WHEN Merrivale veterans Simon Fleming and Matthew Wilkinson last tasted premiership success, some of their teammates weren’t even in kindergarten.
Fleming, 43, and Wilkinson, 37, enter Saturday’s Warrnambool and District Cricket Association grand final as the only Merrivale players to have experienced the euphoria of a division one flag.
They were part of the club’s 1998-99 triumphant team and apart from the hurt of consecutive defeats in 2005 and 2006, they know there are more down times than good.
Fleming, who grew up just a short walk from the Merrivale Recreation Reserve and started his career with the club in mini colts, coached the 2006 side that was defeated by Dennington, which coincidentally stands between him and another premiership on the weekend.
Back then the Tigers were a consistent force.
“We probably should have won at least one of those,” he said.
“We lost a lot of players (after that) and we have been rebuilding since.
“We are the only two left from 14 years ago.
‘‘It’s good to get there again.”
Just two seasons ago the Tigers were under pressure to avoid being relegated to division two as they endured a horror rain-impacted season.
They remained at the club, batting higher than they would have liked in the twilight of their careers trying to help educate a new generation.
This week that education process enters a steep learning phase with the pair embracing the younger inexperienced teammates.
Wilkinson, who played in three winning and two losing grand finals with Nestles before being lured to Merrivale 15 years ago, said the younger breed of Tigers were exciting, including teenagers Otto Opperman and wicketkeeper Thomas Ludeman.
“It’s probably the kids who kept me going,” he said.
“They energise it a bit more.
“We have three kids under 18 playing.
“It’s great for the club.
“We’ve got a good mix now.”
The only time Merrivale and Dennington met this season was when the Dogs had a comfortable win in round five.
“It’s a different game of cricket, we have got more games into our kids,” Fleming said.
That was the first game opening bowler Michael Petherick played and it was early in number three batsman Justin Lynch’s comeback.
Wilkinson said Sunday’s tight semi-final win over defending premier West Warrnambool had been good for his teammates.
“We are confident if blokes play their roles with the bat we can make a good score,” he said.
“It’s probably the first year (in a long time) when you would say batting is our strength.
“The bowlers are good but there’s no standout.”
Fleming, an all-rounder, has been batting at number seven and enters the grand final on the club’s home ground with just two knocks there this season, having not been required several times.
“I hope it stays like that,” he said.