Here we go again.
Another Central Gippsland Cricket Association first grade grand final, another Mirboo North versus Latrobe clash.
Saturday’s match will mark the third time the two powerhouses have squared off on the final weekend of the season since 2013/14.
Mirboo North was the victor on both occasions, walking away with the silverware last season and in 2013/14.
Those results were in fact symptomatic of a greater malaise affecting the Sharks – the club has appeared in every grand final since 2010/11 without winning a single one. But while many of the players remain the same, this isn’t the Latrobe team of old. Since last season Chris Johnson has decided to become an all-rounder, adding big runs to his already considerable firepower with the ball.
His pairing with Tyron Gamage has been devastating, with the pair sharing 70 wickets between them.
With the bat Johnson has amassed 552 runs at an average of 39.43 and has formed a formidable partnership with Rob McKinley since the Irish import’s post-Christmas arrival.
McKinley has hardly put a foot wrong since arriving, with scores of 20, 124 not out, 93, zero not out, 48 and 72.
Latrobe can also count on the experience of club stalwart Anthony Bloomfield, who made 78 not out in his team’s 110-run first innings semi-final victory over Morwell.
The Tigers have retained the bulk of the team which won last season’s flag, which should present the Sharks with a stiff challenge.
Mirboo North bats deep with Cameron Le Page, Will Cheatley, Rob Phoenix, Steve Rogers and Brett Pedlow all registering tons this season.
Phoenix alone boasts two big unbeaten centuries, 157 not out against Yallourn North last month and 160 not out against his former club Moe in last weekend’s semi-final.
The knocks mean the CGCA’s most decorated champion – he has 11 flags to his name, including 2005/06 to 2012 eight premiership streak with Moe – enters this weekend’s match primed to add to his tally.
Meanwhile, captain Shane Peters, Adam Mates and Jesse Giardina all have posted scores of 50 or above this season.
When it comes to bowling, the major point of difference between the two sides is the presence of front-line spinner Dale Banks in the Mirboo North line-up.
Banks has 44 scalps this season, which included seven in the semi-final against the Lions.
Anything can happen in a grand final but after a home and away season in which they dominated the competition – only losing three matches – the Tigers will feel their performances this season will put them in good stead to go back-to-back.
For the Sharks, this match represents a shot at redemption and ending the heartache caused by the loss of six consecutive grand finals.
This would be the year to do it, with the club recently celebrating its 60th anniversary. With both sides eager to write their own chapter of CGCA history, expect fireworks when these two teams face off at Moe’s Ted Summerton Reserve from 11am on Saturday and Sunday.