STONEYFORD cricketers started the season with hopes of a flag at the front of their minds.
But playing in the Division One grand final will remain a distant ambition when the Maroon Caps simply try to keep their season alive against Warrion.
Stoneyford sits fifth but will snatch the last finals spot on offer if it can defeat the Panthers in its round 10 two-day match at Warrion, starting tomorrow.
Coach Grant Brauer, captain Levi Dare and the troops have had a roller coaster of a season, one which could extend into finals with two days of dominant cricket.
But the alternative is a team full of potential missing finals for the second consecutive season.
Dare and Brauer did not downplay the importance of the match this week, with veteran Brauer signalling it could be his swansong after an illustrious career with the bat and ball.
“If we lose this round I’m not sure I’ll get another chance,” he said.
Dare, meanwhile, said the clash was the biggest for Stoneyford since its 2009-10 semi-final against Alvie.
“I think we lost the semi-final to Alvie a couple of years back to get in the grand final, we should’ve won that,” he said.
“It’s the most important since then, the finals start now for us. It’s an elimination final – we win, we’re in, if we lose we’re out.
“I’m hopeful the boys can see this as a final and really give it everything they’ve got.
“To beat Warrion at their home ground, it’s an ask in itself. We haven’t played a lot of turf cricket. It’ll be interesting.”
Dare urged his charges to have patience at the crease on the turf wicket, something Stoneyford didn’t have during its “worst game of the year by far” against Warrion in round five.
He hinted there could be changes to the side which lost to Irrewarra last round, but the returned Paul Menzies is certain to keep his place.
Menzies made 41 batting down the order and took three wickets to justify his recall from Division Two after a stop-start season.
Dare said Stoneyford having Dale Boyd and Nathan McNamara play Melbourne Country Week this week could play into its hands, particularly if both found form.
“I think it’ll be good for Dale. They’ll do well from the experience, as long as they’re not too fatigued for Saturday,” he said.
“I’m not sure if it helps but if you can get some form it can help. We’ll have to see.”
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