JAMES Tonkin was like any naive kid.
At 16, he thought playing in grand finals and winning them like Lavington did in 2002-03 would be the way every second Cricket Albury-Wodonga season panned out.
Fast forward a decade and Tonkin is still waiting for that second premiership.
He’s the only player in the Panthers’ side who played in a first-grade flag for them and is hell-bent on changing that in the provincial decider against St Pat’s in Wodonga this weekend.
Tonkin likes his chances, too.
“It’s been a while in between,” Tonkin said yesterday.
“2002-03 is a long time ago.
“It’s funny because in that game against St Pat’s I remember Aaron West knocking me over in the middle of the pitch after I was watching a shot I played down to third man.
“He’s obviously with us now at Lavi and we have a laugh about it.
“Hopefully our time comes on Sunday —we couldn’t have shaped up any better than we are for the grand final.”
While St Patrick’s lead-up form has been well-documented, Lavington can’t be faulted either.
The Panthers have beaten Tallangatta and North Albury in their last two outings and only went down to Wodonga in the previous match after posting 9-283.
“Obviously a few people said earlier in the week that we have been off the boil at times this year, but we have been playing good cricket for a fair while now,” Tonkin said.
“We lost to Wodonga in the third last round when we made 280 runs and did a lot of things right that day as well.
“‘Jacko’ (Robbie Jackson) beat us, basically.
“Before that we hadn’t dropped a game before Christmas.
“We have put in a lot of hard work under Robbie Mackinlay and Aaron West to get where we are.”
Tonkin says the mid-season arrival of Sam Harris and Jay Banks had been another major factor.
Harris has added starch to the top-order with an average of just under 20 in seven innings, while Banks gives the Panthers depth, as shown by his devastating century against Tallangatta a fortnight ago.
“They topped us up really well,” Tonkin said.
“We picked up another good opening bat and Banksy has exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“They have been successful in their footy and that’s really helped our culture as well.”
St Patrick’s captain Heath Naughton believes the Patties gained enormous self-belief from last weekend’s exciting win against Tallangatta.
“We looked at our semi-final against Tallangatta and thought this would be a really good test of if we are good enough to make a grand final,” he said.
“They are a fantastic team and unlucky not to be in the grand final.
“It’s a great opportunity and I think our older blokes are feeding off the younger guys like Matt Crawshaw and Braedon Hensel.”
LAVINGTON Panthers and St Patrick’s will go head-to-head in the Cricket Albury-Wodonga grand final this weekend. BRETT KOHLHAGEN talks to one of the Panthers players who remembers the glory of winning the flag 10 years ago.