This season will see a changing of the guard in the Cessnock District Cricket Association.
Following the elimination of five-time consecutive defending premiers Mulbring, in a low-scoring semi-final affair at Mulbring Oval at the weekend, Bellbird now faces Greta/Branxton in the 2020-21 decider on Saturday 20 March.
The premiership will also be a considerably significant one, as it is more than likely the final time the Ross Smith Memorial Shield will be played for, with the success of the half season Coalfields Cup expected to develop into a full competition next time around.
Bellbird and Greta/Branxton last met in the 2013-14 grand final.
However, unfortunately both days of the scheduled showdown were washed out.
Each team had to settle for a hollow joint premiership.
The sides have met twice this season, with Coalfields Cup champions Bellbird accounting for Greta/Branxton comfortably at Miller Park early on.
The Blues turned the tide by getting one back on the Tigers a fortnight ago with an easy win at Carmichael Park.
Bellbird will look to competition leading run-scorer Jason Orr to lead the way with the bat, with Zach Kronholm and Scott Miller spear-heading their attack.
Greta/Branxton is set to rely on skipper Joey Butler, Nathan Holz and Josh Dagg to provide the runs, with in-form bowlers Brent Watson and Darren Thomson to take early wickets.
The Ross Smith Memorial Shield will go into the trophy cabinet for keeps after this Saturday.
All cricket fans across the district are encouraged to get to East End Oval to witness what should be a great finale to the season with little separating the two combatants.
- by Mark Bercini
Cessnock District Cricket Association first grade grand final preview
Greta/Branxton v Bellbird
at East End Oval
(12.30pm start, Saturday 20 March)
Head-to-head this season: Played 2, Greta/Branxton 1, Bellbird 1
Last season: Runner-up
Captain: Joey Butler
Premierships: Three (2004-05, 2007-08, joint 2013-14)
Key three: Brent Watson, Joey Butler, Patrick Andrews
X-Factor: Darren Thomson
Last season: 4th, beaten semi-finalists
Captain: Joey Main
Premierships: Eleven (1930-31, joint 1991-92, 1995-96, 1997-98, 1998-99, 2001-02, 2006-07, 2009-10, joint 2012-13, joint 2013-14, 2014-15)
Key three: Jason Orr, Joey Barber, Rob Drage
X-Factor: Scott Miller