AS HE approaches his fifth season as a fully-contracted state player, Strathfieldsaye's Xavier Crone is determined to take the next step with the Victorian cricket team.
The paceman has had a taste of the 50-over format with Victoria in the Marsh Cup and now has his sights set on not just earning a Sheffield Shield berth this season, but being able to make a significant impact with the red ball.
"I really want to work towards that (selection in the Sheffield Shield team) and being able to contribute more when I do get a chance," Crone said this week.
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"I want to be able to go from the stage of 'wow, this is cool to be playing for Victoria' to be able to contribute towards winning games and, hopefully, winning some silverware for the trophy cabinet.
"Hopefully, I can put my best foot forward and if I get an opportunity, really make the most of it.
"We've been fortunate that we've been able to continue training through the lockdown and we have some unbelievable facilities at the Junction Oval, so we're certainly ready to go."
Having been delayed by COVID-19 lockdowns and state border closures, Victoria and New South Wales will finally begin their Sheffield Shield seasons against each other at Sydney's Drummoyne Oval starting next Wednesday.
"I'd like to think I'd be close (to being selected in the Shield squad), but a lot of the guys have had really good pre-seasons and there's a good cohort of young bowlers putting their hands up to step up," Crone said.
I want to be able to go from the stage of 'wow, this is cool to be playing for Victoria' to be able to contribute towards winning games and, hopefully, winning some silverware for the trophy cabinetXavier Crone
"Whoever does get the nod to play, it won't be much of a surprise because all of the boys have worked really hard during the pre-season."
Following next week's encounter Victoria will then host New South Wales in a Sheffield Shield match from November 5-8 followed by a day-night Marsh Cup one-day game on November 12, with both clashes at the MCG.
"My body is feeling really good; normally we'd be playing now, but having the extra couple of weeks to spend in the strong room and recovery-wise, I'm feeling in good shape heading into the season," Crone said.
Crone has been a member of the Victorian squad since he was first included as a rookie-contracted player as an 18-year-old in April of 2016.
At the time he was the first Bendigo player to be contracted by Victoria since Kangaroo Flat's Tim Welsford in 2004.
Now Crone is one of four players in Victoria's 2021-22 squad that has previously played in the Bendigo District Cricket Association.
The Vics' squad also includes James Seymour (from Bendigo) and rookies Todd Murphy (Sandhurst premiership player) and Sam Elliott (played juniors for Bendigo).
Crone was elevated to a full contract with Victoria for the 2017-18 season and played his first Marsh Cup game against Western Australia at the WACA in October of 2019, picking up the wickets of Marcus Stoinis and Ashton Turner in his debut figures of 2-60 off nine overs.
The 23-year-old now has five Marsh Cup games under his belt and seven wickets heading into 2021-22.
As well as determined to make his mark with the Victorian team this summer, Crone is also preparing for another season of Premier Cricket with Carlton.
And this season it's with the added leadership role of vice-captain.
"The vice-captaincy is one of those great roles where you can step away if something goes wrong, but then if an idea works you can take some credit," Crone said.
"It's not so much added responsibility, just a title and one that I'm looking forward to."
The Premier Cricket season has this week been confirmed to start on the weekend of November 13-14, with a big departure from Carlton being explosive opening batsman and wicket-keeper Brayden Stepien from White Hills.
Stepien - a 2018-19 Carlton premiership team-mate of Crone - has moved to Tasmania and is playing with Clarence.
"It leaves a gaping hole... we've all seen how dynamic and explosive Steppo can be and he's the type of player who in the past has won us games in the first 10 overs with his batting," Crone said.
"It's a big loss, but at the same time it creates an opportunity for other guys to step up and to look at a different way of playing where we can't just rely on those superstars like Steppo and Evan (Gulbis) at the top of the order to get us off to a flyer."
2021-22 Victorian contracted players:
Squad: Peter Handscomb (captain, St Kilda), Scott Boland (Frankston), Xavier Crone (Carlton), Travis Dean (Footscray), Zak Evans (Ringwood), Aaron Finch (Geelong), Jake Fraser-McGurk (Richmond), Seb Gotch (Melbourne), Sam Harper (Melbourne), Marcus Harris (St Kilda), Mackenzie Harvey (Carlton), Jon Holland (Frankston), Nic Maddinson (St Kilda), Glenn Maxwell (Fitzroy Doncaster), Jonathan Merlo (St Kilda), Tom O'Connell (Geelong), Wil Parker (Richmond), James Pattinson (Dandenong), Mitchell Perry (Richmond), Will Pucovski (Melbourne), James Seymour (Essendon), Matt Short (Northcote), Will Sutherland (Prahran).
Rookies: Brody Couch (Geelong), Sam Elliott (Fitzroy Doncaster), Tom Jackson (Geelong), Cameron McClure (Essendon), Todd Murphy (St Kilda), Fergus O'Neill (Melbourne).
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