US star is gone but Dragons are still strong
Doncaster's Richie Benes catches Upwey FTG's Nicholas Hopcraft in a run-down play during last year's finals. PICTURE: KRIS REICHL.
DONCASTER president Paul Burgoine is upbeat ahead of the club's first Baseball Victoria Division 1 men's season in seven years, despite losing trump player Richie Benes.
Benes' reluctant decision not to play for Doncaster this summer comes after club coach Phil Bertrand's defection to rival Upwey Ferntree Gully earlier this year.
Benes, who played a crucial role in last season's premiership, will remain in America to further his business interests.
In an open letter to Doncaster members on the club's website, Benes said: "It's been a hell of a decision to make because I feel like I let my teammates down along with the rest of my Donny family''.
Burgoine said the club was sad to lose Benes, but he was adamant his side was capable of being competitive in the state's elite grade.
"We're really in a good position,'' he said. "It's not a one-hit wonder. We're going to be competitive and retain our place in Division 1 and we're confident of being a premiership contender (in the future).''
Bertrand's position will be filled by a two-pronged attack, with senior coach Chris Nicholas and new recruit Chris Hodkinson to share the club coaching duties.
Hodkinson has a plethora of Division 1 experience with Malvern and Ringwood.
"He's high calibre,'' Burgoine said. "He's a state coach for the under-18s, he comes with a lot of experience.''
Burgoine said with a host of talented recruits, including all-rounder Cameron Hubbard (Blackburn), batter/outfielder Daniel Passlow (Malvern) and pitcher Jason Blewjas (Fitzroy), the Dragons would perform well in Division 1.
"We'll certainly put a good team on the park,'' he said. "The depth in the ranks is strong. We're looking forward to it.''
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