Border Bullets' co-coach Trent Ball is out to 'maintain the rage' next season in the Regional Bash cricket competition.
Cricket Albury-Wodonga's representative team is coming off its most successful campaign in the T20 Regional Bash since taking out the first statewide competition six years ago.
Prior to this season, the Bullets had won just three of their past 10 games, against Southern Riverina Vipers (2016-17) and Murrumbidgee Rangers (2018-19) and (2019-2020).
The Bullets started with a seven-wicket win over the Rangers on December 5 and followed it with a drought-breaking win over Wagga Sloggers by nine wickets on Sunday morning.
It set up the battle of the pool's top two sides for a spot in the finals at the Sydney Cricket Ground, but after restricting ACT Aces to 7-127, the visitors' class with the ball proved pivotal as the Bullets fell for 93.
"There's no shame in losing to the ACT," Ball admitted.
"The shot selection under pressure against the top teams is massive, we just gave up too many wickets hitting to the outfielders."
The Aces have made the last three grand finals, toppling Lake Mac Attack (Newcastle) last season.
It will always be a monumental task for the Bullets to topple the Aces, given the ACT's population of around 430,000, while Albury-Wodonga is about 90,000.
"Credit has to be given to Trent Ball and Liam Scammell with what they've done with the Bullets," CAW chairperson Michael Erdeljac offered.
Credit has to be given to Trent Ball and Liam Scammell with what they've done with the Bullets. The ACT has facilities at Manuka and Phillip, which are run by Cricket NSW, and they have nine full-time staff, so for us to get as close as we did was fantastic.- CAW chair Michael Erdeljac on the Border Bullets
"The ACT has facilities at Manuka and Phillip, which are run by Cricket NSW, and they have nine full-time staff, so for us to get as close as we did was fantastic."
However, Ball is determined to retain the association's momentum into next season.
"We want to keep the main group together as much as we can, leading into the year we'll try and do a mini pre-season," he revealed.
"I'll look to keep the same process as what is applied to Riverina (Ball is also the zone coach), where we've kept the main nine or 10 guys the last few years and that helps you build up into a team."
Riverina made only its second NSW Country Championship grand final last summer, falling to another powerhouse in Newcastle by 67 runs.
The zone will look to take that extra step when the tournament returns to Nowra in February and Ball has called on CAW's best players to chase selection in an effort to improve against the higher standard.
"It's as strong a competition as you're going to play and then there's NSW Country after that," he suggested.
Meanwhile, CAW hasn't totally finished with T20s this season with the top four teams after the scheduled 11 rounds - North Albury, Albury, Wodonga and Corowa - to play finals next month.
This season features 11 T20s and 11 50-over games under the one competition.
"The T20s were due to COVID, we started the competition two weeks late and then we had no grounds in Victoria until November 13, so everything had to be played in Albury and that was the only way we could get everyone playing at the same time," Erdeljac explained.
"Also with Christmas falling on a Saturday, we actually lose two Saturdays in December and January, normally we get four Saturdays in December, but this year we only have three."
IN OTHER NEWS:
The dates and venues for that T20 finals series are yet to be confirmed, while CAW will also host a District v Hume rep clash next month.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.