From the doldrums to a bid for glory

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2014

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It is amazing what can happen in a year to 18 months in sport - Southland Boys' High School's cricket programme highlights that.

This time last year there was real concerns about Southland's premier cricket school following a disappointing 2012/13 club season.

In the space of two weeks the school team were bowled out for 35 and 53 in Southland's senior club competition, which drew suggestions from some quarters that the school may well have to drop down to the second-tier Combined Country competition.

Teacher in charge of cricket at Southland Boys' Chris Neylon was, however, adamant the school should remain part of the senior competition for development purposes and said they would be much more competitive come the 2013/14 season.

Neylon was spot on as the school team have transformed themselves from a wooden-spoon place last season to eyeing a showdown with the Metro Tigers in Southland's senior one-day club final at Queens Park today.

They finished the round-robin series in second and last Saturday toppled the Appleby Rams in one semifinal to progress to the decider.

Former Otago Volts player and current Southland Boys' player/coach Craig Smith has played a key role in booking a place in the final as have teachers, Neylon and Josh Simms, who have helped them in the senior club games.

But the development of certain pupils has also been instrumental in the turnaround this season.

''Last year we struggled a bit,'' Smith said.

''This year we knew we'd be competitive at least this season, but it's been really good to do what we've done. A couple of the boys have really stepped up, which is pleasing. Everyone was pretty bloody stoked (to win that semifinal), it was pretty cool to see the boys faces actually.

''They probably don't realise but you don't get to play in many finals over your career so it's good. In finals cricket you never really know what's going to happen.''

Smith felt Ng returned from tour to India with a group of Southland cricketers in September a much better player and had kicked on well this season scoring 316 runs in the one-day competition alone at an average of 35.

Liam McWilliam also benefitted from being part of the Otago under-17 team that attended the national tournament in Wellington in January.

The Southland Boys' High School first 11 is in the midst of fundraising to head to Melbourne in October for games in the lead up to the 2014/15 season.

Next Saturday they will hold a golf tournament at Green Acres as part of the fundraiser.

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Meeting Southland Boys' in the final, defending champions Metro Tigers will attempt to do something special themselves after their senior reserve team a fortnight ago won the Combined Country competition beating Riversdale in the final.

No club has ever won both the senior one-day title and the Combined Country competition in the same year.

- The Southland Times

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