We’re now into the fifth edition of our Spartan Scorecard Series and this time we are looking at not only a very memorable match, but also the incredible lead-up into it! This week we’re tackling the 2006/07 First Grade Premiership!
As we move into our fifth edition of The Spartan Scorecard Series, we are looking at our most recent match in the series so far, which took place in 2007. The match itself marked another Premiership at First Grade level for the Leeming Spartan Cricket Club and was in the midst of a very successful decade at the top level for the Spartans.
The match in question took place in the 2006/07 First Grade Grand Final – perhaps fittingly for this series it was also played against CBC. This time however, it was not just the game that was hugely memorable, it was also the lead up towards it and the efforts we went through to qualify in the first place!
For the 2006/07 season there were twelve teams in the First Grade competition and the top six played in finals, with the inclusion of an Elimination Final.
The lead up was quite sensational as we just snuck in to reach the final six. We were neck-and-neck with Armadale but only needed to ensure we did not lose our final game of the regular season by a comprehensive margin. We achieved this – but only just. Playing Cockburn in the final round of the season they amassed a whopping 9/229, leaving us with a big chase the following week. We started solidly, but ultimately fell to be all out for 185 and leaving us with a 44 run loss.
All eyes were then on the other matches and the premiership table as we pulled out our best mathematics to try calculate whether we had qualified.
In the end, we qualified for finals by less than one point – finishing in sixth place on 115.50 points just ahead of Armadale on 114.64.
We had made it by the skin of our teeth. Nevertheless we were off to play in yet another finals campaign and looked to defy all that would stand before us. Things did not get any easier though as we had to win three consecutive matches to hold the premiership flag, but in typical Spartan style, we were not about to let that phase us!
This 2006/07 season was one that differed from what we are used to in the South Metropolitan Cricket Association today. Namely, there were a massive twelve teams all participating – and it was to be (in order) CBC, East Fremantle, Cockburn, Phoenix, Hilton Palmyra and the Spartans who made up the top six and qualified for finals.
The Lead Up:
Having qualified, albeit only just, the team had to put everything in the season up to this point behind them. All six sides were now on equal playing fields and points did not count for anything from here on in.
That said, it didn’t make things much easier when in the first week of finals we had to take on the minor premiers in CBC.
The finals this season were an extra week long because of the extra two sides that qualified for finals. As such an elimination final was played and it was do or die for us as we finished in sixth place. CBC, meanwhile got the extra chance as they finished on top.
It is also worth noting that there were no one-day fixtures in this format, and a few of the fixtures were played on both days of the weekend (in the form of the Saturday-Sunday fixtures that are thee days typically restricted only to finals games).
Despite the renewed faith that had come about by making it to the finals, it was still going to be an enormous task to take home the premiership, given we had to win three two-day games on the trot to get the flag.
The Final Round:
With just one game to go in the regular season, Spartans, who were in sixth place were taking on the third placed Cockburn, whilst Armadale, who followed closely in seventh took on East Fremantle.
The final hour of the season was one of high drama. We ultimately lost to Cockburn after having to chase an enormous total of 9/229 – ending up all out for 185.
Armadale meanwhile were set an earth-shattering 369 for victory after East Fremantle had piled them on in week one. However that was not as important as the fact that Armadale had taken six wickets, giving them a vital 1.2 points (as a wicket gives you 0.20 points each) which put them just ahead of us heading into the second week of the final round.
We then batted and got back in front, before Armadale did the same and again leap-frogged us heading into the final hour of the match.
Armadale had made 168, losing convincingly. This nevertheless edged them slightly ahead of the Leeming Spartan Cricket Club as we had been all out for 185. The runs only provide 0.01 of a point and because both scores were very close to one another, the extra wickets Armadale had taken were enough to give them the smallest of advantages on the ladder.
Luckily for us, Cockburn elected to bat again to try to secure a higher place on the very tight ladder in our match as they too only just trailed the team in front. In reply, Cockburn finished on 4/45 with Spartans Matt Smith and Jason Cunningham each taking two wickets.
Incredibly (and going to show just how close the ladder was) these crucial four wickets now put the Spartans in sixth place over Armadale less than a point and meant we progressed to the Elimination Final against CBC the following weekend.
With an hour to go we found ourselves in seventh place – however in taking four wickets in Cockburn’s second innings allowed us to jump to sixth position and qualify for finals!
The Elimination Final:
Things did not get any easier the following weekend as we were tasked to take on the Minor Premiers in CBC at Karoonda Reserve. This match, played on the 10th and 11th of March saw us in an incredible narrow victory over the table-toppers as we defended just 122 to win by eighteen runs.
After winning the toss and batting first, the captain, Wayne Fontana scored 26, which was our highest score and the second best of the match. Only Andrew Galbraith’s 33 for the opposition bettered his. In trouble at 4/44 we lumbered to 122 all out, with a crucial partnership of 35 coming from youngster Sean Collings (18 runs at age 17) and the skipper Fontana.
CBC were restricted to 104 thanks to some very tight bowling by Sean Wright (4/22), Mark Atkinson (4/43) and Wayne Fontana, the latter of whom had capped off a great all-round performance with 2/14. We had a narrow victory and kept the dream alive for at least another week but knew the job was far from complete. It was our second victory over CBC this season following our win in round nine.
The work was far from over as we had to once again go up agains Cockburn at Davila’s Oval who had beaten us convincingly just a fortnight earlier.
The Semi Final:
Cockburn batted first and were kept to just 114 – a difference of minus 115 (half their score) from our previous encounter two matches earlier. This was quite the turnaround and had us well on top on the opening day.
The bowling contingent proved the match winners yet again with Matt Smith claiming 4/16, Wayne Fontana taking 3/40 and Shayne Hersey finishing with 2/35. Only two of the Cavaliers batsmen passed 20 and lost wickets at regular intervals losing 9/73 after starting strongly at 1/41.
The chase was achieved comfortably and the game was won by seven wickets. Matt Smith had a great all-round performance in scoring 45, before Jason Cunningham (36*) and Sean Collings (26*) took us to victory.
This set us up to play against CBC once more in the Grand Final the following week, after they had chased 184 for victory over Hilton Palmyra who had finished up in fifth place.
Now finally though, we’re on to the most important match of the lot – the 2006/07 First Grade Grand Final!
The CBC Innings – Click/Tap For Larger Version
The Spartan Chase – Click/Tap For Larger Version
The Grand Final:
The Grand Final, our match in question, was played on March 24th and 25th in 2007 against CBC at Karoonda Reserve, which was to be the second meeting between the sides in as many weeks. Spartans, finishing in sixth position, had only just qualified for the finals whereas CBC had been the standout side all year and finished on top spot.
Spartan confidences were high however because we had knocked off the Minor Premiers in both encounters to date this season.
CBC won the toss and chose to bat, and in the third over of the match we had our first wicket when Galbraith (who has won the last three Jim McKenna Medals for best SMCA player at the time of writing) was caught for just five, giving Mark Atkinson (later inducted into the Leeming Spartan Team of the Century) his first wicket.
One for six would become three for thirty at a snail’s-pace in the twenty-third over of the match when Atkinson took his third, and when first change Sean Wright took his first wicket the score looked in trouble at 4/39.
The Spartans were on top early, having claimed four cheap wickets, but if the weeks that trailed were anything to go by, it was known full-well there was still work to be done.
Although things were favouring the visitors, as is the case with CBC, they continued to fight and despite the loss of wickets at frequent intervals they had taken themselves to 5/84. It was a testament to our attack that we were able to ensure no major partnerships took place during the innings, with Mark Atkinson continuing to bowl with expertise. He then claimed two quick wickets. He had five, and CBC had lost 7 for 84.
Some late performances from the tail saw CBC reach 123, after being bowled out in the sixty-eighth over with skipper Wayne Fontana rounding out the innings. Atko was the star on the day with the ball, claiming 5/38, whilst Fontana took the last three wickets to finish with 4/26.
The Spartans were set 124 for victory, however they too did not have the best of starts after losing the captain early in the piece. At 3/34 the Spartan Shuffle may have been on the cards and the dream run was possibly finally coming to a halt.
Things didn’t get much better when we succumbed to 5/52 and lost Atkinson cheaply. To our fortunes though Jason Cunningham was in ominous form and looking in good touch up the other end on twelve not out. At this point, only Cunningham, Chris Geers (13) and Matt Smith (12) had reached double-figures.
A partnership of sorts then came about between Cunningham and Darren Rose as the score reached 88, but Cunners was ultimately trapped LBW for the match-high score of 38.
At 6/88 there was still well and truly work to be done, but if the season had taught us one thing to date – it was that it certainly isn’t over until the very end.
Rose then fell to leave us 7/92 and with 33 runs still required and only three wickets in hand, CBC were right back in it, if not on top. We would lose another with the score on 99, leaving us in real danger of not finishing the job. Some excellent late-order hitting from Craig Pereira batting at number eight alongside number ten Shayne Hersey ensured this was not to be the case however, with Craig whacking three boundaries to finish on twenty not out, whilst Shayne hit two fours to remain unbeaten on 13 and see us over the line.
The Spartans had won the 2006/07 First Grade Premiership by two wickets in an exciting chase in front of a packed Karoonda pavilion. The Spartans had incredibly won the flag from sixth position after sneaking in by less than a point.
To win three consecutive high-pressure finals matches all against teams finishing in the top three on the ladder was almost inconceivable, but fan fiction became reality this summer as the Leeming Spartan Cricket Club reigned triumphant and claimed one of the most astonishing premiership victories in the history of the South Metropolitan Cricket Association.
The cricket was extraordinary, competitive and fierce, and will be remembered fondly as one of the great memories in the history of the Leeming Spartan Cricket Club!
The Unforgettable Promotion:
There were many amazing stories from this incredible victory and the lead up to it, but it is perhaps the story of Sean Collings that is amongst the most memorable. Sean was aged just seventeen at the time and had been playing at the Leeming Spartan Junior Cricket Club before migrating to the senior division.
He started out in fourth grade and was performing exceptionally, scoring plenty of runs, including 126 against Southern Districts in the third grade (which included a grade-record sixth-wicket partnership of 189 with Life Member Shannon Davies).
As it turned out Sean was selected to represent the Club in the WACA Statewide T20 competition. When he turned up at the ground most of the players in the team hadn’t seen him play but he left no uncertainty after cracking his first boundary in the competition, through the covers for four.
He was subsequently picked for his first grade debut the last match of the season against Cockburn. He made 37 on debut, including being in a 65 run partnership with Jason Cunningham in that crunch match that saw us only just qualify. He was then picked for the Elimination Final and the rest of the finals series.
In the Elimination Final he played a crucial role with Wayne Fontana – the two putting on 35 out of just 122 runs and then a week later was involved in an unbeaten 39 run partnership with Jason Cunningham to see us to victory. A week later he was a Premiership Player in First Grade at the Leeming Spartan Cricket Club!
Sean only played the one season at the Spartans and went on to play at the Melville Cricket Club the following year and played top-level cricket with them. His time at the Spartans may have been short, but it is definitely highly memorable. Sean was the sixth grade youngster who four matches later played in a premiership at our highest level, and he certainly never looked out of place.
The Match As A Whole:
The 2006/07 season was yet another in a long line of successful campaigns for the Leeming Spartan Cricket Club in first grade. It differed from all others though because many would say we were extremely fortunate to reach the finals in the first place let alone win them.
That all seems like a distant memory now though as we gaze upon that premiership flag in our clubrooms as it hangs proudly alongside all others.
This was the story of an incredible lead-up to the final dance, with many things having to go our way to get there and above all some seriously good cricket needing to be played. It is perhaps our best instance of the stars aligning and then some. Even more importantly though is that this would have to rate amongst our greatest ever team performances, particularly as we strung together three vital wins in a row against the most challenging of opponents and at the most crucial of times.
To say we held our nerve would be to undersell the events of this season and also overlook the immense efforts displayed to get us over the line. In all it was a testament to the quality of cricket on show from all sides, and saw a remarkable set of results and team performances from the Spartans to claim the premiership!
The 2006/07 First Grade Premiership Side
This was our fifth entry in The Spartan Scorecards Series, and with plenty of matches to list, we hope to bring you a new entry at least every week this off-season! Be sure to stay tuned, and consider subscribing to our Email Newsletter if you haven’t done so already – that way you’ll never miss an entry!
We also encourage anyone with scorecards at home to send a photo of them in – we’ll be sure to feature them on the series! Simply click here to submit one!
Finally, be sure to check out our 2019/20 Spartan Yearbook – with over seventy pages of content it is the best way to recap on everything from the most recent season at the Leeming Spartan Cricket Club!