Property Brokers United are determined to expel 11 months of frustration in the Bullocks Coastal Challenge final rematch with defending champions Paraparaumu tomorrow at Victoria Park.
Just like last season, United are undefeated in the competition and comfortably won their semifinal against the same team they played in their last pool match — Levin last Saturday compared with Wereroa the previous summer.
The difference is the rescheduling of the Coastal Challenge calender to finish tomorrow instead of in mid-March means United have virtually their full squad available, unlike 2016-17, when the loss of university-based players, the ACL injury of captain Tom Lance and the unavailablity of veteran allrounders Robbie Power and Brendon Walker contributed to a makeshift side losing by 26 runs on the final day of summer.
After missing the Coastal Challenge semifinals in the inaugural 2015-16 competition and having been so close but so far last year, veteran Gerard Hobbs said the team wanted to fly the Whanganui flag by finally winning the cup.
"It's a new year, so looking forward to it. It's definitely a better team than last year. It's all on us. It's a good season for us, we haven't lost a game and have to keep going."
Even so, off-field commitments have still drained the coffers slightly as the recently-married Power has not been available in the latter part of the competition, while allrounder Simon Badger has not one, but two weddings up north on the same weekend, starting today.
Badger, a prominent lawyer formerly based in Auckland, has received much good-natured kidding about his active social circle, having missed multiple fixtures this summer to attend nuptials.
The team should still be able to absorb his departure, as Hobbs was unavailable last weekend for the seven wicket win in the semifinal, and their swap will be the only change to the starting XI.
Hobbs said the key batsmen in Lance and Greg Smith have been hitting the ball well in the latter part of the tournament, but then getting out to bad shots.
Therefore it was pleasant surprise in the Levin game to see Matthew Boswell score a composed 78 not out, snapping his poor run of form.
"I said 'take your time, take the singles', and he actually did it. By the end, he was hitting it and his eye was in."
A strength of United is that unlike last year, different players have stood up in key situations across both the 50-over and Twenty20 formats.
"Probably the most rewarding part of the season is we've won all our close games," said Hobbs.
In previous campaigns, United have often "smashed" teams but when put under pressure in key match-ups, end up falling short.
Ritesh Verma and young James Pennefather have been solid bowlers and also played a couple of strong knocks with the bat, while father Martin Pennefather, soon to be playing for the New Zealand over-50s against Australia, has added to United having the most balanced bowling attack of pace and spin/slow bowling.
Englishman Freddie Wilson had his eye in at the end of United's innings with Levin.
United and Paraparaumu have not met this season, as their opening round game on October 7 was rained out.
The Horowhenua-Kapiti club's only defeat this competition was to Levin by 41 runs on October 28, although a rescheduling issue meant their November 18 match with Collegiate could have gone down as a default loss, but was instead abandoned.
Byron Gill is their top runscorer with 295 runs in the cup, followed by dangerman Ramesh Subasinghe with 219 runs and nine wickets.
Nigel Harvey has eight wickets this campaign.
"We'll enjoy it, that's the main thing. We'll be having a beer after, no matter what," said Hobbs.
Play will start at 12pm.
The United team is
Matthew Boswell, Tom Lance (c), Matthew Simes, Greg Smith, Freddie Wilson, Brendon Walker, Gerard Hobbs, Ritesh Verma, Martin Pennefather, Ryan Slight, James Pennefather.