Tamworth Blue set sights on Connolly Cup final

Young talent time: AJ Pretorius will be part of the Tamworth Blues push for a Connolly Cup finals berth. Photo: Peter Hardin 251116PHG160
Young talent time: AJ Pretorius will be part of the Tamworth Blues push for a Connolly Cup finals berth. Photo: Peter Hardin 251116PHG160

Tamworth Blue up the ante in their quest to regain the Connolly Cup on Sunday, hosting the Gunnedah Second XI for a spot in next weekend’s decider.

After a disrupted couple of weeks the Blues are raring for a shot at the silverware, although won’t be quite at full strength with no Lachie Davidson, Jack Richards, Toby Whale or Jye Paterson.

Paterson has Combined Catholic Colleges trials in Sydney on Monday and Tuesday.

Adam Lole comes in for him and will join Dan Whale at the top of the order.

Tom Fitzgerald, AJ Pretorius and Lachlan Fauchon round out a strong top five. Fauchon has been on North West duties this week and was one of their most consistent performers, scoring 31, 11, 17 and 23.

“I’m pretty happy with the side,” skipper Chris Paterson said.

“Having Loley there will be good. He adds a bit of experience.”

He’s also someone that can bat through an innings.

“We’ve seen throughout the Connolly Cup if you bat your 50 overs you’re a fair chance of winning the game,” Paterson said.

“That will be our goal.”

That should get them to around 200-250, which will be the target.

They’ve only not scored 200 once, and boast a best score of 369.

Outside of that game though, if there’s been one fault it’s that not enough of the batsmen have capitalised on their starts.

“We need one of our openers or one of our top four to score over 80,” Paterson said.

“The rest of the team then can bat around them.” 

Jake Philp also gets his finals chance after impressing in the game against the Armidale Second XI.

He’s been the best bowler in the Tamworth second grade competition and will shoulder the pace duties with Cooper Barnes, Brad Redshaw and Tait Jordan, who is the leading wickettaker in the Connolly Cup.

“The bowling looks pretty solid, and we’ve got the likes of Fitzy (Tom Fitzgerald) up our sleeves if we need,” Paterson said.

Gunnedah snuck into the finals on run-rate but are undaunted by the challenge in front of them.

“We’re pretty confident with the team that we’ve got,” allrounder Troy Sands said.

“It’s a pretty handy side.”

The test will be how their batting stands up. That’s been their achilles heel.

“If we can bat first and put on a couple of hundred I’d back our bowling,” he said.

They are all pretty handy with the bat. The question will be whether someone can bat through most of the innings, which is what they’ve probably lacked.

One candidate to do that is Mitch Swain.

He’s been in great form, Sands said, and will also have a big role to play with the ball, backing up Sands and Farran Lamb.

“We’ve got plenty of options with the ball,” Sands said.

“We’ve got Trent Winsor to bowl medium pace and then Tariq (Habib), Vinnie Winsor and Dubs (Sam Doubleday) to bowl a bit of spin.

“Potentially we’ve got four spinners if Blake (Small) wants to take the pads off.”