Liam Durkin

 

SALE-MAFFRA will be aiming to complete an unbeaten season in the Gippsland Cricket League, when its senior men’s side takes to the Grand Final field this Sunday.

The Sharks are in yet another GCL decider, although this time, against a first-time opponent.

Sale-Maffra is set to play Cricket Latrobe Valley for the silverware.

Latrobe Valley came to be this season after a merger between Traralgon District Cricket Association and Latrobe Valley District Cricket League, making for a near 20-team competition.

The result has, naturally, meant the new league has a raft of players to choose from, many of whom played for TDCA during last season’s GCL final victory over Sale-Maffra.

The Sharks were well beaten on that occasion, and might be motivated to redeem themselves, albeit against a slightly different opponent.

Latrobe Valley players such as skipper Nat Freitag, fast bowler Mitch Harris and GCL stalwart Jimmy Pryde all played in the winning GCL team last season, so the Sharks will have some idea of the competition coming their way.

Sale-Maffra has also expanded its player pool this season, as Yarram moved to SMCA in the offseason.

This means players such as Daniel O’Keefe and Anthony Scott have suddenly become available, and both could be selected for this Sunday’s final, although it is understood Scott is managing an injury.

While Sale-Maffra has been a powerhouse of senior GCL in recent years, the Sharks have not played a match this season since late November.

They haven’t played Latrobe Valley either, as their Round 4 clash was abandoned due to rain.

That makes for a tantalising decider, as the new kids on the block look to beat the grand masters.

Sale-Maffra finished the regular season on top of the ladder, and have been expertly led by Dylan Bolton as captain.

The Boisdale-Briagolong all-rounder collected five wickets in his last GCL match, which came against Warragul.

Latrobe Valley needed to defeat Warragul in the last game of the regular season in order to make the Grand Final.

The Sharks have slightly gone away from tradition this season, bringing international players into representative cricket.

That being said, the results have stood up, with the likes of Stefano Di Bartolomeo blasting runs at the top of the order.

Di Bartolomeo lit up the Round 2 clash against Leongatha, smoking 111 off 103 balls, in a knock that featured six bombs.

The strength of Sale-Maffra in GCL has it’s been slow bowlers, and expect Bolton, Isaac Love and Jack Rietschel to work in tandem during the middle stages to contain Latrobe Valley.

The trio can just go at a run-a-ball with the field spread, and pick up wickets later in the game when the opposition try and hit out.

Whether they bat or bowl first probably won’t matter, as a game featuring quality line-ups on either side is unlikely to be won or lost in a first session.

The senior men’s final will be played at Bellbird Park, Drouin from 10.15am.

UNFORTUNATELY, the Gippsland Cricket League women’s competition has come to an abrupt end.

Lack of numbers has forced the hand of organisers to abandon the season.

Sale-Maffra was the only association left standing able to field a team.

The women would have otherwise joined the Sharks senior men in trying to win a GCL flag this Sunday.

The GCL women’s competition was reduced to just three teams this season, although Leongatha failed to ever get a side on the park.

It is understood organisers are already working toward next season, with the aim of having all five Gippsland associations (Sale-Maffra, Latrobe Valley, Leongatha District, Warragul District, Bairnsdale) represented in women’s cricket.

SALE-MAFFRA missed the Under 18s final.

The Sharks finished both the 50-over and 20-over season third on the ladder.

Latrobe Valley and Leongatha will fight for titles in those respective formats.

The T20 Cameron White Cup is on tonight (Tuesday, January 30), while the 50-over final will be played at Hallora this Sunday.