Whilst there was a sense of expectation that our under 16 crop of 2006 would take some beating in the Matchplay competition, the general expectation around the 2013 side was slightly more muted.
Not because they weren't a fine side - their record in Havering/Met and Essex competitions was superior to that of the 2006 side from u11-u15, but whereas the 2006 crop featured 11 talented cricketers who were coming of age together, the perception was that whilst the 2013 side had a very talented core, they were probably a few players short against the very top sides.
In the event, two factors conspired to catapult the 2013 side to a point at which only eventual winners Loughton could get the better of them, some of the 'fringe' players stepped up to become real contributors against the best sides and skipper Shane Barwick became a dominant player both with bat and ball against players in his age-group.
When the draw was made, any thoughts of qualification for the knock-out stages were immediately shaken by the immediate challenge of a visit to Wanstead, followed by two home games against opponents from the south of the county Basildon and Benfleet before a trip to Shenfield for what looked likely to be a crucial decider.
Against the Herons, Shane Barwick showed the first signs of the form that would see him end the season as Essex Recreational player of the year, as he hit a fine 86 from 74 balls, adding 120 with Bobby Gaymer who hit a dogged 52, Brook ending on 225-5 from their 40 overs.
In reply Wanstead seemed to be well in control at 185-3 with 9 overs remaining, but once Barwick and Gaymer had picked up wickets in their final overs, the game was on a knife-edge and off-spinner Billy Smith bowled 2 tight overs to leave Wanstead needing to take some risks. Against some high quality out-fielding, the Wanstead batsmen were unable to get the job done, as Joel Oliver and Charlie Thompson both effected run outs from the boundary and ultimately Wanstead were bowled out for 223 off the last ball in a fantastic game, leaving Brook winners by 2 runs.
With the next 2 games falling to rain, much of the momentum gained from the Wanstead win had disappeared as the 16's were without a game for a month. They needed a win at Shenfield to top the group, but a defeat would mean elimination and on a damp afternoon at 36-3 with both openers and Shane Barwick gone, things were looking decidedly dicey. Step forward Joel Oliver, Ben Irving and Stuart Greaves, who bailed the side out in contrasting ways. Oliver hit a quickfire 33 to give his side some belief and then Irving hit a stylish 62 to take his side over the 150 mark. Greaves was left to hold the innings together after Irving departed and the blonde bombshell hit a fine 49 in his first innings of the year before being unluckily run out, as Brook mustered a competitive 176.
In reply, spinners Billy Smith and Callum Shepherd cut through the Shenfield batting and despite a late alarm as the Shenfield tail started to swing the bat, Brook wrapped up the innings for 143 to progress to the next stage.
As pool winners the 2nd round draw was kind to the 16's leaving them in what appeared to be an eminently winnable pool with an Ilford side who they had got the better of at u15 level and runners-up from the 1st stage Newham and Harlow.
The first game at Newham was dominated by Barwick who held the innings together with an outstanding unbeaten 100, Goresbrook reaching 202-6 against a very competitive Newham attack.
The Newham response was then derailed by early wicket from Bobby Gaymer, who finished with 3-27 and a fine all-round performance from Barwick who took 3-29 and took 4 catches, as the East Ham based side were dismissed for 150.
The second game against Ilford saw a complete bowling and fielding performance, the wickets being spread around as Ilford were rolled over for 110 on a blameless track at M&B. Brook's response showing exactly how blameless, as opener Jack Stead hit an unbeaten 49 as we knocked off the runs in the 19th over for the loss of just 2 wickets.
That left a nervy last fixture against a Harlow side with some very talented young players (they won the Peter Coe cup the following year). Goresbrook posted 172-8 on a spongy track after some heavy overnight rain, the innings being rescued from a spot of bother by 14 year old Harry Jackson and paceman Liam Addison returning after an 18 month self-imposed exile.
Harlow never threw in the towel in response, but with Bobby Gaymer taking 2 early wickets, Harlow's young lower order were unable to make inroads into the required run-rate, eventually being dismissed for 148, the wickets again being spread around what was becoming a multi-faceted attack.
A coachload of Goresbrook support accompanied the team down to Billericay, where the semi-finals were Loughton v Fives & Heronians and Goresbrook v Saffron Walden and after losing the toss, a nervy opening from Gaymer and Addison allowed Walden to get off to a flying start at 55-0 off 10 overs.
That left some observers fearing the worst as the stylish openers looked in total control, but as ever, the Goresbrook spinners had other thoughts, Barwick and Billy Smith drying up the runs, with Barwick removing both openers to leave the game well balanced with Walden at 88-2 after 20 overs.
14 year old Harry Jackson then bowled an inspired spell at the Crocuses middle order looked to cut loose, taking 2-27 in 6 overs. With Barwick rotating the bowling intelligently, Goresbrook started to gain the upper hand and despite a fine 47 from Josh Charge, Walden were dismissed for 168 in 37 overs.
On a typically flat Billericay pitch, that looked a total that was within Goresbrook's range and so it proved, as despite the early loss of Jack Stead, Brook made steady progress before Gaymer went with the score on 62.
That brought Ben Irving to the crease to join Barwick and the pair, who had been at the club together since they were first allowed to play with a hard ball, shared a wonderful partnership of 99, at first watchful and then aggressive as the shackles were thrown off and it became clear that Brook were heading back to Chelmsford. Irving eventually fell for 57 from 55 balls, but ever-mindful of his average, Barwick was in no mood to give it away, concluding matters without allowing number 5 Joel Oliver to face a ball, finishing on 74 from 104 balls as Brook eased home by 7 wickets.
Those present felt that they'd rarely seen a Goresbrook Colts side play better and the strength of that performance was put into perspective when Saffron Walden won the 2014 competition with a number of that side to the fore.
Brook's followers disappeared to drink the bar dry of Doom Bar sharing a pint or two with ECCL umpire Ian Berriman who was watching his club Loughton close in on a hard fought victory over Fives to set up an all-Met Board final.