“CRICKET FINALS PRODUCE HEROICS……..”

Local cricket fans will be licking their lips at the Norm Minns Oval this Saturday, when the Hawks and Pies meet in the ‘Battle of the Laneway’, to decide the WDCA A-Grade Premiership.

It’s the first meeting of two Wangaratta-based teams in the ‘big one’ for 11 years……..and the first between entities of the two Clubs since Wangaratta/Magpies and Rovers/United tangled in a famous encounter 20 years ago………..

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Yesterday’s Semi-Finals were typical, pressure-packed affairs.

Delatite, who won the toss and batted, got off to a horror start…….They lost both openers, Earl Ree-Goodings and Nick Scales without a run on the board. It was up to Mitch Copey to perform a rescue act in the face of some pin-point bowling.

His patient, undefeated 51 off 109 deliveries – with some assistance from experienced Chris ‘Fatty’ Anderson and Matt ‘Bull’ Stevenson – enabled them to crawl to 5/97 off their 40 overs.

It was hardly enough against a Wangaratta-Magpies side containing the competition’s ‘Recruit of the Year’, Pranav Menon. The former Prahran star’s 638 runs for the season have included only a couple of failures.

The Indian-born right-hander again lit up proceedings. He had cultivated a sprightly 41 when the Pies reached their target, off 27 overs, for the loss of just two wickets………..

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Meanwhile, high drama was unfolding over the road, at the Findlay Oval, as Rovers-United-Bruck elected to bat.

The Hawks had certainly done their prospects no harm the previous week, when they snaffled handy extra bonus points, to clamber over the top of Yarra-Mulwala, into second spot, and earn the right to host the Semi.

The Lakers were certainly up and about, with consistent left-arm paceman Angus McMillan and young Rory Bartlett proving a handful for the openers. The first significant blow was struck when bulky ‘Gus’ enticed Bailey Dale to nick a superb delivery through to ‘keeper Reid Clarke.

Surprisingly, Jacob Beattie was promoted in the batting order and several daring shots by the tall, free-wheeling all-rounder kept the run-rate ticking over. He’d scored 16 when Bartlett ripped through his defences.

And that was probably the tale of the Rovers-United innings…………Handy partnerships continued to evolve, without any batsman taking complete charge. Paddy McNamara’s score-card showed a ‘picket-fence’ of 13 singles, but at least he was enterprising enough to keep turning the strike over.

The highest score of the day ( and easily the most impressive knock ) came from the blade of Alex Grant, the Kenyan recruit, whose tidy 20 included 2 fours ( the only boundaries for the game).

A more than handy last-wicket stand of 21 by youngsters Darcy Wilson and Brady Bartlett took the Hawk total to a challenging 9/123. Considering that the track was ‘doing a bit’, you felt that there was still plenty to play out in this encounter……..

What followed probably caused the Lakers’ highly-vaunted batting line-up to endure a sleepless Saturday night……..

The new ‘cherry’ was handed to the usual second-string paceman Brady Bartlett, who produced handy pace and life in his opening spell.

Surprisingly, spinner Jeremy Wilson operated from the other end. Considering that the Yarra/Mul openers had quilted the pacemen in their previous meeting, it proved an inspired move, as they approached him with uncertainty.

Bartlett had Ben Irvine fending at one in his second over, to be smartly snapped by ‘keeper McCarthy……..then the normally cavalier Josh Lawrence prodded at one from Wilson and was on his way…….2/5.

The situation only deteriorated from there……..Matt Knight was snapped up off Jacob Schonafinger ( who had immediately hit the spot with his medium-pace ), Matt Casey never looked comfortable in his 18-ball stay, and was a Paddy McNamara victim…….

The very next ball, Ben Radford nicked a McNamara flier to be caught behind.

At 5/9 the competition’s most outstanding upper order was in disarray. There was some resistance from Reid Clarke and leftie Fraser Smart, but by now the run-rate was also careering out of control.

Schonafinger nabbed his fourth victim – Brock McCabe – to close off the Yarrawonga-Mulwala innings for 56, and finish with the figures of 4/13 off 7.4 overs.

The other Rovers-United bowling figures would impress the most critical of bowling judges: Bartlett ( 4 overs 1/5), Jeremy Wilson (6 overs 1/3 ), McNamara ( 6 overs 2/13 ), Jon Hyde (8 overs 1/16), Darcy Wilson ( 3 overs 0/6 ).

It was a superb bowling performance from the Hawks – and plenty of credit should go to ‘Paddy Mac’, their 19 year-old skipper, who executed the team plan to perfection……………

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But for a moment, let’s tread down memory lane, to that Grand Final classic of 2001/02……..

If you happen to be strolling around Norm Minns Oval this Saturday, you might come across a bloke, pensively sitting in a quiet corner, possibly with fag in hand, closely following the game.

He’ll be silently barracking for Rovers-United-Bruck ( even though you wouldn’t know it ) and may be inclined to cast a thought back to one of the greatest moments of his sporting life.

Anthony Lawler ( ‘Ant’ to his mates )……was the unlikely hero of a classic premiership victory………

Originally he was the Hawks’ 12th man…….His form as a solid opening batsman had fluctuated during the season, which was the reason for his demotion……But when his side lost the toss and had to bowl he was included, because star left-hander Peter Tossol had footy coaching commitments at Corowa-Rutherglen………

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The Wangaratta/Magpies innings was held together by champion all-rounder Duane Kerwin, who remained steadfast when wickets were tumbling around him.

The Pies, in the face of some hostile pace bowling from Adam Booth, Peter Harvey and Trevor Anderson, fell to be 5/59 on the opening day. It was up to Kerwin to nurse his batting partners from then on….

At 7/94 they were still in deep strife; they recovered to 8/139, and finally limped to a respectable total of 151; predominantly because of the magnificent unbeaten 73 from Kerwin…….

With half an hour’s play before stumps on the opening day, a lively spell from quickie Tim Sheldon gave the Pies the upper hand…….The Hawks were 2/18 when play was halted……Importantly, Lawler was looking composed and solid, unbeaten on 11.

Aware of his knack of ‘having a few quiet ones’ to wind down after a day’s play, Tossol and his wife Bronnie invited the nonchalant opener to dine with them that evening, thus eliminating the possibility of being led astray.

When play resumed the following morning, Lawler showed admirable restraint, in the face of a Wang-Magpies attack which quickly gained the upper hand.

With the Hawks limping to 6/67, they appeared near-certainties to lose……..Left-hander Steve Croxford then combined with the redoubtable Lawler to undergo the rescue mission.

They added 68 before Sheldon, bowling as if his life depended on it, claimed Croxford for 34……A couple of balls later, Sheldon struck again, trapping Trev Anderson in front for a duck…..

Seventeen runs were required; two wickets in hand. Five runs later the monumental Lawler stay concluded, on 61, when Sheldon claimed his sixth victim.

There were still 12 runs required, and it was up to last-wicket pair Adam Booth and Peter Harvey to get Rovers-United over the line.

Lawler, after his heroics, couldn’t bear to watch…….He took the pads off and headed off for a long walk and a quiet ‘gasper’, as the runs, one by one, began to be whittled away.

Finally, as Harvey snicked the winning runs, players from both teams literally slumped with exhaustion…….and jumped with elation…….

Are we in for a repeat clash this week-end ?……….

‘AND NOW, THE TIME HAS COME…..’

It’s the pinnacle of the season tomorrow; the culmination of a year’s hard work………

The WDCA Grand Final has provided a catalogue of upsets, controversies, brilliant performances, dramatic collapses and – dare I say it – rain interruptions.

My memories hark back to the fifties, when Dad and his brothers left you in no doubt they were playing for ‘sheep stations’, as they prepared for the ‘Big One’….. But for decades before that, tempers flared and emotions boiled when rivals fought for the flag.

Here is a selection of  games that fostered a tradition which has spanned 123 years…….

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1896/97 : Wangaratta v Exelsior.

“……At 9/68 on the first day, these were anything but cheering figures that greeted the Wangaratta skipper, as he strode out to join McCallum, in one of the most eventful partnerships ever seen on the Wangaratta ground.

He had a ‘grim smile’ and one of the onlookers remarked…..”what if the last two were to make a century ?”

The batsmen played with verve and judgement. Clarke was content to play a steady game, but Mac hit ‘bloomin hard’ and ‘ bloomin often’.

Hickey came on and clean-bowled McCallum and the innings closed for 137.

Exelsior’s reply began well the following week, but soon they slumped. Their hopes were revived by Joe Bath, as they edged ever closer to the Wangaratta total.

But Joe had the unpleasant experience of having his wicket put down by the Wang keeper.

He played a splendid and plucky innings – never giving a chance. He was very knocked about, but had the consolation of knowing that he received his wounds and spilt his blood in a most stubborn fight.

The ray of light that had started to glow in the breast of Wangaratta now burst into the sunshine of splendid victory as Jimmy Tough, the last man in, knocked the ball into Len Docker’s hands.IMG_4021

While the ball was in the air, even the boldest held their breath, but when its career was stopped, the Wang supporters manifested their delight in no uncertain terms……”

Wangaratta 137 defeated Exelsior 130…..

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1928/29 : Wangaratta v East Wangaratta.

“Scarcely in the history of the WDCA have there been two stauncher rivals than the Grand Final combatants, who met at Oxley.

Wangaratta managed 136, with their premier batsman Alec Fraser registering 36, to be the main obstacle to the much-vaunted East Wang pace attack.

East gained a slender advantage by posting 158. Clem Fisher was his usual obstinate self in an innings of control, but it was the slow bowler Tom Nolan, with 8/48, who took the honours for Wangaratta.

Wang could manage only 99 in their second innings, after Harry Fisher had taken 6/5. So East needed 79 to take out the premiership.IMG_4022

They still needed 9 runs when last pair Cliff Pratt and Bill McCormick were at the crease.

Easts supporters urged them along all the way, as they inched their way to a famous win…..”

East Wangaratta 158 and 9/79 defeated Wangaratta 136 and 99.

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1933/34: Footballers v. Wangaratta.

“It was a most riveting game, dominated by the slow bowlers.

Wangaratta’s score of 87 saw them take a 1-run advantage over Footballers, who wouldn’t have reached their total of 86, but for a fine contribution from Arch Wilkinson.

Wilkinson’s 7/44 wrecked Wangaratta’s second innings, but they reached 97.

Footballers, having given themselves a definite chance of taking the honours, were then bundled out for 65.

Don Young did the damage. He bowled remarkably well, flighting and turning the ball in a manner that made him nigh unplayable. Young finished with 6/29…..”

Wangaratta 87 and 97 defeated Footballers 86 and 65.

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1935/36: Footballers v. Eldorado.

“This was one of the most memorable of all Grand Finals, principally for the numerous batting records which were created along the way.

On the first day, Arch Wilkinson and Bernie Izard put on 245 for the first wicket. Resuming on Day 2, Charlie Heavey and Frank Archman carried on the awesome performance, and added 287 for the third wicket.IMG_0828

The score at the end of the day was 8/634.

The first four batsmen scored centuries or over: Izard 100, Wilkinson 154, Heavey 187 and Archman 112.

Eldorado were to be congratulated for the wonderful way they stuck to their task.

Footballers declared after two days batting and Eldorado set out on their Herculean task. Several batsmen got a start, but the lower order failed badly and they were all out for 126.

In their second innings, Eldorado had compiled 5/196 when play was mercifully concluded……”

Footballers 8/634 defeated Eldorado 126 and 5/196.

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1957/58: Magpies v Bruck.

“The week preceding the Grand Final was chock-full of drama.

Magpies, in their third year in the competition, had staged a withering run after the Christmas break,  sneaking into the four at the death-knock, at the expense of unlucky Moyhu Gold.

They defeated Rovers Brown in a fiery semi-final clash, which saw three of their players – Jack McDonald, Peter Larkins and captain John Holloway – reported by umpire Bill Daly, for disputing an LBW decision against Graham Kerr.

All of them escaped with a reprimand, and were able to take their place in the Grand Final.

Bruck, led by Mac Holten, were the favourites going into the game, and they battled hard to contain Magpies to a score of 170. Jack Isles, with a handy 32, was the main thorn in Bruck’s side.

Bruck were always in contention, but were unable to gain the upper hand against some superb bowling from Jack McDonald, who finished with 8/67.

Bruck, at stages appeared to be on the verge of victory, but fell agonisingly short, by six runs……”

Magpies 170 defeated Bruck 164.

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1959/60: Rovers v Bruck

“Chasing their second successive flag, Rovers pacemen Jim Horne and Jim Chapman cut a swathe through the Bruck batting line-up to dismiss them for a paltry 90.

The swing of Horne (4/36) and the fire of Chapman (3/30) had given the Hawks the ascendency, but Bruck hit back well to have Rovers 5/14 at one stage, then 6/64 at stumps on the first day.

Jack Beeby (7/45) was the wrecker, as Rovers limped to a four-run lead, thanks to a lone hand of 50 from Len Hill.

Bruck were sailing along well, at 5/106 in the second ‘dig’, but collapsed dramatically to be all out for 115.

Chapman, Len Hill and Bob Rose shared the spoils for the Hawks.

Rovers had some anxious moments in pursuit of 113, and slumped to 5/74.

On a wicket which was affected by overnight rain, the feature of the day was the batting display of Fred Booth, who was 31* when Rovers claimed victory. It was only in the last hour that the Hawks put the match beyond doubt………”img_4025.jpg

Rovers 94 and 6/114 defeated Bruck 90 and 115.

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1986/87: City Colts v Corowa.

“Corowa made history by reaching their first WDCA Final.

And although they were given a hammering by City Colts, local fans were soon to become used to the Border team winning their way through to the Grand Final.

Corowa could only muster 141, as Maurie Braden and Mick Lappin did the damage. Colts, who were also relative newcomers to the finals stage, gave themselves a fair chance. But this was one game where their batting line-up rose to the occasion.

Led by teen-ager Scott Clayton (146*), they amassed a huge 414, with Maurie Braden (97), Russell Harris (76) and John Hill (32) joining the action.

Rod Lane, who was to join Carlton the following season, toiled manfully to finish with 6/100……..”IMG_4026

City Colts 414 defeated Corowa 141.

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2001/02: Wangaratta-Magpies v Rovers-United.

“One of the great WDCA Grand Finals went right down to the wire, in a low-scoring encounter.

Magpie star Duane Kerwin held his side’s innings together with a fine undefeated 73, to guide them to a respectable total of 151 after they had slumped to 5/55. Hawk speedmen Adam Booth, Peter Harvey and Trevor Anderson shared the bowling honours with three wickets apiece.

Rovers-United, 2/18 overnight, had slumped to 4/24 the next morning. Dogged right-hand opener Anthony Lawler then stepped up and proved the unlikely hero for the Hawks.

Recalled to the side after the unavailability of Peter Tossol, Lawler’s 61 was an innings of patience and defiance.

Even so, the Hawks still needed 12 runs for victory when the last pair, Peter Harvey and Adam Booth came together.IMG_4027

It was Harvey who hit the winning runs to take Rovers-United to a dramatic victory, despite the lion-hearted effort of ‘Pies quickie Tim Sheldon, who finished with 6/34……..”

Rovers-United 9/153 defeated Wangaratta-Magpies 151.

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2011/12: City Colts v Yarrawonga-Mulwala.

“City Colts suffered Grand Final pain for the 4th consecutive year, after losing a nail-biting clash with Yarrawonga-Mulwala.

The Lakers caused one of the upsets of the season, at the most appropriate time, with a Marcus Hargreaves spell on the opening day proving the catalyst to their four-wicket win.

Hargreaves took 5/47 in a 24-over spell, to help restrict Colts to 177 off 75 overs. Colts flew away to a good start, with openers Jeremy Carr and Nick Norris crafting a 40-run stand. It was left to veterans Scott Clayton and Justin Solimo to steady the ship, but the going was slow.

Luckily, the tail wagged, to push the score to 177.

In reply, the Lakers also found difficulty in breaking the shackles, but Daniel Athanitis (33), Lee Fraser (34) and Dwayne Duxson kept them within reach of a competitive total.

But they still needed 33 off 8 overs when Fraser was dismissed, and youngster Paddy Martin strode to the crease.IMG_4029

Whereas the batting over the two days had been circumspect, Martin cleared the field with some excellent hitting. Nineteen balls later, the game was over. Martin’s quickfire 26 and Duxson’s dogged, unbeaten 39 had taken the Lakers to their first WDCA flag……”

Yarrawonga-Mulwala 6/179 defeated City Colts 177

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2018/19: City Colts v Yarrawonga-Magpies.

“Who will write the next chapter in the WDCA Grand Final story……?”

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