THE Sale-Maffra under 14s enjoyed a successful campaign, and were crowned Junior Country Week premier.
Despite a first round loss to Warragul, the Sharks then won their remaining three games to advance to the final.
In its first match at Morwell, Sale-Maffra scored 8-106, with Ben Harrington's knock of 27 the best performance.
Signs looked promising for the Sale-Maffra bowlers when Warragul stumbled to be 3-13 early, however a strong middle order partnership saw the Wild Dogs eventually go past the required total. Best bowlers for the Sharks were Bayden Dowsett (four wickets), Ed Phelan-Penson (two) and swing king Austin Anlezark (two).
The side was able to rectify things the following day against Traralgon at Traralgon West, with solid contributions from all players seeing the side home.
Bowling first, the Sharks routed Traralgon for a paltry 52, as Jay Diamond collected three wickets, along with openers Anlezark and Ed Phelan-Penson who each took two.
With the bat, Sale-Maffra showed no mercy, as it went better than a run-a-ball and smashed 5-264 to boost its percentage considerably.
Those to get in on the act were Harrington (56 not out), Dowsett (50 not out), Waltley Sutton (43) and Caleb Barnett (34).
At the halfway point of the campaign, a twenty20 round was played, which saw the under 14s play Latrobe Valley at Maryvale.
While no Shark players were able to make a significant contribution with the bat, the side was able to post a handy 8-96 thanks to a few double figure scores and more than 20 opposition extras.
The Sale-Maffra contingent then displayed nerves of steel to remain disciplined enough to hold on for victory, after Latrobe Valley were cruising along at 2-60, before closing at 6-98. Diamond had a big say in the result, with his figures of 3-12 a decisive factor.
As the twenty20 round was a double header, the Sharks then faced up to play Bairnsdale where they were also victorious.
Batting first, Sale-Maffra scored 3-91, with Austin Bauer knocking them around in his innings of 27.
The Shark bowlers then did another good job, restricting Bairnsdale to 9-64, with Mason Annear (3-13) and Harper Fox (2-14) ensuring the points.
In the penultimate round, an outstanding bowling performance saw the Sharks defeat Leongatha at Trafalgar.
After being sent in on a warm day, Sale-Maffra got off to a flying start, with the scoreboard attendant kept busy in the first 10 overs.
Harrington top-scored with 45, while Mason Annear made 28.
The Sharks were eventually bowled out for 153, and any hopes of a Leongatha win were quickly extinguished when they found itself 5-20.
Austin Anlezark (4-6) provided the match highlight with his hat-trick sparking wild scenes, that capped off a memorable day for the youngster. Other bowlers to perform well were Dowsett and Diamond, who each nabbed two wickets as Leongatha were skittled for 72.
On the final day, Sale-Maffra were pitted against Bairnsdale for the title at Moe. The match was reverted to a twenty20 as temperatures were forecast to tip 40 degrees.
Needing 62 for victory after Dowsett (three wickets), Phelan-Penson (two) and Cooper Lett (two) did the damage with the ball, the Sharks got across the line in the final over.
With Sale-Maffra 6-55, it looked as though Harrington's knock of 31 would be in vein, but some quick singles and nerve-racking moments proved to be enough as the Sharks got home in the finish.
Fourth place in U15s
THE Sale-Maffra under 15 Country Week team finished its campaign in fourth position, returning a creditable three wins and two losses from five games.
The side began the week playing against Warragul at Morwell, in a match that came down to the wire.
Bowling first, Warragul was dismissed for 149, with Tom Wrigglesworth and Seb Pendergast the best performed bowlers, each taking two wickets.
In reply, Sale-Maffra recovered from 5-77 but could not quite bridge the gap, as they ended the match 10 runs short, with Lakshay Singh (31) and Kane Russell (28) both getting amongst the runs.
The following day at Callignee, the Sharks got bragging rights over Traralgon with an emphatic win.
Electing to have a hit, Sale-Maffra ended up declaring nine down to put Traralgon out of its misery after amassing 236. Kane Russell scored a fine 75 at virtually a run-a-ball, while Ethan Aurisch contributed with 31.
With the ball, Sale-Maffra ensured an early coke could be had by all, as it bowled Traralgon out for 73. Tyson Birss was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-9, and received good support from Pendergast, Russell and Brad Nikolajew who all took two wickets each.
On Wednesday, the Sharks secured the points over host association Latrobe Valley in a twenty20 match at Maryvale.
After being sent in, Sale-Maffra lost a wicket early, but a strong partnership from Russell (37) and Wrigglesworth (38), who has improved his listening skills, saw the side post 3-113.
In response Latrobe Valley was never really in the hunt, and after slumping to be 5-32, the match was as good as gone. The hosts eventually closed at 9-78, with Pendergast and Russell again among the wickets, taking two each.
Immediately following this victory, the Sharks fronted up for another twenty20 against Bairnsdale, in a match which would prove costly to the sides hopes of reaching the final. After restricting Bairnsdale to less than 100, Sale-Maffra then shot themselves in the foot with an ordinary batting display that saw them bowled out for 85 in the second last over.
Looking to finish the week on a positive, the Sharks travelled to Churchill to play Leongatha and upon winning the toss sent their opponents in.
The decision was vindicated as Leongatha were bowled out for 89, with the Sharks alert in the field, executing two run outs that triggered a middle order collapse.
The usual suspects were again prominent in the wickets column, but with the opposition bowled out cheaply it was hard to fault any bowlers wearing black and grey.
Sale-Maffra opted to use the match to get some valuable time out in the middle, and got home at a slow but sure rate.
Ethan Aurisch was thetop scorer with 29 with extras second top scoring on 21.
Russell led both the batting and bowling for the week, with an aggregate of 163 runs and eight wickets. Others to feature prominently were Nikolajew (seven wickets at 4.43), Pendergast (six) and Aurisch (104 runs).
Warragul completed an undefeated week with victory over Bairnsdale in the final.