By Justin Flynn
Barwon Heads’ chances of promotion to Bellarine Peninsula Cricket Association’s A1 Grade next season have taken a turn for the better with the recruitment of two favourite sons to the playing group.
Former premiership players Jason Mallett and Sam Schaller will return to RT Fuller Oval this season, the club both their fathers played for.
Mallett has come out of retirement, but will be one of A2 Grade’s best batters while Schaller had a season with Murgheboluc before taking the year off last season.
Schaller, a damaging middle order bat and accurate left-arm orthodox bowler, said he was refreshed after a season off and looking forward to the challenge.
“It was funny, late last season I called in to watch Barwon Heads playing Drysdale at Drysdale and I parked as far away from everyone as I could and then next minute this car rolls in next to me and it happened to be Jacko (Mallett),” he said.
“From planning on watching a few overs, we chatted for probably an hour or two – not so much about playing next year together but I think we both left that day knowing that it was a good chance.
“He’s an absolute ripper and someone I have huge respect for.”
Barwon Heads was relegated from A1 to A2 Grade two seasons ago and narrowly lost a semi-final last season to eventual premiers Armstrong Creek. The last placed finisher in A1 Grade gets relegated and the A2 Grade premier is promoted each season.
“Following them from afar it feels like they have a great group of guys in the right age bracket with some talented kids underneath that and then the experience of a few above them,” Schaller said.
“I think what myself and Jacko can bring is just some more experience and driving that group to be the best we can be as often as we can. But I know I just look forward to slipping in somewhere and being a part of the side.”
Schaller said he learned a lot from playing GCA on turf with Murgheboluc, but had no regrets in having last season off.
“I had a fantastic experience and time at Murgie, the players there and the people involved were really welcoming and great people,” he said.
“I think after 20 years back to back with cricket and footy something had to give for a bit just mentally.
“While there were some other things that contributed to not playing last year, mentally it was a nice refresh in that aspect.
“The plan in my mind forever has always been to finish playing at Barwon Heads and that time just felt right now with where I was at with everything.
“Once it got to the finals I missed it, that’s what you play for – to be involved In those big games where the pressure is on. So now I’m feeling fresh and looking forward to getting back amongst it.”