CAVALIERS all-rounder Stu Middleton has labelled this weekend’s Orange District Cricket Association first grade preliminary final against Orange City his side’s “final crack” at another grand final berth.
The competition’s dominant side for a decade, Cavaliers won eight straight ODCA and Bathurst Orange Inter-District Cricket top grade premierships between 2002-03 and 2009-10, then lost the last two deciders against Centrals.
It’s a remarkable record by one of the ODCA’s best line-ups.
But, father time is catching up on a lot of the club’s senior playing group.
And yesterday afternoon Middleton gave perhaps the best indication yet the sun was setting on Cavaliers’ decade-long dynasty.
“This is the biggest game for us this season,” Middleton, still one of the competition’s best players scoring 344 runs (equal top with Shaun Grenfell) and taking 24 wickets (second to Chris Novak) through 10 games this summer, said.
“The loser of this one is out for the year. We’ve probably got one final crack at the big one.”
Competing in a shortened finals series given the five-team first grade premiership adopts a top three play-off system this summer, Cavs tackle the Warriors at Wade Park today and tomorrow.
The winner progresses through to the grand final against minor premiers CYMS.
Cavaliers secured second place on the ladder after a comfortable first innings win over Orange City (third) in the final round last weekend.
However, Orange City skipper Dave Boundy later conceded his side probably wasn’t as motivated as it should have been in essentially a nothing game to end the regular season.
Whether that gives Cavs the edge this weekend is uncertain.
Middleton, though, was sure of one thing - there’s plenty of improvement left in his Cavaliers’ line-up.
“Last week was a tail of two days. We were on top on the first day then obviously got the runs, sent them back in and then we probably didn’t play as well as we can on the Sunday. Missed a few chances in the field,” he said.
“We probably have to improve on our fielding and make sure we take those chances.”
Middleton said while the club’s senior players like skipper Richie Venner, spinner Brad Wright and bowler Chris Martin have the experience, his side’s charge this summer has been by its younger brigade - led by Western Zone representative Liam Gough.
“Goughie is a major factor for us, opening the bowling and moving the ball the way he does. James Ryan, we know he can score runs, he probably just has to prove it to himself, and Matt Corben, his keeping has been out of this world,” he said.
Cavaliers take on Orange City at Wade Park from 12.30pm today.
Play will resume at 11am tomorrow.
ORANGE CITY: Matt Findlay, Adam Cowden, James Conn, Shaun Grenfell, Ben Nexhip, Lincoln Duncan, Dave Boundy (c), Stuart Naden, Jono Warren, Andrew Rutledge, Ed Morrish.
CAVALIERS: Richie Venner (c), James Ryan, Liam Gough, Chris Martin, Stu Middleton, Brad Wright, Mark Maybin, Matt Corben, Charlie Foran, Josh Doherty, Greg Martin.