GCL finals race heats up

Liam Durkin

THE second round of the pool stage for the Gippsland Cricket League senior and under 18 and 15s will be played this Sunday.

Because of the condensed fixture, wins are at a premium this season, and results this Sunday could decide which team finishes their pool on top of the ladder to gain a home ground advantage for the semi-finals.

Because of the condensed fixture, wins are at a premium this season, and results this Sunday could decide which team finishes their pool on top of the ladder to gain a home ground advantage for the semi-finals.

SALE-MAFFRA will host Bairnsdale in the seniors at Bundalaguah.

The Sharks will be gunning to shelve their opening round performance, where they were comprehensively beaten by Traralgon.

The reigning premier must defeat Bairnsdale to keep its hopes of claiming a hat-trick of titles alive.

New Sharks captain Josh Davis will be aiming to lead with bat and ball, along with vice-captain Brad Scott, who has the ability to win games of cricket with his power hitting and tricky bowling.

Sale-Maffra fielded a relatively young team in its first match, and it will be interesting to see if selectors persist with youth for long-term growth, or call on senior counterparts to help strengthen the team.

If those in charge go for the latter, they could have former Bairnsdale top performer Rohan Blandford in their sights to bring into the team.

Blandford would have played with many players in the Bairnsdale team from his time at Meerlieu, and could be Sale-Maffra’s trump card.

Similarly, there would be a few players in the Bairnsdale camp who have had experiences in Sale-Maffra, as the two associations border each other and players come and go between the two.

The SMCA midweek twenty20 competition in recent years has allowed cross-association participation, and Bairnsdale players such as Reagan Kyle, Brayden McCarey and Daniel Richardson have suited up for SMCA teams.

Kyle has been a mainstay in representative cricket for many seasons, and is expected to have another strong campaign this season.

Top order batsman Haydn Erfurth had a prolific 2019-20 at club and representative level, and was selected in the Victorian Country Cricket League team of the year for his efforts in scoring more than 700 runs and taking 17 wickets for Lindenow South-Glenaladale.

Erfurth has picked up where he left off this season, with three half-centuries from his first five hits in 2020-21.

After making the division two grand final at Country Week last season, Bairnsdale will want to show Sale-Maffra it has what it takes to re-join the Sharks in the top flight.

WARRAGUL will travel to Leongatha, with the Wilddogs out to make it two wins from as many starts and progress through to the semi-finals.

The Wilddogs will face strong opposition from Leongatha, but will be feeling good about themselves after a methodical run chase against Latrobe Valley, highlighted by Jack Armour batting through the innings to guide the team home.

Having made the GCL final last season and also taking out the division two premiership at Country Week, Leongatha will want to again stamp its authority on the GCL competition.

Leongatha has some big hitters, and the challenge for Warragul bowlers Sam Batson, Lauchlan Gregson and James Williams will be to contain and see the back of the likes of David Newman and Daniel Mock.

The match may also be a brotherly affair for the Williams family, if Ryan Williams fronts up for Leongatha.

After being confined to bit-part roles last season, the Leongatha hierarchy might look at giving Jack Ginnane more responsibility this time around.

If the Wilddogs can get over the line, they will be able to rest up before the semi-final as they have a bye in the final round.

SALE-MAFFRA will play Bairnsdale in the junior grades, with the under 18s at Lucknow and under 15s Stephenson Park.

THE women’s fixture sees Centrals and Sale-Maffra play at Apex Park, Traralgon. Latrobe and Bairnsdale will meet at Maryvale.