For years, Warilla have had that aura – that no matter what situation they found themselves in, and no matter what the mood within the side was, they were almost always able to extricate themselves from it, and find a way to win. Now, with the loss of many of its player base, they are finding it difficult to replicate this.
On the other hand, Albion Park, who had their worst season in years in 2003/04, picked up some players, drew on the strength of the squad they had, and are now reigning premiers – and beginning to create their own fortress.
A case in point .
Last weekend, Kiama played Albion Park at Keith Grey Oval in a one day fixture. After a wonderful display of bowling and fielding, Kiama restricted the home side to just 156, which is a very gettable total. It probably could have been better, but Dan Abela and Jess Hancock rescued the side from 6/90, and managed to play a vital role in the middle order, and help Park squeeze up to their final total.
In reply, although the scoring was slow, Kiama did not lose a bucket load of wickets, and appeared in a good position to push for victory. Here, however, Albion Park’s experience in winning these games came to the fore. Every time Kiama appeared to have the winning of the game, they lost a wicket, setting them back again. For instance, every batsman on the South Coast would have taken on Warren Campion’s throw from the outfield to go for a second run. Jaya Hartgerink did just this – and was run out when his throw hit the wickets direct at the bowlers end with Jaya a metre short. The middle order fell to LBW’s, and the all-rounders fell to impetuosity when a calm approach would have served better.
Even after all of this, Kiama needed just over a run a ball with two wickets remaining – and less after Sam Wolf dispatched a ball over the mid-wicket fence. Unfortunately, the tail was not up to the task, and the side fell 15 runs short.
Despite the loss, the side took heart from their performance. The bowling and fielding was superb, and is proving to be the base on which the side is building its semi-final charge. The batting also looked good, without producing the total that was required.
But this is where Albion Park has the edge – the ability to win the close games, which Kiama has yet to perfect. That is the difference between being a competitive side, and a premiership side.
Firsts will have learned a lot from the weekend. Rather than losing heart, they should have gained it. They are not far away from being a side that will not just challenge for a finals position, but can push for that elusive First Grade Premiership.