What a season of cricket it was for the Elders Cup in 2019/20.
After the withdrawal of Junee and the merging of the Commercial Cutters and Colts to form a new-look Commercial Colts, the competition saw eight teams chasing Elders Cup glory.
The season that was shortened due to fires and smoke saw 12 games played from a 14-round draw and as a result, competition for the top four was tense.
Coolac, were looking to win their eighth-straight premiership, while Wyangle, Tumut Plains, Adelong and Lippers were the teams tipped to be the most likely of breaking the premiers stranglehold on the competition.
It was certainly a tale of two very different halves of the season though, with Tumut Plains unbeaten after the first seven rounds.
The Tumut team looked set to put years of disappointment behind them but that was until everything came crumbling down in the second half of the season.
Plains wouldn’t win again until round 14, which meant they only just secured their place in the finals, just ahead of a luckless Woolpack Lippers.
Wyangle would be the most consistent team throughout the season though, only losing two games on their way to claiming the minor premiership, one win ahead of old foes Coolac, while Plains were in third.
The surprise team was Lotts, with the young Gundagai side finishing the second half of the season strongly to finish fourth, ahead of Lippers on percentages.
Led by the Smith and Ferguson families, Dan Attwood and Mick Butler, Lotts were a team to worry about in the post-season.
Still, in the finals, Tumut Plains would prove too strong for Lotts, progressing to the second week and a fixture against Coolac, after the premiers went down to Wyangle in their semi final fixture.
With Wyangle already in the decider, Coolac would prove way too good for Tumut Plains, meaning that the competition’s biggest rivals would again play for cricketing glory.
In a match that was billed to be a tight contest, Wyangle played Coolac out of the match with Matt Stubbs and Dean Crane proving the difference as Wyangle put seven years of misery behind them to win the Elders Cup grand final.
Summary: After a round one thrashing at the hands of Tumut Plains and a round five loss to the Woolpack Lippers, Wyangle would win their next nine games to win the Elders Cup; their first success since the 2011/12 season.
The difference this year was their strong bowling attack that called on the likes of Dean Crane, Brenton Hotham, John Breed, Matt Stubbs and James Webb.
Tom and Dave Shedden again held their own with the bat, often propping up Wyangle totals with important scores in the 30s, 40s and 50s.
In what was one of the best Elders Cup competitions in recent memory, Wyangle’s premiership win will be up there as one of the club’s greatest achievements.
What the captain said: “It was an enjoyable season and despite it being shortened due to the heat and smoke around Christmas time, I found it was always played in good spirits,” Matt Stubbs said.
“It’s been good to play against some of the younger guys coming through, whilst there are also still some older guys having a game and supporting cricket within the region.”
Summary: Although losing the grand final, Coolac still had a very good season, only losing three matches on their way to their 11th straight Tumut District Cricket Association decider.
The Highwaymen had the competition’s leading run scorer in Tim Graham and the Elders Cup cricketer of the year in James Scott.
The loss to Wyangle will be a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of the team’s legacy but it will no doubt motivate Coolac to go one better in 2020/21.
What the player said: “Our season started a little rocky, dropping a couple of early games and in such a tight competition this year, it made things interesting towards the end of season games,” James Scott said.
“To make out 11th consecutive grand final appearance is something to be proud of, especially when it wasn’t just one or two players carrying the team but everyone contributing in someway throughout the season.”
Summary: It was a tale of two very different halves of the season for Tumut Plains.
The talented side, which calls upon the likes of Glenn Appleby, Stephen Gill, Matt Sturt, Luke Armstrong and Daniel Thomas, was unbeaten after seven rounds and looking very good.
The wheels fell off though and the team would only finish with eight wins for the season, only just making finals.
The Tumut team consolidated things in the finals though, beating Lotts but were found wanting in their semi final match against Coolac, losing comfortably.
Still, it would give the team hope that they can improve next season and be a team to watch in 2020/21.
What the captain said: “We have been rebuilding now for a couple of years and have finally found a really strong group of players that work together and that really showed in the first half of the season,” Luke Armstrong said.
“Obviously the second half was disappointing but player unavailability and injuries took its toll and we didn’t finish as high as we wanted but we are still proud to have made the final.”
Summary: The surprise packets of the competition started the season slowly but finished with a strong surge, scraping into the Elders Cup top four.
Youngsters Alex and Andrew Smith and Tom and Jacob Ferguson would certainly give veterans John Smith, Dan Attwood and Craig Ferguson hope for the future, with the talented foursome proving very important to Lotts late charge.
As a result of their strong season, Andrew and Alex Smith would sweep all the under 21s awards for the competition, with exceptional performances from both talented all-rounders.
What the captain said: “I felt like we had a closely contested competition this year and I was happy with how our young side stood up and competed,” Dan Attwood said.
“I think we will be much stronger next season and I am looking forward to it.”
Summary: The Woolpack Lippers were unlucky not to make the semi finals, after being edged by Lotts in the final round of the competition.
Funnily enough, the side had previously never been out of a finals position until that final round, which came on the back of a sloppy finish to the season with round 13 and 14 losses to Lotts and Tumut Plains; the sides that would leapfrog them for the finals positions.
The enigmatic side, that has the ability to beat anyone on their day, would have certainly made the finals even more interesting had they qualified and there is no doubting they will be competitive in 2020/21.
What the captain said: “I think our season was pretty good considering we’ve lost three handy bowlers over the last two season,” Greg Crampton said.
“This year our main struggle was bowling teams out but in saying that, we were still very competitive in the competition and we’ve got some young fellas that are starting to step up now, so that’s positive moving forward.”
Summary: Adelong were certainly the competition’s underachievers in 2019/20.
Boasting arguably the strongest bowling lineup in the competition, with Jake and Ben Hardiwck, Jordy Maher and Corey Wilson, the Donkeys should have finished higher up the ladder.
Unfortunately, their top order rarely fired and as a result, the Adelong side was on the backend of some pretty embarrassing defeats.
It’s only up from here and it would not surprise anybody to see the young side pushing for a finals position, assuming they can get their batting issues sorted.
What the player said: “We just didn’t win enough games,” Tate O’Donovan said.
“We played some good cricket at times but we didn’t win our crucial games.”
Summary: It was a tough year for Family, who only recorded two wins; both of them over the hapless Commercial Colts.
The young and inexperienced Family did give it to Coolac and Wyangle in different matches but just did not have the class to finish off games.
If the side’s keeps the core of their team together, they could be strong in the coming years, especially if Jake Elphick and Caleb Lindley-Kell keep leading the team in the right direction.
What the captain said: “Family has a lot to look forward to next year, with their young players starting to step up and improve with age and experience,” Caleb Lindley-Kell said.
Summary: It was a long, hard slog for the competition’s new team.
The young side recorded no wins for the year and had to forfeit one of their matches due to player unavailability.
Jacob Thomas was the standout for the side, keeping the team in multiple contests with his bowling and contributions with the bat.
The team will need to pick up a few players if they are to be competitive next year.
What the captain said: “The cricket season for the Commercial was a rough one, especially with us not winning any games,” Aidan Thomas said.
“We had a few good tallies on the board but our bowlers just couldn’t protect these scores throughout the season but everyone is keen for next year.”