Hallam Kalora Park has made a habit of punching above its weight in the Dandenong District Cricket Association.
On Sunday, the Hawks‘ efforts came to a head as they claimed their first Turf 1 premiership since 2002, downing reigning premier Berwick by seven runs in a gripping grand final at Frawley Rd.
Club great Richard Hammond was coach and his nephew Jordan captain of the team.
Jordan’s father, Johnny, had been skipper of the Hawks’ last Turf 1 triumph, in the 2001-02 season.
With rain forcing the match to be played over two days, the Hawks opted to bat first and showed plenty of intent in the opening overs.
The fast start was nullified however as a probing Brendan Rose (1-34 off seven overs) found the elusive outside edge of Parkers champion Leigh Booth (8).
First-drop Sachith Jayasingha (8) failed to get going, and Bears skipper Matt Chasemore (1-14 off 7) made it two wickets in two overs with the prized scalp of Matt Cox for a golden duck, trapped lbw.
The Hawks nudged their way to 3-53 at drinks, with the reliable mediums of Chasemore and Jarrod Goodes (1-18 off seven overs) troubling the Hallam batsmen and drying up the runs.
Opener Ben Hillard (54 off 126 balls) was a staple of the Parkers innings, as he and Hammond (22 off 44 balls) went about building the platform for a competitive total.
Ruwantha Kellepotha (3-49 off 12) was up to his usual brilliance, not only picking up timely wickets but running out Hillard to bring his plucky and pivotal innings to an end.
Robert Parker was able to slog-sweep the only six of the game in his five-ball cameo, before a late flurry of runs from Steve Gilmour (30no off 37) and Ciaron Connolly (7no off 4) lifted the Hawks to 7-151 from their 45 overs.
PRELIM: Berwick cruises into DDCA Turf 1 grand final
AFL: Player Rankings: Top 10 Performers of Round 1
Having rolled Berwick for 128 in the semi-final two weeks earlier, the Hawks knew how to restrict the Bears’ star-studded batting line-up, and they were off to a dream start in the third over on Sunday as Chasemore (3) left a Willy Whyte (3-31 off 12) ball that clipped the top of his off-stump.
Jordy Cleland (30 off 75) was troubled by Hammond (1-40 off 12) early, as he and Brodie Emmett (5 off 29) scratched together a 21-run partnership.
When Gilmour (2-31 off 7) bowled Emmett, Berwick was 2-25 in the 14th over.
Gilmour – who was awarded the Damien Fleming Medal for player of the match – maintained the pressure with a nagging fifth-stump line to Nathan Pilon (0), the Bears champion undone trying to flick off his pads when he was given something full and straight.
Hallam was dictating terms, and with Berwick reduced to 3-30 and scoring at less than two an over, with the talent of Chasemore and Pilon in the sheds, Kellepotha counter-attacked.
The Wookey Medalist’s extravagant strokeplay went against the grain, and every risk-fraught blow he landed loosened the Hawks’ stranglehold.
Kellepotha’s intentions were laid bare early as he got off the mark with a lofted drive for four, clearing the outstretched arm of mid-off by centimetres. After a failed paddle sweep, he slapped another boundary over cover.
Hammond turned to the spin duo of Jayasingha (2-17 off 7) and Lee Brown (1-24 off 7), Jayasingha castling Cleland to end his dogged but crucial innings.
Needing to consolidate, Kellepotha (22 off 36) remained unrelenting in attack, his slog-sweep finding the hands of Ben Hillard in the deep, bringing to a close an innings in which he was dropped twice.
When Jayasingha had Jarrod Armitage trapped lbw for a duck, Berwick had lost 3-2 and was reeling at 6-64.
But the game was far from over.
The unlikely duo of James Wilcock (34no off 43) and Rose (33 off 42) revived the Bears’ run chase.
With eight overs remaining the required run-rate ticked over to a run a ball, but the pair continued to chip away. The Bears faithful - who were out in full force - cheering every two like they were winning runs.
Hammond, Gilmour, and Whyte held their nerve, and Berwick needed 14 off the final over.
Whyte started superbly with a dot, and on the third ball Rose holed out to mid-off.
Needing 12 off three, Wilcock couldn’t find the rope and Booth – who didn’t arrive until after the 20th over because of a family commitment and couldn’t bowl as result – had Goodes run out for a diamond duck coming back for a third run.
Cory Bevan managed a two before chipping to Kevin Kean on the final ball of the game, Berwick all out for 144 from its 45 overs, seven runs short. What a match.
Hawks celebrations 19 years in the making ensued.
The win wasn’t just special for the triumphant XI, but for the entire club, encompassed by the 40-strong group that circled up on the pitch for a rousing rendition of “The Mighty Fighting Hawks”.