Ripper Grand Final Yarns Part 1: Who has actually won this?

The stark background of pale grey filtered the windshield’s view as our Mazda pulled into Mernda Recreation Ground. The large rectangular based object stuck out awkwardly from the grand pavilion like a cylindrical sore thumb, as the history and culture of the club seemed to be lost as the brick and mortar complexion faded into the dull and almost robotic shipping containers. None of that mattered to me though; I had a grand final to win.

I got out of the car and anxiously walked behind the containers to find the nets, which were more like the traditional club rooms; shabby and ancient but with a hint of charm. I instantly see my teammates at the far side of the nets, all decked out in their Lower Eltham whites with a tiny picture of a navy blue and yellow kangaroo on the front of their tops. I know it may sound quite ghastly, but you’ll have to trust me on this one when I state that it works. It certainly looked more resplendent than the power point produced tops that Mernda had whipped up. The sea of red and blue cascading all over their shirts looked nice to some degree, until the sheer extent of the colour overwhelmed you. This was the start of my Under 14’s Teal (second) division Grand Final of the 2013/14, where my team in Lower Eltham took on Mernda.

We had finished second, coming up from the third grade after the grading games. We only lost twice throughout the season; one being our second grading game and the other being our home and away clash with Mernda at home.

After having them 2-0, one of their players made 50 and they posted a competitive 150, which we fell only a few runs short of. The loss had been shoved to the back of our minds though, as we had steamrolled fierce rivals Banyule in the semi-final the week before. It felt even better for me, as I had two classmates in the Banyule line up. I managed to get two stumpings wicketkeeping and make a tough 21 after losing my opening partner in the first over for a golden duck.

After already winning two Premierships as a group in the Under 12’s division, we were ready to add to that with a third flag. Both of our previous Premierships had been extremely close, with our first Grand Final victory seeing us go undefeated throughout the season, as we bowled them out for 108 and only just managed to scrape through at the death. The second Grand Final victory in 2011/12 was even sweeter though, as we were bowled out for a meagre 90 but managed to miraculously bowl them out for 79. But after this Grand Final, a whole new definition of close had been written, as nobody knew what was going to happen.

Before I begin the re-telling of the game, I’m going to give you a quick rundown on all of our players:
Zac M- Captain, great batsman. He wins the averages basically every year and is our best player. He bats first drop and bowls some decent pace.
Ky W- Coach’s son, opening batsman. He opens with me and bowls some beautiful leggies.
Jeremy H- Another great batsman. He bats second drop and bowls some decent offies.
Louis M- Brother of Zac, great all-rounder. Bats at number five and bowls beautiful out swingers.
Jack F- Slogger, but a great bowler. Opens the bowling for us with some lovely left arm in swing.
Kinnan A- Fast bowler and hits the ball hard. When on target, he is the fastest bowler in the team. Can also make a few runs too.
Ben W- New player we got that year. Can bat and bowl well, but is a bit tentative when batting. Can bowl lovely out swingers though.
Ethan G- Bowls tight mediums, can also bat well. He is young and pretty damn good.
Darcy C- Attempting to be the next Shane Warne. Can bowl beautiful leggies despite his tiny frame. Great member of the team.
Nick C- Won the bowling averages. Great slinging left armers that can pick up spades of wickets.
Doug L- Little Dougy is another great member of the team, as he is decent at batting and always gives us a great laugh.
Ali E- Bowls absolute pies but manages to take wickets. Lands it on the spot and gets batsmen to slog.
Sean M- I wicketkeep and open the batting. Can’t do much else though.

That’s the basic run down of our team in the 2013/14 season. Zac wins the toss and elects to bat, meaning that Ky and I are padded up and ready to go when the clock ticks 9:00am on the Saturday morning. After a quick pep talk from Justin the coach, we walk out past the disgusting containers, past the lovely pavilion and onto Mernda Recreation Reserve, where Lower Eltham is looking to win a Grand Final.

We wait out in the middle of the ground as we take in the conditions on a slightly frosty Autumn morning. The clouds are covering the ground at the moment, but the sunshine looks imminent. Out come Mernda in their space age tops, as they are led by Dayne K, their captain. He has fiery golden locks and can bowl decently, as well as being a top notch middle order batsman. He isn’t of our immediate concern though, as he bowls first change.

Their opening bowlers are both pretty damn huge, as the guy that bowls the second over gets so much bounce from his stature that I feel like the wicketkeeper is standing back on the boundary. I take the first ball like usual, as the fluttering of my stomach that has started since roughly 7:00am that morning rises to a crescendo. It is worse than any other game of the season, as this is the Grand Final. Luckily the ball is short of a length and on my hip. The pace of the ball doesn’t matter as I delicately tickle it down to fine leg to get off the mark immediately. Oh, the relief. I settle down on my bat at the non-strikers end, as Ky is looking to do better than his first ball duck last week. He beats it after a few balls, as he chips a cut shot past gully for a single. I then work another single around, as Ky has one ball left to face in the opening over of the match. He gets a full ball on leg stump and attempts to clip it away, only for the flat and crisp shot to land in a diving mid-wicket’s hands. Crap. This isn’t the start we wanted.

As Ky vacates the field and trudges back past the pavilion, out comes Zac, looking all professional and ready for battle. I face the first ball of the second over from the giant kid, who remembers getting me out to a pull shot the last time we met, only after I had hit a few boundaries off him though. Mernda immediately places two fielders on the square leg boundary, but it’s futile, as my first flat pull shot goes straight to ground and rockets past fine leg for four. That soothes the nerves.

The next few overs go by smoothly, as both Zac and I are adjusting into the rhythm that we were in the previous week, where we batted for roughly thirty overs. But I fall on the last ball of the opening spell, attempting to hook a pull shoot that cut back in towards my grill, only to get a faint nick through to the keeper. I’m devastated, but I know that there is not much I can do now.

Zac and Jeremy battle on, only for Zac to fall for 12 to Dayne. Now we are in trouble. Jezza battles it out as wickets fall around him. Louis gets run out, Jack gets caught, Kinnan gets caught and still Jezza stays in, plugging it out like he now does in seniors. In comes a willing partner in Ben, who bats well beyond his usual talent to make a fantastic thirty. Jezza pushes through for a battling and well-earned 32, as Ethan contributes 2* to our score of 8/112 off our 40 overs. It isn’t the best score, but it is defendable, as the ground is terribly slow.

We rock up the next day looking to do what we did two years ago; defend a low total and win another flag. Jack and Zac open the bowling, as we go all out for early wickets. They come, as I am in the action straight away. Only a few overs in and some suicidal running gives me a run out to remove their opener for a duck. They are one down already, as all Lower Eltham heads shoot up in hope. Jack produces the goods against Mernda yet again, as he removes the first drop for a second duck, as Darcy holds a strong catch at square leg. 2-5, and they are already behind us in comparison.

Out goes their other opener, as Jack prises out another wicket. Can this get any better? Yes, it turns out it can. Dayne strides out. He immediately makes another dodgy call, as Ky pings in an excellent throw to me from mid-on. We run out the guy who made 50 against us last time, as they are reeling at 4-17.

Out comes Brian to join Dayne. Brian is a kid who looks roughly 18 and who swings so hard at the ball that the wind from his swing causes nearby trees to fall over. Many jokes around Lower Eltham have been made that his kids are watching him play and that we all saw him drive to the ground.

This is the big moment of the game, as this partnership makes or breaks the tight contest. We push hard but they give no chances, as Brian misses the majority of his first thirty balls. In the last over before break, he manages to finally connect, but it is only an inside edge straight to Ali at square leg. But, out of our whole team, Ali is the worst catch, and the simple pudding goes straight to ground.

The frustration continues, as Brian finally connects, as he swings at everything and manages to pull off fluke boundaries. Nick, Kinnan, Jezza and Ben all bowl well, but can’t get us the wicket. Ky and Louis then tie them down, before Brian swings and mis-hits one again. Straight to Ali. Straight to ground. The pain is like a wound up punch to the guts. Brian then smacks us everywhere, raising up a 50 as we finally snare Dayne for 42 with a great catch by Ky off Zac’s bowling.

It’s down to the last two overs, and Mernda need six to win. Jack bowls the second last over as Brian manages to hit four off it. The intense pressure is on Zac and Mernda, as the pavilion is as packed as it can be by supporters from both clubs. The new batsman is facing. Zac bowls two great dot bowls. Then a French cut just misses leg stump. I dive and get a glove to it, partially stopping the bouncing ball. They rush through for a quick single. Scores are level. Zac bowls it to Brian. Swing, miss. Two more of them would be nice Brian. But it doesn’t happen, as the next swing comes right out of the middle and disappears for four. It’s over. We’ve lost.

Oh no.

Oh. No.


Epilogue: (This part is extremely vital.) On the day, Mernda were crowned Premiers and we were runners-up. We all went back to the club, drowned in our sorrows and prepared for the next season throughout the whole winter. The last grading game of 2014/15 was where season 2013/14 did a cartwheel and somersault for Lower Eltham though, as we found out that Brian – the man of the match, the man that won Mernda the game, was in fact, overage. Not by much, but it was enough, as Mernda were stripped of the title and Lower Eltham received their third junior title in four years. It was frustrating, but it was a win. That is the epic tale of my epic Grand Final roughly a year ago.

Look out soon for my second part, where I detail Lower Eltham’s magnificent Barclay Shield (A-Grade) victory last season, in what was possibly an even greater game than the one I just told.


  1. I’ll be very disappointed if you blokes didn’t ‘get around’ Ali after the game. I feel really bad for the young fella.

    It would be interesting to know what’s happened in subsequent meetings between the two sides!

  2. We definitely went and consoled with him. We told him it wasn’t his fault, as Brian was just too good. It definitely helped him when we found out that we had won. The only sad part of the day when we found out that we won and received our medals was that it was also the day the tragic Phil Hughes accident occurred.

    We haven’t had our rematch yet, as Dayne and a few others are still in Under 14s. The others who went up to Under 16s along with us had to change clubs for this season, as we ended up in the same league as the team that Brian plays in. We didn’t get scheduled to play him though, but his team is currently getting killed in the Grand Final after losing only once throughout the season. The next meeting will be fiery though, as they had quite a bit to say to us after they won. What a funny game cricket is.

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