THE War Veterans Cup finals race is down to three but there’s only room for two.
It will all be decided on Sunday when Gunnedah host Armidale and Tamworth travel out to Narrabri.
NSW Country keeper Tom Groth returns from a successful Australian Country Championships to lead a Tamworth side that even with a loss still should make the final.
They head into the final round level on 21 points with Armidale at the top.
It’s a different story for Armidale and Gunnedah though.
Their match-up is something of a final before the final with the winner to advance through to the February 17 decider and the loser to miss out.
Gunnedah has named arguably its strongest side with Andy Mack and Matt Brady coming into the side that beat Narrabri two weeks ago. Mack is just back from Sydney and will be a big boost.
“He’s an extra strike bowler and power hitter,” Gunn-edah co-captain Ben Middlebrook said.
He’ll complement the allround talents of Brady, Farran Lamb and Trent Hilton.
The latter have both been in great form.
Armidale have got the better of Gunnedah both times they’ve met this season, but Sunday will be the first of those they’ve played away.
That and Gunnedah’s recent performances have them preparing for a very tough game.
“Our boys will have to be on their game, otherwise we’ll walk away with a loss,” selector Brad King said.
They have named a side similar to the one that played Tamworth last game but will risk it without a recognised keeper with Brad Smith unavailable.
He’s handled the keeping duties for most of the season for them, and hasn’t been replaced as such.
“It’s a big risk not taking away a recognised keeper,” King said.
But its one they’re prepared to take and they have a few options.
Dean Moore and Michael Dawson can both keep, as can skipper Andrew Brownlie if needed.
The trip out to Gunnedah will be their second time away in as many games and they’ll be hoping for a better performance than against Tamworth.
“The boys had a reality check against Tamworth,” King said.
“The guys were very disappointed with that.”
One of the main areas they need to improve in is their batting, and more specifically turning the strike over.
“We get ourselves bogged down a bit at the top,” King said.
“We need to be a little bit more aggressive than we were early.
“It’s not good to be facing over after over.”
“The bowling can still be good (as Tamworth’s was) but you’ve still got to work the singles.”
The result was they could only manage 140, which was never going to be enough.
The Dumaresq Colts are also in action on Sunday, although their finals hopes are slim.
They host Tamworth while in the other games Narrabri is at home to Quirindi and Moree host Inverell.
GUNNEDAH: Troy Sands (capt), Ben Middlebrook (capt), Matt Brady, Cameron Milne, Ben Haire, James Mack, Mitchell Swain, Trent Hilton, Andy Mack, Farran Lamb, Andrew Pratt, Sam Doubleday.
ARMIDALE: Dean Moore, Michael Dawson, Matt Schaefer, Andrew Brownlie (capt), Will Frost, Alex Frost, Hugh Reckord, Luke Brown, Steve Butler, Karl Triebe, Sam Uphill, Henry Cupitt.
DUMARESQ COLTS: Matt Jackson (capt), Luke Uphill, Scott Brennan, Tom Armitage, Zac Atkins, Kyle Taylor, Angus Reckord, Sam Hutton, Justin McKay, Aaron Whackett, Sam Constance.