• A Grade, Division 1
STORMFORCE winds that uprooted trees, brought down powerlines and wreaked havoc with the Human Powered Vehicle race preparations at Wonthaggi on Friday night also threatened to severely disrupt the A Grade Division One Grand Final.
The covers at the Butch West Oval had lifted under the pressure and a large damp patch, just outside the line of the off-stump, was of serious concern.
But the curators Aldo Sartori and Butch West were on the job early on Saturday morning and thanks to their prompt efforts and the use of an industrial heater, the match was delayed by only an hour.
And, placing more store in the ‘runs on the board’ theory in a final, than any risk the wet patch might pose, Wonthaggi Club Captain Tim Hooper had no hesitation at all in batting when he won the toss.
The team made a modest opening in occasionally drizzling, then wet conditions, and Nerrena was making an excellent fist of it in the field, at one stage late in the day on Saturday, having Club on the ropes at 7/140; captain Chris Savage even saying at the presentations later that he felt Nerrena was well on top at that stage.
“But in the last hour, ‘Bundy’ and co took the advantage away from us.”
He was talking about Ryan Thomas, who together with fellow bowler, James Sheerin, put on a crucial 73 runs for the 8th wicket to give Club the upperhand going into that last day.
Thomas had offered up a tough chance when he was on 15 but the shot burst through the fieldsman’s hands and that was that.
The brief loss of time saw Club get one more over on Sunday with Thomas adding three to his overnight score to finish on 75 not out.
Both Sheerin and Thomas were to play key roles in the field as well.
Ryan Thomas ripped the heart out of the Nerrena top order, with his brother Mitch chipping in with the key wicket of Damien Symmons.
But it was the suicide run-out of Tim Wightman, the second man to go with the score then at 2/8, which was probably the most costly.
It was a crazy call, there was never two in it, and a good throw in by Sheerin to Gavin Brit meant there was to be no reprieve.
Mitch Clark came in at number four and batted the most convincingly of all the Red Caps’ players, even cracking a six at one stage but regular wickets ensured that Club kept the initiative.
At one stage late in the day on Sunday, Renish Joy and Paul Matheson occupied the crease for a long time, chipping away at the lead but captain Tim Hooper brought his main man Ryan Thomas back on to dry the runs up at one end and when Nerrena tried to score runs off Sheerin, he struck, taking the last three wickets to fall, including the final blow, Paul Matheson out caught and bowled for 18.
At the presentations afterwards, Tim Hooper praised Nerrena for their efforts over the past few years, saying they should be proud of themselves for making two grand finals in a row.
“A win is just around the corner for you blokes,” he said.
“To my lads, you’ve been fantastic over the past few weeks. We were on the ropes at Christmas after OMK beat us by a thousand runs and we had to win our last three games just to make the final, winning two and drawing one but it got us ready for finals cricket.”
LDCA President Russ Matthews caused some mirth when he noted that the local newspaper had suggested Club might be on the way down after decades on the top.
“But to get four out of four teams into a grand final is a fantastic effort,” he said.
Association Hall of Fame Legend and Club/Workers’ veteran Gavin Bolding agreed.
“We’re now the only team never to be relegated since the system of relegation started and Imps went down this year.”
To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of Club’s demise have been greatly exaggerated and while Tim Hooper announced his retirement after 30 years in the game and 10 premierships, there’s plenty of talented young Club talent coming along.