Harwood snatches win
By TONY WHITE
THE combination of a secret weapon produced at training and a poignant oration by a senior player at the luncheon interval yesterday proved vital factors in Harwood Hilton's dramatic win over GI Hotel Tucabia-Copmanhurst in the Bananacoast Community Credit Union Premier League grand final at Ellem Oval over the weekend.
Before a healthy and appreciative crowd Harwood left Ellem Oval yesterday cock-a-hoop after winning its first Premier League grand final since the 2000-01 season.
For Tucabia the club's fairy tale run ended in sobering circumstances when brilliant, tight spin bowling by Harwood triggered an amazing collapse that saw Tucabia lose 7-35 after being in a winning position at 3-114.
It was an incredible finish and testimony to Harwood's never-say-die attitude that has seen the club top of the table throughout the rain interrupted season.
"Fantastic, I'm ecstatic for the whole team," Harwood's wily captain and wicket keeper Tim McMahon said after the drama charged finish.
"We've stuck together throughout. There are no standouts in this team just a team of blokes who play for each other."
The secret weapon came in the shape of a bowling machine introduced at training last Thursday by team coach Mick Morris.
Morris -- McMahon admitting the former Westlawn bowling star as instrumental to the team's success -- organised the transfer training from powerless Harwood Oval to Yamba to take advantage of the bowling machine.
"We owe a lot to Mick (Morris)," McMahon said. "The bowling machine worked great. It was different and Mick impressed upon all of us about playing pressure cricket, bowling stump to stump and being consistent.
"The spirit's been high throughout the season, but after Thursday it was sky high."
Opening the match batting first on a damp wicket, Harwood got through Saturday at 7-172, Nathan Ensbey (41) and Greg Firth (21) leading the way in difficult conditions.
After losing a wicket in the first over on Sunday, a strong rear guard fightback with Craig Moran (17), Kane Aeschlimann (20) and Matt Young (33), ensured Harwood set a competitive total with 194.
Tucabia's Chris Adamson, following his seven wicket haul in the final, was leading wicket taker with 3-45. Trent Dickson and Matt Pigg took two wickets each.
Tucabia began its run chase with determination, openers Greg Watkins eventually top scoring with a resolute 64 and Graeme Egan (20). The pair put on 68 and saw the shine off the ball before Egan was out, then star player Matt Blanch was lbw to Hickey almost immediately after for a duck.
Watkins and big hitting Bob McKenzie then took Tucabia to 114 when McKenzie (28) fell caught behind off Matt Young's bowling.
McMahon has always believed Tucabia batsman are susceptible to spin, "they prefer the ball coming onto them," he said and Harwood's three-pronged spin attack of Peter Hickey, Greg Firth and Matt Young, eventually spearheaded an amazing fightback with pin point off-spin.
"They threw the ball above the eye line of the batsman and it paid dividends," McMahon said.
After McKenzie's dismissal Tucabia's premiership dream spun into an abyss of despair.
"It's very disappointing. It slipped through our fingers," Tucabia captain Damien Rouse said. "It was a combination of bad shots and good bowling."
Wicket after Tucabia wicket tumbled. Hickey finished with brilliant figures of 5-27 from 22.5 overs and 'spin twin,' Young 5-39 from 12 overs.
And it was 44-year-old elder statesman Hickey whom McMahon attributes to turning the tide.
"We had a team talk and Peter had some sharp, stern words to say at the luncheon break," McMahon revealed. "He got our heads right with what and how he said it. Basically he reminded us were here to win.
"Now we can celebrate. The Harwood Hilton will be the place to be tonight. It'll be really rocking."