Tight battle for title
The final four for this years Hooker League look anything but settled as the clubs go into the third last round. Only three points separate the top three teams. Ballina Bears and Byron/Brunswick are only one win away from a spot in the four, but they need results to go their way.
Since an ill-fated loss to Byron/Brunswick earlier in the year, where the Bears opening bowlers went missing in action, their batsmen have stood up and been counted. Boasting a host of clean hitters, the Ballina boys have enjoyed the ball coming onto the bat, hammering the quicker bowlers from a number of teams. On Saturday Toby Hordern, Sam Adams and Ben Carruthers clobbered Casinos usually miserly Wade Sweeney and Mark Mison for more than 50 runs each from their eight overs. In contrast, Ballinas timely use of spinner Luke Barnard allowed the Englishman to gut the Cavalier middle order. Luke took 4 for 26 as the Bears cruised to an 80-run win.
The loss loosens the girth strap on the Cavaliers saddle, with the Casino team scheduled to play the bowler strong Alstonville and competition front runners Cudgen in the next two rounds.
Cudgen will also be put to the test as they are drawn to play Casino and Souths in the last two rounds. On Saturday they swaggered past Alstonvilles total of 146 in a mere 26 overs at Red Dalton Oval. Chad Harvey led the charge for the Tweed team, hitting over the top for his 69. Alstonvilles classy left hander Greg Potter continued his good form with the bat, scoring 75, but to no avail.
Meanwhile, Souths will feel reasonably secure of a spot in the finals after a tight fielding effort allowed them a close six-run win over Terranora. Paul McLean held Souths innings together on the dodgy pitch, scoring 54 before right arm swing bowler Craig Connor disturbed his wicket. Souths shared out the wickets with Chris Jones taking three and Lenny Blok two, as Souths bowled a good line and length to seal the win. Souths are drawn to play Ballina, Alstonville and Cudgen before the finals a hard road home but they will be battle hardened when they get there.
Tintenbar/East Ballinas run to the finals promises to determine the minor premiership, as any slip up will open the door for Souths or Cudgen. The Bar are drawn to play Byron, Terranora and the local derby against the giant-killing Ballina Bears.
On Saturday Workers only managed a meagre 117 against The Bar, so the seasiders took the chance to give their lower order a bat. For Workers, Dominic Marsh was the only batsmen to get settled in against the bustling Tintenbar attack, which was bolstered by the return of out swinger Lucas Wagland.
Meanwhile, Marist Brothers lost the battle to fend off the wooden spoon, going down to Pottsville on their home ground. The Brethren were bowled out in 31 overs with opener Luke Collings 38 the only score to speak of in a total of just 96. Pottsville took no time running down the total, racing to victory in 18 overs.
Brothers chances of climbing out of the cellar look daunting as they play former competition leaders Cudgen, Lennox Head and Casino before years end.
Hocker League ladder
Tintenbar 59, Cudgen 57, Southern Districts 56, Casino 51, Byron/Brunswick 46, Ballina 44, Lennox Head 40, Alstonville 40, Terranora 36, South Tweed Colts 34, Murwillumbah 31, Lismore Workers 26, Pottsville 25, Marist Brothers 19.