AFTER 14 rounds, the chase for the Sale-Maffra cricket premiership comes down to four teams.
In this weekend’s semi-finals, Rosedale-Kilmany will host Stratford, while Collegians will welcome Bundalaguah.
Minor premier Rosedale-Kilmany has had to wait longer for grand final success compared to its semi-final rivals. The Warriors’ most recent first grade title came in 1987.
The other three sides have featured many finals in the grand final over the past decade.
The top four teams are entering the finals in winning form, setting up what should be a thrilling two weeks of cricket.
ROSEDALE-Kilmany needs to get through Stratford before it can even consider breaking a 29-year premiership drought.
Coming off six consecutive wins, the Warriors’ past two seasons have ended in the semi-final defeat, and will look to end that trend against the Redbacks.
A Stratford team which surged into the top four on the back of four straight wins cannot be taken lightly. However, those victories were against sides which missed the finals, with the Warriors to provide a greater challenge.
The Redbacks prepared for the finals with a strong showing against Sale.
Chris Aurisch, who scored 114 last round, has the ability to take control of the bowling, while Cormac Hassett, with five half-centuries this season, can provide a steady start to the Redbacks’ innings.
Bowlers Jake Benfield, Brandon McDonald and Hayden Glover helped RK destroy Maffra last round, continuing their solid performances with the ball.
Warriors captain Brad Scott has scored the most first grade runs, but a shoulder injury could rule him out. He was named in the Warriors’ side last round, but didn’t take to the field.
Brother Anthony is hitting form, with scores of 120 and 58 in recent weeks.
Stratford’s bowling attack has been led by spinner Jack Rietschel, Bohdi Walker, captain Travis Millar and Luke Maguire.
The Warriors won both their matches against Stratford this season.
THE other semi-final between Collegians and Bundalaguah shapes as an enticing clash.
Collegians has won six of its past seven matches, with the loss coming against Bundalaguah. The Bulls have won five of their past six games, with a loss to Rosedale-Kilmany the only blemish in the period.
Collegians tuned up for the finals with a comprehensive victory over Longford. It didn’t look good for Collegians early in the match at 6-50, but solid knocks from Mark Nicholls, Nathan King and Simon Cafferkey got their team to 217.
While Collegians would’ve hoped for a bigger total against the seventh-placed Longford, it proved to be more than enough as the Lizards were bowled out for 65.
Bundalaguah was too strong for Boisdale-Briagolong, with captain Mat Dowsett scoring 59 and 52.
Like Dowsett, Adrian Burgiel has the potential to take the initiative away from any bowling attack with blistering shot making.
Nicholls, Jayden Allison and captain Jack Tatterson are part of an equally dangerous Collegians batting line-up. Nicholls has also been effective with the ball, claiming 31 wickets.
The Bulls’ leading wicket-takers have been Dylan Rowley, who took five last round, and Mark Donald.
In their two encounters this season, both sides recorded comfortable victories.
Senior semi-finals — Saturday and Sunday
First grade: Rosedale-Kilmany v Stratford, 12.45pm at Rosedale Recreation Reserve; Collegians v Bundalaguah, 12.45pm at College Oval.
Second grade: Bundalaguah v Rosedale-Kilmany, 1pm at Col Wrigglesworth Oval; Collegians v Wurruk, 1pm at Sale Oval.
Third grade: Bundalaguah v Nambrok, 1pm at Bundalaguah astro; Collegians v Wurruk, 1pm at College astro.
Fourth grade (Saturday only): Collegians v Bundalaguah Yaks, 1pm at Stead St; Bundalaguah Bulls v Wurruk, 1pm at George Wilson Oval, Stephenson Park.
Junior grand finals — Monday
Under 16s: Bundalaguah v Longford, 10.30am at Cameron Sporting Complex.
Under 14s: Collegians v Stratford, 10.30am at Stratford Recreation Reserve.