A GRAND final berth appeared a pipedream for long-suffering Hawkesdale four weeks ago.
Veteran opening batsman Murray Habel thought he’d be making other weekend plans.
“We certainly didn’t look like it a month or so ago,” he said of the Cats’ flag chances.
Now Habel is hoping to take his red-hot form into his first Grassmere Cricket Association two-day grand final against Killarney at Purnim.
“I couldn’t be more rapt with the way it has worked out,” he said.
Hawkesdale’s rise – it shocked Yambuk in the final round and then knocked off powerhouse Panmure in the semi-final – coincided with a Habel purple patch.
The Port Fairy builder, who works alongside teammate Jamie Heathrington, started to construct match-winning innings.
He made 94 against the Buks and 101 against the Bulldogs.
“It’s better than coming off a duck,” Habel said of the form he’d take into the decider.
“During the year it’s a bit hard to get yourself up for it.
“My interest had waned over the last couple of years.
“You turn up and go through the motions but the last couple of weeks I’ve switched on a bit more.
“Going into the last game we knew what we needed to do – we needed an outright, so we had a clear picture of what needed to be done.
“It all fell into place.”
Habel’s form spike prompted praise from Cats captain Kurt Buchanan after the final round.
“He’s a bloke that can change a game just like that; I think a lot of teams are worried about him,” he said.
A premiership would be the Warrnambool-based Habel’s biggest achievement at the Cats.
“I am 34 now and I reckon I started to play cricket when I was 14 or 15 and have been there ever since bar one season off travelling,” he said.
“The two-day final is the one everyone wants to win.
“It’d be huge. We haven’t had much success out at Hawkesdale and to win would mean a lot to supporters and older players around the club who have done the hard yards.”
Habel, who plays football for Hawkesdale-Macarthur, said bolstering their bowling ranks had proved crucial for the Cats.
“We got a couple of players back which helped us – bowlers Lachie Glare and James North,” he said.
“We were struggling to bowl teams out for a while there and bringing those two guys in helped us get through the Panmure order on the weekend. Northy is a left-armer, with good inswing, and Lachie is an outswinger.”