Ten into six doesn't go
To be honest, ever since Greg Mail retired, we've struggled around here with any mathematical calculations requiring more than the use of ten fingers. But even we can figure out that with one day of the preliminary rounds remaining, there are ten teams that have at least a mathematical chance of playing First Grade finals cricket. That's a tribute to the close-fought nature of one of the most even First Grade competitions for many years. Here are some of the possible outcomes.
After mowing down Mosman's target of 430 in ridiculously easy style, Campbelltown-Camden (58) will play in the finals no matter what happens, and can't lose out on the top three. That's a remarkable achievement for the side that finished 20th last season. But it won't have everything its own way against Sydney University - the Premiers and freshly-minted Limited Overs champions are likely to be strengthened by Ed Cowan and Nick Larkin and will be pressing hard for a top-three spot in the match of the round. If University knocks off Campbelltown, Parramatta (58, and a courageous loser in the one-day final) leap-frogs into first place if it can overcome Randwick-Petersham. Even if Parramatta loses, it needs to lose by a giant margin, and watch Sydney win by a large margin, to finish any lower than second. Sydney (52) plays Sutherland. If it wins, it stays in the top three, and has a faint mathematical chance of finishing higher on quotient if it wins well and both Campbelltown and Parramatta lose heavily (which, if you want quotients figured out, give Greg Mail a call). Where it all starts to get interesting is with Sydney University (4th on 50). University could end up in the top three if it wins at Raby and Sutherland take out Sydney. But if it loses, it could end up outside the top six altogether because if Sutherland, Gordon and Bankstown all win, they would all go past the Students. It's an easy equation for Sutherland (49) - they just need to win. If they don't, they'll be passed by whoever wins the game between Bankstown and Easts, and then they'll need each of Gordon, Manly and Randwick-Petersham to lose, which could happen but you wouldn't be holding your breath. Same with Gordon (45) whose good fortune it is to meet last-placed Blacktown in the final round. Blacktown went down pretty meekly to University of NSW in Round 14 but did beat Northern District the round before, so Gordon won't be taking this one for granted. It's theoretically possible for Gordon to win and still miss out, if Bankstown wins with a massive quotient boost. If Gordon loses, they miss out for sure, because the winner of the Bankstown-Easts game goes past them. Bankstown (45) gets in if it beats Easts and one of Gordon, Sutherland and Sydney University loses. Manly (44) Eastern Suburbs (44) and Randwick-Petersham (44) get by winning well and being lucky enough for one of Sutherland, Gordon and Bankstown to lose, or Sydney University losing badly enough to trash its quotient.
None of which factors in rain, or bonus points or ties. For which we need far, far more than ten fingers.
Northern District has a very handy Second Grade side
Basically, if Northern District's Seconds decided to hold their Mad Monday this Friday night, and got so badly hammered that not one of the side remembered to turn up to play North Sydney on Saturday, and the SCA got furious with them and stripped them of ten points as a punishment... they'd still be minor premiers in Seconds. Their lead with one game to play is 16 points, and the disparity between the Rangers' places in Firsts and Seconds makes you wonder whether the club's selectors have got every single decision right this season. They really should have lost against Fairfield in the last round, after Vishal Vuppalalapati (5-43) knocked them over for 138, but the bowlers responded so well that they defended even that meagre total. What was most remarkable is that Fairfield weren't so much blown away as ground down - their 128 occupied 86.3 overs! Max Webber did the most damage with 4-37 while Nathan Maskell, in his first game up, took 2-20 from 17.4 overs. Elsewhere in Twos, Mosman, Hawkesbury and Manly will be playing finals cricket. Effectively, Sydney University and Campbelltown-Camden play off for a place in the finals - if University loses, it will need last-placed Sutherland to beat sixth-placed Sydney, and good luck with that. If Sydney win, they're in the top six - but if they did lose, then Penrith could sneak in with a win over University of NSW if Campbelltown loses as well.
Parramatta has given Northern District a chance in Thirds
Parramatta's collapse for 75 at the hands of Easts' Jameson Coutts (7-35) led to the Eels' second defeat of the season and cost them the chance to wrap up the minor premiership in Third Grade. Parramatta still leads the table, on 65 points, but if they lose to Randwick-Petersham and Northern District (63) beats North Sydney, then Northern District will steal the minor premiership. Northern District should account for North Sydney, whose spirits will be low after last week's pounding at the hands of Penrith, for whom Tom Sargeant compiled a massive 234 not out, passing his previous best for the season by a ridiculous 180 runs. It wasn't enough to haul Penrith back into the mix for the finals. Parramatta, Northern District, Sydney University and Mosman will all be there. Easts are safe if they beat Bankstown, and Sydney needs to beat bottom-of-the-table Sutherland. Randwick-Petersham can make the six by beating Parramatta and hoping that Sydney loses; Gordon could get there by beating Blacktown and hoping that Sydney and Randwick-Petersham both lose. If Sydney, Randwick-Petersham and Gordon all lose, and Manly wins strongly over Mosman, then Manly could take sixth spot.
There's a clear top three in Fourths
It's an uncontroversial statement to say that Manly (77), Northern District (74) and Wests (72) will make up the top three in Fourths. The rest is up in the air. Gordon (57), Sydney (56) and Randwick-Petersham (53) all need to win to be sure of a spot because they could all be passed by one or more of Sydney University (52), Penrith (52), Parramatta (51) and Hawkesbury (50). Wests' Fourths have been the Magpies' strongest performers this year, with opening bowler Rowan Carthey emphasising his value by claiming 6-59 in the win over Hawkesbury. That gives him 42 wickets in Fours so far this season (the most in the grade for any club) - and importantly, he averages a wicket every four overs or so. Each of the top three teams fields a penetrative attack - Manly's Brad Wilson, Michael Counsell and Sam Alexander have been highly effective with the ball, and Jack Straw has 32 cheap wickets for Northern District.
There are two spots up for grabs in Fifths
In Fifth Grade, Penrith (78), Gordon (74), University of NSW (67) and Parramatta (64) will all be in the finals. If Penrith stumbles against University of NSW, then Gordon can take top spot by beating Blacktown. Manly (57) and Mosman (52) effectively play off for a spot in the six, although if Mosman wins, Manly will remain in contention if both Sutherland and Bankstown lose. Sutherland stays in by beating Sydney, or if Mosman and Bankstown both lose. Bankstown needs to beat Easts and hope that at least one of Manly or Sutherland loses.
Now, read all that again, and tell us what's missing. Give up? Then you're under the age of forty. With one round remaining, not a single St George team can make the finals in grades 1 to 5. There was a time when that would have been unthinkable (only last year, 3rds, 4ths and 5ths were all there) and it's hard to remember when that last happened. Maybe this is a good thing, and we should be celebrating the diverse success of many clubs - but St George has been, for years, one of the great engines of New South Wales cricket, and it will be good for the competition when they bounce back. Notice we didn't say "if".