Local Cricket, by Jim Timberlake
After a week’s rest, Geelong Cricket Club will be primed and ready to go when it hosts Fitzroy Doncaster in the preliminary final this weekend.
Fitzroy Doncaster scraped over the line by just nine runs last week to book its finals spot in a game on which the Cats would have done their homework.
The Cats have a very balanced side, with pretty much all their key players in good form at just the right time of the season.
Skipper Eamonn Vines looks back to his best, while Hayden Butterworth is enjoying a career-best season to date.
With the ball, leg spinner Brenton McDonald continues to amaze with his skill, while the likes of Jake Reed and Dom McGlinchey head up a multipronged bowling attack that has stood up to almost every challenge this season.
Finals aren’t won easily, though, and the side will need to be at its absolute best if it wants to progress to next weekend’s three-day grand final.
In Geelong Cricket Association, its grand final weekend and some absolutely ripping games will be played out right around Geelong.
In division one, old rivals East Belmont and Grovedale will meet at Memorial Park Leopold in what promises to be an epic game.
East Belmont has been the team to beat all season and showed it with a gritty performance against St Josephs last week.
The Lions were asked to bat first and looked in trouble early, but skipper Sean O’Neill (117) continued his incredible run of form, steadying the ship firstly with Hayden McMahon (8) in a 50-run stand before joining Tom Elliot (51), the pair putting on 122 for the fourth wicket.
Matt Tarbett (3/56) got Joeys back into it with a gutsy spell but East managed to post a healthy 8/260 at stumps.
In reply, St Josephs got off to a great start, with Luke Ibbs (57) and Justin Foss (34) enjoying a 72-run opening stand.
But Dylan McMahon (5/55) and Chris Williams (3/64) slowly dragged East Belmont back in front to record a 36-run win.
Grovedale found its semi-final much easier, setting up a huge win over Newtown & Chilwell on Saturday with a massive score of 9/311.
Luke Ford (119) showed his class with his maiden century for the club, while veteran Gareth Yelland (106) bludgeoned the Two Blues attack to all corners.
On Sunday Chris Young (5/44) turned back the clock with a devastating early spell, reducing Newtown & Chilwell to 3/20 within the first hour.
Despite some middle-order resistance that only proved to delay the inevitable, Grovedale cruised to victory.
So the two best sides of the past 15 years go head-to-head once again. East Belmont deserves to start favourite but Barry Tsitas has an uncanny knack of instilling amazing belief in his team and they will be very hard to beat.
In division two, Marshall progressed to the big one with a huge upset win over Murgheboluc.
The Bears batted first, and although Corey Walter (41) looked good, once again he had no help from his top order who had collapsed to be 5/79 when he departed.
Nathan Frye (73) stood up with easily his most important innings for the club though, to guide them to 184 at stumps.
On Sunday, with James Menzies (1/5) out of the attack early with a groin injury, Brad Greenwood (6/13) took up the slack with a master class of swing bowling to lead his team to an emphatic 94-run win.
They will take on Torquay, which flexed its muscle against a disappointing Bell Park side.
The Tigers batted first, with Christian Hewitt (35) and Tom Henderson (35) getting them off to a flyer.
The Dragons ensured the Tigers didn’t have it all their own way, pegging them back to 7/103 as Shane Lymer (5/33) ripped through them.
Youngster Tyler Emmerson (27) dug in, though, to help Torquay post 170 on a slow ground.
On Sunday, Bell Park was never in the hunt as Peter Manser (5/37) destroyed the Dragons to be all-out for just 15.
Torquay will start heavy favourite at Marshall Cricket Ground this weekend but, with some selection issues pending, and Marshall having absolutely nothing to lose, this game could be the upset no one sees coming.
And in division three, Modewarre will play Bannockburn in the season decider at Grinter Reserve, Newcomb.
Modewarre posted 191 last Saturday against St Albans Breakwater, with Darcy French (69) top-scoring.
A very even bowling performance the following day saw Modewarre dismiss the Super Saints for only 136, the damage done early when they were 6/40.
Modewarre will play Bannockburn, which snuck over the line in a very low-scoring affair.
The Bulls batted first but could only muster 128, thanks mainly to Daniel Davies (35) and Sam Hickleton (32).
The Vikings really should have chased that down, but when they fell to 5/15 things looked grim. Jack Clapham (54) battled hard to get them back into it, but it was all in vain, as they fell 34 runs short.
This grand final be a very even game, with both sides having some shown some great form at various stages throughout the season.
Modewarre might just start narrow favourite with a bit more experience in its side but this could easily go either way.