“THE SURREY BOYS – AMONG BEECHWORTH’S SPORTING ELITE…”

Philip Surrey is one of those unassuming, knockabout blokes you find on the periphery of country sporting clubs ; the old-timer who regards it as his duty to lend support to the up-and-comers.

He numbered more than 200 senior games of footy among the 350-odd he chalked up with the Beechworth Bombers. They were an Ovens and King power in those days, but to his lasting disappointment, he was dropped from the 1979 Grand Final, which ‘Tree’ Forrest’s side won in a canter.

21 years later, when they took out their next flag, ‘Jimbo’ had long since hung up the boots .

On reflection, he regards it as one of those kicks in the guts you have to absorb when you’re a battler – and you’re Beechworth through and through.

The same can be said for his cricket. He was a forceful middle-order left-hand bat; a key member of the side for what seemed like decades, putting a price on his wicket and having the occasional ‘day out’ with the blade……….

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But the locals reckon ‘Jimbo’s’ greatest sporting achievement was to successfully hand on his sporting passion to his sons, Brenton and Kayde.

Brenton remembers being dragged along, at about four or five, to watch his dad run around at the tail-end of his footy career, and play cricket on the hard wicket at Mayday Hills:

“The old man loved tutoring us….When we were having a kick he’d make us use the opposite side of our body with foot or hand, for the first 10 minutes. The same with batting; the first 20 runs had to be scored through the V.

“He coached both the U12 and U16 cricket teams and Mum would take the U12’s to the games.”

“A favourite coaching method of his, was to send the kids into the nets without a bat, to teach them to get the pad to pitch of the ball….You can imagine how that went down at Juniors training !”

‘Jimbo’ found some black soil at a job he was working on, and laid a half-wicket in the Surrey’s Finch Street backyard. Thanks to a light-roller and some tender love and care, it became the town’s first turf wicket, a couple of years before they installed the one at Baarmutha Park.

“Our next-door neighbors, the Halliday’s ( Eamon and Tiernan ) used to join in,” says Brenton. ” They were older and stronger and bowled pretty quick…..Kayde, being the youngest, took some removing. He reckoned he was never out !”

“Looking back now, that’s probably where we honed our technique…..The ball would often rear off a good length…..You had to be really watchful……..and patient………..”

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Beechworth tasted minimal success in the WDCA in a brief sojourn in the early 80’s. Upon their return a decade later, they landed the wooden-spoon in four of five seasons, before opting to drop down to A-Reserve for the next seven years.

By then, Brenton Surrey was showing loads of promise, and attracting overtures from Wangaratta-Magpies and Rovers-United, who strove to convince the 16 year-old that he should be playing A-Grade cricket.

‘Jimbo’ suggested that the Hawks might be a better choice, but the fact that his uncle, Gary Harris, was involved with the ‘Pies helped sway the youngster. They also handed him the ‘keeping gloves and guaranteed him a spot in the upper order.

“ ‘Grub’ was a big part of the three flags we won in four years,” recalls Barry Grant. “……A quiet, humble kid who fitted in well and thought a lot about his cricket. A class act…..Very hard to remove….He ‘arrived’ the day he scored 174* back in 2006. It’s still the record score at Wang-Magpies .”

It was always understood that, once Beechworth were ready to return to A-Grade, Brenton would be back. And that’s what eventuated in 2008/09, when he was appointed captain of a new-look side.

Whereas the Wanderers had been out of their depth in their previous two stints, they took no time to develop into a solid combination. Their first finals appearance came in 2009/10 and they’ve been there or thereabouts ever since.

Brenton says they’ve maintained a good core group which gells together…….And the off-field contribution of ex-Carlton all-rounder Ron Lawrence can’t be under-estimated.

“Ronnie runs our nets. He’s got some old-style theories – pretty basic stuff. He has certainly had a fair bit to do with our success.”

But there’s no doubting the influence of the Surrey boys. Brenton has been a fixture as captain, for 12 years. He and Kayde provide the steel in Beechworth’s upper order, and it’s rare if both of them don’t feature in the WDCA’s top half-dozen run-scorers each season.

“We’ve always been pretty competitive……we both hate losing, and I’d like to think our performances in bigger games are okay,” Brenton says.

Despite the fact that they’d be automatic selections for rep sides, neither have made the trek to Melbourne Country Week.

“It was staged up this way in 2007 because of the drought, and I played a couple of matches,” ‘Grub’ says. “But work has always got in the way of getting to Melbourne.”

He started his building apprenticeship with his dad, then took over for five years or so, before becoming registered. After doing some sub-contracting work for Daryl Leary, he began operating own business : C.J & B.J Surrey Builders, which keeps him flat out.

It means he has had to cut back on training. “I’ve always loved footy and cricket practice……don’t like missing . But it’s down to one night a week now………”

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Brenton seems to make runs against Rovers-United-Bruck; which is probably one reason I rate him so highly.

I remember him dissecting a pretty effective Hawk attack with the precision of a surgeon, in scoring 158 at the Findlay Oval five years ago. Was that his best knock ?

“Actually, there’s one that sticks out, against Wang-Magpies at the Showgrounds a couple of years earlier. They’d made 140-odd the first week. A couple of our young blokes decided they were going to a concert on the second day…..so it was going to be 8-out, all-out. It’s one I look back and think, yeah, I stuck my head down…. batted most of the day…didn’t give a chance…….”

When I remind him that he’s scored 31 half-centuries among the 5680 WDCA runs he’s amassed, ‘Grub’ replies: “That’s a bloody embarrassing stat…..not to have gone on with it a few more times. But then, if I bat well -no matter how many I get – and the team wins, I’m happy ……….”

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Beechworth’s proudest cricketing moment came in 2014/15, when they held off a determined Bruck to win one of the all-time great WDCA Grand Finals.

‘Grub’ was the hero. They were in all sorts of trouble, at 2/10, when he walked to the crease. He played shots from the start, and combined with Matt Hunt in a solid stand.

Then youngster Matt Ryan, who replaced Hunt, proceeded to play the innings of his life, as the pair added 155 for the fourth-wicket. It proved to be the match-winning partnership. Ryan made a valuable 90 and Surrey was run out for 108 in the Wanderers’ total of 8/298.

The game was seemingly as good as over when Bruck were teetering at 3/18. But they recovered brilliantly, to be within sight of their target. Again, the skipper did the damage. He dismissed a rampant Darren Petersen for 84 – one of the two wickets he snared. Despite continued lower-order resistance, Bruck fell a whisker short, to be dismissed for 281.

Two years later, the Surrey brothers again steadied the Wanderers, when Brenton (57) and Kayde (47) helped to guide them to a highly-competitive 175 in the Grand Final against City Colts.

It was a tight contest, and the score was probably worth another 50 in normal conditions. But Colts, who had developed a reputation for getting the staggers in the big games, were never comfortable in the run-chase, and were dismissed for 90. It was celebration-time again for the Wanderers, in front of their large group of fans………….

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Brenton’s entry to senior football corresponded with his cricket career taking off. He was 16 when he debuted for the Beechworth Bushrangers in 2004, their maiden season in the Tallangatta League.

Tough, courageous and a highly-skilled small-man, he became one of the team’s stars in no time. Inevitably, the approaches came from O & M clubs..

He admits that they beat a path to his door for several years.

“I trained a couple of times at Myrtleford……. the Rovers and Maggies put a bit of pressure on too….so did the Wodonga clubs. I suppose they got sick of me knocking them back in the finish

…….Kayde had a run with Wang, but it doesn’t really faze me that I didn’t have a crack at O & M.”

He gets fulfillment out of imparting advice to the young fellahs and was rapt when Beechworth appointed him Thirds Coach in 2009, at the age of 21.

“It was great of the Club to give me a go. The Thirds were lucky enough to win the flag, then played off in 2010. It was pleasing was that a few of those kids became senior players not long after.”

One Beechworth die-hard confirms that he was a terrific coach: “Just a born leader……The kids really looked up to him.”

Brenton and Kayde were integral members of a Bushies line-up which outpointed Yackandandah by 40 points, to win the 2010 TFL flag – their last finals appearance.

When Nick Dillon departed the coaching job mid-way through 2013, they called on ‘Grub’ to take over the reins. He shared the role with Gareth Pritchard the following year.

A broken cheekbone, sustained soon after, cost him half a season, but the ankle reconstruction he underwent in 2019 is the most serious injury he’s had in his 249-game career.

He and Kayde must surely rank among Beechworth’s greatest-ever sportsmen ; particularly when you add their footy CV’s to their substantial cricket achievements.

Brenton was the TFL’s Barton Medallist in 2011, and runner-up in 2006, ’07, ’08 and ’10. He’s a five-time Beechworth B & F ( 2005, ’09, ’11, ’12 and ’13). Kayde (one of the most versatile players you’d find) has taken out the Bushie’s B & F four times (2015, ’17, ’18 and ’19) and was runner-up in 2010. He is the reigning WDCA Cricketer of the Year.

‘Grub’ was set to share coaching duties with Jay Dale in 2020, before Coronavirus intervened. “I don’t know how I got talked into it,” he jokes…..”I was busy at work, and half-way through building our house. We were shaping up alright, though……..But a few blokes have headed off this year……Beechworth’s in an awkward spot, geographically….. It’s hard to recruit.”

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Time will tell, he says, how much footy he has left in him. “I’ve never been quick…..so we’ll see how much pace I’ve lost after the ankle injury.”

As for cricket, he’s confident he can add to the five WDCA premiership medals he has collected.

“We were thoroughly disappointed that we didn’t get a crack last year, when Covid intervened. It was probably the most talented side we’ve had….It was there to be won. Mark Butters was in his last season; we were desperate to win it for him…….The same goes for 2017/18 when the Final against Yarra was washed out …..You always think back and say they’re the ones that got away.”

One thing’s for sure; Beechworth’s little dynamo hasn’t lost his hunger for the contest……………..

‘ROBBIE REMINISCES………’

Rob Worthington’s excitement levels used to rise, around this time of the year.

He’d focus his attention on Wangaratta’s Country Week Cricket campaigns, and begin to assess player availability, the possible composition of the teams and the numerous other jobs that would facilitate the smooth functioning of the trips.

For almost 20 years Robbie was the ‘Backroom General’. He’d play a central role in a hectic whirl of WDCA representative fixtures, which included North-East Ensign Cup, Mac Holten Shield and Bendigo and Melbourne Country Weeks.

He became almost synonymous with the competition’s pursuit of success at the higher level. Scores and scores of players – many of them on the verge of outstanding careers – passed through his hands, and vouched for his enthusiasm and attention to detail.

Even now, more than a decade since his playing career wound down and he decided to hand over the reins, he’s still an avid follower of local cricket…………

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Rob learned the ropes at St.Mary’s Cricket Club, in Dandenong.

He rose through the ranks, from Under 16’s to A-Grade, making his mark as a fast-medium new-ball bowler and handy middle-order left-hand bat. The highlight of his twenty years of senior cricket in his home town, he reckons, was his first flag, on Dandy’s Shepley Oval, in 1971/72.

The Saints were a power club in the D.C.A, and he was to figure in another three premierships among a total of eight Grand Final appearances.

The last pennant came in 1986/87 – a fitting farewell from the club which had previously honoured him with Life Membership for his on and off-field services.

Two months later, he and wife Di – and their two kids – landed in Wangaratta. A steady stream of local cricketers ( me included ) beat a path to the door of the business they had acquired, West End Lotto, in a bid to lure the newcomer to their respective clubs.

Smooth-talking Bruck official Andy Walker secured his services. Robbie’s halcyon days had now passed him by, as he was rising 35, but he was to prove a more-than handy back-up to the new-ball combination of Russell Robbins, Steve Harries and the redoubtable Brian Fisher…………….

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His first Bendigo Country Week campaign was less than memorable……..”After being fortunate enough to get 3 wickets on the first day, I opened the bowling on the second and had a couple of wickets in my first two overs, then did a hammy. That meant I was in charge of the score-book for the rest of the Week,” he recalls.

“But I really enjoyed the experience. Playing in the city, you just didn’t get to savour that type of thing. There’s rep cricket, of course, but nothing to match a Country Week tour.”

Twangy hamstrings started to plague him, and he had to manage his body……and reduce his pace. He made one more trip to Bendigo as a player, then took over as Manager.

He’d been helping out with the Under 21 North-East Colts teams, and many of those lads formed the nucleus of the youth-orientated Bendigo squad.

At the time, a close-knit, happy-go-lucky group of youngsters were coming through, and they thought the world of Rob, who admits there was always a fair bit of revelry; but occasionally a few stern words, just to keep them in check.

One player recalls the pep-talk that he’d usually deliver on the eve of the opening Bendigo Country Week game …..: ‘Righto fellahs, it might be alright to have a few beers one night. But if you follow that up with another, it’s bad news…..It’s the cumulative effect that knocks you. Take it from me, you’ll struggle to last the Week’.”

“We ‘stitched’ Robbie up after the final game one year, though. He found himself in three different ‘schools’. Resultantly, it must have been a herculean effort to lift his head off the pillow the following morning. He wiped off the Vegemite that someone had pasted in his ears whilst he was sound asleep, and, right on the knocker of 7.30am, performed his final task for the week:

“This is Rob Worthington, reporting for 3NE, with the Bendigo Country Week match report…….”

“With admirable poise, he signed off and said : ‘Whadd’ya think boys. How’d I go over ?…..”

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Players like Leigh Hansen, Ash Gilbert, Shane Welch, Paul and Nathan Broster, Darren Petersen, Barry McCormick, Simon Hill and Jordan Wood were among the ‘younger breed’ of rep players of this era who went on to perform well in Victorian Premier Cricket, or its equivalent.

Two other highly-promising youngsters – Jaden Burns and Chris Tidd – both lost their lives whilst still playing Under- 21 rep cricket. Rob was keen to perpetuate their memory. For the past 27 years the WDCA’s outstanding young player has received the Award named in their honour.

Wangaratta won the B-Group title in 1994, but undoubtedly his most cherished moment at Bendigo was the A-Group crown they took out in 1999.

After being set a meagre 142 for victory against Kyabram, the match looked to be out of their reach when they’d slumped to 9/125. An 18-run last wicket stand between the match-hero, Ian Rundell and number 11, Chris Kenny, got them over the line, amidst raucous celebrations.

Much to Rob’s chagrin, the WDCA elected to bypass Bendigo Country Week the following year. He’d been Manager for 11 years, and regarded the experience that youngsters gained as ‘priceless’ for their development. He was rapt that the Association eventually decided to renew its link with Bendigo in 2017.

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After a lengthy spell with Bruck, he was considering retirement in his mid-forties, when he was approached to join Wang-Magpies, a move which elongated his career by several years, and provided him with a raft of cricketing thrills.

Not least of these were premierships in 1993/94 and 2003/04. The latter was of special significance, as the ‘Pies had come from 7th spot in mid-January, just fell into the four, then hit peak form at the right time.

They blasted through the highly-touted Corowa line-up for 93. Rob’s son Mark had grabbed the vital wicket of danger-man Rod Lane for 11, and from then on it was a procession. Mark took 3/22 off 15 overs, to share the bowling honours, and his ‘old man’ tied up an end, with 0/13 off 7. Wang-Magpies knocked off the required runs for the loss of four wickets.

Rob reckons watching his son emerge as a talented quick – and playing alongside him – was about as good as it gets.

He continued playing, on and off, until he finally hung up the boots, aged 58, and began following Mark’s District career, at Footscray and Geelong………

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Throughout the nineties, he’d been helping out with the North-East Cup team, and making regular trips to Melbourne to watch an occasional Country Week game. This morphed into him being a key component of the touring party.

He couldn’t think of a better way of spending his annual Leave ; one week at Bendigo and another at Melbourne. He became the off-sider to Managers Joe Pilkington, Graeme Kerr and Gary Lidgerwood, and would order Lunches, help with hit-ups, give rub-downs, score, drive the Bus and perform a myriad of other tasks.

He was even pressed into action, and made his Melbourne CW debut in 2004, aged 52, when a series of circumstances left the side in a pickle. “It was one of those weeks that you dread,” Rob says. “There were three wash-outs, and in the one completed game, four run-outs cost us victory.”

“Whatever happened though, you felt every bit a part of the team as the players. It was a great way to get to know blokes you played with and against. I saw some fellahs who were the toughest of competitors on the field, but when you socialised with them they were terrific.”

I ask him to pluck out some of the best rep players he saw in his two decades of involvement. It’s no surprise that he immediately plumps for the revered Barry Grant……

“He was as passionate about cricket as anyone I’ve met ( still is ) and he rose to the occasion in rep cricket. Some of the knocks he played in Melbourne, and in Ensign Cup matches, were terrific.”

“Rod Lane was a man of few words, but was a fine competitor and captain for many years…..There were few better all-round players than ‘Rocket’.”

“And the inimitable Darren Petersen…….Once he got going the runs came in a hurry. He treated the bowling with a minimum of respect, and was an excitement machine.”

“Of course there were the veterans like Brian Fisher, Gary Lidgerwood and ‘Psycho’ Carroll, and the other stars – Duane Kerwin, Rod Newton, Darren Grant, Paul Miegel, Ian Rundell and Jon Shaw…….”

In fact, whilst glancing through his extensive cricketing records, I come across a couple of teams he selected, comprising the star rep players from his time. He’s at pains to point out that it was purely subjective. Some had almost passed their peak when he arrived on the scene….some made only brief appearances before moving on…..others were just making their way in the game……..

I hope you don’t mind, Rob, if I publish your ‘Representative Teams From 1990-2008’……

TEAM No. 1

Barry Grant.

Darren Petersen.

Paul Broster.

Shane Welch.

Rod Newton.

Darren Grant.

Paul Miegel ( Wicket-Keeper )

Rod Lane.

Duane Kerwin.

Jon Shaw.

Ian Rundell.

Rod Gulliver.

TEAM No. 2.

Anthony Carroll.

Peter Tossol.

Simon Hill.

Joe Wilson.

Luke Norman.

Aiden Ryan.

Glenn Cousins. ( Wicket- Keeper )

Paul Lavis.

Ross Hill.

Gary Lidgerwood.

Brian Fisher.

Adam Booth.

Unlucky to miss: Jeremy Carr, Shane Norman, Craig Henwood. Andrew Wilson, Jon Townsend, Mark Higgs, Ashley Gilbert, Colin Smith, Michael Keenes, Peter Harvey, Andrew Hill, Mark Worthington, Chris Jones, David Diffey, Wayne Newton, Mick Lappin, David Lane.

Footnote: Rob Worthington’s contribution to representative cricket was acknowledged in 2004, when he was installed as a Life Member of the WDCA…..