By MITCHELL DALE
WE all now that long-term weather forecasts are usually about as accurate as Grandpa Simpson's war stories.
However, predictions of heavy rainfall for the first grade cricket grand-final weekend will still add a sense of urgency to the major semi-final between Coffs Hotel Tigers and Sawtell at Brelsford Park, starting today.
In the event of the grand final being washed out, the first side through to the decider ? the winners of this weekend's match ? will be crowned champions.
And, while no one wants to see a grand-final wash-out, if the weather throughout the 2004-2005 season is any guide, we are likely to get a wet bum at some stage during the final series.
All this adds up to one very important match at Brelsford Park this weekend.
Tigers will be without captain-coach Brad Greenshields and opening batsman Stuart Dixon for this weekend's crucial encounter, but stand-in skipper Chris Barrington was yesterday confident he had the cattle to win through to the grand final.
"Weather could play a part at some stage and that could benefit us (as minor premiers), but we are going to have to beat Sawtell at some stage," Barrington said.
"We have had a couple of close games with Sawtell this season and this match should be a good one too."
Although Tigers will field a relatively young side, they have plenty of finals experience, according to Barrington.
"There's probably about seven or eight of us who have played in pressure situations," he said.
"I think we will handle the pressure okay, but we'll have to see how Sawtell deal with it."
Barrington admitted the side would miss Greenshields' all-round game and leadership on the park.
"Any side will miss their captain," he says.
"Especially when he has batted and bowled well this season and has a good level head."
Sawtell skipper Todd Gill yesterday dropped a bombshell by nominating Diggers as his side's biggest threat for the premiership.
"I don't want to be mean to Tigers, but they probably only have about three or four players to watch out for with the bat," Gill said.
"But, having said that, if we give them a sniff anything could happen.
"I actually think Diggers, if they all click at once, will be almost unstoppable even though they haven't all fired at once so far this season."
Sawtell boast undoubtedly the most formidable batting line-up in the competition, with North Coast selections Gill and Jason Hughes joined by teenage prodigy Phillip Hughes and experienced campaigners like Kel McMillan, Matt Bailey and Chris Neal.
The strength of their line-up can be gauged by the fact that Neal, who opened the batting last season, has been listed to come in at ten this weekend.
"Chris came back late in the year and didn't want to open," Gill said.
"He didn't want to push anyone else down the order and said he would fit in wherever he could.
"Batting would be one of our main strengths, but we also have a very good bowling attack."