Mackay Cricket teams’ New Year’s Resolutions
The DBCT Poole Cup returns on January 9 and the jostle for finals placings will soon heat up.
Some sides are all but out of the finals running; others are on the cusp and a few hold prime position, but must stay true to the cricket that got them there in the first place.
As the calendar year ticks over to 2021, we run the rule over each team to find the key New Year's Resolution - or wish - they need for a successful start to January.
A healthy Matthew Wicks: Brothers' big win over Walkerston in round five pushed them into outright first place on the Poole Cup table. It is admittedly foreign territory for skipper Matthew Wicks' men, but they are deserving of the position after an impressive start to 40-over cricket.
Brothers' T20 Shootout season fell off a cliff when Wicks went down with a hamstring injury against Norths and they will be sweating on his return coming as early as possible in 2021.
Though Brothers' strength has been its stable of damaging quicks, Wicks was seemingly the glue that kept the bowling contingent together. The boys in blue failed to win a game after he went down through injury.
Stand-in skipper Michael Comerford believes 40-over cricket better suits Brothers' squad and he is likely right. But a winning return to the one-day format will be crucial to the side's hopes of retaining top spot come March.
Continuity is key: The Poole Cup's perennial benchmark is again likely to feature at the pointy end of the season, using a similar formula to the one which has delivered so much success in recent years.
This season more than most, Scrubby has had to rely on depth to deliver wins as senior players juggle non-cricket commitments. So far so good.
But when the going gets tough in February, and top spot is - hopefully for them - still up for grabs, Walkerston will need all its key hands on deck for the finals push.
Openers Sam Vassallo and Jakob Frerichs have been good without being great in the 40-over format so far.
Walkerston's batting depth is perhaps the deepest in the competition, but runs at the top of the order will make life much easier - particularly against the batting might of Norths and Magpies.
Middle-order muscle: Even without the big-hitting heroics of Mitch English, Norths has remained a runscoring machine thanks in large part to openers Peter Shepherd and Jason Butterworth.
The pair sit second and third respectively on the top runscorers' table behind only Magpies skipper Rhys McBride and are undoubtedly a big reason why Norths is sitting pretty in third at the turn of the year.
It is rare the Devils' pairing fails to fire but when it does, the team can struggle.
The evidence was laid bare during the T20 Shootout campaign where, even though Norths made the finals, they did so without the usual big-hitting flare many came to expect of them; Shepherd averaged less than 20 and Butterworth not much more.
Norths' losses this season have all come from the middle-order failing to fire. It would seem then that the equation is simple. Can the likes of Laren and Darryn Dyer and Lane and Mason Kohler combine to keep the scoreboard ticking over if and when the openers falter? If so, the Devils will be hard to beat.
A dry January: At 3-3 and one game back from Norths in third, Magpies will be the team most hoping Mother Nature's annual January interference does not rain on their parade.
Every Mackay cricketer worth his salt knows points after Christmas come at a premium and if Magpies wants to play finals this season, they will need to make the most of every chance they get.
The Div 1 T20 Shootout champions transitioned best to the shorter format, going unbeaten after the shift from the Poole Cup. But now that Rhys McBride's young team has proven its talent is good enough to win titles, the test now will be to keep pace with the more experienced top three of Brothers, Walkerston and Norths.
McBride leads the competition in runscoring, but he will need someone else to put up their hand and score regular runs if Magpies are to go the distance.
With Adam Zurvas set to miss the bulk of the second half of the season when he returns to Townsville for uni, who will the second-up scoring load fall to?
A glimpse of the future: Sharks skipper Shaun Austin hinted at a rebuilding year when clubs came together for the Mackay Cricket season launch, and it's proven to be true.
Souths has two wins across two competitions so far this season and will almost certainly not feature in the Poole Cup post-season, with just one win to this point of the campaign.
But a final round win over Pioneer Valley in the T20s helped ease the pressure on Souths just a touch and remind all involved all about that winning feeling.
Austin said the test for his side on return to one-day action was to emulate the good cricket practices their finals-bound rivals have shown, and use the tail-end of the season to build for a bigger and better 2021-22 tilt.
PIONEER VALLEY (6th)
Back to basics: It sounds cliche but the cricket basics really are what has held Pioneer Valley back so far this season.
Skipper Tim Cridland could barely hide his frustration after Jakob Frerichs smashed 104 not out in their T20 Shootout clash a few weeks ago, because the Walkerston opener was dropped a total of five times en route to his match-winning score.
Pioneer Valley has the calibre of player to make life difficult for the Poole Cup's top teams - they proved that with a win over Norths in the first round of T20s. But too often their good work comes undone through simple mistakes and that will be the message Cridland imparts on his group as it searches for positives to take from an otherwise already lost season.