The Fab Fourteen – finals glory for Sharks’ 5ths

One more wicket to get for us to win the Grannie.  Two runs for them to win.  And still plenty of overs left in the tank.  Their nervous Number 11 is on strike facing the Sultan of Swing.  A ring field surrounds him to keep him on strike – for us to take our chance in the last four balls of the over, and more importantly to keep their Number 7, who’s smashing everything, off strike. It’s more tense than the Rosebud foreshore in the heat of summer.  How on earth did we get to this moment?!?!

 

Sport throws up some great moments in life, whether it’s at the elite level or down at the local park. For the boys at Washington Park 5th XI, this year saw some unforgettable moments.  After a double act of “tons of fun” earlier in the season by the Sharks’ 5ths (http://www.footyalmanac.com.au/lightning-strikes-twice-tons-of-fun-at-washington-park/), the lads set the bar high for the remainder of the SECA H Grade season.

The squad of 14, the Fab Fourteen, comprised of a diverse group of age and origin made up of four “groups” that built a great bond and team spirit, and more importantly, provided a pathway for the development of some talented youngsters, and redevelopment for some old timers as well.

Led by experienced skipper, the Sultan of Swing, he was ably supported by club stalwarts (read “old, but still hangin in there”) Nudie Senior, Stinga and Twiggy.  Next we had the “Junior Dads” comprising of Fat Cat, Frenchy, Painey and the Galloping Greek Gasometer all playing again after long spells in temporary retirement.  Throw in a couple of young (relatively speaking) sub-continent imports, Suds and Shabby, passionately playing only their third season of real cricket.  And last but not least, the U14 kids of Tim, Nick, Nudie Junior and Sardine.

With the celebrated mid-season feats of Nudie Snr, Fat Cat, Stinga & Suds’ back-to-back dual tons, our batting continued to deliver the goods through the season.  Coupled with a consistent bowling attack, the Sharks’ 5ths finished the home & away season in 3rd spot.  Strong wins against 4th placed Hampton and 1st placed Mackie in the Elimination and Preliminary finals saw the Sharks face off against Aspendale in the grannie.

Grand Final Saturday and it was Groundhog Day. As predictable as running into Ned Ryerson around the corner, we won the toss, batted first and opened up strongly. Just like previous weeks, Nudie Snr and Fat Cat had done it again. A solid start against a strong and lively opening attack, that had performed greater deeds in higher grades in recent seasons.  We went to tea at 0-95 off 36 overs.  Shortly after tea both openers lost their wickets pushing the run rate, falling just short of deserving half centuries.  It bought Stinga to the crease who combined with Painey, Suds and young Tim for some important partnerships to post a competitive score of 4/171 off our 55 overs.

Thirteen year old Tim is one of the many great stories from this season.  The youngest of a great local sporting family, he graduated from Timmy to Tim in our Preliminary Final win, when at a precarious 5/100 he came in and made 36 not out in an innings that belied his age and helped us post a match-winning score of 168.  In this grand final innings, he strode to the crease in the second last over with a look of determination like a seasoned veteran.  His urgency at the crease and running through the wickets saw him make an invaluable run-a-ball 9 not out.  In the pressure of a finals series, the boy had become a young man.

After winning both finals with runs-on-the-board of 168 & 169 in prior weeks, we dared to dream.  Looking for inspiration, over a couple of post-match beers (senior players only, of course!), we found out some surprising premiership facts.  Painey was our Goldfinger, he was like the guy from the old HBA dental ad – “fwee for fwee”; he’d played in three grannies for three flags!!!  And at the shallow end of the premiership pool, there were ten members of our squad that had never won a senior cricket flag!  As Bobby from Dallas knows, dreams are one thing, but we knew the reality was going to be a tough Sunday against the hard hitting Aspendale line up. 

 We started our opening bowling spell with a bang. Fat Cat’s left arm swingers had Aspendale reeling at 3/23 off ten overs, with great support from Frenchy in their bowling partnership.  Number 5 was their leading batsman of the season and he was our key wicket as he combined with Number 4 to rebuild their innings.  We missed three tough chances in the next few overs around the drinks break, and then they started to make us pay and were getting on top and were 3/92 at the tea break.  Nudie Snr’s constant chatter and encouragement from behind the stumps, Shabby’s high fives & permanent smile at changeovers and The Galloping Greek Gasometer’s enthusiastic solo appeals from mid-wicket kept our spirits up through the tough second session.  Skipper Sultan called it correctly with his footy analogy of “scores being level at ¾ time”.

 The sangas and cordial did the trick for the Sharks, as we bolted out of the blocks after the tea break.  Painey’s tight slow-medium outswingers,  wilier than an ex-Richmond & WCE ruck-rover, finally broke through for 4/102. Then next over the Sultan combined with old-man Twiggy who took a brilliant catch to dismiss their hard-hitting Number 5 batsman for 48, and it’s 5/102. 

 Tight bowling from Painey and Sultan continued, triggering a run-out courtesy of young Sardine’s cool head and strong arm – you just can’t keep Little Fish outta the game!  A clean bowled for Painey, then another “Caught Twiggy, Bowled Sultan” had us on top at 8/131. 

Twiggy, who in his 60s and approaching 400 WPCC games, has had more farewells than John Farnham.  Most of us had thought that his best fielding days were behind him, which is often where the ball ended up when it was hit to him, but cometh the hour, cometh the wise old man.  Two classic overhead catches from big shots were inspirational and had put us back on top.

With 8 overs to go, 2 wickets in hand and 31 runs to get, their Number 10 played a full blooded hook shot that flew flat and hard to deep square leg.  Standing on the boundary awaiting the rocket in front of the hushed and expectant crowd was thirteen year old Nudie Jnr. He locked his radar on the incoming missile and took a great pressure catch.  The big crowd went nuts!  Another big moment for one of “the kids” and yes, Sammy became Sam with that magic moment.

 9/140, chasing 171. 

 Their Number 7 was still at the crease and had shown a great eye and clean hitting as the wickets were falling around him.  The batsmen crossed and Number 7 showed his intentions with more big hits and farming the strike from Number 11. Consecutive overs of 7 and 9 runs brought an improbable victory for them within sight. 

 Over 50 started with several dot balls until Number 7 unleashed a big hit out to cow corner.  As it sailed towards the boundary, our young lad at deep mid-wicket was walking in with the bowler and had to back pedal to get himself back in position.  The crowd held their breath. Catch it and the flag is ours, miss it and it’s still game on – no pressure,,,,, much!!.  As he reached up for the catch, he got both of his hands to it, but was unable to hold onto it.  And worse for us, like a soccer goalie the ball popped “over the crossbar” for a six.  This could have broken the hearts of most sides, but not the Sharks 5ths.  Nudie Snr showed his great leadership and team spirit by running (well, jogging anyway) from his spot behind the stumps out to deep mid-wicket to encourage and support our young fieldsman. 

 A single at the end of the over to pinch the strike meant they needed 7 runs to win and their Swashbuckling Number 7, who’s now 51 not out, is facing the Sultan of Swing and the Sharks are potentially facing Dire Straits.  First ball saw another lusty shot picking the gap for a boundary and it’s 3 runs to win.  Second ball, Number 7 takes a single.

 One more wicket to get for us to win the Grannie.  Two runs for them to win.  And still plenty of overs left in the tank.  Their nervous Number 11 is on strike facing the Sultan of Swing.  A ring field surrounds him to keep him on strike – for us to take our chance in the last four balls of the over, and more importantly to keep their Number 7, who’s smashing everything, off strike. It’s more tense than the Rosebud foreshore in the heat of summer.  How on earth did we get to this moment?!?!

 Sultan comes in and bowls at “the top of off”.  The battered Kookaburra thuds into the thigh of Number 11.  It ricochets into the vacant slip cordon and Number 7 calls a loud yes.  Time seems to stand still for a moment. 

Nudie Snr has the gloves behind the stumps and moves like a gazelle – a gazelle that’s been in a good paddock but a gazelle nonetheless! He picks up the ball in his right glove.  Takes a couple of steps towards the stumps.  Steadies.  Then let’s go with an underarm throw from a couple of metres away.

 It’s a direct hit! 

 It’s a direct hit and Number 7 is short of his ground by a couple of metres. 

 The man in blue at square leg raises his index finger and points to the heavens. 

 We’ve won the grannie.  We’ve won the grannie!!

 

For the “Fab Fourteen” and the Washington Park Cricket Club, this was one of those unforgettable grass roots sporting moments and a fitting reward for a great season of teamwork from a great group of blokes who all contributed to its success. GO SHARKS!

About Ramon Dobb

A footy and cricket fanatic. A lifelong passionate one eyed Mighty Magpie fanatic. My writing is unashamedly written with one black & white eye open only - so please don't take offence, it's nothing personal, it's just the black & white way! Also a lifelong player and member of Washington Park Cricket Club, the Mighty Sharks. My 15 minutes of fame includes regular contributions to Hot Pies, the 1999-2004 Fanzine, and regular contributor to the Coodabeen Champions weekly competition from their heady 3RRR days. Go Pies and Floreat Pica.

Comments

  1. The young man Twiggy says:

    Stinga,

    That’s a great story, with great emotion. I hope the young boys will continue to read it for years to come

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Great story Ramon love your emotion and excitement c’mon fab 14 you should all comment . Well done !

  3. Greg Paine says:

    Great article Stinga-as I knew it would be. The ‘Galloping Greek Gasometer’s’ appeals will live with me for the rest of my life! painey

  4. Greg 'Fat Cat' Ritchie says:

    Love your work Stinga. Summed up the day perfectly.
    Looking forward to trying for back to back next year with even more kids coming through!

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