One of the few successes of the Club in third grade was achieved in 1975-76 when the team won the final to take out the major premiership.
The win was remarkable in that on more than one occasion the team survived a “near-thing” that could easily have snuffed out its chances. As described by the team’s captain, Colin Johnston: “Over the years Norths have won plenty of premierships and finals – maybe not many in third grade – but it is certain that no past success has been as dramatic or as unexpected as that achieved by the thirds last season.”
Coming to the last round, the team was in fifth place and had to play the fourth-placed side, Raymond Terrace, in a two day match. After the first day’s play was washed out, Northern gained an easy first innings win on the second day to put them into the semi-finals just ahead of the Terrace on averages.
In the semi-final Northern was opposed to the strong Easts team which had won the minor premiership by a big margin. After the Saturday’s play was washed out, Northern was sent in the next day on a wet wicket. They managed to score 157 with Jack Horseman (who had returned to the Club after three years in Canada) contributing a fine 101. In reply on a much easier wicket Easts were restricted by some tight bowling by Don Nichols and Keith Smith and were dismissed one run short of Northern’s total – a result that had to be checked and verified by the Board.
The final played against Black Hill on SMR wicket was again affected by rain.
After dismissing Black Hill for 91, Northern gained a narrow first innings lead of 20 runs by scoring 111. Black Hill was then bowled out for 61 with Keith Smith and Gary Spohr each taking 4 wickets.
The 41 runs needed for victory did not seem too difficult. However, the side collapsed to be 9 for 27 and was on the brink of defeat. At that stage Keith Smith joined Graeme McKimm at the crease. The outcome is best described by Colin Johnston: “One wicket to fall, the wicket bad, the opposition on top and 15 runs to win. Black Hill bowlers probably tried too hard and dropped them short. Some lusty hooks by Graeme, a deft shot over slips by Keith and we were there. Eddie French (who had played for years without winning a cap) had his cap and so did the rest of us.”
For Col the win had particular satisfaction: “And so starting in 1930 as the youngest in Norths thirds and playing my very first match on the same ground that we won the final in 1976, the circle seems to be completed for me. “(Actually, after this victory Col was to continue to play for another five seasons before hanging up the boots!)”.