SMCA’s regular season reaches its end

Liam Durkin

THE end of the Sale-Maffra Cricket Association regular season finished in some anticlimax, with the top four remaining unchanged from the start of the round.

While there was a number of hypotheticals on the cards leading into Round 14, there was no last-gasp efforts that came to fruition.

In the washup, Sale finished on top for the second season in a row, while Yarram secured the other home final on offer.

The Pelicans won their last two home-and-away games to qualify for finals in their first season in the SMCA, and Stratford won their virtual elimination final at the weekend to continue their finals run.

The Redback’s victory came at the expense of fellow SMCA powerhouse Collegians, who (unthinkably) ended up finishing sixth – their lowest return since 2013/14.

Needing to win the last game to play finals, the reigning premier will not be taking part in finals for the first time since 2014/15.

Bundalaguah had a finals spot sewn up heading into the round, but by virtue of having a bye, lost the chance to host a semi-final after Yarram’s win.

OF all the things Stratford has achieved on field, its greatest off field accomplishment in recent years is surely getting Jack Tatt back in a Redbacks shirt.

After taking five-fa on Day 1, Jack Tatterson virtually single-handedly sent Stratford into the finals on Day 2, making a blistering 98 against Collegians.

While his effort fell just short of a century, it was 98 made rather than 100 lost as far as the Redbacks were concerned, and saw them chase the 164 required inside 40 overs.

Tatterson started the day on 29 not out, and had Lachlan Channing on 20 as the other unbeaten batsmen for company, after doing the hard yards.

Channing was only able to add six runs to his overnight score, but Tatterson then partnered with Cormac Hassett, as the pair set about chewing into the total.

Hassett, identified by Stratford insiders as a key inclusion back to the club this season, provided top support for Tatterson, and saw the day out with 25 red to his name off 66 balls.

Tatterson meanwhile just kept finding gaps at Stratford Recreation Reserve, and the boundary, as his 98 was made up of 12 fours and one maximum off 107 balls.

The Redbacks were only two down when they passed the total, making any other result virtually impossible.

With this in mind, players shook hands and called it a day – Stratford for a week, Collegians for the next six months.

Having negotiated some tricky periods during the middle of the season, the Redbacks have come good in the last few rounds, and now appear to have everything lined up ready for finals.

Everything relates to the entire club, as Stratford’s Second XI also qualified in similar circumstances to the firsts, needing to win the last game of the regular season.

Throw in the Fourth XI, and the Redbacks suddenly have a full quota of teams, and possibly players, to choose from.

For a club that appeared to stumble through large parts of the season and go through a shopping list of players, to still get all three teams in finals is an absolutely noteworthy effort.

Now that they are in finals, this is the time Stratford generally shines, and a fourth place finish will matter little in their bid to make the Grand Final.

While they would need to defy history to do so (only two clubs have done it since 2003/04) – if any team is going to win a flag from fourth, it is Stratford.

Especially when they have Pete Morrison as their coach.

Morrison has taken Sale football sides from outside the double chance all the way to the last game in the last two seasons.

There can be little doubt he, Redbacks captain Jack Rietschel and vice-captain Tatterson will be intricately plotting the next fortnight with military precision to give themselves the best chance.

YARRAM pinched second spot at the death.


The Pelicans 68-run win over Rosedale-Kilmany was enough to see them jump Bundalaguah by a mere 0.028 per cent on the final home-and-away ladder.

Such an outcome may have carried deja vu connotations from the Bulls, who missed finals by a similar split percentage in season 2019/20, although for their sake, at least this time they have made the post-regular season.

Yarram meanwhile have come from nowhere in the last two rounds, and now have a home final secured.

The Pelicans looked like they weren’t even going to make finals three rounds ago, but fortunately for them, they have a bloke called Anthony Scott in their team.

Scott peeled off a scarcely believable 194 out of 272 in the penultimate round against Collegians, and then made 77 against the Warriors in this game.

His effort saw Yarram post 201 on Day 1, which proved to be too many for Rosedale-Kilmany at home.

With finals out of the equation, the sight of the entire Warriors middle order going out bowled was probably indicative of a side who had mentally checked out on season 2023/24.

Dylan Rowley was the only player to make some sort of contribution, scoring 27.

Yarram captain Jeremy Babb continued on his wicket-taking ways, finishing with great figures of 5/66 off 23.4 overs.

He received good support from Daniel O’Keefe, who nabbed 3/22.

WOULD you be slightly concerned if you were Sale?

While the Swans won at the weekend, and collected the minor premiership as a result, they lost nine wickets in doing so against Maffra.

Commencing Day 2 chasing 203 at Cameron Sporting Complex, the visitors were in early trouble at 2/13, before Shaun Wolmarans and Ben Jones steered the side out of trouble.

Wolmarans made a busy 42 off 57 balls, while Jones scored 50, but was dismissed not long after raising the bat.

The wicket of Jones left Sale still needing 101 to win with five wickets in hand.

A steady 55-run partnership between Garreth Wolmarans and Matt Raidal was broken when the former was bowled by Ben Durrant, which lead to a procession of wickets.

Raidal was then required to pretty much save the innings, as the Swans slipped to 8/174 having lost 3/18.

He reached a gutsy half-century, but he too fell to Durrant, leaving the visitors still 21 agonising runs short.

For the second game in a row, Hayden Glover found himself involved in a nerve-killing last wicket partnership, only this time, he had Dan Padula at the other end.

Padula, the team’s wicket-keeper, who had only batted three times previously this season, played arguably the most important innings of his first grade career to date, holding firm with Glover until the winning runs were scored in the 67th over.

Glover remained not out on 17, netting a huge sigh of relief from all in the Swans nest.

Durrant took 3/55 to end the season with 29 wickets – the second-most in the league behind Jack Tatterson.

Lee Hopkins (2/13), Lachie Dowd (2/34) and Blake Rowley (2/39) were also productive.

The Eagles will have reason to be optimistic next season, having beaten finals-bound Bundalaguah, and gotten within one wicket of Sale.

Meanwhile, Sale will seriously be hoping they haven’t lucked-out right on the eve of finals.

The Swans have won their last two games by one wicket, and returned first innings scores of 102 and 141 in two of their last three hits.

As stupid as it sounds, and in the absolute greatest respect to Sale – is the most out of form team in fact the one that’s finished on top?

BOISDALE-BRIAGOLONG will feel they are on the right path.

The Saints ended the season in fifth position, pretty much meeting preseason expectations of playing-coach Adrian Burgiel, who said before the season the side was aiming to finish in the “bottom half of the top four”.

Keeping in mind Boisdale-Briagolong are in a rebuilding phase, a midtable finish in their first season under a new regime should provide evidence to suggest the Saints could climb into finals next season.

The Saints ‘sort of could’ve’ made finals this season if they won the last match of the season outright and the Yarram/RK game went the way of Rosedale-Kilmany.

It didn’t, and Boisdale-Briagolong didn’t win outright either, but toasted a first innings victory nonetheless.

The Saints made 256 in response to the Lizards’ 180, spearheaded by Mick Roberts making 63, Dylan Bolton 60 and Kev Renecke 54.

Lachlan Floyd was again the Lizards’ linchpin, taking 5/72. The Longford captain has carried the attack at times this season, with this his third five wicket haul for the season, surely putting him in Team of the Year calculations.

Boisdale-Briagolong only took 47.1 overs to establish a lead of 76, and rolled the dice by sending Longford back in.

The Lizards knocked off most of the deficit, getting to 3/69 before it became clear there was nothing more to play for.

Bolton added two final wickets to his season tally, taking 2/47.

The Saints skipper could feel hard done by this season, as a three run loss to Collegians before Christmas ended up potentially costing his side a finals berth.

Had they have won that, they would have ended the season on the same number of points as Stratford.

Longford meanwhile, perhaps unjustly, claimed the wooden spoon, despite a season that saw them beat Yarram and Stratford both on their home deck.

The Lizards continue to fight the good fight playing first grade, but the unfortunate reality is they do keep finishing last most seasons.

BUNDALAGUAH had the bye.