MERRIVALE skipper Michael Walsh is determined to erase a 15-year-old memory when he squares off with his cousin Dustin Drew in today’s Warrnambool and District Cricket Association division one grand final.
Walsh vividly remembers being dismissed by a 13-year-old Drew in an under 17 match at Allan Oval.
That was the only time the second cousins, and good friends, met in a match before they followed vastly different paths to take on the coaching roles of their respective clubs three years ago.
While Drew was carving out a reputation as a talented all-rounder, Walsh spent five years overseas before returning and resuming his cricket career.
Such is their friendship, Drew said they regularly chatted about cricket.
“We spoke Saturday morning before the semi-finals last week,” the 29-year-old said.
“I said to him ‘it would be great if it was a Dennington and Merrivale grand final’.
“We both talked again on Saturday night about how things were going and we both rang each other after the semi-finals.
“Unfortunately there will be a loser — hopefully it’s not us.”
Walsh, 32, said the friendship and family connection would be pushed aside.
“It’s just another game with a bit more of a prize on top,” he said.
The two clubs had an intense rivalry when they met in consecutive grand finals in 2004-05 and 2005-06, with Dennington winning both.
“The rivalry has gone out of it a bit,” Walsh said.
“The rivalries in sport are no where near what they were. But when we cross the line it’s winner takes all.”
The last time either side made a grand final was seven years ago and both sides have players remaining from those line-ups.
Drew, Terry Beks, Rodney Grant, Jamie Fogarty and Josh Squires are part of Dennington’s 12 today, while Simon Fleming, Matthew Wilkinson, Justin Lynch and Richard McKellar represented the Tigers in 2005-06.
Both captains are dismissing their only meeting of the season as a guide to the showdown, saying it was irrelevant given it took place before Christmas and both sides have different personnel.
Drew is backing his side to get the job done.
“I respect Merrivale more than anyone else in cricket, mainly because I’ve won four flags and I played against them in two of them,” he said.
“I think we have a bit of an X-factor about us.
“Our young players are exciting. It’s a great place to be around Dennington with all the juniors doing well. Someone like Jack Lee is such a raw talent.
“He can change a game with the ball, he’s sharp enough and you look at someone like (veteran) Terry Beks, he’s won games off his own bat and with the ball before and he will do it again.
“He’s playing as good as ever, especially with his son Shannon playing too — it’s a good story.”
Walsh said both sides were well matched.
“I think it’s a pretty even contest,” he said.
“At the end of the day they beat us at Dennington so they probably have the upper hand.
‘‘But from Christmas out, our form has been pretty good.”
Since the festive season break Merrivale has lost just one game, while the Dogs lost their last two leading into the semi-finals.
Each side was beaten by reigning premier West Warrnambool.
Walsh said part of his side’s improvement had come since his players opted for a non-compulsory Friday night net session.
Last night all his players were in the nets, sharpening up and easing some of their nerves.
“I just want it to happen now,” Walsh said. “We just want to play cricket.”