WHEN it comes to experience, rival players Alex Welsh and Luke Dixon are up with the best in Ipswich and West Moreton Cricket Association matches.
Laidley skipper Welsh and Brothers wicketkeeper Dixon are among the leading wicket-takers and run scorers this season.
Preparing for the latest first division grand final starting at Baxter Oval on Saturday, allrounder Welsh and consistent batsman Dixon share a healthy rivalry that sets the foundation for another classic battle.
As the minor premiership-winning Laidley cricketers had a training session at Bichel Oval last weekend, Dixon was preparing to top score for Brothers in their hard-fought, rain-affected semi-final at Ivor Marsden Sporting Complex.
In a low-scoring clash, Dixon made a valuable 46 to keep his team on track for victory against a Centrals team that never gave up.
Having been with Brothers since 2001, Dixon has shared a wonderful bond with other stalwarts like captain David Richardson and bowler Mark Sharrad.
“To play for Brothers, they are a great bunch of guys. I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else,” Dixon said.
With other quality players like Mick Ridgewell, Mitch Weatherhead, Jacob Sarra and Craig Mackay in the line-up, Dixon hinted Brothers have some extra motivation in the four-day game.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that have played big games . . . grand finals and one day finals,” he said.
“We’ve basically all played 15-20 years with each other so we’re really close.
“You never know. We might not be able to play again with each other in the same team so this is going to be a really big game for a lot of us.”
Dixon expects the Brothers team that won the semi-final to back up this weekend.
“Everyone is right, raring to go,” he said.
“We’re pretty excited actually.
“We haven’t lost a two-day game so I reckon we’ve timed our run pretty good.
“You want to be playing your better cricket in a final and we think that we are right there and ready to perform at our best for this game.
“We couldn’t be any more confident than what we are going into this weekend.”
Dixon, 31, is sixth on the 2017/18 run-scoring list with 320 runs at 32, including a top score of 125, from 11 games.
Laidley’s classy batsman Mick Sippel tops that list with 568 runs from 14 games. Sippel’s average is a damaging 56.80 with a high score of 119 not out.
Meanwhile, another Laidley all-rounder Welsh is top of this season’s wicket-taking list with 29 scalps from his 14 matches. Those wickets came at an average of 12.66 with a best of 5/31.
Welsh said the Bluedogs respected Brothers despite not being overly concerned about their previous loss to them before the semi-final.
“We weren’t at full strength with two pretty good players (Ben Gibson and Ben O’Connell) missing,” Welsh said of the one-day game played instead of a two-day contest due to rain.
“I’m not reading too much into that. It’s a game we should have won.
“I took a lot of positives out of it. I think it was a good wake-up call before the final.”
Laidley has welcomed back seasoned batsman Brendan O’Keeffe with opener Jason Cubit injured.
Fast bowler Michael Topp has also strengthened Laidley’s attack since returning in recent weeks.
“Apart from Jason, we’re probably at full strength,” Welsh said.
Welsh acknowledged that Brothers were a much better two-day side.
“You have got to give respect to Brothers. They have a lot of experience and a lot of match winners in there as well,” the English-bred cricketer said.
Welsh knows that from the Ipswich competition and having played considerable representative cricket with players like Richardson, Dixon, Ridgewell and Weatherhead.
He also rates allrounder Taylor Peach a dangerous opponent on his day.
“We’re going to have to play well to win,” Welsh said, dismissing any lingering pain from last season’s loss to Centrals.
“We’ve played a lot of grand finals. Some have gone our way, some haven’t.
“You’ve just got to treat it as a normal game and prepare well and stick to your plans. And enjoy it. That’s the main thing.
“This is what you play all year for.”
Dixon agrees, enjoying the high quality encounters between the two powerful regional clubs.
“The most recent finals have pretty much all been against Laidley and they have all been good games,” Dixon said.
“It’s sort of that healthy rivalry. Everyone plays hard and we sort of bring out the best in each other.”
IWMCA first division grand final: Saturday and Sunday (10am) – Laidley v Brothers at Baxter Oval.
Played 54: Laidley won 29.Brothers won 19. Draws/wash outs 5: Tie: 1.
Finals match-ups: 6. Brothers 3, Laidley 3.
Previous encounter: Brothers 177 (36.5 overs) defeated Laidley 9/175 (40) at Bichel Oval on March 3, 2018.
Previous two-day encounter: Laidley 5 (dec) 297 & 0/38 defeated Brothers 204 at Marsden No.2 on January 7, 2017.
Previous grand final encounter: Laidley 329 & 2/48 drew with Brothers 238 at Baxter Oval on March 22, 2014.
Career stats for some key players in the 1st Grade final
Mick Ridgewell: 114 matches – 3321 runs at 27.45. HS 171*; 122 wickets at 22.70. BB: 5/19.
Mitch Weatherhead: 75 matches – 2465 runs (31.60). HS 173*, 3x100s 17x50s.
Jacob Sarra: 177 matches – 3375 runs (16.54). HS 100; 71 wickets at 28.76. BB: 5/29; 136 catchings 37 stumpings.
Luke Dixon (wk): 173m – 4755 runs (30.29). HS 137*, 4x100s 25x50s; 245 catches, 88 stumpings.
Taylor Peach: 69m – 1541 runs (20.28). HS 135, 2x100s, 7x50s; 76 wickets at 20.14. BB 6/12. 2×5 inns.
Mark Sharrad: 162m – 2195 runs (15.24). HS 94; 239 wickets at 22.76. BB 8/80, 8×5 inns.
Chris Smith: 91m – 905 runs (13.31). HS 53*; 132 wickets at 19.96. BB 6/41, 3×5 inns.
Craig Mackay: 155m – 2155 runs (16.08). HS 69, 7x50s; 133 wickets at 21.84. BB 6/16, 6×5 inns.
David Richardson (c): 227m – 1389 runs. HS 50; 612 wickets at 19.75. BB 8/116, 34×5 inns, 1x10m; 108 catches.
Ben O’Connell: 99m – 3581 runs (41.64). HS 136, 6x100s, 21x50s; 170 wkts (20.02). BB 7/48.
Michael Sippel: 193m – 9190 runs (55.70). HS 261, 20x100s, 55x50s; 464 wickets at 14.44. BB 9/28 20×5 inns, 2x10m; 105 catches.
Alex Welsh (c): 84m – 1813 runs (25.54). HS 145, 1×100, 5x50s; 212 wkts (11.69), BB 7/22, 16×5 inns, 1x10m.
Brendan O’Keeffe: 157m – 4659 runs (28.94). HS 147, 5x100s, 29x50s; 35 wts (24.63). BB 5/25.
Travis Ilka (wk): 124m – 2099 runs (19.26). HS 84, 9x50s; 164 catches, 35 stumpings.
Terry Emerson: 54m – 443 runs (22.15). HS 40; 59 wickets (21.61). BB 4/37.
Michael Topp: 50m – 389 runs (17.89); HS 55*; 71 wickets (20.25), BB 4/5.