By MITCHELL DALE
SAWTELL batsman Jason Hughes might only be just over the legal drinking age, but he has more grand final experience than many 40-year-old veterans.
Whether it's on the cricket pitch or the football field, Hughes has invariably found himself playing on the final day of the competition, with plenty of success.
At 18, he has already captained a first grade premiership-winning side and played in three other first grade grand finals, including Nambucca's premiership victory in the now-disbanded Holiday Coast cricket competition in 2000-2001.
Hughes, who joined Sawtell from Macksville (Nambucca-Bellingen competition) this season, has enjoyed a strong summer with the bat.
"Yeah it hasn't been too bad, hopefully I can carry that form into the grand final," Hughes says.
"It's probably not the best season I have had, but it would be up there.
"I wouldn't say the Coffs Harbour competition is very strong, but it is very competitive.
"Playing here has been good for my game."
While he has scored more than his share of runs, Hughes has also proved handy back-up with the ball for Sawtell's impressive bowling line-up.
"We have a pretty strong bowling attack, so I have mainly concentrated on batting," he said.
"When I have bowled, I have just tried to keep it tight for the bowlers at the other end."
While cricket is his number one love, Hughes is also a handy footballer and was part of Macksville Sea Eagles' 2003 and 2004 VB Group 2 first grade grand final triumphs.
"Not many people get a chance to play in grand finals or win premierships, so I have been pretty lucky, " says Hughes, who still holds a partial scholarship with NRL champions Canterbury.
Hughes this year started a Bachelor of Arts degree at University of New England, meaning he has had to make weekly trips home from Armidale to play cricket.
This weekend, he will team up with younger brother, Phillip, who has spent the last week in Sydney playing in the NSW schoolboy championships.
"I've played in a couple of grand finals with Phil, but I don't think I have won any with him," Hughes said.
"It would be nice to win one with him."
Hughes reckons he is a good chance to do just that.
"For sure, I think we have a good shot," Jason said.
"I see (Tigers opening bowler) Kieran Hogan at Uni a fair bit and I have already been psyching him up, telling him they're gone."