Weston Creek fills the void
The three captains of the Canberra T20 teams contesting the cricket finals on Sunday at Manuka Oval. Michael Wescombe (Tuggeranong), Adam Rhynehart (Weston Creek) and Ben Oakley (Wests/UC). Photo: Graham Tidy
Few would have given Weston Creek much of a chance in the local cricket competition this season without captain and prolific run-scorer John Nicoll.
Nicoll won last year's DB Robin Medal after scoring 798 runs for the season at 99.75, so his departure from the club when he moved to Wagga Wagga was always going to be felt.
But as the grade cricket season draws to the business end, Weston Creek is among the four teams contesting the finals of the Regional Twenty20 Cup.
"Taking a thousand runs out of a team is a massive hit and it's left a group of very young guys to try and take his place," Weston Creek captain Adam Rhynehart said of losing Nicoll. "It's been a massive learning curve for everyone this year."
With Queanbeyan conspicuously absent, Weston Creek is the surprise packet of the competition and will enter its semi-final on Sunday morning against Albury with nothing to lose, and plenty of experience to gain.
"[Experience] is not something that you can just hand out at training. It's a matter of losing some games we should win and winning some games we should lose, so either way, however it comes, we're happy that we made the finals and we'll see what happens," Rhynehart said.
"Obviously we want to win but we're pretty proud of ourselves to actually make it this far and everything else is a bonus."
Weston Creek will have the advantage of sporting a closer to full-strength side than the other local finalists as the finals clash with the Under 19 Nationals and the Australian Country Cricket Championships.
Tuggeranong will be without Michael Barrington-Smith, Sam Thornton and Chris Chellew, with Wests/UC missing Beau McClintock and Adam Hewitt from its line-up.
Despite the missing players, Tuggeranong enters the finals as favourite, a tag captain Michael Wescombe was keen to pass on.
"Wests are the one to watch out for," he said. "We're missing a couple through rep duties, unfortunately we're going to go in slightly under-strength, but we should still be OK."
Wests is planning to use its strong bowling attack to advantage when it takes on the relatively unknown Albury side.
"Wests are sort of renowned for having a good, strong bowling line up, that's what we've based our cricket on over the last four or five seasons," captain Ben Oakley said.
"If you can bowl well and restrict bats, you can win the game just as easily as you can with the bat.
"The good thing this year is we're performing with the bat as well, so it's been a pretty all-round strong side this year, so we're looking good."
Semi-finals: Tuggeranong v Weston Creek - 9.30am at Chisholm; Wests/UC v Albury - 10am at Kingston Oval; Grand Final: 2.30pm at Kingston Oval.