Wyangle dig deep to land emotional Elders Cup three-peat
It was hard not to get caught up in the atmosphere following Wyangle’s 61-run Elders Cup grand final victory over Adelong at Gundagai’s Stan Crowe Oval on Saturday.
Leading into the game, Wyangle were mourning the loss of ‘The Legend’, with Tumut sporting icon Neil ‘Nurri’ Bulger passing away on Tuesday, aged 70.
Despite this challenge, and with emotions sometimes bubbling over, Wyangle were up for the match, and they were spurred on by a boisterous crowd and the Bulger family, who turned out on the sideline, clapping and cheering for each run, each wicket and eventually, a Wyangle victory.
The reigning premiers, who made it a three-peat of titles with the victory, batted first and scored 7/141 from their 40 overs.
Jordy Neill top-scored with 59 and Ryan Bulger added 46 at the top of the order.
In reply, Adelong were skittled for 80, with the Wyangle attack, led by the likes of Bulger and Dean Crane, not giving the Donkeys a chance.
Wyangle were no doubt playing for ‘The Legend’, and their skipper Matt Stubbs explained that every player had Bulger in their thoughts during an emotional victory.
“It is amazing to win and it means everything,” Stubbs said.
“To do it, with these guys, especially with what’s happened during the week losing Neil, it was playing in the back of our mind and it was more special than any one of our previous grand final wins.
“I don’t think you can understate what Neil means to all of us at the club and to see a few of those wickets where it was stumped Bulger, bowled Bulger; I was tearing up as we were taking those wickets and we certainly did it for the big fella.”
Stubbs was never worried when scoring 141 in the first innings, and although there were nervous moments, with Adelong getting their tail up at times, a classy Wyangle outfit got the job done.
“Ryan and Jordy put us in a good position,” Stubbs said.
“We were a couple down for 115 or so and hoping to get 170 or thereabouts and they did well to peg us back and take a few quick wickets and then with 141, I still thought that was a competitive total.
“Then Berks (Luke Berkrey) batted well for Adelong but once we broke that partnership, I knew we were a pretty red-hot chance and I’m proud of the lads for knocking them over and getting the win.”
Stubbs, who has now captained his side to a three-peat of titles, was simply proud of a team that turned up week-after-week and season-after-season.
“It’s hard enough to win one, let alone three, and to win three in a row, you have to be consistent for a long time” Stubbs said.
“We have been very fortunate that results have gone our way, and I’m very proud of the lads.”
Fittingly Neil Bulger’s nephew, Ryan Bulger, was named man of the match, after scoring 46 and taking 5/20 from 7.3 overs.
Ryan Bulger, who was also crowned 2021/22 Elders Cup cricketer of the year, admitted that playing in the decider was tough, but he thanked the local communities for supporting his family during a tough period.
“It has been a really tough week with Uncle Neil passing, and it has been a tough week for the family and the Tumut and Brungle communities,” Bulger tearfully explained.
“It was difficult to get up and play today for that fact. You are still grieving and to get out and play cricket; it was hard.
“The Tumut and Brungle community and cricket community; they have supported us this week and I cannot thank them enough.”
Bulger watched on in 2021 as Wyangle defeated Coolac in the decider and he was just happy to be on the field on Saturday, delivering a win in honour of his late uncle
“Last year, seeing Wyangle win and not being able to play was tough,” Bulger said.
“But to be able to play in this game, and to have the family here considering the circumstance; that was fantastic.”
In a fitting end to the Elders Cup season, Wyangle and the Bulger family then took to the Stan Crowe pitch following the game, with the statement, ‘that was for Nurri’, echoed around the ground.
Mark Bradshaw then led a toast in honour of Bulger, with family and friends enjoying a Tooheys Old in his memory.
“We’re here for The Legend, Neil Bulger, who loves an Old,” Bradshaw said.
“We’re here to celebrate the life of The Legend, we are here to have an Old in his name – to Neil Bulger.”