My last blog finished on the hand-delivery of a letter to the squad of 16 on the eve of the final game of season 2008/09. We arrived for Day 1 of the final round to a wet wicket and our captain chose to bat first in a move that shocked the rest of the team. In retrospect, I can see why - he wanted to show us that if we applied ourselves, we could overcome adversity and come out on top. In reality, the wicket proved even more difficult to bat on than anticipated and we were rolled for 82. The wicket had dried somewhat but our fired up skipper still ripped through them, taking 7 wickets but they still passed us 7 down. Knowing we needed the points to make finals we set up an outright but again fell 3 wickets short.
With this final loss, we needed 4 other results to go our way just to play finals and by some miracle this actually happened. On a good pitch in our semi-final we again struggled to 7/73 against the team that had finished top of the ladder. I finally scored some runs with some of the lower order and some late hitting saw us to a very competitive 9/217 at stumps. We got a key wicket early on Day 2 and were never really headed as we dismissed the opposition for 115. I now credit this wins to a few things - and although he didn't know it, the captains decision in the previous game played a big part. We knew we could stay in the game in any situation, all we needed were a few guys to back each other and work for each other. We watched our skipper almost bowl us to victory a week before with only 82 to defend and then almost pulled off an outright. Now we recovered from a similar situation to post a solid score and I remember knowing we would have no trouble defending it. Yes, we had some luck - but as the saying goes, you make your own luck.
The Grand Final now was being played on a beautiful pitch and outfield and our bowlers ripped through the opposition, who elected to bat first, to have them 8/98. Our big opening bowler could hardly breath with a bad flu, but was inspirational with 5 wickets and although they recovered somewhat, we were confident of chasing down the target of 160. We lost some early wickets but then some solid partnerships got us most of the way to the target before the captain had the privilege of hitting the winning runs with 5 wickets and nearly 20 overs in hand.
This team was one of the most tight knit groups I had ever played with. The events of the last 3 weeks of the season constructed the kind of story that goes down as folklore amongst those who know it. So nearly gone, so many times. Yet the universe aligned and created something that one can’t help that think that fate had some influence on. The greatest aspect of this story was that over the last few weeks of the season, every player contributed to the win and we never relied on one or two superstars like so many of our opponents. It truly was a team performance where a champion team was able to defeat some teams of champions.
It is now 8 years later and although we don’t get to see as much of each other as we'd like - this group and some of the key people from the club that season still very much keep in contact. The key leadership lessons to take from this example of success for me included:
Never give up - all it takes in 1 or 2 people to step into the moment and that can inspire a whole team.
Challenge your team - put the challenge to them, and then lead them into battle.
Lead with passion - take responsibility for being the one who steps up, aim to inspire those around you.
The strongest, most resilient team culture will come when you overcome adversity - face the challenge, defeat it and watch the belief of the team skyrocket.