Will it be three in a row or third time lucky?

Deja VU, I think we’ve been here before. 

Berry-Shoalhaven Heads and Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemen played each other in the last two SDCA grand finals, and now they are going round for a third time. 

The venue is the same, with Berry Sporting Complex to provide the setting once again, but the big question is can Ex-Servos win three in a row, or will Berry get third time lucky?

Berry go in full of confidence after their semi-final win against Bomaderry and their skipper Kerry Penfold said they are all looking forward to it. 

“Absolutely,” Penfold exclaimed. 

“We had a good win against Bomaderry. I thought our bowling was good and Brando’s innings was excellent.

“They are the favourites but every game of cricket we’ve played in the last few years has been close, no one has ever really been on top.” 

For most of the season it looked like Nowra would be one of the teams in the decider, but from Penfold’s point of view, he is not surprised it is the two of them again, especially since Lain Beckett came back into the Ex-Servos line up. 

“Lain been the real difference for them,” he said. 

“He got seven wickets against us last time and he got another seven last week.

“Seeing him off is definitely the key early on.”

At the time we spoke, Berry Sporting Complex was reportedly underwater, but Penfold is hoping they don’t get washed out.

“That’s not how we’d like to win a grand final, so I hope it doesn’t come to that,” he said. 

Penfold is hoping they get the chance to play a full game and that they can reverse the result this time around. 

“It’d make up for the last couple of years, that’s for sure,” he said.

“We should’ve won last year, but we lost six wickets for about 20 runs. 

“All credit to them for being able to win, but I think we’re getting closer. 

“I haven’t won one here yet, but surely there’s got to be one in there!”

One man who is hoping Berry do not get third time lucky is Ex-Servos skipper Daniel Gleeson. 

While he was less confident about the weather, Gleeson feels they have the team to make it three in a row. 

“I think it’ll be another close one, just like the last two,” Gleeson said. 

“They’ve come home pretty strongly since Christmas, particularly with their bowling. 

“Guys like Ty Cherry and Phil Dell’Orefice have been taking lots of wickets and they’re winning games on the back of them.”

Ex-Servos boast plenty of grand final experience, with Gleeson playing in his fifth, while Mat Ganderton is in his sixth.

Nate Jones, Simon Schmotz and Matt Smit are the only players in their team who haven’t played in a first grade grand final, but they were both in their premiership winning second grade team last year. 

Jones played second grade last week, but is likely to come in to replace Shane Halliday who has been posted overseas with the navy, while Gleeson is likely to miss the first day to attend a wedding on the Gold Coast. 

Even if he does miss the first day, Gleeson said he has no doubt his team will be all fired up and ready to go.

Gleeson said winning a third straight title is something that would mean a lot to their while team. 

“Everyone would be ecstatic,” he said. 

“The celebrations after the last two years have been a lot of fun and there’s no better feeling than winning a grand final.

“It’s a good achievement just to make it, but winning would be the perfect way to end a successful season.” 

Gleeson is of the belief that runs on the board is crucial to winning grand finals and is expecting a tough challenge against a strong bowling attack. 

“I think bringing Phil Dell’Orefice down from the South Coast was a smart move,” he said.

“They’ve got some quality fast bowlers, but a good spinner is probably something they’ve lacked in previous seasons. 

“They take early wickets and then he seems to come on and cleans up the middle and lower order. A decent start will go a long way to reducing his impact. 

“It’s all about our batsmen stepping up and it’s the same for Berry.”

It was Gleeson’s good mate Glenn Brandon who stepped up for Berry in their semi-final, with his unbeaten 138 proving to be the match-winner against Bomaderry. 

“It’s funny, because at the start of the season he told me he was going to score a century,” Gleeson said.

“He never had before, but now he’s got two, so I hope he doesn’t have another one in him,” he added with a laugh. 

While a lot of things will play a factor in the end result, Gleeson kept it simple in his final assessment of the game. 

“The best side will win on the day and it’s as simple as that.”

ON FIRE: Ex-Servicemen’s Lain Beckett will be key in his team’s bowling attack.
	 All photos: PATRICK FAHY

ON FIRE: Ex-Servicemen’s Lain Beckett will be key in his team’s bowling attack. All photos: PATRICK FAHY


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