IN a 12 month period stacked with stellar comebacks - think Brad Fittler, Kevin Rudd and parachute pants - this weekend’s Orange District Cricket Association first grade decider between Cavaliers and Orange City is dishing up two more.
Young gun James Ryan will skipper the maroons in the biggest game of the year, a remarkable comeback after an injured shoulder threatened to end his 2013-14 campaign in February.
Retiring after leading Orange City to a break-through premiership last season, veteran seamer Andrew Rutledge has been drafted into Matt Findlay’s XI as the Warriors boldly attempt to claim back-to-back ODCA first grade crowns for the first time since 1978-79.
In the absence of this season’s leading run scorer and regular Cavaliers captain Richie Venner, Ryan has big boots to fill.
Declaring his shoulder “ready to go”, leading Cavs into this year’s grand final is a challenge the 18-year-old can’t wait for.
“It’s always good to captain the team. Being a grand final, I’m a little bit nervous but at the same time I think it’s a big challenge and I’m ready for it. I want to take it on,” Ryan said, with only one game under his belt in the last eight weeks.
“It’s sink or swim and hopefully it’s swim.”
Dropping back a grade following last year’s glory, Rutledge has been a smash in the ODCA’s lower grades this season.
So much so, following a remarkable 38 wickets across the Royal Hotel Cup, lower grade Twenty20 and the ODCA’s second grade premiership, it was only a matter of time before the line-and-length bowler got the call-up to first grade.
That call came last week for the semi-final against CYMS, but Rutledge urged his top grade skipper to look elsewhere.
“Findlay wanted me to play last week but I thought he had a couple of other blokes who’d played a lot more first grade and I thought he’d be better off giving them an opportunity,” Rutledge revealed.
“But I said if I’m needed I’m not afraid to play.”
Confident of still being up to the challenge, Rutledge believes every Warrior on the park this weekend must perform if the club’s to trumpet two straight titles.
“You need a couple of blokes to go to another level but the whole team needs to perform,” he said.
With Venner and the mammoth 895 runs he’s amassed this season at a wedding this weekend, Ryan will assume the mantle of grand final’s biggest wicket.
His 493 runs at an average of 70 this season is the second best batting numbers accrued this year.
Not deterred by the rain drenching Orange over the week, Ryan said the wet weather wouldn’t affect his team’s preparation.
“We’ve talked about it but whatever happens, happens really,” he said.
“We’ve got to try and play the best cricket the conditions allow I guess.”
Saturday’s grand final is scheduled to begin at 12.30pm.
Play will resume at 11am on Sunday morning at Wade Park.
ORANGE CITY: Matt Findlay (c), John Warrington, Shaun Grenfell, Shaun Churchill, Craig Rogan, Lincoln Duncan, Ben Findlay, Jackson Coote, Andrew Rutledge, Braden Riles, Ed Morrish, Ben Nexhip.
CAVALIERS: James Ryan (c), Chris Martin, Matt Death, Brad Wright, Greg Martin, Mark Maybin, Luke Wilson, Tom Aggett, Josh Doherty, Matt Corben, Leon Lincoln, Stu Middleton.