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Number 4

A batting partnership of the utmost quality

Number 4

#4: JASON THORLEY – 74 and BEN JUST - 71 vs Pascoe Vale Centrals, 1st XI GF. 1998/99.

TLCC is still in search of it’s first A Grade premiership. Two close GF losses to Moonee Valley over recent years have stung, and we realise we have to strike soon with the team we have. We are in our mid-20’s playing the best cricket of our careers, being led by SuperCoach Dasha Irving.
We go through the season undefeated. It has been the best fun, on and off the field. We are a talented cricket team but our biggest asset is our comradery. We are a close-knit group of mates and the portables have become a second home for most of us. But come gameday, no-one wants to fail because we’ll cop shit about it all night. Dasha only had one rule in place for the night before gameday, “I don’t care if you’re parra. Just be in bed by midnight.” On Day 3 of our Semi Final, as we are taking the ground, I recall Dasha saying to me, “My head’s still ******. Me and Boofa sunk two slabs last night.” I had no reason to doubt him.
We have a settled line-up all season – winning games will do that. We even win a Sat/Sun game against Coolaroo when 8 of the 11 players have HUGE Saturday nights. One player had to be hosed down in Mad Dogs backyard to wake him up! But that’s a whole other story.
Unfortunately, there has been a cloud hanging over the team since Xmas. There are weddings scheduled for both the semi final & grand final weekends. It has become a huge talking point as we near March. And to throw fuel on the fire, Dasha has announced that our scorer, Lady Di, will now be on selection, for reasons only he knows. Budgie officially loses the plot. He is outraged.
Come finals time, selection has become the nightmare we anticipated.
Cam “Ice Man” Viola who has played 8 games in the 1sts this season, is getting married on the semi final weekend. He will miss the SF AND the GF. Budge, in the best form of his life, is a groomsman. He will miss the Saturday of the SF at the least. Louie Hojnik, the obvious replacement, has sliced his hand open at work. He’s out. Rissole is getting married on the GF weekend – Corey Laforgia & Mad Dog are groomsmen, they’ll miss Day 1 of the GF at the least……. This has all become a MAJOR distraction.
After winning the SF vs Gladstone Park, the plan for the GF is for Mad Dog to play if we win the toss and bat. As we did for Budgie in the SF, we back ourselves to bat 80 overs minimum. Mad Dog can bat on the Sunday. Louie Hojnik is 12th man and will play if we bowl on Day 1. Damian “Nudge” Wallace, a handy all-rounder, is brought in for his first game in the 1sts for the season to replace opening tear-away quick C Laforgia.
We arrive at Tulla for the biggest game of our lives against Pascoe Vale Centrals. We lose the toss. PVC are batting. That eliminates Mad Dog. It’s a cruel blow as he was instrumental in us making the GF. It is 12:15 but we only have 10 players. Where’s Louie? We soon come to realise no-one had told Louie he was 12th man & would be playing if we bowled first. Are we going to start the GF one short in the field? In all seriousness. We cannot get hold of Louie. There is a lot of finger-pointing now taking place. But as luck would have it, Gary “Fingers” Hegarty has arrived. He’s had a BIG night, and really in no condition to play cricket, but for some reason, he has his whites with him??? Fingers is playing in the GF!!!! How has it all come to this?
Somehow, our settled, stabled line-up is no more. We are entering the GF with 3 players (Pazza, Nudge & Fingers) who have only played 6 games between them in the 1sts this season. All seasoned cricketers though, we know they will play their role. Time to take a deep breath & switch on.
Fingers opens the bowling, and actually bowls well – 17 overs, 0/22. PVC make 161 which is a competitive total at Tullamarine – it is a big, lush ground. Podge, Dasha & Nudge all take 3 wickets apiece. PVC opener, S Brayley, has made 92. I’m hoping that’s not a match-winning innings ala Nagle of Moonee Valley in last years GF. We will need to bat well. The pressure of expectation & significance of the occasion are obstacles we simply have to overcome.
Under the tutelage of Dasha, we have become an ultra-disciplined batting line-up. Batting 80 overs is now the norm. We make our way to 2/122 mainly thanks to Budge (54) & Podge (37). I join Budge just before tea on Day 2 but I cop a sharp one on the left forearm. It was a short ball that didn’t get up. I survive until tea, but by the end of the break, I can’t lift my bat. I retire hurt knowing that I’ll have a week to recover before Day 3. J Thorley enters the scene, and with Pazza, guides us past PVC’s total. That’s a relief, but we know there is still a lot of cricket ahead. Unfortunately, we lose a couple of late wickets on Day 2 to be 6/172. We have let PVC back in. Our belief & self-confidence have taken a hit. It’s gonna be a long week.
Day 3, Session 1 – this is the game right here. I’m next in, with Justy & Turtle at the crease. My forearm is feeling OK but I am a bundle of nerves. Turtle is his usual classy self & now Justy is launching an attack. This partnership is a thing of absolute beauty. We have PVC on the canvas & Justy keeps landing blow after blow – square cuts, back foot cover drives, lofted off drives….. The score ticks over 250, still with 4 wickets in hand. The boys on the sidelines are buzzing.
I know I’m feeling a lot more comfortable now. Turtle is finally dismissed for 74, with the score now 7/276. His partnership with Justy of 104 has put this game beyond doubt. Justy is soon dismissed for 71 but the damage is done.
Fingers, batting at 11 joins me. He is a genuine number 11 and is absolutely plum LBW on the 2nd or 3rd ball he faces from Pus. I can feel myself already walking towards the pavilion. But somehow, Fingers is given Not Out. Pus is not happy. We then put together a little last wicket partnership that I still rate as the most fun I’ve ever had at the crease.
Every over we bat, and every run we make are just more nails in the PVC coffin. It’s killing PVC because they know Fingers should be out, and they should be batting. An hour or so later, Fingers is clean bowled by the exact same ball by the same bowler that had him plum LBW. Pus grabs his cap in disgust from the umpire and says, “That’s exactly what that other ball was gonna do an hour ago.” We end up batting for 130 overs and make 328. We are not losing from here. The monkey is off the back.
The Turtle/Justy partnership of the 98/99 GF still remains one of, if not the, partnership I most enjoyed watching as a Laker. Within 90 minutes, it took us from a precarious position, to a position of dominance, in the biggest game of our careers. Personally, I know I was glued to every ball, maybe because I was next in, but how I’d love a time machine to go back & watch that partnership again. And I wouldn’t mind reliving the premiership celebrations again either, which began early Sunday evening in the portables and finally winding up at Keilor FC on Tuesday night, with so much happening in between……..

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