It’s a case of finals come early for Wallsend in 2019.
With the Newcastle District Cricket Association first grade competition resuming on Saturday after a two-week break, the Tigers have all-but reached a must-win stage of the season.
Wallsend sit eighth on the ladder and are 11 points shy of the semi spots with five regular rounds remaining, which includes match-ups against four opponents above them.
That run home starts by hosting defending champions Wests at Wallsend Oval and Tigers captain Nathan Price knows his squad must make every post a winner to have a shot at the title.
“It’s pretty much finals for us now,” Price told the Newcastle Herald.
“I think we need to win, if not all, all-but all our last five games to reach the finals.
“And we’re playing pretty decent teams as well. Wests are defending champions, then Merewether and a couple of others [Charlestown and Cardiff-Boolaroo] all around the top four fighting for a finals spot.
“So it’s all to play for in the second half of the year which is good.”
Wallsend, who have an overall 3-4 win-loss record in 2018-2019, arrive at this point having twice dropped two-day games recently when they have posted 300-plus totals.
However, last start before Christmas the Tigers successfully defended 181 against fellow finals challengers Toronto at Ron Hill Oval.
“We come into this game with a bit of confidence after that win before Christmas,” Price said.
“I thought we’ve bowled well the last three of four games, but our fielding has let us down a bit.
“But we bowled well against Toronto and backed it up in the field by taking the chances that came our way.
“That was the main difference and hopefully now we can continue that.”
Wests will begin life without representative paceman Pete Lojszczyk, who has relocated overseas, but Price was still wary of the Rosellas’ title-winning bowling attack.
“Pete [Lojszczyk] is a huge loss for them, he took 50 wickets last year,” Price said.
“But they still have plenty of class with bat and ball. Joey Price and four or five others that can win a game of cricket on any given day.”
Wallsend welcome back Kyle Bray for unavailable all-rounder Gary Geise while Jeremy Nunan will make his first XI debut for Wests.
Elsewhere, Toronto’s Adrian Chad and Merewether’s Josh Geary will go head-to-head at Ron Hill Oval after almost a fortnight away representing the Bush Blues at the Australian Country Championships in Shepparton, Victoria.
Fellow NSW Country player Jed Dickson has been named to return in week two for Charlestown, who are away to Belmont.
Matt Gawthrop strengthens leaders University, who travel to meet Waratah. Hamwicks clash with Cardiff and City host Stockton.