By Russell Bennett

This year’s Gazette WGCA Premier Team of the Year speaks volumes of the all-around talent currently featuring in the competition’s top tier.
After the conclusion of the selection process, nine of the 11 players chosen could rightfully lay claim to being bonafide all-rounders – and to suggest Cardinia champion Dwayne Doig isn’t one is probably an insult to the gun spinner.
When examining how the batting line-up looks on paper, the depth is just staggering.
The vast majority of those selected bat in their respective clubs’ top orders, but by the same token the flexibility of the line-up allows for an effortless switch of positions.
Kooweerup captain-coach Mark Cooper has had a staggering campaign with the willow in his first season back in the association – belting 651 runs in the home and away season before his stellar century in the semi-finals against his former side, Cardinia.
He has truly led by example – both through his leadership and with the bat, but also with the ball, picking up an impressive 22 wickets at 11.6 as a regular spin option for the Demons.
Though the Demons’ core is proven, the fact that Cooper has taken the side into the finals as the top seed off the back of just one regular season loss speaks volumes for his meticulous methods – both on game day, and training during the week.
Seagulls skipper Tom Hussey is another model of unbelievable consistency – setting the tone at the top of Tooradin order with yet another 500-plus run season at better than 51, while also doing a superb job behind the stumps – often keeping up to the wicket to the likes of seamers Cal O’Hare and Aaron Avery.
Ben Spicer had a breakthrough Premier campaign – his first with the Demons after a dominant year in District last season with Pakenham Upper-Toomuc. The stroke-maker absolutely deserves his spot in the top order.
Likewise Pakenham’s Chris Smith. An opener for the Lions, he has the ability and versatility to bat anywhere in the top six and would have no difficulty whatsoever slotting into second drop.
While his 2016/17 home and away season didn’t quite reach the heights of last year, his value to the Pakenham batting order is enormous and as the season progressed he continued to look more and more lethal.
Neil Barfuss, Russell Lehman, Cal O’Hare, Dom Paynter, and Jess Mathers provide just as many headaches with the ball as they do with the willow. They basically pick themselves in this side – including Lehman, whose numbers don’t necessarily leap off the page, but was vital at difficult stages during games for the Gulls.
To select Mathers at number nine in this group shows just how deep it really is. It’s also testament to his versatility as a batsman. He can play a more conventional innings when called upon early, or he can play the role of an explosive big hitter after a foundation is set.
Pakenham seamer Tom Tyrrell is in many ways the breakout performer of 2016/17. The prospect of slotting into a premiership-winning Lions side may of seemed daunting for the former Upper Beaconsfield gun, but he took to his role like a duck to water and his numbers show it. Ask any quality batsman across the association and they’ll say just how difficult he is to face.
Doig, like his former team mate Cooper, has been simply devastating. The spin bowling marvel is true master of deception with changes of pace and flight.
Just like last season’s side, the quality of players who missed out on selection – starting with 12th man, Maroons champion Scott Pitcher – indicates just how strong the group is.
The Warriors had a brilliant Country Week campaign this year. Just imagine if this was the line-up in 2018 …

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