Skipper determined to bow out a winner

FAITH: Waratah-Mayfield captain Luke Blackaby believes his team can win their final two matches. Picture: Peter StoopWARATAH-Mayfield captain-coach Luke Blackaby is desperate to avoid the Newcastle district cricket wooden spoon in what shapes as his final season with the club.

After last week’s loss to Wallsend, Waratah slipped to the bottom rung on the ladder, a scenario that seemed highly unlikely before Christmas when they racked up wins against Newcastle City, Charlestown and Stockton and were within striking distance of the top four.

Barring unexpected developments in the final two rounds, the two-day semi-finalists appear to be settled.

Merewether (86 points) will be runaway minor premiers, Wallsend (63) are favourites to run second, then Hamilton-Wickham (58) and Charlestown (54) will battle it out for the minor placings.

Fifth-placed City (44) will need an outright win and bonus points – in other words a minor miracle – to have any chance of ousting Charlestown.

But at the other end of the table, a battle royal is looming to dodge the embarrassment of finishing in the cellar.

Waratah (26) trail Stockton by a point, and both Wests (34) and Cardiff-Boolaroo (35) are also entitled to be nervous.

Blackaby, the English import who has contributed 480 runs and 21 wickets to Waratah’s cause this season, admitted his troops were down on confidence after a winless run dating back to December 7.

But he described their final two fixtures, against Wests at Harker Oval and Cardiff at Cardiff, as ‘‘winnable’’ and a chance to end the season on a respectable note.

‘‘We’ve been in a bit of a slump, and when you start losing games, unfortunately it becomes a habit,’’ he said.

‘‘Earlier on in the year we had a couple of good wins and everyone’s confidence was up.

‘‘Since then we’ve lost a couple of close games, lost a few tosses and haven’t been getting the run of the green.

‘‘But we’ve got two games left we believe we can win, and that’s what we’ll be aiming to do. I know I don’t want to finish bottom, and neither do the team or the club.’’

Waratah’s only game against Wests this season was washed out, and they were beaten outright by Cardiff in round 12.

‘‘We just had a terrible day at the office … but we know they’re beatable,’’ Blackaby said of Cardiff.

Blackaby, who has played with Waratah for the past two seasons, said it was ‘‘very unlikely’’ he would return for a third campaign.

The 23-year-old said he had enjoyed his time Down Under but had been applying for jobs back in the United Kingdom.

‘‘It’s getting to the time where I need to start working and earning some money,’’ he said.

Blackaby, who toured India and Sri Lanka with the Great Britain Universities side during the last Australian winter, expects to continue playing with his Kent Premier League club, Sevenoaks Vine.

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