Sydenham Hillside will feel a different kind of pressure in the Victorian Turf Cricket Association north A1 this season.
The Storm wore the underdog tag for so long, a competitive team in whichever league they played in without being a true premiership contender, but that changed last summer when it made a remarkable dash to the grand final.
For two days at least, the Storm appeared on track for the premiership after taking a first innings lead, but Sunshine YCW came back in the second innings to win by three wickets.
With YCW promoted to north-west B1, Sydenham Hillside is now the team to beat in north A1.
“Last year we kind of started as the new kids on the block,” Storm coach Kane Twentyman said.
“This year the tide has turned, it’s flipped around and the eyes are on us.
“We were the hunter and now we’re the hunted.”
Crossing to the VTCA from the North West Metropolitan Cricket Association before last season, nobody knew whether Sydenham Hillside was to be taken seriously or simply making up the numbers.
The Storm gained the respect of the established VTCA clubs by making the finals and knocking out minor premiers Moonee Valley in a stunning semi-final ambush.
It would be a bittersweet month for Sydenham Hillside, as it came so close, but yet so far, from the premiership.
“We got it right at the right end of the year,” Twentyman said.
“We gelled and had the right mix.
“There were a few moments in the grand final and maybe we’re having a different conversation, but that’s obviously not the case.”
Sydenham Hillside has moved on from the disappointment of March 26.
The Storm is putting all of its energy into preparing for a round one contest with Aberfeldie Park at Hillside Recreation Reserve on October 7.
Living in the past is not an option if the Storm wants to go one step better this season.
“We’ve put that behind us,” Twentyman said.
“There’s new expectations for this season and obviously that’s what our club has to deal with.
“There’s room for improvement and we’ve trained and prepared and put in more work than we did this time last year to make sure we’re primed and ready to go.”
Sydenham Hillside will have to do it without last season’s import Steven Sandhu. The all-rounder will leave a big hole to fill, having made 432 runs and taken 26 wickets last season.
While the Storm will miss the runs, wickets and “good vibe and personality” that Sandhu brought to the club, they will be hoping some players within can step up and fill the void.
The Storm is hopeful the runs component can be filled through Benjamin Luka, a top order batsman who has returned to the club.
“There’s no high hopes or expectations on him, we’re just happy to have been able to get a homegrown boy back to the club,” Twentyman said.