When Abel Carney played his first match for Old Boys in round four of the 2014-15 season, it was the start of a mutually beneficial relationship that his skipper, Ben Middlebrook, summed up this way:
“Abel brings a calming influence to the team behind the stumps, and has been one of the more successful batsmen in first grade over the past few seasons. He’s a major positive for our side.”
Carney will be behind the stumps when Old Boys play West Tamworth in the major semi-final at No.1 Oval on Saturday and Sunday. He has been with Old Boys for their past three premiership wins, with the club going for a fifth straight title this season.
The 31-year-old is part of the side’s core group of players who have been instrumental in their success. He joined the club after Manilla’s first-grade competition folded, having played for Attunga.
He recognises that he was the repository of “good timing” when he joined Old Boys. “It’s been a good club,” he said. “There was plenty of depth the last few years, which helps in first grade.
“This year we’ve probably struggled with depth a little bit, but we’ve got that core of senior players. They’re obviously pretty experienced, the core that we’ve got.”
In his first match for Old Boys, Carney signalled his intent at the crease – how he would bat throughout his tenure at at club. He struck a 32-ball 23 at Chaffey Park that included three fours and a six. You could say he is there for a good time, not a long time.
His statistics back that up – his debut first-grade century proving elusive. Not that he is overly concerned about it. As Middlebrook said, the keeper is pretty chilled.
Still, it is something Carney would like “to tick off” before ending his first-grade career. But he added: “I’m not all about that. I just play for the fun of it. I like the environment with the boys there, the club environment.
“A century would definitely be nice, but I certainly don’t go out there looking for centuries … Like I said, I’d love one. But if I never get one, it’s not gonna worry me, neither. I don't lose any sleep over cricket. I just turn up and enjoy it.”
Old Boys have lost Josh Worpel (hamstring injury) for the final. The reigning premiers have had Wests' measure this season, beating them three times, including in the one-day final.
To beat Old Boys, Wests veteran Shaun Stevenson said the side needed to take their chances, and two or three top-order batsmen needed to fire. “Every time we’ve played them this year, we’ve missed chances,” he said, adding that finals cricket “is a different animal” and Old Boys are used to winning in that cauldron.
But he said: “We feel good about our chances. They’re due a bad game … The buzz around the team is amazing at the moment. Everyone will be up for the challenge.”