SAY GOODBYE TO THE CUP MONKEY
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
IT MIGHT have happened with the intervention of the gods but Coffs Harbour have finally got the Country Cup monkey off their back.
Three overs into Coffs Harbour's run chase at Brelsford Park, play was halted when the threatening clouds engulfing the area turned ugly and there was no further play possible.
As Coffs Harbour were given a higher tournament ranking than their Manning River opponents, the team has now progressed for the first time into the Cup finals to be held in Dubbo.
Although given the result due to play being abandoned, captain Daryl Parmenter believes that his team earned the right to be in the last 16 teams in the statewide competition after bowling out Manning River for 202 and being 0-19 in reply.
"It is disappointing you don't like winning that way but I think we showed so much character with the team," he said.
"I think they lost 6-17 in those back overs, we finished that lot of overs on top and at 0-19 off three overs I was fairly confident of getting those runs."
It was that late order collapse that gave the local side a very strong sniff of victory but the reality is it could have been a whole lot worse.
The boys from down Taree way were starting to dine out on an ever-flattening pitch and after 35 overs batsmen Josh Emerton (58) and Josh Meldrum (51) had advanced the score along to 4-185.
At that stage the skipper admits that he was a worried man.
"I thought 'I'm going to chase 280 here' because there was a howling gale and I thought '280, we're going to struggle'."
"Mainly because I know a few of their players, they've got a few guys that have played in the North Coast and I know they're very good bowlers and I thought that we were going to struggle.
"But then to come back like that just shows what a great bunch of guys we've got in the team."
The comeback was created in the field. Four magnificent wickets were created with brilliant fielding.
First it was a magnificent overhead catch at mid off from Joe Mennie that would have had no troubles finding itself into a highlights package from an AFL game.
Next the speedy Mickey Lawrence created a brilliant individual effort with a diving underarm from cover that hit the only stump he had to aim at to leave the batsman well short of the crease after a mix-up.
Peter Bayley took his second sharp caught and bowled chance for the day and then Darren Funston took a wonderful catch with a diving effort at point.
The brilliance in the field was no surprise for the NSW Country wicketkeeper, in fact the effort merely showed that the team was listening during the morning's team meeting.
"One of the things that we always speak about is intensity and being patient and patience brings out that stuff," Parmenter explained.
"If guys aren't patient and they're switched off because there's a partnership going on, those half chances get missed so it's great being patient and being ready and that was the call that we made on the field 'Always be ready'."
A very positive start to the Coffs Harbour innings was made by Jordan Moran and inter-district debutant Pat Martin.
Travelling at a run a ball, it seemed that destiny was finally going to be in Coffs Harbour's favour after many years of heartbreak in this competition.
Now that the team has finally reached the Dubbo stage of the competition, Parmenter still needs to pinch himself to believe that it's actually happened.
"It's great, it's overwhelming actually because we set that goal at the start of the year when we all got together as a squad," he said.
"Now that we've done it, it's harder because we now have to set new goals."
One of those new goals will be to regroup during the week so they can take on Clarence River this Sunday at Grafton.
For the sake of upholding the reputation of Coffs Harbour cricket, Parmenter believes it is extremely important that the team create another victory this week in the North Coast championship.
"It's one of those things when you play two different competitions that you have to keep that high standard going the whole time," he said.
"Now that we have the reputation of being the North Coast's side that is representing them, we have to live up to that standard otherwise we'll start getting the knives in the back as they say 'Oh they just got there because of the wash out'."
Wash out or not, many summers of heartbreak has finally come to an end in a year that has seen a few sporting curses overcome.
The Poms won the Ashes, the Socceroos are going to the World Cup and now Coffs Harbour can finally say that they're going to Dubbo.