Mildura Settlers captain Braidyn Turner. Photo: PAUL MENSCH
By MITCH RODD
THE fearlessness of Mildura Settlers’ crop talented youngsters could hold them in good stead in their fifth consecutive Sunraysia Cricket Association (SCA) grand final.
During the 2018/19 season, Settlers have blooded as many as half-a-dozen players under the age 17 in a game.
While some inconsistent form will always be around the corner with a young group, the team has rallied around experienced heads like Jason Morrison, Richie Wyld and coach Tarque Williamson. As a result, another grand final match-up awaits this weekend against Workers Gol Gol.
“Playing finals was always our aim, but we had to see what the right mix was,” Williamson said.
“We lost a few games we should have won, and we’ve had a couple of batting collapses, but that’s going to happen in a young team at times. It’s all about them learning from it.
“As a club we need to do that every few years to give these young guys an opportunity and set the side up for the coming years. We’ve managed to do that in the last couple of years and it’s worked for us so far.
“At various stages during the year we’ve had five or six guys in the team aged under 17. We’ve had Cam Kiel, Will Rogers, Paddy and Seamus Keogh, Tate Hulland behind the stumps, among others. It’s all about creating that good mix of youth and experience.”
Williamson said his younger charges aren’t concerned about opposition stars, but play their natural game and take each moment as it comes.
“We’ve got so many young guys and they’re pretty fearless,” he said.
“They’re not too worried about the names in the opposition, they just go out and play cricket, which is kind of refreshing for us older blokes. Really we’ll be focussed more on our game rather than Workers.
“A number of young guys will be playing in the Under 16’s grand final in the morning, so they will have to find a way to keep themselves fresh and pumped up all the way up until late afternoon on Saturday and potentially Sunday.”
Williamson praised young opener Cameron Kiel, who at just 14 has played the majority of the season in First Division.
While Cameron’s opening partner Jason Morrison has destroyed opposition bowling attacks across the season, the youngster has looked comfortable as an anchor at the top of the order.
Williamson said last weekend’s semi-final victory over Irymple was a prime example. After rolling Irymple for 99, Setts reached the total with nine wickets in hand, Morrison making an unbeaten 82.
“Cam looked really good out there,” he said.
“He didn’t really trouble the scorers but he looked comfortable, and Jason just did what he does best with Paddy to get over the line.
“It’s been exciting for Jason to have such a young guy out there with him that he can work with and help mould into good senior batsman.
“Cam’s only 14 or 15, so for him to already have been doing what he’s done is amazing.
“Paddy isn’t quite 18 yet, but he’s a wise head on young shoulders. Like Cam he started First Division cricket at an early age and he’s had some terrific performances.”
Speedster Luke Coates is also flying along in the run to the grand final.
Williamson said the former Merbein South paceman had “bowled well without luck” during the season, but the wickets are now coming thick and fast. Out of his 24 scalps for the season, 14 have come in his last five bowling innings, including 5/39 against Irymple last week.
“Luke has bowled really well all year without a lot of luck. We’ve talked about it with him a few times, just telling him to stay positive,” Williamson said.
“He’s been putting down lines, lengths and speeds that wouldn’t be unusual in grade cricket in Melbourne or Adelaide, but the luck really hasn’t gone his way. Over the last few games though the tide has started to turn a bit more, which is a fantastic reward for him.”