THE three-way battle for the Manning T1 cricket minor premiership will resume on Saturday, January 14 when the competition returns from the Christmas break.
Great Lakes on 45 holds a three point lead over Taree United going into the recess. Wingham is the other side with a chance of claiming the minor title. They're on 36.
The minor premiership can be all-important if wet weather intervenes during the finals series, while the minor premier also earns the right to host the major semi-final. Winner of the major semi will then be at home for the grand final on Saturday, March 11.
Gloucester is out of minor premiership contention but will be looking to cement fourth place when play resumes. The Bushmen are on 18 points, six clear of Old Bar.
Taree West are on 9 and need to string together some wins if they are going be around at finals time.
Manning Cricket president Steve Campbell said there have been plenty of positives with the pre-Christmas section of the T1 season.
"At least we haven't had rain and at this stage no real worries with COVID,'' he said.
"We're getting some games in. Numbers have been pretty steady for most teams.''
Last season play wasn't scheduled to start until early December due to State government vaccination regulations. Wet weather ensured some sides didn't play a game until January.
While it appears a race between the top three, Mr Campbell believes the other three still have claims.
"Some of the sides have had trouble consistently getting their best team on the field,'' he said.
He said Taree West fields a young side and they broke through for a confidence boosting first win of the season last match.
However, he expects that the premier will come from either Great Lakes, United or Wingham.
"It's going to be a bit of a toss-up. Wingham probably have the superior batting lineup at full strength, but United's very similar,'' he said.
"Great Lakes have a strong all-round side. It'll all come down to the day.''
There are six rounds remaining before the start of the semi-finals on February 25. Matches in the immediate post Christmas section, when all clubs could be down on strength due to holidays or work commitments, could be vital in the makeup of the finals, Mr Campbell said.
The association expects the Johnny Martin Oval and Chatham Park to be back in play next month. Both have been out due to damage sustained during the on-going wet weather this year.
This has meant that neither United or Taree West has played a game at their regular home ground so far.
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