Lions go back-to-back

Darley's premiership team. Picture supplied

Tara Murray

A second premiership is even sweeter than the first for Darley in the Ballarat Cricket Association.

The Lions made it back-to-back premierships after beating Golden Point with a strong all-round team performance.

For Lions coach Brian Wheelahan, this one is slightly more special.

Last season, the Lions who were undefeated, were awarded the premiership after the grand final didn’t go ahead due to COVID-19.

“It was huge,” he said.

“Even though we deserved it last year but not doing it by taking the last wicket or hitting the last run there is some doubt over it.

“Last season was our first premiership in the BCA, but on the weekend it felt real.

“Winning it this season silenced the critics. I’m still pinching myself, it’s a huge weight off my shoulders.”

The Lions didn’t have it all their own way this season. Wheelahan and Rahmatullah Khwaja missed early games due to the COVID-19 boundary between metro and country zones.

They slowly started to get going and were able to hit their straps in the back end of the season.

Wheelahan admits that while they weren’t the best team on paper, the group had plenty of heart which helped them get over the line.

“It was an up down season and we didn’t fire until the last five to six weeks. We found ways to win.

“Credit to the playing group who were able to win those big moments and back themselves in.”

After wins against Wendouree and Mt Clear in the finals series, they set up a clash with Golden Point.

The two teams were due to face off in last season’s grand final.

Wheelahan said they knew they would be in for a fight.

“They are a class outfit and bat really deep,” he said.

“Getting the prime wicket of Josh White, had them on the back good. Manjula De Zoysa played a beautiful knock.

Wheelahan said they were rapt to restrict them to 165, bowling them out with three overs remaining.

Khwaja took 3-40 for the Lions.

Openers Anthony Taylor and Danza Hyatt got Darley off to a flyer, before both falling when the score was 56.

The Lions though held steady with all but one batter getting a start.

Mitch Ward [22 off 52 balls] and Madushanka Ekanayaka [24 off 13] got the job done at the end.

The Lions finished 5-166, winning with more than eight overs remaining.

Wheelahan said in the shorter format you needed everyone to contribute.

“There were little handy contributions of 20-30,” he said.

“The skipper Bradley Barnes made handy runs at three and Mitch didn’t panic at the end of the innings.”

Wheelahan said that they would sit back and enjoy the success the next few weeks before looking ahead to next season.

“The seconds are full of kids,” he said.

“We’re in a fantastic position to go from strength to strength.

“We want to be a powerhouse for years to come.”