AFTER 58 games, one more remains to decide the 2016-17 Sale-Maffra cricket premiership.
Collegians and Stratford will meet in the grand final on Saturday and Sunday at Bundalaguah.
Minor premier Collegians has set the standard for much of the season, losing just three matches, and will come into the grand final as favourite. However, Stratford has ended the season in good form, winning its past four matches.
College will be aiming for an eighth SMCA first grade premiership, and first since 2011. Victory this weekend would follow their one-day trophy success earlier this season.
The Redbacks won the most recent of their five premierships in 2014.
Intrigue leading up to the grand final has been around Stratford captain Taylor Tatterson, who last night faced an association tribunal on charges related to poor behaviour during the Redbacks’ semi-final victory over Sale. If he is cleared to play, the grand finalists will be led by cousins, with Jack Tatterson leading Collegians.
Stratford player Sam Anstee said the grand final teams will include names which had been prominent in local cricket.
“There’s a few — Hurleys, Tattersons, Morrisons,” he said.
“It’s par for the course around local cricket - the greats tend to have families that are greats. It’s good for me being slightly older to play against the great players’ sons, and hopefully beat them.”
Anstee said the conditions at Bundalaguah should provide a good contest.
“It should be a cracker of a game, both sides are batting pretty deep, both have got really good players,” he said.
“Went out to Bundy (on Tuesday), the outfield looks fantastic and from all reports, the junior grand final put on a really good wicket, and that’s the most important thing.”
Collegians has had two of the stand-out performers this season.
Veteran Stuart Anderson has scored an association best 718 runs this season at an average of 59.83, and taken 31 wickets at 12.58.
This week Anderson was named the Sale-Maffra Cricketer of the Year for the seventh time.
No other bowler has taken more first grade wickets than Jack Tatterson’s 40 at 13.9.
Anderson and Tatterson claimed three wickets each in the semi-final against Rosedale-Kilmany.
Matt Foster has scored 495 runs, at an average of 45. Foster scored 49 last weekend.
Another contributor with the ball has been Charlie Morrison, who has claimed 27 wickets at 16.41.
Collegians wicket-keeper Nick Grainger said victory over RK prepared the team well for the grand final.
“A highlight (of the season) was beating Rosedale last week, we beat them last year but they beat us both times earlier in the year, they were the bogie side,” he said.
The minor premiers, Grainger said, had tried to treat the grand final like another other game.
“(Preparation has) been the same as every other week, I guess. Tuesday, Thursday training’s been run pretty much the same,” he said.
Grainger said both teams needed to be at their best for the whole game.
“All 160 overs are going to be interesting,” he said.
The Redbacks haven’t ruled out making changes to the team that defeated Sale.
“We’ve got a couple (of players) on the fringes that have had injuries, Tom Williams and Luke Maguire, and probably the tribunal will have an effect on that,” Anstee said.
Jack Rietschel has had a good all-round season for Stratford, scoring 416 runs and taking 21 wickets.
In his first season at the Redbacks, Dylan Bolton has snared 29 wickets at 16.59, including five wickets in the semi-final.
Bohdi Walker scored a vital 81 against Sale. The innings helped the Redbacks recover from 7-93 to a match-winning 232.
Walker’s season tally is 355 runs at 29.58, while he has also taken 21 wickets at 16.29.
Taylor Tatterson has contributed 389 runs at 27.79.
“We rely on 11 players rather than one or two, it’s probably one of the main reasons we’ve been good throughout the year,” Anstee said.
Stratford won their round five two-day match at the College Oval. After making 275, the Redbacks destroyed the home side, bowling it out for just 87.
Collegians got the better of Stratford in the return one-day fixture in round nine.
SMCA president Geoff Wells the depth of both teams had served them well this season.
“The main reason that both of these sides are in the grand final is because they both bat to 11 and don’t rely on anyone, so you can have them 7-90 and still make it to 250,” he said.
“Neither side can take their foot off the pressure, they have to keep going.
“They are the best two depthed sides in the competition, and it showed last weekend.
“It’s going to be a cracking grand final, played in high spirits, and you’re not going to get a better grand final.”
SMCA grand finals
Saturday and Sunday:
First grade, 12.15pm: Collegians v Stratford at Col Wrigglesworth Oval, Bundalaguah.
Second grade, 12.30pm: Heyfield v Stratford at Stephenson Park, Sale.
Third grade, 12.30pm: Bundalaguah v Stradbroke at Bundalaguah astro.
Fourth grade, 12.30pm (Saturday only): Bundalaguh v Collegians at George Wilson Memorial Oval, Sale.