Darley skipper Matt Cape wins back-to-back EJ Cleary medals

ALL-ROUNDER Matt Cape has joined an elite list of decorated Ballarat Cricket Association players as a multiple winner of the club firsts top individual honour.

The Darley skipper captured back-to-back EJ Cleary medals as the firsts’ best and fairest player.

He joins Mounties’ duo Nathan Yates (2008/09, 2010/11) and Matt Goonan (2008/09, 2009/10) and Wendouree’s Eamon Johnson (2007/08, 2009/10) as current players in the marquee division as dual Cleary medallists.

Cape shared the prize with Brown Hill’s Matt McMahon last season but was the outright best this summer.

“It’s a real privilege. It’s good to go back-to-back,” Cape said.

“It was nice to share it last year but feels sweeter on my own this time.

“This is definitely unexpected but statistically I’ve had a better year than last year.”

In accepting the honour, Cape announced he was stepping down as captain but would continue to play an active role at Darley Park.

He was humbled to accept the medal, having almost missed the BCA awards night at Ballarat and District Trotting Club to instead stay home and celebrate his wife Kristin’s birthday.

Teammates talked him into joining them – but he will take his wife to Sydney this weekend to mark her birthday and make up for missing dinner.

The veteran Lion also thanked his parents in his acceptance speech, for all their work behind the scenes about the club, helping him to lead on field.

Cape polled 19 votes from eight of 12 matches he played this season, including five best on grounds.

Returned Napoleons-Sebastopol star Carman Mapatuna was runner-up on 17 votes, playing 10 matches this season.

All leading vote-getters in last night’s count have won the prestigious honour.

Mapatuna, back from Sri Lanka, won the EJ Cleary more than 15 years ago in 1997/98.

Mount Clear captain Nathan Yates (2008/09, 2010/11) and Brown Hill’s retired Australian quick Shane Harwood (1996/97) – each made a big impact, each rejoining the competition, and each to battle in this season’s final – were equal third on 13 votes.

Wendouree paceman Eamon Johnson (2007/08, 2009/10) and Mountie Dan Hopkinson (2002/03) each polled 16 votes.

But last night was all about star Lion Matt Cape, nicknamed “Cape Show” by his team.

Dangerous with the bat and ball, Cape topped the club firsts batting average with 529 runs at 52.90, edging out firsts’ leading aggregate run-maker Mapatuna, who had a 52.18 batting average.

It was a rollercoaster season for the Lions, who battled with player availability but showed plenty of promise, particularly in teenage firsts players like Terrance Curwin-King.

“We should’ve won a few more than we actually did and we should’ve won games we didn’t last year,” Cape said.

“Our ones are a very young team and developing but I thank my cricket club and the players for all their support this season.”

Melbourne Renegades and Victorian Bushrangers’ development player Matt Short, an East Ballarat export, was guest speaker, fresh back from playing with Australia in the ICC under-19 World Cup.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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