Kings of the Bash: The story behind the Heat's renaissance

How a major overhaul helped Brisbane go from 'underachievers' to champs in the space of three years

On a steamy, overcast Friday morning in the middle of Brisbane's CBD, a moving mass of teal snakes its way down Queen Street Mall. Organisers of the hastily arranged meet and greet with the Brisbane Heat’s BBL|13 winning squad are stunned by the turnout, having been hoping for a couple of hundred diehards and seeing instead perhaps a couple of thousand flood the thoroughfare.

It has been that kind of season. Eleven years after celebrating a first Big Bash title, the Heat are back on top. There have been fallow times in between. Eventually, they led to hard decisions and ambitious plans.

"There's been a big collaboration between people behind the scenes," says Usman Khawaja, who signed a four-year deal as the Heat's captain and new marquee man in the lead-up to BBL|12. "I think the team's now in a really good spot."

The backdrop

The Heat's 2020-21 campaign looks more than passable on paper. They snuck into the top five with seven wins and seven losses, then beat the Thunder and Strikers in the finals to come within a game of the decider.

Captain and superstar batter Chris Lynn had again come to the party to finish fourth on the competition's runs list, and Mark Steketee's 24 wickets put him equal second among the bowlers. The pair was by a considerable distance the Heat's best performers.

Yet it was just the team's second appearance in the finals in nine seasons since their BBL|02 title. They had also become an erratic outfit, earning a reputation for spectacular collapses. They were even unreliable at the Gabba, where they had won just 13 of their previous 30 matches. While the BBL|10 finals run had been exciting, there was little reason to believe it was the beginning of sustained success.

In the aftermath of the season, the Queensland Cricket (QC) brains trust came together and decided the time was right to conduct an external performance review for the Brisbane Heat. For CEO Terry Svenson, who had arrived in the role from a corporate background in August 2019, it was a natural move to make. For the Heat, it was a first.

"It's a good time to go through this process," Svenson said in February 2021. "We can look at where things have been working and also where we can improve in terms of building a consistent, winning club."

The review was tasked with performing a 'health check' on recruitment and retention, player, coaching and support staff performance, and team and club culture, and was conducted by Suiko Consulting.

"Of course, our players on the field and our staff off the field were putting in 100 per cent," Svenson says today. "But we needed to better understand why we had a track record of underachieving.

"We're a proud state, a proud club. We'd finished more times in the bottom four than the top four, and the performance on the field was starting to cost us at a number of levels; 80 per cent of Queensland Cricket's income comes from Cricket Australia in guaranteed funding, and the other 20 per cent comes from the Brisbane Heat.

"So from a corporate sponsorship point of view, from a hospitality point of view, and in terms of getting fans into the stadium – our fans are rusted-on fans, but they were sick of coming to the Gabba and seeing losses – we had to review our organisation."

Winds of change

The first high-profile step in the Heat rebuild came on June 30, 2021, when Lynn stepped down as captain after three years in charge. In a press release, the 31-year-old said it was a decision he had "thought long and hard" about, though from the outside it was hard not to see the change as an early consequence of the external review.

Six days later, QC announced that Bulls head coach Wade Seccombe would be taking over as Heat head coach as well, with the incumbent, Darren Lehmann to stay on as senior assistant.

At Allan Border Field in Brisbane, Seccombe and Lehmann fronted the media, wearing broad smiles and black Heat caps and holding Covid-19 facemasks in their hands, and explained that the motive behind the move was two-fold.

One aspect was to do with Seccombe's national coaching aspirations. To be a serious candidate, it was felt he needed experience as a T20 head coach.

"His desire to coach at the next level is there," Lehmann said. "I've been there and done that, and I'm here to support him in his future endeavours."

The other aspect was more relevant to how the next three seasons would unfold. Lehmann said his exit from the hot seat would allow him to "sit back and (work out) how we can integrate better as a Bulls-Heat system".

"We've been trying to work together with the Bulls and the Heat for the last few years, but this makes it a lot easier," he added. "It's better for the players to have that all-year round training for T20, one-day and Shield. That integration is really important. They'll become better players."

On July 10, the Heat revealed they had lured star Queensland pace-bowling allrounder Michael Neser back from a nine-season stint with Adelaide Strikers on a three-year deal. Then in September, Bulls wicketkeeper-batter Jimmy Peirson was confirmed as the Heat's new full-time captain.

In a decisive three months, the Heat's leadership duo had changed from a South Australian and a T20 specialist (albeit a proud Queenslander) to a pair of Bulls stalwarts, while they had also recruited Queensland's best and most experienced fast bowler. It was a deliberate strategy. There was a sentiment that core QC people would be more invested in the rebuild.

The exception to that rule came when Joe Burns signed with Melbourne Stars. Burns was about to turn 32, and had averaged 22.50 with one fifty in 12 matches through the previous BBL campaign. Alongside Lynn and Lehmann, he was one of the last remaining links to the BBL|02 winning squad, however that campaign had remained his most productive. While he was younger than Neser, he didn't offer the same all-round package as his state teammate. Seccombe recalls "market forces" helping sway the Heat's decision towards the development of young Queensland players instead.

The calls regarding Neser and Burns were made by a newly-created recruitment and retention committee, led by Queensland legend and QC board member Ian Healy.

"The committee was a recommendation out of the review," Svenson says. "We needed to take a more tactical, methodical approach to planning, and we needed to be sharper and more decisive with our decision making."

End of an era

BBL|11 represented more of the same for a Heat squad that was still in the formative phase of its rebuild, while other matters conspired against them. Ravaged by Covid-19, they named 10 new players for a clash against Melbourne Renegades on January 6. Lynn had his worst BBL campaign in almost a decade, averaging 17.91. Neser's progression into the Australia squad and the complicated Covid-19 restrictions that surrounded the Ashes meant he featured in just three BBL matches.

The Heat's highest run scorer – English signing Ben Duckett – finished 19th on the competition list, while their highest wicket-taker, Mark Steketee, was 24th. A seventh-placed finish – with 11 losses from 14 games – was a fair reflection of a disastrous season.

Word from inside the Heat camp was that Lynn hadn't much enjoyed a tournament in which player movement had been so heavily restricted by Covid-19 protocols. He was also in demand from broadcasters to be mic'd up in the field, and his own form had lapsed.

It was the first indication major change might be afoot.

"We didn't see the player that we once saw last season," Seccombe said later. "And naturally enough, when you're not performing, you actually lose a little bit of your confidence and enjoyment. I just saw his enjoyment of the game wavering a little bit as the tournament went on."

On May 11, the Heat held a press conference at Allan Border Field to announce they would not be re-signing Lynn, whose five-year, $1m deal had come to an end. Healy, Seccombe and Svenson were there. Lynn was not.

"This is a sign that Brisbane Heat are going more to winning than entertaining," said Healy. "I don't think the winning part has come easily for us, and neither party have been enjoying the relationship (in the) last year.

"'Lynny' gets so heavily relied upon year after year and it's just become not enjoyable for him, so it's a mutual thing; we were going nowhere as a team, and Lynny wasn't enjoying it.

"To me, the other players weren't stepping up, and they're still not stepping up … So we've just got to make a step, get some real responsibility into our players and get them playing better.

"This is one of the most significant decisions the Brisbane Heat, and even Queensland Cricket, have had to make, because he has been the Brisbane Heat."

Chris Lynn's Brisbane Heat career

P 102 | Runs 3005 | HS 101 | SR 148.76 | Avg 34.54 | 100s 1 | 50s 24 | 6s 180 | 4s 233

Today, Svenson can view the call with the benefit of hindsight, as well as the distance time can create, which also allowed an initially displeased Lynn to see matters with less emotion.

"I've known Chris for a long time, and to be honest, I personally wrestled with the decision," the chief executive says. "But when you sift through the reasons behind why we wanted to do things differently, I think it was the right decision for both parties."

The fresh faces

The Heat were in talks with Khawaja before they had officially jettisoned Lynn. As an adopted Queenslander and a leader already in the QC fold, the veteran batter was an ideal fit for what the Heat were trying to do, even if he had just returned to the Test team, severely limiting his potential availability.

"Usman and I met before he went to Pakistan," Svenson said. "He could see what we were doing from a Bulls point of view, and from a Fire point of view, and he was keen as a Queenslander to play an even greater leadership role to address the concerns that we all had.

"He could see things that we could do differently. So we had a conversation about coming back and leading the Heat, and playing a significant role in rebuilding the Heat."

Khawaja remembers that conversation and others, with Seccombe, and with then high-performance boss Bennett King.

"We had to restructure the team," he tells "I gave them some ideas and a lot of those were around building good local talent.

"A big one for me was making sure we played our two local spinners. For a long time we'd had Mujeeb (Ur Rahman) come over. I knew how good Matthew Kuhnemann was. He just hadn't had the opportunity at that stage … (to bowl) alongside Mitch Swepson, who we always knew was a gun."

It was a shrewd decision that created a domino effect. Without Mujeeb taking up an overseas spot on the roster, the Heat could double down on batters in the new international player draft as cover for Lynn.

They did exactly that on August 28, 2022, adding platinum pick Sam Billings and silver pick Colin Munro to their roster. The players were not only established T20 stars but their availability at the front end of the tournament also made sense for the Heat, who knew they would have a good window of access to Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne in mid-late January.

Two days before the draft, they had also announced the return of Matthew Renshaw from the Strikers, who had permitted the Queenslander to be released from his contract a year early for family reasons.

"We wanted him in the middle order to be able to play spin," Seccombe recalls.

The deal was apparently unrelated to Lynn heading in the opposite direction, though the announcements came within 24 hours of one another.

For the Heat, it was another important piece of the puzzle. They had transformed what many perceived to be the competition's biggest one-man team into a versatile batting unit.

"We've recruited well with the internationals (Munro and Billings) for the first half (of the season) plus we've had the good fortune of getting Usman Khawaja and Matthew Renshaw back, so we have bolstered our batting stocks throughout the summer," Seccombe said.

"Losing Chris, we've got tons to make up there, but I'm confident we're going to make up the runs."

Max-imum appeal

Three lesser-known names on the Heat's list for BBL|12 were South Australia pace bowler Spencer Johnson and a pair of Brisbane batters, Josh Brown and Nathan McSweeney, who had been listed as local replacement players.

McSweeney, 23, had played six Shield games for Queensland but had struggled to force his way into a strong batting line-up, and was subsequently picked up by South Australia. The classy looking right-hander had played three games for the Heat in the summer prior, without a breakout score.

Brown, 28, had a reputation on the Brisbane Premier Cricket scene as a devastating hitter – and sweet timer – of the ball but the Norths product had never featured in domestic cricket. He was also a cricket snuff; a bat maker and a cricket card collector who, across the next two seasons, would happily bring them into the dressing room to be signed by his teammates.

Heat second-gamer Brown dispatches Sixers to all parts

Little was known of Johnson locally, but the 26-year-old left-arm paceman was about to make a name for himself via the launch of a new South-East Queensland-based competition, the KFC T20 Max.

"Given that T20 was becoming increasingly more important for our organisation in terms of bringing revenue into the game and ultimately funding grassroots across Queensland, we had to look at how to get a pipeline of T20 players," Svenson recalls. "That came back to the emphasis on talent identification, and what was born from that was the T20 Max.

"We were playing T20 Premier Cricket, but it was in December, and we weren't actually having our best players in it because that was the start of the BBL.

"So we made a conscious decision to grow the focus on T20 cricket to ultimately feed the pipeline into the Brisbane Heat, and we moved that competition from December to late August, early September, which then threw up some opportunity for players who had been performing particularly well."

Johnson comes up clutch to close out Heat victory

The Heat brains trust – led by Seccombe, Lehmann and bowling coach Andy Bichel – was watching closely as Brown smashed 159 off 59 balls, Redlands signing Johnson conceded just five runs per over across his entire campaign, and McSweeney made his way into the Team of the Tournament.

Few would have predicted that inside 16 months, the trio would between them become the player of the BBL|13 final, the player of the BBL|13 semi-final, and the captain of the title-winning team.

Seccombe highlights the fact in its first two years the tournament also showcased the likes of Jack Wood, Hugo Burdon and Lachie Hearne, while he notes another simple benefit.

"It's a really good competition, and it's one that is clearly relevant to our recent success," Seccombe says. "A lot of our younger players, and even some of our more senior players, weren't playing enough of the format. So it was the opportunity to try and get more cricket into them."

The runners up

The Heat had won just two of nine matches in BBL|12 when the trajectory of their brief history veered sharply. The most recent two defeats in that stretch had been comprehensive ones at the hands of the Scorchers. But in the second, Khawaja and Labuschagne returned, and Johnson debuted to immediate acclaim. Three nights later, on January 14 in Adelaide, the Heat also brought in Sam Hain, who had been signed in November as international cover for Billings and Munro, who had by then exited. It spelled the end of the campaign for another import, Englishman Ross Whiteley, who had failed to fire in nine innings.

There was more tinkering to the XI through that period but those four additions were pivotal to the form reversal that followed. So too was team balance, as the Heat regularly lined up with two pace-bowling allrounders in Neser and James Bazley, two frontline spinners in Swepson and Kuhnemann, and the express pace of Johnson. Part-timer spinners Renshaw, McSweeney and Labuschagne were all back-up options.

Swepson's three spins Heat to opening night victory

As the next season-and-a-half played out, the preference for a frontline sixth bowling option was part of an evolution into the bowling-focused philosophy that won the Heat a championship.

"I always love having six bowling options," Seccombe says today. "If we've got seven, better. Eight, better. I just think it frees up the captain, it allows him to bowl the right bowlers at the right time, whereas when you are restricted to only five bowlers, unfortunately, someone's going to go the journey on the day, and then you're scrambling at the back end of the game."

Labuschagne top scored in Adelaide with 46 and when the Heat successfully defended 154, it triggered a run. Renshaw produced one of the knocks of his career in Melbourne to get the side home from the final ball against the Stars, then back at the Gabba they beat the Hurricanes and the Stars again, as Peirson and Hain both got amongst the runs. Despite a loss to the Hurricanes in the final match in Launceston – in which Neser made it 11 wickets in four matches – the winning sequence put the Heat into the finals by a point.

Heroic Renshaw hits unbeaten 90 in last-ball win

While the three knockout victories that followed came largely off the back of standout batting efforts from the four Australia reps, there were key contributions at different times from the likes of Bartlett, Kuhnemann, and even Brown. Johnson meanwhile, turned heads with his high pace and sheer quality. It was a critical period for what happened 12 months later.

"We got a lot of belief out of last year," Seccombe reflects. "We got on an absolute roll, and on that roll, confidence grew."

The Heat brought in McSweeney, Max Bryant and Sam Heazlett for the final in Perth as the Australians headed to India. All three made runs as the underdogs put themselves in a position to win the match. Peirson had been Brisbane's most productive batter through the tournament but having taken back the captaincy from Khawaja, his leadership during the frenetic final overs in the Perth Stadium cauldron came under the spotlight as the hosts pulled off a stunning win.

Inside story of Perth's epic BBL|12 Final run chase

Still, there were positives to emerge. None more so than the fact that the seven wins from nine, as well as the final defeat, had brought with them both belief and hunger.

"We found our way into a final last year and we probably should have won it," Peirson told later. "It was a chance missed … but on the flipside, it's also given us confidence – we've been in a final, we've played in front of 50,000 people, we know what to expect, and we did it with a group that wasn't at its strongest either. So we know we can do it."

The squad finalised

The optimism continued in the lead-up to BBL|13. In early September, the Heat retained the services of Munro and Billings at the international player draft, losing Hain to the Hurricanes amid what was shaping as quite a stable squad. The previous month they had lost local allrounder Bazley to the Strikers. The 28-year-old had enjoyed his best season with the ball in BBL|12 and the Heat zeroed in on a like-for-like replacement with their third draft pick.

A thorough canvassing of options from performance data analyst Charles Evans – who had taken on an increasingly significant role in the Heat's planning process – threw up English pair Jamie Overton and Paul Walter. After the Strikers snapped up Overton, they selected left-arm seamer, left-handed batter Walter. The 28-year-old, nicknamed 'Tall Paul', had taken 21 wickets in 20 matches in The Hundred with Manchester Originals, and Seccombe surmised his height and varieties would be suited to the Gabba wicket. His availability – the whole tournament including finals – was another big tick, while his reputation as Manchester's 'social secretary', the coach laughed, would also come in handy.

BBL draft night with Brisbane Heat

It was a throwaway line from Seccombe but as it unfolded, Walter's seamless entry into the side was a boon for the Heat. A generally young squad embraced the garrulous Englishman, and as he gained something of a cult following among the fans, the perspective and humility he brought to the group rubbed off.

Two days before the draft, Melbourne Stars announced they had signed Steketee. The deal had in fact transpired months earlier. Instead of chasing a replacement in the draft, the Heat decided to place their faith in their younger players. It made Steketee's exit a smart piece of business.

"When players have been proven in the format, there's a certain price tag associated with that, depending on their role, and it's very hard to keep them all under a salary cap," Seccombe says. "But we're very proud of the fact that we're also developing players."

In this instance, the talent was Bartlett. The right-armer had only played three matches in BBL|12 but the Heat coaching staff had long known he was a match-winner. The wrinkle was that he had suffered another stress fracture in his back in the middle of 2023. When he returned from a stint playing in the UK, he was put on a recovery plan strategically targeting the BBL.

"We all know Xavier is an incredibly skilful cricketer," Seccombe says. "He had injury concerns throughout the season, and it was just a matter of managing so that we got him got the best out of him through the through the BBL, but first and foremost we looked at the long-term benefits for him fitness-wise."

The show begins

Everything clicked for the Heat in the opening stages of BBL|13. By Christmas they were unbeaten from four matches (three wins and a washout against the Strikers). They had run through the Stars for 111 and the Thunder for 131, and when the Renegades set them 163, they cruised to victory with 11 balls to spare, Renshaw top scoring with 49no. In a shortened tournament, they were already well placed for the finals.

A preference in the past for six frontline bowlers had become a hard and fast rule. Wicketkeeper Billings took on a flexible and selfless role in the middle order, epitomised by his crucial 40 from 29 balls on a tricky Marvel Stadium track in Melbourne. And with allrounder Walter entrusted as a No.6, the Heat were able to play pace trio Neser, Bartlett and Johnson alongside spinners Swepson and Kuhnemann. It was an outstanding quintet. Walter, too, was an early success story, clubbing a match-sealing 30no from 15 balls in that same game against the Renegades and taking six wickets in nine overs through those first three matches to establish himself as a shrewd medium pace option.

'Tall Paul' tees off against Richardson to guide Heat home

The run continued into the new year. Aside from a January 1 washout against the Sixers, the Heat kept winning, taking down the Thunder, Sixers, Hurricanes and Scorchers. Pace bowlers Bartlett (9) and Johnson (7) took 16 wickets between them in those four matches. The pair, who took plenty from their sessions with the vastly experienced Bichel, had emerged as a lethal one-two punch.

In fact, the pace stocks were such that the Heat's batters benefited greatly in the nets. Redbacks quick Jordan Buckingham, who had signed on the eve of the tournament, was relentless at training (and thrived in his role as 12th or 13th man, taking two catches in the final), young tearaway Will Prestwidge and the experienced Jack Wildermuth threw themselves into the action, and Queensland and Australia U19s paceman Callum Vidler heeded many a lesson from the likes of Bichel and Neser.

With a match to play, the Heat had locked in top spot. But the true test of the squad's depth was still to come. More than simply their runs, the Heat's experienced overseas stars had been integral to the success of the group. Billings was tactically sharp in the field, and his positivity brought the best out of a host of younger players. Munro had been a composed leader who, like Billings, radiated enthusiasm. Off the field, too, his family-first approach to touring life had been warmly received. It was nothing to see the likes of Renshaw and Neser teaming up at airports with the Munro kids, Chloe and Connor, to find mischief.  

With the pair set to depart before the finals, the Heat coaching staff opted to omit them for the last regular season match away to the Scorchers on January 13, thus allowing their replacements, Peirson and Bryant, a valuable 'warm-up'.

"A couple of years ago," says Svenson, "that's a decision we wouldn't have made."

The Heat lost the match – their first defeat of the season – but the strategy was a success in that Peirson (42) and Bryant (29) both spent valuable time in the middle.

It had been a difficult season particularly for Peirson. The former skipper was a regular in the Heat set-up in years gone by, and even led the team for runs scored in BBL|12. Squeezed out of a strong batting line-up, he might have had a case to feel aggrieved, but that wasn't his style.

"At times it was probably difficult for Jim to take," Seccombe says. "He captained the side in a final last year. But he was professional in the way he approached it, and we asked him to act as a leader around the group, which he did despite the personal battles he was probably dealing with in not playing."

With the Gabba out of action, the Heat hosted the second-placed Sixers on the Gold Coast. It was a difficult pitch to read and the visitors' experienced batting pair, Moises Henriques and Dan Hughes, managed to get a handle on it faster. The Heat had gotten Renshaw back from the Test squad but in the end it mattered little. Chasing 153, they crashed to be all out for 113.

Three days later they were back at the same venue, although this time when the coin fell his way, captain McSweeney – who had only been told he would be taking charge in the finals campaign a day before the Scorchers clash – reversed his call and opted to bat first.

"We saw how the wicket played the other night," he said. "Hopefully we can put up a good score and make it hard to chase."

There was another significant change in approach. After taking their 'six frontline bowlers' strategy to the bank, they abruptly did away with it, opting to omit Swepson for an extra batter, Charlie Wakim, who was on debut for the Heat. It was another example of the brains trust's willingness to make a difficult call at a critical time.

"He's been excellent," McSweeney said of Swepson. "We just think we didn't need two spinners based on conditions the other night."

Brown, who had hit a painstaking 15 from 22 against the Sixers, crashed a 91-metre six over midwicket from the fifth ball he faced. It was the type of breakthrough shot he had failed to find 72 hours earlier. With it, the dam burst. When he was dismissed in the 17th over, he had blazed a record-breaking 140 from 57 balls. The Heat were 3-192, and the match – on that wicket – was effectively over.

Johnson ensured that was the case when he removed both Strikers openers in his first over then returned in the eighth to nick off the in-form Jake Weatherald. At speeds of up to 148kph, the tearaway proved too much to handle on a pitch that had seemed more suited to cutters and changeups.

Johnson takes Strikers' top three to leave chase in tatters

The Heat departed for Sydney the next day. A tick under a year earlier, the two sides had met in the Challenger final, also at the SCG, and the visitors had come away with a four-wicket win. For the eight players who had taken part in that match, it was a real source of confidence.

Brown had been omitted from a full-strength Heat side twice during the tournament, but with the Heat's playing stocks depleted, Seccombe says there was never a discussion about him missing the finals, given the enormous upside he possessed.

"We knew all along that that with 'Browny', he's one of those players that can win you a game," Seccombe says. "So when you've got a player like that in your side, you've just got to keep rolling with them … you will cash in at some point in time. So he was always in the make-up of the side."

After his century against the Strikers, Brown delivered again, this time setting the tone with 53 from 38 balls against a Sixers side that arrived with plans to negate his impact. It was the foundation of a strong 8-166, while the Heat had brought plans of their own with the ball.

Brown slams BBL's second fastest ton

Key to that was spin in what Seccombe and co had assessed to be helpful conditions; in reverting to a six-man bowling attack, Swepson was recalled.

"We looked at the conditions, and we decided to go in with two spinners," Seccombe says. "We thought they were going to have a really, really big impact on the game."

After Neser and Johnson both took a wicket in the Powerplay, Swepson and Kuhnemann conceded just four runs each in the next two overs. It left the Sixers 2-42 after six and the run rate required was beginning to climb.

A menacing Johnson then took the big wicket of Josh Philippe, and Swepson followed it up five balls later by having Jordan Silk wonderfully stumped by Peirson. It was a huge moment – an accomplished chaser exiting for a duck – and suddenly the Sixers were 4-60 at the halfway point, with Swepson's figures 1-8 from two overs.

Brown delivers again with crucial fifty in Final

Kuhnemann conceded just four from his next over and the Sixers were left with no option but to hit out. McSweeney called on Walter, who duly dismissed Henriques with a slower ball, and the game was all but theirs. Perhaps the moment that best summed up the Heat's season came with the fall of the ninth wicket, when from the bowling of Bartlett, Neser produced yet another moment of out-fielding brilliance, taking a well-judged catch on the boundary rope and miraculously flicking the ball to Walter before any part of his body went out of play.

One delivery later, the Heat had their final wicket, and their second men's Big Bash trophy.

Player of the match went to Johnson, whose 4-26 had complemented his 3-20 in the semi-final. It was a sensational end to a remarkable couple of seasons for the left-armer, who said afterward that the Heat had "changed my life".

Johnson makes his mark on Final with four-wicket haul

Speaking to after play, McSweeney voiced the sentiment that had been part of the group's philosophy during a stretch that had seen them win 16 of 20 matches.

"When you win a title, you rely on more than just the 11 players that are playing every game," he said. "It's a squad mentality. Although we didn't play every game, the group that we have, it just shows the strength that we can bring to chop and change (our team). Mitch Swepson … to miss last game and come in tonight and play a pivotal role … credit to all the boys for taking it on the chin and the coaching staff for making those hard calls – all in all, we're standing here today (as winners) so we've probably made the right choices along the way."

The afterglow

Around the same time McSweeney lifted the trophy and took to the SCG dressing room to celebrate with his teammates, Svenson's phone pinged.

"One of the first text messages I got was from Chris Lynn," he says. "Just saying congratulations, what an awesome win, and, you know, all the best to the boys."

From his home in Brisbane, a fully-kitted Khawaja celebrated in his loungeroom ahead of the West Indies Test at the Gabba. A couple of days later he reflected on an achievement that had been a few years in the making.

"Even last year I was quite open and honest with (the QC brains trust)," he told "I said, 'We made the finals (in BBL|12) but I still think we're the fourth best team, so we've got a lot of work to do'. The way I judge it is where you finish on the table. This year we finished first, and I truly felt like we were the best team in the comp. Luckily – and it doesn't always work this way – we got the biccies in the end, too."

For a satisfied Seccombe – who attributes former high performance boss King as an "instrumental driving force" behind a lot of the Heat's development of a post-review strategy – the celebrations on Queen Street Mall took him back almost three decades to the breakthrough 1994-95 Shield final success, when he was a rookie gloveman just barely coming to terms with the scale of their achievement.

This time around, he believes, the title has been a triumph in strategy, communication and execution.

"I think our messaging has been really clear and concise, and our planning has been spot on in the last couple of years," he says. "Our analytics area is just going from strength to strength in how we look at filling the gaps in our roster. The coaches have gotten very good at planning for oppositions and communicating that plan, and the overriding way as to how we want to play has held consistent for a couple of years now. It's not rocket science, but the players have bought into the way we want to play, and when we've succeeded, we've played the right way."

It seems a definitive way to frame it. And it of course demands a follow-up: what exactly is 'the right way'?

"Well that," smiles Seccombe, "is something I'm not going to share."