Wipe the slate clean and start again — it is finals time.
The calendar has ticked over into March and four Haisman Shield teams have been left by the wayside as the top six sets sail into the post-season.
Cricket Shepparton’s finals system dictates that minor premier Numurkah is the only side guaranteed to see next weekend, but captain Liam Gledhill was confident that would not have any affect on his charges.
‘‘Finals are a whole different kettle of fish,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ll be fighting as hard as anyone this weekend.
‘‘It’s a good thing to know that you’ll still be playing next week, but we’re looking wholly and solely at the first hour on Saturday.’’
The Blues have been dominant to say the least during this campaign, losing just once in their 13 matches.
But all of that will count for nothing if they cannot continue their great form — and after missing finals for the past two seasons, Gledhill’s men are hungry for success.
‘‘I think anyone in the top six can win it from here,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve got to make sure everyone is contributing. In previous years you only had to win one game to make the grand final, but now having to win two finals is bloody hard work, so it will be a great finals series.’’
Four of Numurkah’s top five batsmen in the last round of the regular season were not at the club last year, highlighting just how successful the club’s winter recruitment drive has been.
Cobram legend Shaun Downie has led the way with 309 runs at an average of 25.8 and 23 wickets at 10.1, while South African import Michael Eckard (275 at 45.8 and six at 9.8) has been a revelation since linking up with the Blues in round eight.
Add the returning Dylan Grandell (284 at 35.5) and young wicketkeeper Josh Smith (26 dismissals and 101 runs) and it has been a recipe for success so far for the Blues.
‘‘We knew when we recruited Shaun that he was a great cricketer, but he has also been able to give our side great confidence in themselves,’’ Gledhill said.
He said the battle at the Numurkah Showgrounds would come down to a few key men.
‘‘The way I see this game going is it’s going to be a battle up the top between the youngsters,’’ he said.
‘‘Michael Archer and Caiden Pratt for them and Tim Arnel and Matt Cline for us are all under 23.
‘‘Tim and Matt as our opening bowling partnership could be crucial for us, we want to see their middle order in as quickly as possible.’’
Cline returns for this final after missing last round, ensuring the Blues will be at full strength.
For Tatura, the clash against the Blues tomorrow and Sunday will be uncharted territory.
It is the first time the club will play finals since returning to Cricket Shepparton A-grade in 2006-07, and after four successive wooden spoons it is a welcome change.
The last time Tatura defeated the Blues was well before coach Tim Kelly’s time (October 2012), but the leader will not be worried about the past, rather encouraging his group to create their own history.
Archer (50), Pratt (39) and Tom Miller (30) found form at the top of the order for Tatura last week against Kyabram, but losing its last nine wickets for just 38 runs was a worrying sign.
Kelly hopes his charges have learned from the collapse and will knuckle down at the crease this weekend.
Cricket Shepparton finals week one
Numurkah v Tatura at Numurkah Showgrounds, Katandra v Northerners at Katandra Recreation Reserve, Kyabram v Central Park-St Brendan’s at Kyabram Recreation Reserve.
Kyabram v Katandra at Howley Oval, Euroa v Karramomus at Memorial Oval, Undera v Tatura at Undera Recreation Reserve.
Pine Lodge v Tatura at Lemnos, Mooroopna v Murchison at Mooroopna Main Oval, Central Park-St Brendan’s v Euroa at Deakin Reserve.
Toolamba v Karramomus at Toolamba, Mooroopna v Undera at Vibert Reserve, Euroa v Kyabram at Murchison Recreation Reserve.
Katandra v Old Students at John Gray Oval, Central Park-St Brendan’s v Mooroopna at Central Park, Kyabram v Pine Lodge at Tatura Park.
● Cricket Shepparton is still looking for three umpires for this weekend’s matches.
Anyone with a sound understanding of the laws of cricket and a desire to still be involved in this year’s finals series can contact umpires director Russell Baldi at [email protected] with an email expressing your interest.
The association will pay for your time, and your contribution will help every game in every grade have two officials.