The biggest finals bolter in years will adopt a ‘nothing to lose’ approach in the weekend’s away semi-final against the competition favourites.
New City hasn’t played finals in 31 years, while Lavington has now made the past nine campaigns.
“There’s plenty of experience to gain, no matter what happens it’s been a win for us up to date,” coach Nick McDonald said.
New City had a two-13 win-loss record last season to finish second last.
East Albury also had just the two wins the previous year, but then played finals.
The Crows, however, had played in the 2014-15 grand final against Tallangatta, so success wasn’t foreign to them.
The introduction of English first-class players Saif Zaib and Sam Grant has been the major reason for the sudden jump, but top order batsman and off-spinner Zaib won’t play as he’s back home for the upcoming county season.
Paceman Grant has been impressive, claiming 10 wickets in the two-dayers.
The Phoenix boasts some of the association’s finest young talent, including Liam Fitzsimmons and Callum Langlands, but none of the young guns have passed 200 runs.
“It’s a long season for those blokes, a lot of them train for footy on the nights where they’re not training for cricket, so a bit of fatigue kicks in,” McDonald said.
“We’ll take a squad of 15 into the game and we still want those not playing at the ground and in the changerooms to soak it all up, it’s a huge learning curve.”
New City is the only team left not to win a two-dayer, after racing to eight wins in the T20 and one-dayers.
“We pushed Tallangatta to the edge and if you isolate the game against Wodonga, apart from that play on late Saturday, we made 9-220 that second Saturday,” McDonald said.
“We didn’t really see what Lavington is capable of and they didn’t see what we’re capable of.”
Some felt the Panthers batted slowly in the final round game, electing not to chase New City’s 129 for victory, instead grafting to make 4-97 from 38 overs.
Whatever the case, McDonald maintains the minor premiers will lift their intensity.
“Yeah, I think they will,” McDonald said.
“But sometimes the weight of expectation can turn cricket into a funny game.”
Lavington will start the hottest favourite to end New City’s dream season, with great interest in former New Zealand Test paceman Daryl Tuffey’s performance.
Tuffey, who counts Indian superstar Sachin Tendulkar among his victims, has been solid, snaring 19 wickets at 13.6.
But he’s taken 11 scalps in the two-dayers, including two hauls of four, so the signs are worrying for opposition batsmen.