Club final a family affair
Two father-son duos will be in action for Criterion Hotel Wairau Valley when they attempt to break their Marlborough senior club cricket title drought in the two-day championship decider at Horton Park in Blenheim this weekend.
Along with well-known combination Greg and Matthew Stretch, Steve and Sam Boyce are in the Valley line-up for the big clash against Biddy Kates Celtic on the No 1 ground. If Valley win, it will be their first senior title in over six years and their first two-day crown sincethe 1998-99 season.
Rep seamer Sam, 19, has enjoyed playing with his dad over the past two seasons, but said having him there hadn't changed much come game day.
"He coached me all the way up to seniors, so it's good to play with him now. We pretty much keep to ourselves and do our own thing, but we put on 40 together the other week and he had a few words to me, telling me to play straight . . . when I'm bowling he gives me a bit of advice every now and then."
With younger brother Harrison a member of the Wairau seniors, Sam said there was plenty of cricket watched and talked about at home. The backyard battles are mainly brother versus brother, but dad does join in on the odd occasion and Sam suggests "he plays really defensively, takes it quite seriously actually."
Steve, who played six seasons for Redwood seniors earlier in life, acknowledged that was true but mainly because he used to be on top and pride was on the line. He said it was special being able to play senior cricket with Sam, even if he wasn't sure how much of his advice was taken on board.
"It's pretty special, being a father and being able to play with your son and getting to bat and field with him. Not many fathers get to play with their sons. I'm the type of father who likes to put his two cents in, but that's usually a pretty short conversation.
"I'd like to think he listens to some of it, but he's a bit beyond that stage now."
Valley were easily top qualifiers for the final, winning four of their five matches. Both Steve and Sam felt an all-round contribution across the team had been the key, a sentiment echoed by captain Tim Abrahams.
"Everybody is stepping up within the team. In previous years we've relied too much on a few guys to do all the work, but this season there's been contributions right throughout the 11 most weeks."
The leading run scorer in the two-day competition with 241 runs from five innings, Abrahams said despite his side being top qualifiers, he believed Celtic were the stronger side on paper. However, he also said his team were primed for the final and their title drought added an edge to their motivation.
"If you look at our results all of them been pretty hard fought, they've all been battles. Nothing has come easy, which is probably a good thing for us because we've had some good hard cricket and we know what it takes to win.
"[The title drought] adds to the motivation for a small portion of the group, the other guys haven't been with the club for that long.
"We're certainly looking forward to having a decent crack and I've told the boys the two-day trophy in the Marlborough competition is the one everybody wants to win. If we can win it we will certainly enjoy it."
This season is the first time the two-day final has been played over two days since 2010-11 and although Valley have the upper hand, Celtic skipper Ben McLennan and Abrahams agreed batting first and for as long as possible was probably the way to go. However, rep opening bowler McLennan disagreed on who went into the match as favourite.
"They are the frontrunners, they haven't lost a game [in the two-day competition] all season and they'll certainly be the favourites. That's not to take away from our guys, I just think Valley have had more of a steady all-round side and they have the momentum because they've been winning."
Despite that, McLennan said his side were confident, had plans in place and made the observation their two round-robin matches against Valley had been very close.
He also said they would not be changing their typically attacking style in all three facets of the game, or their relaxed build-up to the match.
As for what it would mean to win, the big Celtic captain was in no doubt there was plenty on the line.
"It's the first trophy up for grabs and the older guys especially cherish the two-day trophy, there's a big history and prestige around it. Our guys are fired up, we love playing in finals.
"In the back of my mind it would be good to win because then Celtic would have all three [Marlborough] trophies in the cabinet. I'm not sure the last time that happened, but that would be a great feat."
- The Marlborough Express