CHARLESTOWN skipper Steve Mace has played in so many Newcastle District Cricket Association semi-finals and finals he has lost count of them all.
What he does know is it’s been too long since the last one.
Mace, who turned 49 two days ago, is the last survivor of Charlestown’s golden era through the mid-1980s to the early ’90s, when the Magpies were a dominant force.
But their most recent appearance in the play-offs was a heart-breaking loss to Cardiff-Boolaroo in the 2009-10 final, an anomaly Mace is determined to address.
“Through the ’80s and ’90s we had a good run, but I can’t imagine we’ve had too many longer stretches [out of the finals],” Mace said.
“It might be about time.”
Charlestown are unlikely to get a better chance.
When round 11 of the season started last weekend, they were fourth on the competition ladder, five points behind third-placed Newcastle City (48), their opponents at No.1 Sportsground.
A point adrift of Charlestown’s tail are Hamilton-Wickham (42), followed by Wallsend (40), Belmont (38) and University (37).
With three rounds to play after this one, only Merewether (66) and Wests (53) appear assured of finishing in the top four, but Charlestown can take a significant step towards joining them by chasing down the 224 City posted last week. They will resume at 2-45.
“It’s a big game, for both teams really,” Mace said.
“It’s pretty delicately poised and it’s going to come down to who wants it the most, I guess.
“It’s going to go a long way towards determining where we finish.
“There’s going to be a lot of pressure on both teams, but I know we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Meanwhile, the semi-final aspirations of both Hamwicks and Belmont will be under siege when their respective matches resume.
Hamwicks, the defending champions, need to take three wickets against Waratah-Mayfield to prevent a costly loss at Passmore Oval.
The visitors finished last week at 7-110 in pursuit of 169.
Belmont, meanwhile, will need something special to avoid being the first team to be beaten this season by cellar dwellers Cardiff-Boolaroo.
Cardiff last week racked up an imposing 9-306 on their home ground, and if they successfully defend it on Saturday, Belmont will be left needing a minor miracle to reach the finals.
At Wallsend Oval, Wests skipper James King faces an intriguing decision. Will he bat on so that he and Ben Chew – who put on an unbroken 304 last weekend – can chase the record first-grade partnership of 327?
The Rosellas already have first-innings points, and a 234-run lead, and will be eyeing an outright.
In the remaining games, Uni (0-1) will be chasing Merewether’s 255 at Townson Oval.
At Lynn Oval, Stockton (0-23) will need a big effort with the bat to overhaul Toronto’s 8-295.
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