Penrith look to end 36-year first grade title drought against Uni

Remarkably, the two sides have come up against each other four times already this season across different formats and while there is a deep rivalry between the two clubs from different sides of town, mutual respect is felt between the squads.

«We’re ready to give it a real crack,» said Penrith captain and fast bowler Ryan Smith. «Whenever we come up against the Students we know we’re in for a pretty tough game. Sydney Uni has always been the pinnacle side of the competition.»

Penrith have not been in a Belvidere Cup final since 2002-03 season and last lifted the trophy in 1983 when now England coach Trevor Bayliss was playing.

Smith believes Uni spinner Devlin Malone and opening bowler Joe Kershaw pose the biggest threats with the ball, while Hayden Kerr and captain Liam Robertson are viewed as the biggest scalps in the top order.

Malone has snared 63 first grade wickets this season to once again send a reminder to NSW selectors that he is the real deal.

«It’s hard to get on top of Devlin because he does have a really good wrong’un and it’s hard to pick,» Smith said. «He’s always had success against us.»

Robertson, who has played a staggering 52 finals games for University across all grades, said Malone had been a revelation this season but argued that consistent performances across the board had contributed to the side’s success.

Leg-spinner Devlin Malone has taken 63 wickets in first grade this season.

Leg-spinner Devlin Malone has taken 63 wickets in first grade this season. Credit:Ian Bird

«Dev obviously has had a standout year with the ball which has helped us but otherwise apart from him we’ve been able to have someone put their hand up at some stages and win us games,» Robertson said. «Maybe 10 of us haven’t had standout seasons but someone has won us games.»

The match will have a little extra meaning for Students wicketkeeper Tim Cummins, who comes up against his former club.

«He’ll be a little bit more nervous than anyone else,» Smith said. «He’s got a little bit more pride at stake. He’s a great guy and he doesn’t want to lose to his old team in the big dance. Whatever the result, I’m sure we’ll have a beer with him after the game.»

Tim Cummins will line-up against his former Penrith teammates.

Tim Cummins will line-up against his former Penrith teammates. Credit:Ian Bird

If University can knock over the likes of Ryan Gibson and Ryan Hackney early, the Cats could struggle to stay in the contest.

Getting Friday off work wasn’t the easiest task for a number of players but most have managed to cut a deal with their bosses.

There is an eclectic mix of occupations across the teams. Smith is an electrician, while Penrith teammates Luke Hodges and Brent Williams are groundsmen.

There are students in both changerooms but University have the lead singer of a band in Dugald Holloway, a couple of finance workers, a school teacher, and a physio in opening batsman Ben Trevor-Jones.

It could be a memorable weekend for Sydney University, who after comfortably winning the club championship, have their first, second and third grade teams in grand finals.

Sydney University: Liam Robertson (c), Dugald Holloway, Tim Cummins, Ryan McElduff, Damien Mortimer, Ben Trevor-Jones, Nicholas Walker, Timothy Ley, Devlin Malone, Hayden Kerr, Joe Kershaw.

Penrith: Ryan Smith (c), Brent Williams, Ryan Gibson, Luke Hodges, Ryan Fletcher, Tyran Liddiard, Ryan Hackney, Trent Weir, Brent Atherton, Cameron Weir, Henry Railz.

Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald

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