early breakthroughs, Toowoomba managed to pass our score in just the 20th over for the loss of only 5 wickets, helped largely by the inexcusable 35 wides bowled in less than half an innings. Noah (2/10 from 3 overs) was the only multiple wicket-taker, and this heavy defeat helped reinforce the need for a more disciplined batting and bowling performance to set and defend scores consistently across 50-over games. To the boy’s credit, they quickly understood the significance of this message, and their efforts in this aspect were a definitive reason for our eventual successes.
For the final day of the round games, we matched up against Cranbrook School in what was a must-win game if the team wanted to secure a spot in Friday’s Grand Final. Saints once again won the toss and batted on another docile wicket, and Charlie-Moule Hooworth and Noah Latimer (both 45) picked up where they left off from the day before to leave Saints in control for the majority of the innings. Unfortunately, another middle-order collapse threatened to once again derail our innings, but Jenson Grudnoff (24 not out) and Haydn Kamencak (8) showed tremendous grit to help the team finish on a solid 9/237 from our 50 overs. With a grand-final berth on the line, the untried new ball pair of Haydn and Alex Cavenett well and truly delivered, with Haydn’s 2 early wickets leaving the opposition reeling and immediately putting us in a position of dominance. Only the Cranbrook captain held out against the team’s sustained endeavours, but he was undone by an absolute Jaffer by Henry Xenophou that all but sealed victory for the boys. Henry’s 10-straight overs spell yielded him 4 wickets for just 28 runs, and was a richly deserved reward for all of his effort this season with his spin bowling that saw him make his 1st XI debut in the last game of Term 4. Noah took 2 quick wickets to wrap up a 74-run win in the 42nd over, and a St Kevin’s loss to Toowomba confirmed our spot in the grand final against the latter. While we knew that our undefeated foe would be tough to beat, we had already improved considerably across the festival and were confident in our ability to perform across 100 overs of cricket.
Friday’s grand final saw us win the 4th toss in a row and bat on a scorching 33-degree day. Although the majority of our batters got starts, no one was able to go on and make a big score with the exception of Charlie Moule-Hooworth. In what had turned out to be a breakout tournament for the talented batter, his critical 79 off 118 deliveries became a statement inning that demonstrated his remarkable maturity and determination at 1st XI level. Charlie’s anchor role allowed the rest of our order to bat around him, and we set a defendable 189 runs from our 50 overs. This inning would eventually separate the 2 teams in what was surely a player-of-the-final performance. As the boys began the bowling and fielding innings, Toowoomba’s class was on display early, punishing any wayward deliveries and getting off to a quick start. Despite this slow start, the boys stayed true to each other and managed to take wickets at critical junctures to continue to peg back our opposition, with the game hanging in the balance at drinks. As Toowoomba edged closer to victory, a desperate bowling and fielding display from every single boy led to the final wicket being taken via a sharp catch from Lachlan Estcourt Hughes off the bowling of Aadi Mittal, with Toowoomba 38 runs in arrears. This triggered raucous celebrations, as Saints had won the Neil Dansie Cricket Festival for the 1st time in five years and the 4th time in the festival’s history, becoming the most successful school currently involved in the tournament! At the festival’s closing celebration, our Captain Noah Latimer also became the 4th Saints boy to win the Neil Dansie Medal for player of the tournament behind Jock Mcleay (2009) Harvey Brennan (2017) and William Montgomery (2019). His 169 runs at an average of 56, 7 wickets at an average of 8, 2 runouts, and 3 catches were vital contributions, as well as his leadership across the tournament which stood out to the other teams and coaches.
Upon reflection, the tour was undoubtedly an incredibly successful one considering the improvements we made across the 4 days of cricket. The team overcame a range of personal and collective obstacles to return the Neil Dansie Shield to Adelaide, paying tribute to the enormous legacy that the festival’s namesake left on cricket at St Peter’s College. As well as the on-field learnings that the boys will look to build upon back home, we also formed deeper relationships with the other schools that demonstrated the unique ability that sport has in bringing people together. The squad will aim to find similar success in their term 1 SAAS fixtures leading up to the annual intercollegiate cricket match and look forward to defending our title at next year’s festival hosted by Toowoomba Grammar School in January 2025. Although there are countless people behind the scenes which we are incredibly grateful for, there are three individuals who deserve recognition for helping the team experience such a successful trip. Thank you to the Head of Cricket Mr Jeremy Borgas, 1st Head Coach Henry Cameron and Assistant Coach Bailey Wightman for accompanying the boys on tour and enabling the team to have such a wonderful experience, I know the whole squad appreciated your efforts across the week.
Captain of the 1st XI Cricket Team
Notable Statistical Contributions:
Noah Latimer: 169 runs at an average of 56 (most in the tournament)
Charlie Moule Hooworth: 166 runs at an average of 55 (2nd most in the tournament), highest individual score vs Toowoomba Grammar School: 79 runs
Felix Polasek: 104 runs at an average of 104 (4th most in the tournament)
Henry Xenophou: 8 wickets at an average of 10 (equal second most in the tournament), best bowling figures vs Cranbrook School: 4/28
Noah Latimer: 7 wickets at an average of 8 (equal 3rd most in the tournament)
Lachlan Monu, Haydn Kamencak and Aadi Mittal: 3 wickets (equal 7th most in the tournament)
Lachlan Estcourt-Hughes and Noah Latimer: 3 catches (equal 2nd most in the tournament)
Harry Orchard: 2 catches (equal 3rd most in the tournament)
Highest Score vs Toowoomba Grammar School: 9/189
Highest Score vs Cranbrook School: 9/237
2024 Neil Dansie Cricket Festival 1st XI Squad: Noah Latimer (Captain of the 1st XI), Alex Cavenett (Captain of Cricket), Aadi Mittal (Co-Vice Captain), Harry Orchard (Co-Vice Captain), Charlie Moule-Hooworth, Henry Xenophou, Felix Polasek, Haydn Kamencak, Lachlan Monu, Lachlan Estcourt-Hughes, Lachlan Walker, Jenson Grudnoff, Stephen Vasilunas, Krishen Nair.