IT?S CRUNCH TIME
By TONY WHITE
A LOT is at stake when the final round of this season's Bananacoast Community Credit Union Premier League cricket competition commences today.
A variety of scenarios is possible, with the coveted minor premiership, top four finishing order for the semi-finals and individual player awards still up for grabs.
Any one of three teams ? current leader Harwood Hilton (96.4pts), second-placed South Services (92.36) and Grafton Hotel Westlawn (91.74) ? are in a position to snare the minor premiership.
Grafton Services Brothers (76.18) will finish fourth after their only danger, G I Hotel Tucabia-Copmanhurst (65.67), elected not to pursue an outright win after gaining a first innings points victory against Westlawn last week.
Westlawn takes on Brothers at McKittrick Park today, while South Services will clash with a resurgent East Royal Tavern at J J Lawrence Field. Harwood will do battle with Tucabia at Ellem Oval.
Teams finishing first and second at the end of the regular season meet in the major semi-final with the winner gaining direct entry into the grand final, scheduled for March 19 and 20.
Westlawn, chasing its fourth straight premiership, has proven vulnerable this season but it has an experienced band of players capable of rising to the occasion when it matters.
The side has not gelled this season, with too many players expecting one or more of the club's leading players to step in to the breach and at times, it has just not materialised.
Harwood has been the pacesetter with vastly improved batting depth, a very capable attack and most importantly, belief in its ability under captain Tim McMahon.
South, all but written off as major contender after the departure of John Frame, has been the surprise packet, its young side moulding into a polished and productive unit.
Brothers, under Troy McLaren, are ranked outsiders for premiership honours, but have shown they are capable of mixing it with the big guns.
Individually there have been numerous success stories.
Westlawn's chatty all-rounder Andrew Firth is again in the running to snare cricketer of the year after strong performances with bat and ball.
Firth is the season's leading batsman with 534 runs. He has also taken 23 wickets, one less than captain Tony Blanch.
Harwood's Peter Hickey is the competition's leading wicket taker with 34 victims, while teammate Dave Cowan has 25.
Hickey has proved his all-round ability by also scoring 224 runs to be his club's third highest run getter behind Nathan Ensbey (355) and Ed Munday (298).
Young South Services paceman Zac Page has taken 27 wickets and been ably supported by Ryan Lynch (15) and Bill Wynn jnr (15).
Tucabia's Chris Adamson, who will miss this weekend, is pressing Firth for top honours with 23 wickets and 433 runs, the highest total for his club.
South's Kroehnert brothers, Matt and Tom, have topped the club's scoring with 388 and 277 runs respectively.
Troy McLaren and Ron Chaffey (24) head Brothers' wicket-takers with John Holmes top scorer with 297 runs.
East captain David Cox has led from the front top scoring with 291 runs.
Adam Dewberry from Tucabia and Brothers' Trevor White have taken 10 catches apiece and East's Bob McKenzie leads the fielding award.
South's Matt Hartmann is the leading wicket-keeper with 19 dismissals.
Let the games begin.