Young Eastern Districts all-rounder Simon Milenko has peaked at just the right time, championing the Waratahs to victory in the Byron Private Life one-day final and sealing the minor premiership with twin half centuries on Friday night and on Saturday.
However, that wasnt enough for the young gun who also lead the Lismore Under 19 Interdistrict squad to victory in the Interdistrict final with a century against Ballina on Sunday. This young man is all class, and its not just his placement and timing with the bat, he also bowls a sharp and scrupulous line outside the off-stump and his catching is remarkable. On Sunday he took three catches to ensure Lismore the Under-19 title win, including a bizarre backward-diving one-hander at extra-cover.
Although Easts will be thrilled that Simon is in top form coming into the finals, they will also be wary of their opponents, the Casino Cavaliers. Last year Easts were in exactly the same situation as they are this year. They had captured the minor premiership and won the one-day title (admittedly they did share it with Marist Brothers last year), then it all came undone as they lost their semi-final against Tintenbar/East Ballina.
Can they knock off the treble this year? Certainly, their opening partnership of Bruce Jobson and Paul Simes is one of the best and most reliable in the district, middle order batsmen Milenko and Daniel Rowlands are both in punishing form and their attack is sharp and accurate. However, the Cavaliers can match them across the paddock. Wade Sweeney and Al Nowlan are fast and skillful opening bowlers. Casinos young batting ace Sam Irvine is capable of a century even on the goat track at Queen Elizabeth Park, so he should thrive on Nielson Park. However, the tragic loss of Dylan Black is still in their hearts. If they play in-the-spirit they will be unstoppable but if theyre still grieving, it will be a very hard road ahead.
The other semi final on Oakes Oval this Saturday and Sunday is between Tintenbar/East Ballina and Souths. Neither side can claim to be good form coming into the match. Souths lost the final of the one-dayer to Easts on Friday as their top order collapsed again as it did against Marist Brothers in the semi-final. Admittedly, they bat all the way down and Matt Parrish is in good touch so they were still in with a small chance of capturing an unlikely victory when rain intervened on Friday night.
The Bar wont be all that happy about their preparation either. They were bowled out for a just over 200 by the Ballina Bears last round after their top order collapsed as well. To their credit they did defeat the Bears as their seamers took full advantage of the conditions to rout their rivals for just over a hundred.
So this match is all about application. Each side possesses batsmen of quality, but none of them have adequately treasured their wickets in recent days. Who will knuckle down first? Will the Bar go through Souths for 55 like they did last time the two sides met? I doubt it. This match is a replay of last years grand final, which produced a thrilling batting performance by the Bar. I expect this game will be just as thrill packed unless the rain plays havoc.
The last round of the Hooker League, which finished last week did not change the make up of the final four but it did determine who got the wooden spoon. Workers Club, which had set up camp on the bottom of the competition, turned it all around on Saturday, as they put Alstonville over their collective knee and gave them the spoon. The weather did help as intermittent rain throughout the week provided Workers with a hard yet seaming pitch. And nothing could have suited big left hander Jason Caught better, he took two early wickets then goofy footer Brendan Santin took four wickets to throttle any life out of the Redsoilers.
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