Stan Hargreaves Oval, the centrepiece of cricket in Yarrawonga, was looking resplendent on this  sunny, cloudless  Saturday  . Despite heavy rain in the previous  24 hours  the conditions were superb.    The ground surface is unsurpassed   in  this area  , the wicket well-grassed  and  evenly-paced and the pavilion -complete with a new deck-  most accommodating.

With the C-Grade game being played  on  an adjoining  oval, Victoria Park  was a hive of activity and you could detect a confident air  amongst  the Yarra-Mulwala fraternity.  Why not ?

The feeling in ‘Lakeland’   is  that  last year’s  premiership was ‘one that got away’  and they are determined to make amends in 2013/14.  So when they won the toss and  batted , the tip was that  they were gearing themselves  for a  fruitful  day at the crease.

No one would  have  expected to see  them  reeling at 5/49.

They had  begun productively  enough  against some steady bowling  ,but when Zac Moore padded up to  Jacob Schonafinger and ‘walked’ before the umpire had raised his finger for the LBW, it signalled a change in the game.

The  introduction  of  Callum Nankervis into the attack  saw  the star-studded  Lakers upper-order  on the back-foot.  Ever-improving, the youngster was assisted  by a healthy breeze and  bowled  with considerable stealth.  To  see good bats hurrying their shots is an indication  of the respect  they showed  for his extra pace.

Schonafinger, into the wind, was wobbling the ball skilfully   and  his accuracy was unwavering . Between them  they  had  shared the  5 wickets ( Schona 3, Nankervis 2), as the Hawks  were right on top.

Tall Ben Doyle joined  his skipper Lee Frazer at the crease. Reports were that he had been struggling for runs this season, but with a century to his name in Albury & Border cricket, he was certainly no mug.

Frazer’s   was the  wicket   the Hawks  needed and the early  chance that he offered   to the slips cordon  should  have been taken. It proved costly.

He is an impressive player, the Lakers’  captain-coach.  An ex-Assumption College boy, he was  a seven-time  Club Champion  at  both  Keilor  Cricket and Football Clubs and  was  a draftee at Hawthorn in his youth, without playing a senior AFL game.

The way he went about building his innings  was a lesson  to both  his own and the Rovers-United players.  Once  settled, and with Doyle’s support,  he took charge of the game. With Nankervis forced to rest , with figures of 2/8 from seven  overs,’  Schona’  worked away diligently at the other end .

But the pressure was relieved and  runs came at a steady rate.  The Frazer-Doyle  partnership had added  83 valuable runs  when  Schonafinger  claimed  the valuable  wicket of Frazer for 63.

Doyle found an ally in Mark Athanitis, as they attempted to push the runs along. But, in so doing, Doyle  was run out for 36, attempting  a quick single.  Athanitis   fell to Josh Schonafinger  for  29. The  tall  spinner  also claimed  hard-hitting left-hander  Patrick Martin  and from then on it was a matter of wrapping up the tail.

Yarrawonga-Mulwala  were happy  to eke out a competitive total after  their early collapse;  Rovers-United  would have delighted  if you’d have  told them before the game  that they may restrict  one of the competition’s  premier  batting line-ups to 189 on their own deck.  So both sides were  grinning.

Jacob  Schonafinger  earned the plaudits of his own camp with figures of  4/57  off a marathon  22 overs.  The 21 year-old Hawk skipper now  has  26 wickets this  season   and has led from the front in grand style  .   All Rovers-United   bowlers  lent  good support, with  Callum  Nankervis  proving his class  against good opposition.

With two overs to endure, the Hawks survived unscathed to be 0/5 at stumps.  Paul Marshall and Matt Knight, both former Shepparton stars let a few  go  and  Marshall’s  final delivery, a searing bouncer, had  Callum Nankervis  swaying away.   Marshall’s run-through   ended   just  a metre or two  from  the youngster, at the batting crease, and he was no doubt given a word of advice on how to play the game.

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