Despite a bizarre protest that was ultimately withdrawn, it’s been business as usual at the Penrith Cricket Club this week as they prepare to win their first Belvidere Cup title since the early 1980s.
Beginning Friday and running through to Sunday at Bankstown Oval, Penrith will take on a dominant Sydney University side who will appear in their third consecutive NSW Premier Cricket first grade decider.
While it will be a mighty task to knock off the 2016/17 Premiers, there was a slight chance Penrith could have missed the clash altogether.
On Tuesday, last weekend’s opponents UTS North Sydney lodged an appeal after their semi final against Penrith at Howell Oval ended in a draw, propelling the home side to the Final.
Penrith finished on 5/163 in reply to 4/253 declared by UTS North Sydney, before rain halted play and the match was declared a draw.
Penrith finished second in the regular season, which meant they progressed to the Grand Final.
In a dramatic twist, UTS North Sydney wanted the result overturned, claiming Penrith breached playing conditions and did not present the ground in the best possible condition.
However, just before Tuesday night’s hearing at Cricket NSW headquarters, UTS North Sydney withdrew their appeal.
“Our friends at North Sydney were a little upset that a lot of water pooled out in the middle following the storm we had on Friday night. There was so much water and nowhere for it to go so it pooled and they were extremely agitated by that,” Penrith head coach, Michael Wholohan said.
Fortunately, the mid-week drama didn’t affect Penrith whatsoever and they appeared to be in high spirits at training on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s business as usual here, the players were amused by it all,” Wholohan said.
“They are quite a remarkable group, they’ve just been relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company all year. They thoroughly deserve to be where they are.”
It’s been a long time between titles for Penrith, who haven’t made a Belvidere Cup Final since the 2002/03 season and haven’t tasted premiership success since 1983.
Wholohan said he remembers Penrith’s last first grade title like it was yesterday.
“We last won 36 years ago when I was a young fella at school with a mullet,” he recalled.
“I was playing lower grade cricket back then and I remember sitting on the field watching at Hurstville Oval.
“We had a star studded, super talented side that day which included the likes of Ian Davis, Graeme Beard, Ken Hall and Trevor Bayliss.”
Penrith will be hoping their new batch of youngsters, mostly made up of talented local juniors, can emulate the club’s stars of the past.
Wholohan said a Penrith premiership this weekend would mean so much to so many.
“It would be the absolute icing on the cake… it’s been so long since we won a premiership, it would mean so much to so many people,” he said.
Play begins at 10.30am Friday morning at Bankstown Oval.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.