MICHAEL Murphy couldn’t have scripted his final game of competitive cricket any better.

The 49-year-old, playing alongside old mates Dale Mitchell, Dave Ryan and Gary Stonehouse, took 6-24 off 24 overs, including 14 maidens, as Brierly Christ Church claimed its first premiership in 28 years.

The Bulls, dismissed for just 85 on Saturday, yesterday tore through Russells Creek for 60 to snare the division three flag and spark raucous celebrations.

Murphy, Mitchell and Ryan all played in the Bulls’ 1983-84 A reserve premiership side and they knew they all wouldn’t get a chance to play in another, with Murphy announcing his intention to end his career after more than 370 games with the club.

“It was fantastic,” Murphy said of the win.

“I’m just really happy it was with Mitch, Dave and Stoney, it’s great for them and great for the club.”

Stonehouse, who captained the side, paid tribute to Murphy, who bowled 20 consecutive overs yesterday despite his “buggered” knees.

“It’s a great way to send him into retirement,” Stonehouse said.

He said the victory would give the Bulls impetus for next season.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Stonehouse said of the triumph.

“It’s 28 years. There are a lot of people who have worked hard to get us here. It’s been 28 years of hard work.”

Stonehouse said the Bulls, who struggled to win just one game in division one during the season, had a bright future with a lot of youngsters in the side yesterday.

“There are four older blokes and 12 under 23. It’s a great platform for the future,” he said.

Stonehouse said he feared his side’s effort with the bat on Saturday had left it 20 runs short. But after reducing Creek to 3-26 at stumps on the first day, he said the Bulls were “quitely confident” they could defend the score if they bowled well early.

Despite dismissing Creek for 60, Brierly had to bat out a nervous 90 minutes to ensure victory, making 1-53 with Ryan (15 not out) and Stonehouse (21 not out) sharing an unbeaten 43-run stand for the second wicket.

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Ben Dobson high-fives teammates after West Warrnambool won the WDCA division one grand final.WEST Warrnambool’s first premiership in 22 years brought tears of joy yesterday after the Panthers produced a stunning performance to defeat minor premier Nestles at Merrivale Recreation Reserve.

An inspired West dismissed the previously undefeated Nestles for 58 to claim a 73-run victory before tea.

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Moments after a Simon Johnson yorker cannoned into James Dalton’s middle stump to end one of the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association’s longest premiership droughts, there was an emotional outpouring from West players.

Captain Andrew Robb, Johnson, wicketkeeper Luke Gannon and paceman Corey McDonald shed tears as they were mobbed by teammates, friends and family.

For 42-year-old Robb, the final wicket was more of relief than excitement as he tried to temper celebrations, thinking Nestles would want to send them back into bat.

But 90 seconds later when Nestles skipper Brett Eldridge walked on to the ground to shake the hands of the umpires, West’s celebrations resumed.

“Then the excitement hit,” Robb said.

While Robb had time away from the Panthers during the drought, he said the victory capped off the careers of veterans Leigh and Simon Johnson, Gannon and McDonald.

“It’s a long time but now the monkey’s off the back,” he said.

“The next time we win a premiership, it (the last one) is not that far away.

“I’ve played in four losing semi-finals and some grand finals, so it’s not like we haven’t been around the mark.”

Robb said he felt his side was owed a premiership after two years being consigned to runner-up after rain washed out the season-decider when his side was on top.

“At the end of the day we deserved to win with what happened a couple of years ago,” he said.

“I thought it was one that got away. But we’ve worked really hard as a group and trained hard.”

Robb said Leigh Johnson’s unbeaten 57, which earnt him man-of-the-match honours, had been crucial.

But he said the turning point came in the shadows of stumps on Saturday night when Simon Johnson and 15-year-old Will Mills each grabbed a wicket to leave Nestles 2-10 entering yesterday’s final day.

“We didn’t bat well. Our good players got out and Leigh held us together. But the best thing was being forced to bowl (Saturday) night. It was better than us batting for another 30 runs,” Robb said.

The Panthers then grabbed three wickets in the first hour yesterday, including joint cricketer of the year Cameron Williams for two, to have Nestles 5-31. Simon Johnson was brilliant, taking 4-16 off 25 overs, including 15 maidens.

Nestles skipper Brett Eldridge, who started his WDCA career with West, acknowledged his former teammates Robb, the Johnsons and Gannon.

“I know what it means to you,” he said at the presentations.

He said he was disappointed with the result, which ended his side’s undefeated season.

“They just bowled better than us,” he said.

“The game was on our terms. If we had batted our overs and batted well we would win the game, but they put us under pressure.”

He said his young group would bounce back.

He said most of his players had committed for next season.

“The ones who were 50-50 would regard it as a job not done,” he said.

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Major Projects Minister Denis Napthine (left) turns the first sod at the site of new overtaking lanes between Port Fairy and Yambuk, with the help of Moyne Shire mayor Jim Doukas, VicRoads regional director William Tieppo and Hazell Bros manager Mario Aiezza. TWO new Princes Highway passing lanes will be built near Yambuk in a $5.17 million project starting this week.

Each will be 1.2-kilometres long for east and west-bound traffic on the notoriously-dangerous stretch between Goose Lagoon and Fingerboard Road.

In conjunction with two other passing lanes being constructed near Terang and two more later in the year at a yet-to-be-announced section, motorists will be given long-awaited improvements to the busy highway route west of Colac.

South West Coast MP Denis Napthine and VicRoads regional director William Tieppo officially kick-started the Yambuk project on Friday by turning the first sod with a shovel.

Next week earthmoving equipment and contract crews will start work, which is expected to continue to June.

Improvements will also be made to the intersection of the highway and Fingerboard Road.

“This is a very important route and the new lanes will make a significant improvement to safety between Yambuk and Warrnambool,” Dr Napthine told The Standard.

“There is an average of 26,000 vehicles a day through this area.

“The section has many dips and bends and there are no real safe opportunities to pass slow-moving vehicles.

“Indeed there have been a number of serious and fatal accidents in this area over the years.”

Mr Tieppo said the works would be a significant safety improvement for the busy route for freight, tourists and locals.

Moyne Shire Council mayor Cr Jim Doukas said it was good to see government money going to the western part of the state rather than Gippsland, where there seemed to be numerous road improvements.

According to the principal contractor for the Yambuk project, about 30 jobs will be created.

“We will use as many local labourers and businesses as we can,” Hazell Bros manager Mario Aiezza said.

“There will be a minimum of 10 jobs directly on site and 20 jobs off site.

“It’s not just about safety, but also boosting the local jobs market.

“Motorists should expect traffic delays.”

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City Memorial Red celebrates winning its fourth of the past six division one grand finals on Saturday.CITY Memorial Red skipper Tim Jackway revealed the Saturday pennant powerhouse was lacking self belief after an uncharacteristic home-and-away season, but the side clicked when it counted most to clinch back-to-back flags.

City Red rolled arch-rival Warrnambool Gold 95-86 in the season decider at City Memorial Bowls Club on Saturday, which came after minor premier Warrnambool entered the finals series as favourite.

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“We would’ve been the underdogs going into the finals,” Jackway said.

“Our form’s been really topsy-turvy and they belted us twice during the year, but we turned it around in the two finals.”

Jackway partly attributed the momentum swing to City Red holding a couple of team training sessions late in the season, which helped boost morale.

“I think being able to beat Warrnambool in that first final at Dennington gave us the confidence that we could beat them,” he said.

“We had been struggling with self belief this year, so to beat them in that final, then we thought ‘hang on, we’ve got a real chance here’.”

Jackway’s was the decisive rink on Saturday, defeating Brian “Blacky” Lenehan 32-18, while City’s Ray Hoy triumphed over Paul O’Donnell 27-22.

Warrnambool also had two victorious rinks in Kevin Boyd and Neil Crisp, who defeated Peter Pangrazio (25-20) and Kevin McMahon (21-16) respectively.

“It’s always like that in a final, you hardly ever win all four rinks,” Jackway said.

“It’s always the strength of your 16.”

The skipper said City Memorial and Warrnambool had the advantage of boasting more depth than the smaller clubs, which he believed played an important role in City’s 2011-12 premiership.

The side lost three regular players in Bill Tory, Peter Maddern and Wayne Hall late in the season.

“When we had three really good players become unavailable, us bigger clubs have five, six or seven really strong replacements that can come in,” he said.

“Warrnambool Gold are the same.”

City Red’s replacements were Wayne Gleeson, Les Graham and Ron Grant, with the trio holding their own in Saturday’s grand final.

Graham (second) and Grant (lead) were part of Jackway’s rink along with third David Clements, who returned to pennant after about six years off.

“He was a real acquisition for the club,” the skipper said.

“In our game, we kicked away in the middle.

“It was fairly tight but we got a six and a three on consecutive ends to get a bit of momentum.”

Hoy’s rink managed to get the jump on O’Donnell early and Pangrazio trailed Boyd throughout the afternoon, while Jackway praised McMahon’s competitive performance against Crisp.

Warrnambool Gold players stayed at City Memorial Bowls Club for a drink post-match before the back-to-back champions continued their celebrations into the evening.

“We had a few quiet drinks and shared some food,” Jackway said. “It was a really good vibe.”

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Former Warrnambool firefighter Stan Nicol travelled from Queensland to attend an anniversary celebration at the weekend. IT may have been half a century since Stan Nicol was named the first officer-in-charge at the Warrnambool Fire Brigade but no one can question his loyalty.

The 88-year-old woke at 4am on Saturday to fly from his new home state of Queensland for the station’s 50th anniversary of the integration of career and volunteer staff.

Mr Nicol was one of about 60 current and former members to attend the event, which marked a delayed 50 years since the beginning of paid firefighters at the south-west station.

He and station officer Ern Bromley were the first two Warrnambool firemen to be affected by the statewide decision in 1961.

Senior station officer David Ferguson and career firefighter Darren Brogden organised an afternoon tea at the Princes Highway station followed by a sit-down meal at the Warrnambool Bowls Club.

“There were a few stories told,” Mr Brogden told The Standard yesterday

Mr Brogden said the group enjoyed catching up and reminiscing but was disappointed more of their co-workers had not been able to show. “Most of the people are still employed as firefighters at other stations,” he said.

“In our line of work, with the shift work, it makes it hard for everyone to attend.

“They might be here (in Warrnambool) for one or two years, or six months or even five years before moving on to another station.”

Mr Ferguson highlighted the strong relationships between past and present staff and volunteers.

He said he was pleased to see Clive Rayner, Michael Corbett and Lance Baillie among the group of firefighters who remained active volunteers for the CFA.

The Warrnambool Fire Brigade will celebrate its 150th anniversary next year. It was officially formed in 1863 following several failed attempts.

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