Illawarra sporting rivalries don't come much fiercer than that shared by the Berkeley Eagles and Dapto Chiefs
The stalwart clubs in Illawarra Baseball have gone at it for half a century, with the Chiefs currently in their 70th season and the Eagles celebrating a half-century of existence this year.
It's why Saturday's Mitchell-Fleming Cup showdown is expected to be fiery encounter, though one underscored by a perennially mutual respect between two of the country' oldest clubs.
"The Mitchells are a very prominent Dapto Chiefs family and the Fleming family is a big part of Berkeley," Dapto's Jye Pitt said.
"Both families are multi-generational with their respective clubs. It's a longstanding relationship between both clubs, there are many life members of both clubs among them.
"Because it's the Dapto Chiefs 70th year this year and Berkeley Eagles' 50th year, we're putting him on a big show. We're playing for the Cup, best on best that we can muster.
"We've got some [IUS] college guys that've actually pushed back their flights to stay for that game. It's obviously a bigger one because of both our milestone years as clubs.
"Berkeley have been really dominant over the last sort of five or six years, but we still have a really good rivalry. It's one v two as well, so it should be a really good game."
While Chad Blanch's Berkeley outfit has been all-conquering over the past five years, with five titles to show for it, he feels the Chiefs rivalry has brought out the best of what's now a veteran squad in recent years.
"We are probably the two premier sides in the competition at the moment so it's a pretty fitting occasion," Blanch said.
"They've got a really young side so they're coming into their own at the moment. They're all 18,19, 20 with a couple of the older guys in there, while we're still a pretty formidable force in regards to where we are in our careers.
"I daresay we will be handing the torch to them when we all move on, but for the next few years this'll be a very good rivalry to watch. You could call it a fierce rivalry on the field in regards to the talent and the competitiveness of the game.
"In regards to what myself and Jye are trying to achieve, how we approach the competition and how we like to play our baseball, you probably couldn't find two sides to get on any better off the field.
"On Saturday we'll be fighting for that Fleming-Mitchell Cup and then I dare say in four or five weeks both sides will going at it again for the major premiership."
The Eagles have had unshakeable hold on the Baseball Illawarra title over the past five years, with Blanch confident his side's peaking at the right time in pursuit of number six.
"We started the season pretty slow and we do every year, we're never fast starters," Blanch said.
"We're an older sort of side so it takes a little while to get the bodies warmed up, but we're definitely where we want to be at this stage of the year.
"We've beaten up a few teams the last six weeks and, with three weeks to go, we're looking pretty good to go for that six in a row."
All Illawarra juniors, members and supporters are invited to attend the Mitchell-Fleming Cup and preceding family fun day at Hector Harvey Park on Saturday.
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