It’s a game that on paper looks like a David and Goliath battle between the home grown Deniliquin talent and the internationally star-studded Cobram squad.
The Deni Rhinos will have a shot at Murray Valley Cricket Association premiership glory this weekend when they travel to Cobram Showgrounds for a two-day grand final clash against the Tigers tomorrow and Sunday.
Despite the apparent mismatch on paper, this clash is expected to be an absolute thriller with the Rhinos and Tigers each having a win in their two match-ups this year.
Deni will have the big task of dealing with the two South African imports — Wian Van Zyl and Ewald Roberts.
The South African duo have struggled with the bat recently, with newly crowned Guthrie Medallist Van Zyl (eight) and Roberts (0) removed quite early against Barooga last week.
Van Zyl however showed his value with ball in hand for the Tigers, claiming 3/14 off his six over spell.
The Rhinos were able to manage the imports well in their last encounter but struggled to control Cobram home grown talent Tyron Baden.
Baden has been in outstanding form in recent weeks, particularly in the semi final where he finished not out on 54 runs from 68 deliveries.
But Deniliquin skipper Brad Todd said he knows his side can get the job done if they bowl at the right length and bat patiently.
‘‘We just have to keep our length right; last time we played they (Cobram) didn’t get any length to hit so if we are consistent with that it will hold us in good stead,’’ Todd said.
‘‘If we can bowl on or just outside off on a good length he (Baden) is very prone to nicking, so it’s just a matter of restricting boundary balls to him and force him into shots he doesn’t normally play.
‘‘We’ve learnt from both matches that if you get on top of them and restrict their runs, we will force mistakes and create wicket taking opportunities.
‘‘When we bat we need to be patient and wait for bad balls to put away; we might look to attack their spinners as well so we can manipulate their field settings.
‘‘If we can do that it will put us in a good position to win the game.
‘‘The key will be to have wickets in hand towards the back end of our innings to allow us to play with some freedom and score late runs.’’
The Rhinos will head into the clash in outstanding batting form, scoring 237 and 298 in their past two encounters.
Despite this Todd said his side will go into the match as underdogs.
‘‘Cobram have a number of batsmen who can score runs throughout their order so we will need to make sure we are up for the whole time we field, but in saying that, all the pressure is on them.
‘‘They have gone out and signed two internationals and a couple of others to get them in this position, they finished on top, are playing in front of their home crowd and we beat them the last time we played there, so our boys have nothing to lose this weekend.
‘‘If we could replicate anything from last week it would be our batting; the last two weeks we have scored over 230, so if we can get around that score this weekend it could nearly be a winning total looking at past results.’’
The Rhinos will be keen to forget last year’s grand final when they suffered a nine-wicket loss to Barooga after posting a respectable 173.
Todd said it’s in the past, adding Cobram are a completely different team.
‘‘There are a fair few guys who played in last year’s final but we have a couple of other guys new into the side this year so it creates a different feel around the group. Last year’s result has no bearing on this year’s decider as it is a completely different set of circumstances.
‘‘Take nothing away from Barooga as they were definitely the best side last year and proved that in the grand final, but we had a couple of injuries which didn’t give us the best opportunity to get the result we wanted.
‘‘So we are just looking forward to taking this opportunity we have against Cobram and giving it a real red hot crack. Any time you get to play in a grand final is exciting, especially as time goes on.’’
Todd said he was proud of the club’s development and the fact his side was fielding only local talent.
‘‘We are all local players, this just goes to show if you put time into your development programs players will eventually progress into the senior line-up.
‘‘You can see this from the results our Under 14s have had the past couple of years, hopefully these guys are putting on a senior Rhinos shirt in the years to come.’’
Both Saturday and Sunday sessions start at noon at Cobram Showgrounds.
■Turn to page 25 for the Rhinos player profiles.