Heading into the New Year, a majority of the Warrandyte teams would have felt they were lower on the table than they would have liked.
Some close losses hurt and add a disjointed start to the season, the break was a chance to clear the mind and come back with a renewed sense of vigour.
Clubs look to their leaders for guidance and at times for that spark.
In the case of 1st XI captain Ben Taylor, it was less a spark and more a roaring blaze, as back-to-back hundreds — 123 not out and a 110 in an outright victory — plus an 11-wicket match from Nuwan Liyanapathirana have set the Bloods up for another finals tilt.
Results from the opening rounds of 2023 are below.
Bloods sweat and tear through Wantirna South’s Webb
The forecast for 38 degrees forced the lower grades to be called off, but for four of Warrandyte’s teams, it meant game day was still very much on.
Losing the toss and being sent to bowl against Wantirna South, the 2nd XI would need to make sure they didn’t let the game get away from them early.
Bowling a wide-ish line to start, the Bloods picked up two wickets for just 14 runs which had the energy high.
But, C. Webb from Wantirna South looked to steer the game away from the home side, and at the drinks break it was 2/38.
The heat was rising and the pressure to find the breakthrough increased.
Unable to really get a partnership going with Webb, Wantirna South lost 2 wickets more before tea, but had added nearly 50 more runs, 4/86.
Crucially, only 36 overs had been bowled, and with the heat getting more oppressive, a strong partnership after the break could all but put Warrandyte out of the game.
And indeed that is what happened, as the two Wantirna south batsman made a great start, Webb hitting a four first ball after tea to bring up 50, and then the runs started flowing, boundaries and quick singles, the Bloods struggling to find an answer to this onslaught, within nine overs of the restart, Wantirna South had put on 50 runs for no wicket, and Webb was into the nineties.
Things looked dire for Warrandyte, before a fantastic catch from Brown had the young Bloods back with energy, Webb was still in on 92 but suddenly the game had a bit of intrigue.
Three maidens in a row and then another outstanding catch, this time from Warren.
Then another wicket, first ball, and suddenly Malluwawadu was on a hattrick.
This game was heating up, both literally and metaphorically.
Inches, mere inches, from a hattrick, Warrandyte controlled the end of the innings and rolled the visitors for 186, C. Webb making 123 not out.
With 19 overs to face in the first days play, Warrandyte came out and just went for it.
Brown made 50 inside the first seven overs, Malluwawadu following suit, hitting 50 off 46 balls.
Warrandyte nearly had 100 inside 14 overs and, had Brown not been caught and bowled, the game could have finished on day one.
As it was, Warrandyte was 1/114 at the close of play, and a game that looked like it was slipping away, was suddenly all but won.
The following week, Warrandyte knew that the game was there to be won early and a potential chance to hit the runs quickly and then try to bowl Wantirna South out again, but to the visitor’s credit the bowling was tight, and made the Bloods earn every run.
Slowly but steadily the target was chased down, at the score hit 150, 3 wickets down all the Bloods players in the stand were suddenly glued to their phones, and the MyCricket app, as news that first XI captain Ben Taylor was again in the 90s whipped around the ground.
After a few minutes of score tracking, and the news that it was back-to-back tons for Taylor, the gaze switched back to the middle, and the drinks break which saw the Bloods 3/158 off 39.
Chasing this kind of target, you lose wickets going for quick runs.
As the game plan was to try and be proactive, it was Lachlan Haberfield with a four to bring up the runs for victory, and then he hit two into the creek, bringing up 200.
50 in 55 balls and the lead passed 50 as 3pm rolled in.
At tea, the Bloods were 7/260, with 44 overs left in the day.
Some 4 overs later and some quick-hitting, Warrandyte had a lead of 107, and send Wantirna South back in.
Another 18 overs later with the score 0/18 and a rare Haberfield over, the players shook hands and walked off the ground.
Warrandyte with a win that now has them in a strong position to make the top four and gives them a shot at the double chance.
B. Taylor 123*
L. McAlary 52, N. Liyanapathirana 4/39, B. Matherson 3/45
Mooroolbark 89 & 123
Warrandyte 4/215 (dec)
B. Taylor 110, N. Liyanapathirana 4/33 & 7/34
A. White 2/32 & 54*, H. Brown 55
Wantirna South 186 & 0/18
Malluwawadu 64 & 3/61,
H. Brown 58, L. Haberfield 53
(Special mention to Wantirna South player C. Webb with 127* & 5/105)
Hoddles Creek 2/155
HM Hodgson 34
North Ringwood 8/193
B. Bowyer 49, JP Aitken 39 & 2/31, M. Whitbread 3/25
St Andrews 3/106
N. Croft 32
Yarra Glen 6/128
J. Weatherley 50
D. El Moussalli 66, S. Goddard 45
Hoddles Creek 5/186
A. Barclay 49, D. El Moussalli 44, M. Butcher 43
Chirnside Park 6/188
G. Warren 4/39, M. Butcher 53
B. Stubbs 3/13, M. Tredrea 2/17 & 46
Wonga Park 3/120
C. Prior 2/10
Chirnside Park 7/177
S. Grocott 53*
South Croydon 5/135
R. Potter 3/19
Women’s 1st XI
V. Muleta 50* & 2/10, L. Trevena 30*, R. Watts 4/8
Yarra Junction 2/108
Y. Ziada 48*
St Andrews 1/145
V. Muleta 65