THE last two times Merrivale made a top-grade grand final it was defeated by Dennington.
Six years after consecutive losses, the Tigers finally roared with an emphatic win on Saturday, ending a 14-year Warrnambool and District Cricket Association division one premiership drought and torment for four players who were part of two failed attempts.
Simon Fleming, Matthew Wilkinson, Justin Lynch and Richard McKellar played in the Tigers’ 2004-05 and 2005-06 losses.
Merrivale rose from fourth to snatch the flag on Saturday in a case of third time lucky against the Dogs.
Tigers captain Michael Walsh said the 50-run win meant a lot to the club.
“It’s great. There’s a lot of relief. There are a couple of blokes here who have been through it all,” he said.
“It is rewarding for the community and the club and all the people who help out.
“It was a team effort. Everyone has done their part during the year.”
Chasing 153, Dennington was reeling at 2-14 before captain Dustin Drew (38) and Josh Squires (10) steadied and guided the Dogs to 2-60.
The Tigers then collected regular wickets, with teenager Otto Opperman taking the match-winning catch off the bowling of Will Chapples in the 65th over.
“It was a good catch in the end. The game wasn’t over because ‘Wythey’ (Steven Wythe) was hitting them all right and you just don’t know, do you?” Walsh said.
“So it was a relief when Otto went up with the ball. I’m happy.
“We had to get early wickets and we had to bowl tight and the bowlers knew what they had to do and the fielders had to back them up,” he said.
“We just had to keep bowling line and length and put the pressure on them and attack, attack, attack and that’s all you can do and hopefully it works out and obviously it did today.”
Merrivale had all but secured the flag when Chapples dismissed Dennington teenager Shannon Beks for 10.
Beks was the ninth wicket to fall.
Wythe (10) and Ben Rantall (3 not out) held out until 103 when Chapples sealed the win.
“The game is not over until you get the 10 wickets,” Walsh said.
“We are just thankful we had a back-up day because if we didn’t we wouldn’t have been here today and celebrating.
“We are thankful of that (wet weather) rule being in place.
“It’s a credit to the boys. 150 the past three or four years has won most grand finals.”
While he was unsure if he would captain the club next season, Walsh was committed to the Tigers’ long-term future.
“You never leave this club,” he said. “It is a good club and there is no reason to leave.”
The Tigers will lose premiership stars Adam Melville (1-33), who is moving to Queensland for work, and Englishman Chapples (3-31) is likely to head home.
Drew, who paid credit to Merrivale, said Dennington was disappointed to stumble at the final hurdle.
“We lost wickets in succession which didn’t help,” he said.
Drew said the Dogs would maintain their playing list and would push for another grand final berth next season.
“I always take positives out of the negatives,” he said.
“We were rapt to make the grand final. We have come a long way.
“We had a different team this year, we were a lot younger.
“During the year we played five under 17s. I always thought this year was more of a development year.
“We are going to be a better side next year, no doubt about that.”
Drew said the Dogs would recruit players to add depth to their list which would complement their teenage up-and-comers.