Six into one doesn’t go
With one day’s play remaining before the play-offs, the top six in First Grade is surprisingly well-settled, with five teams certain of appearing in the Qualifying Finals. If Bankstown and Penrith both win next Saturday, as seems likely, and neither picks up a bonus point, then Bankstown will claim the minor premiership on quotient. Sydney, St George and Campbelltown-Camden are jostling for third place, but can’t miss the finals. But then it gets interesting. Sutherland (on 42 points) sits in sixth place, ahead of Northern District, Gordon and Parramatta on quotient, and one point ahead of Manly and Easts (41) who – with a bonus point available – are theoretically still in the race. The last spot seems certain to be determined on quotients, and the margins are razor-thin; Sutherland’s lead over Northern District is 0.0005. Captains this Saturday will need one eye on the game, one eye on the scores from other grounds, and one eye on a calculator (captains with only two eyes may struggle). Northern District has to beat Campbelltown-Camden at Mark Taylor Oval (where the 50 over limit will probably prevent Ryan Gibson from hitting another double-hundred) and hope that Sutherland stumbles against the improving (but still last-placed) Wests. But if Sutherland were to lose badly to Wests and Campbelltown-Camden beats Northern District, then it’s not impossible that Gordon could steal sixth place with a bonus-point win over Hawkesbury. Parramatta has the toughest assignment – it needs a huge win over Bankstown to make the finals, which doesn’t seem especially likely.
Blacktown blew it
Two bizarre collapses look likely to cost Blacktown a place in the Second Grade finals, and lifted Sydney into the lead on the competition table. Blacktown was sitting in the top six at the start of the round, but capitulated for only 45 against Sydney, who recovered from 4 for 34 to declare at seven for 195. Blacktown’s second attempt was better, but its 126 was not enough to make Sydney bat a second time. Medium-pacer Justin Rodgie (who played several seasons for North Sydney with no more than steady returns) grabbed 4-6 and 4-10, while Nick Govers picked up 3-14 and 4-31. Blacktown now needs to beat second-placed Penrith (and hope that other results fall its way) in order to retrieve its place in the top six. St George kept its chances alive with a narrow win over Hawkesbury – it now sits one point behind University of NSW, in seventh place. St George needs to beat Manly and get one other result in its favour – either Sydney University losing to Fairfield-Liverpool, University of NSW losing to North Sydney or Easts losing to Mosman.
Same, same but different
There was a weird symmetry about the games between Blacktown and Sydney last weekend in Seconds and Thirds. In each case, Blacktown batted first, but not for very long, and paved the way for Sydney to grab full points and stake a claim to the minor premiership. In Thirds, Blacktown mustered 70 in its first innings, then took some (but not enough early wickets) as Sydney took the lead. Attempting the rare reverse-outright, Blacktown set Sydney a target of only 122, and with the experienced Anthony Brooks leading the way, Sydney ran down its target in under 22 overs. That gives Sydney a six-point lead over Mosman, which all but guarantees it the minor premiership, although it faces Randwick-Petersham who (in seventh place) will be desperate to cause an upset. Sydney University guaranteed its place in the finals with a nail-biting win over Penrith, but Manly (44) and Northern District (43) are under threat from Randwick-Petersham (43), Gordon (42), Wests (42) and Fairfield-Liverpool (42).
Outrights make the difference
At the end of Round 13, Eastern Suburbs were a long chance to make the Fourth Grade finals – but ten points can make a huge difference at this time of year. Easts were knocked over for only 120 by Bankstown yet still won outright by ten wickets, routing their opponents for just 51 and 72. Jack Remond had a memorable game, scoring 34 and taking 6-23 and 1-6 – the son of the Sixers’ CEO has now taken 12 wickets in Fourth Grade this season at an average of 3.1. That result nudged Easts up into sixth place, on 50 points – a six-point margin over Sydney. Sydney needs a bonus-point win over 17th-placed Randwick-Petersham, and needs Easts to lose to tenth-placed Mosman, to sneak into the finals. Northern District (71) can’t be beaten for the minor premiership, but Penrith (56), St George (56), Manly (55) and Sydney University (53) all have a chance of taking second place.
Warwick Adlam still turns his arm over
In Fifth Grade, Eastern Suburbs, Campbelltown-Camden and Gordon are mathematically certain of playing in the finals, with Mosman (48) and Parramatta (46) likely to join them. But if any of the last three trips up in the last round, they could be overtaken by Sutherland (41) or Sydney University (41). Nick Powys put University in contention with a career-best 6-44 against Penrith that (together with Jarrod Waterlow’s aggressive batting) helped to give the Students a ten-point boost into finals contention. On Saturday, Randwick-Petersham should beat 15th-placed Sydney and Parramatta should account for Bankstown (17th) – but, if they don’t, Sutherland or University (or both) could slip in to the top six. Mosman isn’t entirely secure, either – although it has 48 points, it plays front-runner Easts and has an ordinary quotient, so if University snags a bonus point win, it could feasibly overtake Mosman on for-and-against. Mosman could be boosted by an unlikely Fifth Grader, the 45 year old former NSW opening bowler, Warwick Adlam. Adlam filled in for Mosman in Fifths last week, and collected 2-6 from 9.3 overs in the first innings. He could be useful in a Fifth Grade limited-overs game.