If Springvale South’s grand final demons of the past decade hadn’t been exorcised following last season’s DDCA Turf 1 premiership, they may very well be now.
For the Bloods have gone back-to-back, downing Buckley Ridges by six wickets at Arch Brown Reserve on Saturday.
It’s a far cry from the team that lost five grand finals without triumph in the preceding decade.
But a return to normality for a club that’s now claimed 10 Turf 1 premierships in its 54-year history, and missed finals just four times since the turn of the century.
Despite some late-season blips: a scratchy one-wicket victory over now-relegated Parkmore, a first-round finals loss to Buckley Ridges - their first of the season - and a season-ending foot injury to captain and leading run-scorer Ryan Quirk; the Bloods rallied when it mattered most, putting paid to an almost unblemished season from which there was no more a deserving premier.
Ryan Quirk’s injury - picked up at footy training - was arguably the biggest threat to Springy South’s premiership chances. An integral part of the team on and off the field, the Bloods skipper had struck 509 runs at an average of 46 in Turf 1 this season, and thus they were left with a serious void to fill.
With his season supposedly over following a Second XI semi-final defeat, Jordan Mackenzie was the man asked to step up. And step up he did. Off the back of a solid 38-ball 27 in the prelim against Hallam Kalora Park, he laid the platform for Springy South’s clinical runchase with a 44-ball 41 on the biggest stage of all.
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The Bloods were made to chase a modest 147, and would chase it comfortably, finishing 4-149 with 8.5 overs in the bank.
Jordan Wyatt - the man leading the side in Quirk’s absence - forged a crucial 46-run second-wicket stand alongside Mackenzie with his 28-ball 24.
While Cam Forsyth (37* off 74 balls) and Blade Baxter (18* off 37) took it upon themselves to steer Springy South to victory, doing so methodically and responsibly as the match petered to it’s foregone conclusion.
If Buckley were to clutch an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat, taking chances had to be a necessity. And retrospectively, the drop of Wyatt at first slip for a golden duck may have been their chance to swing the pendulum in their favour.
The chance gone begging came off the bowling of Hadigallage Jayaratne, who bowled with pace behind him and was the pick of Buckley’s bowlers, finishing with 2-28 from nine overs.
Unfortunately for Jayartane, his efforts were in vain, with Buckley’s total of 147 proving far too little on a belting Arch Brown wicket.
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Buckley’s innings started how it would finish - shakily.
Yoshan Kumara (1-19 off 4 overs) wrapped the formidable Daniel Watson on the pads in the second over, the umpire’s finger pointed skyward, and the Bucks were reeling at 1-6.
From there however, Jake Cronin and Jayson Hobbs steadied the ship, and then some, putting on 76 for the second-wicket.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for Cronin early though, as his timing didn’t match his intent, with miscues narrowly clearing the infield and several play and misses. But once he found his rhythm, he was ominous, crunching three fours and two sixes, and playing off his pads with ferocity.
While three consecutive Hobbs boundaries in the 13th over off Matt Wetering saw him click into gear.
The left-arm orthodox of Jarryd Straker eventually broke the partnership, with Cronin stumped for an impressive 69-ball 42.
From there, Buckley’s run rate slowed significantly, and Springy South’s squeeze brought upon a steady flow of wickets.
Hobbs was the next man to depart, falling to Jackson Sketcher (2-26 off 7 overs) for 35 off 64 balls, and leaving Buckley at 3-98 after 26 overs.
Straker, who would finish with 3-34 from 12 overs, (and could consider himself unlucky to have not been adjudged best-on-ground) continued to apply pressure with his remarkable consistency, and he reaped the rewards with the crucial wickets of Ben Wright (11 off 21) and Mahela Udawatte (34 off 47), who were both felled trying to create.
From there, it was a complete capitulation, with Buckley losing 6-11 as they staggered to 147 all out in 40 overs.
Baxter was the chief destroyer late for Springy South, taking 3-26 from 10 overs. That, along with his unbeaten 18, saw him rewarded with the coveted Damien Fleming Medal as the game’s best player.
But it’s not individual performances that have lifted Springvale South to this premiership. Rather, a cohesive unit that doesn’t rely on any individuals.
It’s what allowed the Bloods to overcome Ryan Quirk’s absence, and it’s what allowed them to claim back-to-back Turf 1 premierships.