Shadows of doubt crept over Druids’ credentials as a premiership contender in the Victorian Turf Cricket Association division 1 west as recently as February 2.
The question being asked of the West Footscray-based club on that day was ‘how could it rebound after being handed a cricket lesson from Airport West-St Christophers?’
The response from Druids was like no other.
Only 49 days after that soul-searching experience, Druids stood atop the podium as the premiers, beating that same Airport West-St Christophers team in commanding fashion by seven wickets in a four-day grand final at Shorten Reserve.
The premiership was achieved exactly 30 days after they claimed the Twenty20 premiership.
Druids captain Leigh Wilson lauded his players for the incredible turnaround.
“They touched us up about two months ago,” Wilson said.
“We knew they’re a quality side and to come out and beat them the way we did in the grand final showed a lot of grit and character from the guys, who were willing to respond and show resilience to get back to winning cricket games.
“Obviously we had a great three days in the grand final, but to also win the T20 flag and also get the contributors throughout the year to get us into the position we were in, it was fantastic and I’m really proud of everyone.”
Druids were set a target of 254 for victory.
It was an all-in effort that ensured Druids did not have to chase any more, which had them in the box seat after the first weekend.
“They could’ve got 350-plus and it would’ve been a much different game if that happened,” Wilson said.
“Credit to the bowlers and all the fielders and everyone that contributed last week to get us into that position.”
Druids were given an intense examination from the West Saints bowlers.
Their batsmen withstood every challenge, executing their run chase to perfection.
Wilson had a great summer with the bat, but his stat sheet lacked an eye-catching score.
It was the captain’s time to lead his team to victory and he did so with a gutsy 126.
“I’ve probably only made six or seven hundreds in my senior career, so to make one in a grand final is pretty special,” Wilson said.
“You’ve got to take a bit of responsibility in the big games and I thought it was a perfect opportunity for me to do that.
“I’ve played a lot of innings where I’ve been able to score a lot quicker and do it a lot easier, but this one was where I had to bat a lot longer and get through a few tough periods.”
Half-centuries to opener Steve Nicholson (50) and Shane Windridge (52 not out) were huge for Druids.
James Waters might have only made nine, but he grinded away for 30 overs to frustrate the West Saints.
“Everyone that batted showed a bit of grit,” Wilson said.
The premiership means the Druids will finally achieve a long-term aim of promotion to the VTCA’s top-flight senior division.
The scope of what his team has achieved hit home for Wilson when he saw the emotion on the face of former club president Warren Roach after the game.
“It was terrific to see a lot of people who work hard behind the scenes get the reward for it,” Wilson said.
“You see Warren Roach, he’s done a lot for the club and to see him get a bit emotional when we won the flag was pretty special for me as a player.
“There’s also the likes of [current president] Richard Brennan, Gary Tilton and George Arcadiou – they’re the backbone of the club and they’ve put a lot of work in.”
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