State hero ready for first Hobart final March 15, 2007

Boon's air of excitement after Tasmania's dark days

A Sheffield Shield title eluded David Boon during his 21-year first-class career © Getty Images

When David Boon first played for Tasmania, they were not considered good enough to be a fully-fledged Sheffield Shield team. The season was 1978-79 and for Boon, then 18, the thought of hosting a first-class final in Hobart seemed a long way off.

Finally, 28 years on, Tasmania have their opportunity. Boon was renowned for giving little away and keeping his emotions in check as a player; it will be interesting to see how he reacts should his state break through for their maiden Pura Cup title.

"There's an air of excitement here," said Boon, who is now the cricket operations manager for the Tasmanian Cricket Association. "For Tasmania to provide a team that's playing in and hosting the Pura Cup final is fantastic."

The game against New South Wales starting at Bellerive Oval on Monday is not Tasmania's first attempt to win the title. They lost deciders in 1993-94, 1997-98 and 2001-002 but all were away from home. Because of his national duties, Boon played in only the 1997-98 match, when he was captain of a side that went down to Western Australia.

"It is definitely different [to a regular game]," Boon said. "It likens more to an international because it's one game that holds a lot of value. The word final does create a certain aura but those teams that perform best play it like a normal match."

Only five of Tasmania's likely starting 11 played in the 2001-02 loss to Queensland as veterans like Jamie Cox and David Saker have made way for a younger batch of Tigers. Some, like Tim Paine, Ben Hilfenhaus and George Bailey, are Tasmanian born and bred. Others - Brendan Drew, Jason Krejza and Travis Birt - were imported from the mainland.

When we first joined the Sheffield Shield we were on a part-time basis to see whether we could be competitive. We proved we could be

Boon believes the current group has the best chance yet to fulfil the state's promise. It would be richly deserved after 25 full-time seasons in the 115-year-old competition. "When we first joined the Sheffield Shield we were on a part-time basis to see whether we could be competitive," Boon said.

"We proved we could be but it took us some time to figure at the top of the table. The one thing that probably hasn't changed in that time has been our population base. Obviously being the smallest state our drawing capacity is the least of all the states. Therefore our ability to produce and progress the talent base we have got is important."

That development continued this year with Bailey, the Launceston-born batsman, leading the side in the absence of Dan Marsh and winning both his matches in charge to seal the top spot. Boon has nothing but admiration for the young squad that could achieve what eluded him in a first-class career spanning 21 seasons.

"I have no regrets," Boon said. "I was very fortunate to play in one of those finals but we got defeated. In this one we've got a really decent chance."

Tasmania's long and winding road

Boon's international duties meant he played only one Sheffield Shield final © Getty Images

Pre-1960s - Despite regular matches against touring sides and other states, Tasmania are never seriously considered for admission to the Sheffield Shield

1963 - The state applies to be part of the national first-class competition but is rejected

1969-70 - Tasmania enter the new domestic one-day tournament

1977-78 - After gradual on-field improvement, Tasmania are given provisional part-time entry into the Sheffield Shield. They are only allowed to play each other state once per season; the other states meet twice

1978-79 - The first big coup for Tasmania: with an 18-year-old David Boon batting at No. 7 they win the Gillette one-day cup final against Western Australia having lost the previous year's decider

1982-83 - Tasmania earn full-time admission to the Sheffield Shield

1993-94 - They reach the final for the first time but lose by an innings and 61 runs to a New South Wales outfit inspired by centuries to Michael Bevan and Brad McNamara

1997-98 - Despite the efforts of Michael Di Venuto and Jamie Cox, a Tasmania side captained by Boon loses its second Sheffield Shield final

2001-02 - The Tigers miss out in their third Pura Cup final, this time struggling against Michael Kasprowicz, Andrew Symonds and their Queensland team-mates

2004-05 - Dan Marsh and Bevan - now a Tiger - guide Tasmania to their second one-day title

2006-07 - Tasmania earn the right to host the Pura Cup final for the first time

Brydon Coverdale is an editorial assistant of Cricinfo