Hawks rise to the top

Drouin''s Jake Harper (73) smashes one away against Buln Buln. 191799 Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Hayley Wildes

WARRAGUL & DISTRICT CRICKET ASSOCIATION

REVIEW – DIVISION ONE GRAND FINAL

Drouin has completed a fairytale finish to season 2018/19 with three weeks of near-perfect cricket to claim the WDCA Division 1 premiership.

Still fighting for their finals lives heading into March, the Hawks eventually qualified for the postseason – finishing fourth – and to say they made the most of their chances would be an understatement.

Having taken the top placed Western Park to the cleaners in their semi-final clash, Drouin entered the grand final full of confidence.

Standing in their way of an unlikely premiership was reigning premier Buln Buln, with the Lyrebirds having earned their spot in the big dance with a semi-final win over Ellinbank.

What transpired at Bellbird Park over Saturday and Sunday will go down in Drouin folklore as the Hawks took control with the bat on day one, before their bowlers strutted their stuff early on day two.

Drouin’s opening pairing of Jonathan Bell (22) and Damon Healy (87) put on 48 runs for the first wicket, before Healy combined with Sam Wyatt for a 52-run stand. It was a start that had Drouin in a strong position, but it was the next two partnerships that truly set the Hawks on the path to a premiership.

Healy put on a masterclass, smashing any wayward deliveries in an innings that the Drouin faithful won’t soon forget. He partnered with Jake Harper (73) for 64 runs, before Healy was eventually dismissed, trapped in front of his stumps, 13 runs short of a deserved century.

There’s no doubt Healy’s knock gave the rest of his teammates confidence and it was Harper and skipper Trevor Gardiner (55) who provided a stunning 113-run partnership.

The pair were simply sublime, taking no prisoners in a ruthless display as the Lyrebirds’ simply had no answers. It was two hours of torture for Buln Buln and after Drouin pressed hard for quick runs late in the innings, they finished with the commanding total of 6/287 in 80 overs.

Needing runs early on day two to give themselves a sniff, the Lyrebirds were unable to put any doubt in the minds of their opponents as Dale Weller (4/83) dismissed Max Kelly (3) and Jeff Walsh (1) with ease to have Buln Buln reeling at 2/25.

Things went from bad to worse for the Lyrebirds when Daniel Hamilton (14) was run out after a mix up with Jack Armour just as the pair was starting to really find their feet together.

Armour was a lone hand at the top of the order, but after he, Brent Eastwell (3) and Callum Stewart (0) all fell within minutes of each other for a terrible middle order collapse of 3/0, the Hawks could smell victory.

At 6/64, Buln Buln’s hopes of back-to-back premierships looked all but over.

In what was one final twist of a magnificent and drama-filled WGCA Division 1 season, Corey Jagoe (59) and skipper Bryce Monahan (55) combined for a courageous 114-run stand for the seventh wicket that gave the Lyrebirds a faint pulse.

In a spirited fightback, the pair did their club proud in a partnership that defied the odds and irritated the Hawks, who were ready to start celebrations before the pair took control in the middle.

Finally, Drouin was able to break the partnership when Jamie Glen (1/47) bowled Jagoe to have Buln Buln at 7/178. It was a moment of relief for the Hawks, who were noticeably becoming tenser with each and every run.

Monahan continued to bat bravely, as did Ryan Bishop (25), but it wasn’t enough as the Hawks finally broke the Lyrebirds’ backs when Jackson Noonan (6) was bowled by Simon Gardiner (2/43) to see Buln Buln all out for 218 in the 68th over.

It was a brave attempt to rebuild the innings by the Lyrebirds, but the weekend was owned by the Hawks as they claimed their first Division 1 premiership since the 2014/15 season.

Drouin’s Dale Weller, who finished with the figures of 4/83 (nine maidens) in 30 overs, was outstanding as he kept the pressure squarely on Buln Buln’s batsmen, while Damon Healy (87) was named man of the match after setting up the Hawks day one domination.

As if one premiership wasn’t enough, Drouin also claimed the Division 2 title after smashing hot favourites Iona at Hallora.

After restricting the Titans to just 82 runs – thanks largely to Rhys Fairlie (5/31) and John Perry (3/23) – the Hawks were in control despite losing an early wicket, claiming the win with a total of 4/83 in 33 overs as John Perry backed up his fine bowling with a superb knock of 43 runs.

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