MEREWETHER captain Craig Jones reckons the A-Grade pennants season is one of the tightest in recent years and stressed the importance of the defending champions making the most of home-course advantage against Toronto in the third round on Sunday.
Merewether beat Toronto 5-3 in tense final at Shortland Waters in 2019 to end a 37-year drought.
Both sides opened the new campaign with wins. Merewether edged out Charlestown 5-3 and Toronto got over Newcastle by the same margin. Round two was washed out last Sunday and has been rescheduled for March 8, putting the final back a week.
In other games on Sunday, Belmont tackle Charlestown and Waratah meet Newcastle.
There has been an unusually high movement of players between teams this season.
Merewether have lost club champion Luke Ferrier and 2019 winner Scott Telfer to Newcastle and picked up Michael Coutman from Waratah. Oscar Gilson (Newcastle) is at Toronto and Hamish Ellison has shifted from Belmont to Waratah.
"It is the strongest pennants season I have played in and it is going to be extremely tight at the end," Jones said. "Every team in division one has a realistic chance of winning the pennant."
As well as Coutman, Andy Piggott is back and Merewether have also promoted a couple of fresh faces.
"Mick and Andy have played a lot of pennants and are fierce competitors," Jones said. "Losing Luke and Scott has opened the door for some young guys. Lockie Cairns is in his second year and Nic Zuccon and Mackinley Sullivan will also get more opportunities.
"Toronto have a really good team. Their young guys, Jacob Dundas and Jake Riley, will be better again this year. We are playing at home, which will help us.
"If we don't get any more rain the course will be in good condition by Sunday. It is crucial that we take every chance we get. They are very strong from number one to number eight."
** Charlestown gun Blake Windred feels like he is "knocking on the door" of his first professional win and is focused on getting the one per-centers right at the Queensland PGA in Toowoomba, starting Thursday.
Windred finished at seven under and tied for 22nd at the $1.6m Vic Open at 13th Beach Links on Sunday. Nick Flanagan was the Hunter's best, tied for 12th at 10 under.
The field battled brutal conditions on Saturday and Sunday, including gale force winds.
"Saturday was ridiculous," Windred said. I hit a bullet five-iron and it went 127 metres. That's 60 metres difference. I just couldn't get anything going.
"My dad took footage of my swing and some of my putts. I'm really pleased with my game. There are a few one per centers I need to fix up. I feel like I am knocking on the door. In the next two weeks I want to contend and win a professional event."
Vic Open winner Min Woo Lee came through the Australia junior system with Windred.
"Watching Min Woo Lee win was awesome," Windred said. "He is my age group and I have played against him my whole life. The past couple of years he has skipped a little bit in front. He turned pro a year ahead of me. He is a great player and it makes me even more hungry for a win."
Also teeing up in Toowoomba are Hunter players Jake Higginbottom, James Nitties, Nathan Green, Andrew Dodt, Jamie Hook, Aaron Townsend and Cal O'Reilly.