Mulbring and Bellbird will once again play off for this season’s first grade premiership title after both teams recorded victories in their respective semi-finals.
In a rivalry matched only by the Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys in the NRL, it will be the sixth time in the past seven years that these two great teams have faced off in the big one, with Mulbring holding a 3-1 advantage in this period along with that unforgettable tied grand final at Mulbring in 2012-13.
Bellbird won through to their seventh consecutive grand final on the back of a 38-run victory over Greta/Branxton at Carmichael 1.
The Blues’ horror semi-final record against the Tigers continued, having now lost all eight semi-finals against the Tigers since coming into the competition in 1988-89.
Bellbird skipper Ben Fairlie won the toss and elected to bat, but some excellent bowling and shrewd captaincy from Blues skipper Brent Watson restricted the home side to be all out inside 37 overs for 173.
Jason Orr’s sublime timing saw him lead the way with 64, with Elliot Gyler (35), Ben Fairlie (26) and Andrew Howson (13) the other main contributors.
Former Bellbird seamer Craig Brook bounced back from a horror opening three overs to bag a well-earned 5-56 off 9.5 overs for Greta/Branxton, with Martin Shearer (2-16 off 7) keeping things tidy.
Greta/Branxton lost association leading run-scorer Josh Dagg early in the run chase, but they recovered to be cruising at 1-71 in the 14th over and looked well on their way to victory.
But when Barry Richards was stumped for a well-made 41 which started a major collapse for the visitors with the next three wickets falling cheaply.At the 20-over drinks interval the match looked to be in the balance with Greta/Branxton 5-90.
The Blues lost skipper Watson for 17 shortly after drinks, and when opener Mark Bercini was run out with a beautiful direct hit from Rob Drage for 41, the Tigers could sniff yet another grand final berth.
Brook (12) hit a couple of maximums before being caught in the deep to end Greta/Branxton’s innings in the 33rd over for 135.
Nic Siers was the pick of the Bellbird attack and took the vital wickets to finish with 4-12 off 4.4. Dave Gyler (2-45 off 7) also picking up timely wickets.
Mulbring won through to the decider after disposing of a gallant Wine Country by 39 runs at Mulbring Oval.
Sent in to bat the home side posted a par score 4-196 from their 40 overs, with Drew Olsen leading the way with an unbeaten 75.
Opener Jason Varoxis was next best with 46, the hard-hitting Greg Sheehan was given a couple of lives to notch 42, with brother Adam Sheehan making 12.
Scott Miller was the best of the Wine Country attack with 2-62 off 10, with Rob Sidebottom taking 1-32 off 8.
Wine Country managed to bat the 40 overs in reply, finishing on 9-157 in a competitive run-chase. Most batsmen managed to make starts, with veteran journeyman Matthew McCarthy leading the way with 36.
Dean Elliott (22), skipper Matt Lightfoot (19), Miller (19), Steve Abel (12) and Luke Jeans (12) all made handy contributions, but they just lacked that one batsmen to push on to a big score to pose a genuine threat to the undefeated minor premiers.
Brad Strachan was the pick of the Marlin attack with 4-39 off 10, with Tom Cremona (2-30 off 8) and Cameron Ross (2-22 off 4) keeping a lid on things.
The premiership decider venue has been set for Branxton’s Miller Park.
Grand Final Fixtures
First Grade (12:30pm Start Saturday)
Mulbring (1st) vs Bellbird (2nd) at Miller 1.
Second Grade (12:30pm Start Saturday)
Greta/Branxton (2nd) vs Supporters (4th) at Carmichael 1.
Third Grade (12:30pm Start Saturday)
Bellbird (1st) vs Denman Hotel (3rd) at Mulbring.
Fourth Grade (12:30pm Start Saturday)
Greta/Branxton Blue (1st) vs Paxton (2nd) at Baddeley 1.
Junior Grand Final Fixtures
U/16 Grand Final
Greta/Branxton vs Wine Country (continuing) at East End.
U/14 Grand Final
Paxton vs Greta/Branxton at Baddeley 2.
U/12 Grand Final
To be played at Baddeley 3.