Where there's a will… how Beth Mooney beat the heat to win it for Brisbane Heat

Brisbane Heat are the new WBBL champions Getty Images

They started arriving early.

Half an hour before the gates opened, there were hundreds of them, lining up with Drummoyne Oval on one side and the bobbing boats and cerulean water of Five Dock Bay on the other.

The lucky first wave through the gates headed straight to the shade provided by the spread-eagled arms of the Morton Bay figs and the eucalypts. Even the mid-morning sun was biting; soon it would be brutal.


Before the match, Brisbane Heat captain Kirby Short spoke about the bowling plans. The Heat had bowled Sydney Sixers out for 88 in the second of their two regular round matches and, for Short, there was no doubt they had the right strategy; it was a matter of whether or not they could execute them in the same fashion. Take the pace off to frustrate the power-hitters and squeeze them into forcing shots, use variations to restrict their scoring options. She wasn't sure if lightning could strike twice in the pressure of a final but the template was there.

It wasn't lightning in the end, it was the slow-building suffocation that thickens the air before the storm. The accuracy of Jess Jonassen's slow left-arm deliveries and Sammy-Jo Johnson's nagging medium pace stifling Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry in the Powerplay. When Healy broke free, slamming Jonassen for a lofted drive over the long-on boundary and then pummelling her for four off the back foot, Kirby brought Delissa Kimmince on with immediate effect; an outstanding delivery squaring Healy up with enough late outswing to shave the top of off stump.

Again and again came the squeeze, the frustrated release and the breakthrough. Ashleigh Gardner attempting to launch Grace Harris over mid-wicket only to find Kimmince. Perry charging down the track to meet Jonassen, then adjusting to sweep and in the end top-edging a simple catch for Beth Mooney. Sara McGlashan spooning a Johnson full toss straight into the hands of Harris.

Only Dane van Niekerk was able to break the shackles but she came to the crease with only five overs left in the innings and her first boundary came in the 18th. Her 32 runs off 15 lifted the Sixers to 131 for 7, the same total they had made batting first against Melbourne Renegades in the semi-final, played one week earlier at the same ground.

ALSO READ: Warrior Mooney ensures Heat become champions

The total was not a lightning strike. It was the best first-innings total of all four Women's Big Bash League finals that have been played. In the semi-final, the Sixers had defended 131 on a thrilling last ball play that led to a successful Super Over. They had the experience of three finals behind them - two of them victorious - and two of the best death bowlers in the world in Perry and Marizanne Kapp.


By this stage, the 'full house' signs had been hung and fans were packed on the grassy banks. Those who couldn't buy tickets weren't to be denied, sitting on the hills that sloped outside the fence and climbing trees for a better view. Others sat in the park by the bay, watching on the big screen, devoting the start of the long Australia Day weekend to the first standalone WBBL final.


Mooney was sweating. This wasn't an unusual occurrence - her Queensland team-mates tease the native Victorian about her discomfort in hot weather - but this was different. The Heat had lost two wickets and they had just 14 runs on the board. Even more worryingly, they had lost two of their biggest hitters. Harris, talked up by Short as the player of her generation, had been sent back by Mooney after setting off for a single and, after slipping and twisting her knee awkwardly, was run out. In the following over, Johnson played across the line to Kapp and saw her stumps shattered.

Mooney hadn't had the best season by her high standards. A century two weeks earlier against Sydney Thunder stood out amid a succession of largely low or modest scores. It followed a World T20 in which she had played a support role to a rampant Healy at the top of the Australian order without stamping her own authority.

Even worse, Mooney wasn't well. She had been sick for the two weeks leading into the final, fighting off flu, and after standing behind the stumps for the Sixers innings, it was clearly getting worse. She had taken two catches, the second a screamer - anticipating Erin Burns' reverse sweep she had moved to her right and dived full stretch to claim the ball.

Now, as the innings wore on, she was struggling to stay on her feet. Her face gradually turned the colour of the opposition shirts as she found the gaps that had been non-existent when the Sixers were batting and hit over the top when they closed up.

With increasing frequency, the medical staff ran on with water, with sports drinks, with scarves filled with ice. Mooney bludgeoned the ball and more ice, more water was run on and then a ventalin inhaler, to help her breathe. It wasn't just heat from the sun bearing down, there was plenty of chirping from the opposition too, not least from Healy behind the stumps. Perry appeared unhappy with the time Mooney was taking between balls, down on her haunches, then dragging her frame upright as if through sheer will. But the chatter told her something; the Sixers were unhappy and that meant she was doing everything right.

The nausea took over. Mooney and Short, forming a partnership that righted the chase after those early wickets, joked about where Mooney could puke that would make life uncomfortable for the fielders; maybe in the covers or behind the stumps where Healy was parked. Instead, she took anti-nausea medication and somehow kept it down.

When she brought up her half-century with a leg-side nudge, she was too exhausted to raise her bat or acknowledge the moment. Instead, she dropped to her haunches once more, managing to raise her arm enough for a tepid fist-bump with Kirby.

There are plenty of shots that Mooney played that were worthy of praise, from the audacious scoop off van Niekerk over the keeper's head, or the powerful lofted drives, to the perfectly timed slash through point off Lauren Smith. But the one that summed up her innings came on the ball that followed Kirby's dismissal by van Niekerk; sweeping the South African to deep square-leg, Mooney set off for the first run, turned and scampered back for a tight second. Jonassen had hesitated at the striker's end but Mooney was having none of it. A player who could barely stand was sprinting on will alone.

She was out two balls later, chipping the ball towards Perry, who ran in from the deep mid-wicket boundary to take a brilliant diving catch.

Brisbane needed 30 off 31 balls. They got there in 27.

The heat had almost defeated Mooney but, with every ounce of sweat and determination she possessed, Mooney took the Heat to victory.