There was a buzz around Harker Oval on Friday.
Extra catches were being taken at a Wests’ training session ahead of Sunday’s Tom Locker Cup final with Merewether at No.1 Sportsground.
For many in the Rosellas squad this occasion marks their maiden first-grade decider.
It comes 19 seasons after the club’s last visit to the one-day showdown and third overall. They have yet to claim the silverware.
“It will be the first final experience for a lot of the boys and playing against Merewether will be good because they have been the benchmark for a few years,” Wests captain James King said.
“There’s just a good feeling around the club this year with plenty of numbers getting around. Today was the first time in 11 years they had to tell some blokes in the lower grades to have a week off because there’s too many players.
“We’re in a good spot at the moment and hopefully we can go through with it this weekend.”
On the other hand Merewether are the experienced campaigners, contesting their sixth Tom Locker Cup final in seven summers and chasing their fourth limited-overs title since 2011-2012.
But the Lions missed out completely last summer and didn’t make the main game in any format, with skipper Simon Moore keen to make up for lost time.
“Obviously it wasn’t a great year last year by any means,” Moore said.
“It’s the first final of the year and it’s nice to be here because you want to play in the big games.”
Merewether welcome back Pat Darwen, Josh Geary and Dan Morton from Newcastle representative duties with Harry Colbert, Zac McGuigan and Pat Holding the trio to miss out.
Wests are bolstered by the return of in-form all-rounder and the district’s leading run scorer Joe Price from the NSW Country Championships while paceman Brad Aldous (overseas) remains unavailable.
The 40-over fixture starts at 12pm.
Meanwhile, in Saturday’s round-six encounters Merewether will look for early wickets to close out Cardiff-Boolaroo’s first innings. The hosts resume day two of the season’s opening two-day fixture at 7-61. Over at Ron Hill Oval, Wests have Toronto 5-116.
Elsewhere in first grade and Stockton-Raymond Terrace (6-65) will look to post a defendable total away against Waratah-Mayfield, Newcastle City are 1-41 visiting University, Wallsend continue hosting Hamilton-Wickham (0-19) while Charlestown (2-106) can chase outright points and top spot on the competition ladder when they meet Belmont (63) at Kahibah Oval.
All 90 overs will be available. Play from 11am.