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Best of mates become rivals in Belvidere Cup decider
Date of Event NSW Premier Cricket: Thu Apr 1, 2021 5:48PM
Nic Bills (Sydney) & Jay Lenton (Manly-Warringah) with the Belvidere Cup // Photo - Ian Bird.

Adam Lucius

Work colleagues and close friends Jay Lenton and Nic Bills are almost inseparable.

The pair go way back, debuting together in North Sydney's second grade side 12 years ago and winning a competition with the Bears before combining again in Manly's premiership-winning 2014/15 side.

They work together in pathways and development at Cricket NSW, their wives and families socialise regularly and Lenton is godfather to Bills' daughter Tilly.

Yet, they will be sworn enemies over the Easter weekend as fast bowler Bills spearheads Sydney's attack against Lenton-led Manly-Warringah in the McDonald's Men's Premier Cricket grand final at Drummoyne Oval.

"We like a lot of the same things but we don't actually talk a lot of cricket at work," Bills said ahead of the three-day decider, starting Saturday.

"It'll probably be the same when he comes out to bat. I won’t say much to him but I'm sure a few of our guys will have plenty to say.

"We've got two very serious and talented cricket sides going at it this weekend.     

"With the 11 players we've got, if we can stay up and about across three days of cricket we are confident we will get on the right side of the result."

Asked about the reception he's expecting from Bills, Waratahs captain Lenton said with a laugh: "He will bump me as soon as I get out there.

"It will be all business when we're out in the middle. We are both very competitive.

"He wants to do well for his team and I want to do well for mine.

"He wants the win as much as I do but we will get together for a beer and chat at the end of it."

It's fair to say the Bills-Lenton friendship has been a rarity when it comes to Sydney v Manly clashes.

There's been plenty of niggle over the years and plenty said in the middle. 

"There have been some moments on the field but there's no spite once we're off it," Bills insisted.

"It will be a hard contest over the weekend but there will be nothing personal. Regardless of what happens, both teams will enjoy a beer together at the end of the game."

Lenton agrees, adding: "Both teams play tough cricket and that's nothing to apologise about.

"This will be such a good contest…you only have to look at the names on the paper across both sides to see that.

"For us to win it, it's about staying in the contest longer.

"We've got a lot of blokes in our dressing-room who have played four and five-day cricket and that experience will be invaluable."

This should be one of the great grand finals between two teams boasting a wealth of players with representative experience.

Manly feature former Test spinner Steve O'Keefe and state reps Lenton and Ollie Davies.

The Sydney line-up includes former Blues gloveman Dan Smith, Sydney Sixers spinner Ben Manenti and Bills, who has represented NSW at Sheffield Shield level.

The Tigers have dominated recent contests between the sides, winning six of the last seven games.

But the Waratahs hold a 19-15 win record over Sydney at Drummoyne Oval.

Manly last won the Belvidere Cup six years ago while Sydney has yet to win it after forming in 2007 off the back of a merger between Balmain and the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust.

Play gets underway at 10.30am Saturday.

The Finals of all five Grades will be live streamed via the NSW Premier Cricket Match Centre, also with live scorecards.


Last updated: Thursday April 1, 2021 5:59PM