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Two Blues on top again but desperate to break grand final hoodoo

Neale HarveyKalgoorlie Miner
Great Boulder’s Dylan Hinchliffe during round 13 of the Eastern Goldfields Cricket Association A-grade competition.
Camera IconGreat Boulder’s Dylan Hinchliffe during round 13 of the Eastern Goldfields Cricket Association A-grade competition. Credit: Carwyn Monck/Kalgoorlie Miner

Great Boulder’s pursuit of the Eastern Goldfields Cricket Association’s A-grade flag is boosted by a fourth consecutive minor premiership, but the squad remains under significant pressure to deliver in an otherwise dominant campaign.

With 11 wins, the Two Blues will advance straight to the grand final on March 23 — regardless of how they fare this Saturday against Hannans to round out the qualifiers.

By virtue of finishing first, Great Boulder — whose lead over North Kalgoorlie and Hannans, respectively, is three and four matches among a top-three format that is already set — will earn a week’s rest in preparation for the grand final.

North Kalgoorlie meet Hannans in a sudden-death eliminator on March 16 for the other grand final spot.

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For the winner of that match, a grand final berth will be against an opposition line-up that followed up their 2020-21 premiership with two similarly dominant campaigns, only to fall at the last hurdle on both occasions.

Two Blues player-coach Dylan Hinchliffe conceded that momentum was a big factor heading into finals.

But he said the players were not concerned by past results, while welcoming the upcoming break.

“I suppose you could see the week off as a negative from a momentum perspective,” he said.

“But I think if anything, it gives us a chance to not only freshen up but also to look forward to the weeks ahead and what that all looks like.

“As far as expectations, really all we expect internally is that as a group we continue to put the hard work in and, above all, that we all enjoy the challenge of what the next few weeks brings.”

Norths’ five-year premiership drought is the longest among the four A-grade clubs, but they are on a six-game winning run.

That prospect looked virtually impossible after eight rounds when Norths were in danger of slumping to last place at the expense of Lake View after five consecutive defeats.

It included a two-wicket loss in round five against Lake View, when they were routed for 85 in 20 overs, and they proved no match for Great Boulder in a big round-eight defeat.

Norths hit back to account for Lake View in the last round of matches before the Christmas break on December 16.

It was a turning point in the season for Norths, who are favoured to beat the Viewers this weekend before tackling the elimination final.

Hannans will head into the finals with seven wins and a sense of dejà vu.

Six of those victories were in the opening eight rounds when they challenged Great Boulder for early premiership favouritism.

Since then, Hannans have lost five of their past six matches but they have a proven match winner in Irish international Graham Kennedy, who leads the EGCA’s batting and bowling standings.

Two summers ago, Hannans emerged from the qualifiers in third place — a win behind Norths and five adrift of Great Boulder.

But they found their best form in the finals — initially by accounting for Norths in the elimination final and then upsetting Great Boulder in the grand final.

Lake View beat Great Boulder in an enthralling 2022-23 decider but have this season managed just one victory.

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