Back-to-back preliminary final losses are driving Centrals' bid to end their 11-season title drought this summer, although skipper Kyle Nonnenmacher is well-aware there's one giant, green obstacle that stands in his side's way.
That obstacle is back-to-back premiers Orange City, an outfit Nonnenmacher labelled the Orange District Cricket Association second grade competition's 'Sydney Roosters', thanks to their recent success.
"Orange City have won the last two premierships and played in [13 consecutive] grand finals, they've been the benchmark for a long time. They are like the Sydney Roosters of the competition, everyone's trying to beat them," Nonnenmacher said, likening his side more to the Canberra Raiders.
[Orange City] are like the Sydney Roosters of the competition, everyone's trying to beat them.Centrals skipper Kyle Nonnenmacher
"Cavaliers have played in the last two grand finals but you can never be sure what they'll bring to the table, so I think Orange City will be the biggest competition for everyone, not just us.
"It's been disappointing the way the last two seasons have ended for us, especially last season. We only lost a couple of games all year, cost ourselves the minor premiership in the last round and then didn't bring our best cricket to the finals.
"I think some of that was nervousness because not a lot of the guys had played finals cricket before and we were up against some experienced campaigners, my inexperience as a captain in those big games played a role too I think.
"So we'll be much better prepared for that this year. We don't want to repeat the last two summers, so we want to win that minor premiership and go straight into the grand final, then hopefully win that too."
Nonnenmacher confirmed the red and blacks have received one massive boost leading into the opening round of the season this weekend too, with confirmation former Orange skipper and Western Zone gun Adam Shepherd will be available for his side.
"'Shep' messaged me this week and said 'keen to play if you want me', obviously I'll have him, it's not often you get a player of his quality coming back," Nonnenmacher laughed.
"We've got a couple of others coming back like Graham Judge too and it all adds a lot of depth to the side and the club, which our second third grade side will help with too.
"We've got most of last season's group back too so from what I can see we'll have 17, 18, 19 players on the list for second grade.
"It's great because bowling's never been our problem at Centrals, last year alone we had three guys take 20 plus wickets, but having a few more genuine bats in the side will be massive."
Centrals' last second grade title came in 2007-08 and that was also their last grand final appearance, and Orange City skipper Adam Cowden said he's got 'no doubt' they'll chase that drought-breaking win hard.
He also said his side is aware they'll have a target on their backs, but they have done for years.
"We know we'll have a big target on our heads as back-to-back premiers and with our history of success, but we'll take that on and back ourselves to be competitive," he said, although his side has a first-round bye this weekend.
"We have a few new faces and some older ones returning as well."
Centrals face Kinross first-up at Riawena Oval while Cavaliers start their campaign against CYMS at Country Club Oval, both games start from 1pm.
The ODCA's third grade competition starts on Saturday too, with two Centrals sides, two CYMS sides, Orange City, Spring Hill, Cavaliers and the Gladstone contesting. Centenary Cup starts the following weekend.
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