Deer Park enters the new year on top of the Victorian Turf Cricket Association north-west B1 ladder, but first-year coach Ian Blanchett has warned his players that bigger challenges await in the second half of the summer.

The Lions impressed in the lead-up to the mid-season break with four first-innings wins and an outright victory from their opening six games, but a softer draw has meant they have avoided all teams in the top four so far.

Blanchett is eagerly anticipating the next month of cricket and the opportunities it offers to discover if his side is the real deal.

“It’s going really well so far, but we have played a lot of the bottom teams,” he said.

“This next period of matches is really going to let us know where we are.

“We’re playing good cricket, but we’re actually not playing our best cricket yet as far as I can see, so we’ve definitely got some room for improvement.”

The most encouraging aspect for Deer Park has been the even contribution with bat and ball.

There has not been an unhealthy over-reliance on one or two stars to carry the side to victory.

“We’re bowling really well as a unit and things are coming together with the bat,” Blanchett said. “It’s a nice little team at the minute.”

Ricky Suvada is leading the way with the bat for Deer Park.

The all-rounder has scored 229 runs at 32.7 to be ranked fifth in the competition.

Suvada has the potential to be a match-winner each time he pulls on the pads for the Lions.

“He’s a bit of a go-to man,” Blanchett said. “He contributed pretty well with the bat – [he’s] a bit of a dasher. But I hope to have a bit of a calming influence on him and get him to bat some extra time … the longer he’s at the crease, the better for us.

“He’s having a good all-round season again, as he does every season.”

Sri Lankan imports Angelo Emmanuel and Nilanka Vedagedara have been outstanding for Deer Park.

Emmanuel, in his second year at the club, has been damaging with the bat, producing 175 runs at 43. His off-spin will be crucial in the latter stages of the season.

Vedagedara, a newly acquired left-arm speedster, has been a revelation, leading the competition with 19 wickets at 12.1.

“He’s a good pick-up,” Blanchett said. “He’s scaring a few batsmen when he changes his pace.”

Blanchett has been back in Melbourne for nine years after spending his formative years in England.

The 42-year-old, who coached Craigieburn to a premiership last season, is hopeful of a long association with Deer Park, as it is just a five-minute drive from his Caroline Springs home and he has been made to feel welcome this summer.

“I’ve been around a few clubs, but I’ve been wanting to get a club that was closer to home so I can get my family more involved,” he
said.

“It’s started off really well at Deer Park and hopefully I’ll be there for a long time to come.”

The VTCA cancelled all games on Saturday due to the extreme weather.

Deer Park will hit the road for a two-day game against St Andrews Pascoe Vale starting on Saturday.