GREATER Illawarra Zone may have fallen short in their bid to progress to the final of the Country Championships, but the team is taking plenty of positives out of this weekend’s competition.
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After getting off to a shaky start with a loss to ACT Southern Districts on Friday, Greater Illawarra, featuring Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemens’ Daniel Gleeson, Blake Munilla and Nate Jones, rebounded over the weekend, claiming victories over Newcastle on Saturday and Riverina on Sunday.
The 77-run victory over Riverina secured the side a bonus point and put them in touching distance of the top spot in the Southern Pool, however ACT Southern Districts were able to outlast a defiant Newcastle tail to secure the pool.
While disappointed not to be heading to Bowral to take on Central Coast in a fortnight, coach Grant Tilling was proud of the way the side recovered over the weekend to finish in second position.
“I was very pleased with the results this weekend, especially the victory over Newcastle,” Tilling said.
“For our first year, it was very pleasing and a better than expected result.
“I think we exceeded a lot of people’s expectations, particularly in the Newcastle game.
“We went out and played really hard – we needed a bonus point, ended up getting it and it was unfortunate Newcastle fell to ACT Southern.”
After such a promising debut tournament, Tilling is hoping to return to the role of coach in 2019 and he revealed the majority of the squad are eager to go around next year as well.
“They’re all keen to come back and do it again.
“They loved the three days, enjoyed playing a level of cricket above what they’re used to and they really stood up.
“A few of our young cricketers got in there and I can see they will reap the rewards in years to come in rep cricket and also going back to their clubs after playing a higher level of cricket.”
While Friday’s loss will go down as a five-wicket defeat, Greater Illawarra had ACT Southern Districts on the ropes at 5/69.
It was a position they were unable to capitalise on, with Scott Murn and Josh Watling combining for an unbroken 85-run partnership.
Tilling concedes the match was the one that got away for his side.
“The first game came down to the toss, at the end of the day, and we lost the toss.
“That’s cricket, you take the good with the bad and it was a learning experience about grinding out an innings.
“The game did get away from us.
“If we had applied ourselves a bit better, we are probably in a position where we are going to the final, but that’s cricket.”
While the side had some handy contributions from a few key batsmen, including Graeme Batty and Mitch Watterson, it was Greater Illawarra’s bowlers that led the way all weekend.
The strategy to pick four spin bowlers paid off, with Jamie Fleming taking 10 wickets at the carnival, including 5/30 on Sunday.
“A couple of the batsmen stood out with a couple of good innings, but it was the bowlers who were our strength.
“Jamie Fleming was great, he had 10 wickets for the whole carnival.”
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