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SUBURBAN DISTRICTS GF: Port Stephens Pythons primed to strike

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A victory in this weekend’s Newcastle District Cricket Association’s Suburban Districts decider will be the icing on the cake for the Port Stephens Pythons.

But, standing in the way are the Mary Ellen Mudrats, the team keen to defend its division one crown when the combatants meet at Feighan Oval in Warners Bay.

Despite contesting a heavily-interrupted 2021/22, the Pythons claimed top spot on the ladder, suffering just one defeat in 18 rounds.

And, the boys are keen to finish the job, according to skipper Josh Moxey.

“We’re pretty happy to capture the minor premiership,” he said.

“It’s always what you aim for.

“But, it has been an indifferent year.

“In fact, that’s how the past couple of seasons have panned out, too, with COVID-19, the weather and, in 2021/22, the rain.

“It sort of feels like we haven’t played cricket for ages – for the Pythons, we’ve just taken the field twice in seven weeks.

“So, in that respect, to secure the minor premiership was good.”

The Pythons eliminated Wests Water Board by five wickets last Saturday in the semi-final at King Park.

After holding their rivals to 9-141, after 40 overs, the side responded to post 5-143 in reply.

“We were a bit underdone – we dropped plenty of chances,” Moxey said.

“However, it was good to get out there and blow the rust out.

“Mary Ellen might have felt the same in the other semi.

“With so many washouts over the past month-and-a-half, we weren’t the underdogs so much, but Water Board and Wests Journeymen had a match under their belts.

“And, it felt like that in the field, especially with the mistakes we made early on.

“I think both line-ups will be better for the run.

“Positively for us, we had a couple of guys (Josh Richardson and Blake Simpson) out last weekend, who’ll be returning on Saturday.

“That will add a bit of strength to the squad.”

In a rare scenario, the Pythons and Mudrats will also meet each other for the first time in 2021/22 – in the grand final.  

“It’s funny that we haven’t played them at all this season,” Moxey said.

“Our last meeting was 2020/21 – the year they took out the premiership.

“That was probably the game we circled at the start of this season as one to see where we were at – sort of a litmus test.

“But, that got washed out.

“No disrespect to the rest of the competition, I feel Port Stephens and Mary Ellen poked their heads above the pack.

“To not play them at all is a bit disappointing because you’d like to go into the decider knowing what the opposition’s like.

“At the same time, it’s fitting that it is the top two sides that have made it.

“I’m sure it will be a good game.

“If we play our best cricket, we’re pretty confident we’ll come home with the bickies.

“They’re probably saying the same thing.

“However, I don’t think we need any added incentive to beat them.

“We’d like to put our name on the trophy as well.

“With it being a new competition, we don’t want Mary Ellen to be on it two years in a row.

“They’ve been to the big dance in this [division one] before, so they’re probably got that up their sleeve a little bit.

“For us, it’s just another game of cricket.

“It’s one more match with our mates and, hopefully, we’ll get to celebrate.

“And, even if it doesn’t go our way, we’ll still celebrate a pretty good year.”

Moxey was quick to pinpoint the efforts of Leigh Williams, Lleyton Eveleigh and Blake Simpson in the Pythons’ quest for the title.

In 15 encounters, opener Williams has amassed 376 runs, at an average of 26.90, with three half centuries, including an 89 against Water Board less than a week ago.

Eveleigh’s chipped in with 19 wickets for 201, at 10.57 apiece, with a best haul of 4-12 in the recent semi.

Simpson, who snared 5-19 against the Adamstown Rosebuds, also picked up 19 scalps, averaging 10.47 with the ball.

“We recruited Leigh from Maitland after playing against him for a decade in that competition,” Moxey said.

“It’s been nice for my brother (Jarrod) and I to have another guy at the top of the order to take the pressure off us.

“Even at the weekend, when we were dismissed cheaply, the way Leigh was batting filled us with confidence.

“He’s been exceptional, made his Summer Bash debut for the Southern Districts Rebels – so he’s been a great pick-up.

“Lleyton’s fantastic, too.

“He collected 4-12 against Water Board and completely changed the game around.

“The other one’s Blake.

“He’s come up a few grades and shown all year he’s more than capable.

“It’s pleasantly surprised us.”

For Moxey, however, this weekend’s match boasts extra meaning for him and his equally talented sibling.

“We play cricket to win and like to play in the highest grade for a challenge, but this time of the year is a bit more special for us,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“Sadly, our dad passed away on 20 March playing in a grand final.

“So, it’s a bittersweet moment for Jarrod and myself – full of happy and sad memories.

“He and I have won nine titles in the past, a 10th one would be great.

“And, yes, you do play to win.

“But, when you take everything into account, it’s not the be-all and end-all.

“At the weekend, Blake [Simpson] had his first child.

“I think apart from Leigh [Williams] just missing out on a century, we were probably more excited for Blake becoming a father than what happened on the cricket field.

“We’re just a bunch of mates who enjoy our Saturdays together.

“We consider ourselves a family – that’s what it is all about.

“Hopefully, we’ll bring a trophy back to Port Stephens.”

Suburban Districts grand final

Saturday 26 March

Division one

  • 1pm: Port Stephens Pythons v Mary Ellen Mudrats (Feighan Oval 1)

Division two

  • Kotara v Warners Bay (Cahill Oval)

Division three

  • Maryland Fletcher v Beach Hotel (Charlestown Oval)

Division four

  • Edgeworth v Kotara (Connolly Park)

Division five

  • Kotara v Adamstown Brown Munde (Jesmond Park)

Division six

  • Beresfield Memorial v Toronto Diggers Mudcrabs (Feighan Oval 2)

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