SOUTHLAND’S mantra on their way to creating Hawke Cup cricketing history this season was all about showing improvement from game to game.
With that box ticked, the champion Southland team is now eager to take that mindset into next summer when it tries to take the game to another level and defend the prized trophy.
Southland ended a 26-year drought at the weekend when they claimed the Hawke Cup for the first time since 1992.
It was the seventh time Southland has won the Hawke Cup since 1911 and they did in style, producing a commanding 10-wicket win over a strong Counties Manukau team in the three-day game in Manurewa.
Among all the celebrations, a proud Southland coach Steve Jackson said they would now eye fondly the chance to defend the Hawke Cup at Queens Park in Invercargill when the 2018-19 season rolled around.
“The beauty is we’ve now set a benchmark, you’ve got to do that to win it,” Jackson said.
“To win it is hard, but it is probably a little bit easier [than defending it] because you are always the underdog. Once you’ve won it everyone is trying like hell to get it off you.
“Our whole season has been all about the guys being better than their last performance, and that is going to be the way we take it from here.
“We’ve just got to get better and be slightly better than we have been. If we can continue on that frame of mind, it will be damn good.”
Not surprisingly, Jackson saw the Hawke Cup victory as a big shot in the arm for cricket in Southland and a chance to help develop the leading players in the province.
“It is great [for Southland cricket]. We’ve got a lot of young boys in this team, so for them to be part of that is great.
“Hopefully we can string a few [defences] together now and keep players.”
Jackson first coached the Southland team in 2001 and there has been a group of senior players who have worked hard to get the team to this point.
For players like captain Shaun Fitzgibbon and Jason Domigan, it has been their fourth or fifth shot at challenging for the Hawke Cup.
Jackson said the reaction after the victory was sealed on Sunday afternoon highlighted just what it meant to the players to be able to bring the Hawke Cup back to Southland for the first time since 1992.
“The boys are ecstatic and you can see that. I went up and watched the boys when [the Stags] won the Ranfurly Shield and saw the reaction there. To see our guys run out on to the field and swarm each other, you don’t normally see that at cricket.
“It is just great to see how much winning the Hawke Cup means to them.”
SOUTHLAND’S HAWKE CUP HISTORY
1910-11 (6 tournament matches)
March 14, 1911-March 25, 1913 (1 challenge)
February 7, 1970-December 29, 1970 (1 challenge defended)
March 12, 1973-February 27, 1977 (14 challenges defended)
March 23, 1987-March 15, 1988 (4 challenges defended)
February 27, 1989-February 24, 1992 (15 challenges defended)
March 11, 2018: Current holders of the Hawke Cup