A MARATHON KNOCK AT THE TOP OF THE ORDER……”

Mention the name Hoysted in this neck of the woods and the sporting pundits will regale you with the feats of the nation’s most illustrious racing dynasty.

Frederick William Hoysted settled here from Ireland’s County Kildare in 1859. The family tree has provided, at last count, 19 renowned trainers, 6 jockeys, 3 Bookmakers, a saddler, a horse auctioneer – and of course, Des, the famous race-caller.

Why, I ask Greg Hoysted, did he veer from the path of thoroughbred racing, and settle on cricket as his chosen sport ?…………….

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“Simple, really,” he explains. “Hal, my uncle, gave me a pony for my fifth birthday. I climbed on and had a massive allergic reaction. I discovered I was allergic to horses, so that put paid to my involvement in the equine industry.”

When Greg’s grandfather, training wizard Henry Fred ( ‘Tib’ ) Hoysted passed away, Hal inherited the family’s stables; Jack, his dad, took over the Wangandary farm.

“Dad operated the farm for the rest of his life. He bred several fine horses, but at one stage he got tied up with helping to run Junior footy, so I started playing with Combined Churches. A few of my mates were keen cricketers, too, and I joined them.”

The die was cast.

At 12 he was opening the batting in the local Under 16 competition. He made his senior WDCA debut at 13 or 14, as a fill-in for Wangaratta; an eye-opening experience that entailed facing the fearsome ‘Ab’ O’Brien on a sporty Moyhu track.

A year or so later he’d become a regular; playing alongside the legendary Max Bussell, quicks Mark Phillips and Brook Anderson and the steady medium-pacer, Graeme Sheppard. They were a team of characters, spiced with a group of kids – and the critical appraisal of Duke Goldsmith, a crusty old fellah who’d been tending the score-book for years.

Duke’s authoritative voice would bellow across the Showgrounds from the Richardson Stand: “Put a man down at fine leg, Bussell,” or “ You’ll need an extra slip for this bloke……….”

Greg became the wicket-keeper, and gravitated to opening the batting – a position that he was to make his own over the next four decades.

He won the Association’s ‘Keeping Award one year, thanks, he says, to left-armer Brook Anderson continually enticing batsmen to nick his swinging deliveries……….And he’d improved enough, in 1984/85, to take out the Batting Average, and score the first of his 27 career centuries.

By now he was in Melbourne undertaking a Teaching Degree. An invitation to regularly practice on the hallowed turf at University Oval, facing the District club’s attack, was too good to pass up. No wonder the Hoysted technique tightened and he became more accustomed to fobbing off zealous pacemen with a glint in their eye.

Uni offered him a game in their Second XI, but he told them he was needed back home on week-ends to pull his weight on the farm. Besides, as Wangaratta’s captain, the side was reliant on his run-scoring capabilities………………..

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When the West Indies’ eagerly-awaited visit to the Showgrounds came around in March 1985, Hoysted and the team’s skipper Gary Lidgerwood, were the only Wangaratta members named in the Country XI team.

A ‘Chronicle’ editorial panned the non-selection of in-form Brian Fisher – and Barry Grant – a promising youngster who’d been in scintillating form that season.

“Some felt ‘Baz’ was unlucky. I suppose he may have replaced me, had he played,” Greg says. “I asked Keith Sherwill ( Selector ) later on, why he missed out, He said they felt that, at 18, he was a touch young at that stage. They didn’t want to throw him to the wolves.”

Nevertheless, it was a memorable experience for Greg, shaping up on his home ‘deck’, in front of a large crowd, and facing the might of Garner, Marshall, Walsh and Davis:

“The first ball of the day, Winston Davis has rhythmically run in . I’ve propped onto the front foot, to play my usual forward defensive shot. He has followed through, but I’ve seen……nothing. I thought, Geez, that was quick…..He’s more slippery than I thought ! He must have been stirring up the crowd, or maybe got something wrong with his run-up, as he still had the ball in his hand……It wasn’t a great moment, that’s for sure.”

The defiant opener batted for just on 25 overs, for 44 of the Country XI’s 4/274, in response to the Windies’ total of 291……

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The Hoysted reputation during eight seasons in the WDCA, had been fashioned around a dour, rock-solid defence, unlimited patience, an organised batting technique and a strong off-side game.

Thus, those who’d spent hours attempting to penetrate this veritable ‘brick-wall’ in club cricket, were astounded at his flamboyance when they opposed him in North-East Cup matches in succeeding years.

He was now living and teaching in Benalla and had thrown in his lot with the BDCA.

“I remember a match in the late eighties. Cup cricket was big in those days,” recalls one Wang veteran. “We made 230-odd in our 50 overs. Benalla passed us with an over or two to go.”

“Hoysted opened, and made a blistering, unbeaten 116. He even straight drove ‘Knackers’ Rundell onto the bike track a couple of times. We couldn’t believe how aggressive he’d become.”

Greg had been involved in the Benalla competition for just on a year when the the long-serving President and Association icon, Tom Trewin, announced his departure from the role.

“I decided to put my hand up, and did the job for the next 10 years. I had another stint a few years later.”

“We had eight senior, and eight junior teams in those days. The competition was strong. For example, Albury & Border took out the Provincial CW title one year. There was a bit of paper talk that this was one of the greatest sides they’d fielded. But we knocked them over in a Cup match the following week-end.”

Greg began his annual odyssey to Bendigo Country Week in 1980; the first of his three trips with Wangaratta. He went on to represent Benalla for a further 26 years, and was inducted to the Bendigo CW Hall of Fame in 2009.

Numbered among the seven centuries he scored at Bendigo was a memorable 120, which piloted Benalla to victory in the 2003 Final, against Wimmera-Mallee.

Teaching commitments interrupted most of his Melbourne campaigns, but he was usually able to fit in to 2-3 days most years……. And whenever Benalla reached the Final they’d send an SOS for their run-machine.

That’s what happened in 1992, when they clashed with Grampians at Carlton’s Princes Park. Hoysted’s 84 was a key factor in their win, and earned him the gong as Player of the Final.

“The conditions were phenomenal,” he says.”A grassy outfield, bouncy wicket, and they had the full scoreboard running. It was the sort of day that country cricketers dream of…….”

Greg had one remaining item to tick off on his cricketing ‘Bucket List’ He headed to England in 1995, with wife Sue, to play a season with Illingworth St.Mary’s, in Halifax, Yorkshire.

“It was an enormous experience. We made friends for life and the opportunity to sample English cricket was terrific.”

He finished with over 1,200 runs for the season, the highlight of which was a 233-run club-record opening-partnership with Sam Smith.

When he returned home he chalked up another career highlight – captaining his BDCA side to a premiership in 1995/96. He’d spent nine years with All Blacks United since arriving in Benalla. It was their one and only title. They promptly disbanded, merging with home-ground rivals Benalla Saints.

Saints won three titles in their 13-year existence. In one of those – 2002/2003 – Hoysted carried his bat, making 138* of his side’s 350, clinching victory by 40 runs.

When Saints folded in 2008/09, he thought of giving it away. After all, he was 49. But Warrenbayne asked if he’d mind giving their young blokes a helping hand. They made the Final in the first year. The club celebrated its 130th anniversary the following season – 2013/14 – and won their first-ever flag.

The demise of the BDCA at the conclusion of the following year caused some heart-ache, but in Greg Hoysted’s opinion it had become inevitable.

“As our junior numbers started to decline we began to run into trouble, and were eventually obliged to seek affiliation with the Wangaratta Association,” he says.

At 53, Greg decided it was as good a time as any to retire, at that stage. He had three years off, but was invited to become involved with the Benalla Bushrangers.

“Trevor Saker got into my ear and I started having a hit again last year, thinking I’d just play in the lower grades. But I’ve been alternating between A-Grade and A-Reserve. It’s been great…………”

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In an involvement with cricket which is even longer than Greg Hoysted’s marathon innings, I thought I’d seen everything that the game could throw up..

But when I spotted a container sitting on the scorer’s table a few weeks ago, I became a tad suspicious.

“What the hell’s that, ?” I queried.

“Oh, they’re Greg’s heart pills. You’ve got to run them out to him at 3 o’clock………..”

‘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…..

‘JUST ANOTHER WEEK IN THE LIFE OF LOCAL CRICKET…’

Wangaratta’s cricketers returned with some silverware from Bendigo Country Week on Friday.

It’s the best news to come out of the WDCA for a while.

Principally, because youngsters were afforded the opportunity to be exposed to the rigours of Bendigo for the first time in 17 years.

And also, that they were able to enjoy the camaraderie that was engendered during a week of competitive cricket – the laughs and fun ; sharing the individual and team success, and forming what can become lifelong friendships.

Pardon me if I reminisce about the corresponding week 54 years ago, when a group of us kids were on our maiden trip and were billeted with a dear old lady called Mrs.Tredinnick.

She looked after us like her own and insisted that we be up early for her cooked breakfast. We would be picked up by the elder members of the side, en route to the game, but not before Mrs.T had presented us each with a packed lunch.

We seemed like positive angels, but still got up to some shenanigans when we hit the bright lights. But I must admit that a couple of the boarders, who became long-serving champion players for Wangaratta, performed deeds of skalduggery on later trips, which are the stuff of legend.

Last week’s side, by comparison, stayed at a very accomodating Caravan Park and bonded superbly. Most of them were Country Week ‘virgins’ and will long remember the highlights of the trip.

You’ve probably caught up with the details of Wang’s week.

They got away to a ‘shocker’ and, after a first-day hiding from Colac, were at long-odds to reach the finals.

But in the following games they scored 8/229, 5/316 and 5/262 to record mammoth victories and so ensure a spot in the final against Colac – their opening-day conquerors.

When the rain pelted down on Thursday evening, their hopes again dived. As the top side, Colac held the whip-hand and, in the unlikelihood that the game would proceed, held all the aces.

The contest was subsequently reduced to 37 overs apiece and Wang won the toss and batted. Led by an enterprising 72 from Yarrawonga ‘dasher’ Reid Clarke, and handy contributions from Jack Davies (47), Luke Whitten (31) and skipper Jacob Schonafinger (27*), they scooted to 4/203.

Colac would have to go at 5.3 runs an over to claim victory, but were never in the hunt.

They were restricted to 116, thanks to a superb exhibition of fast bowling by Dylan Landgren, who captured 5/35 from 12 overs.

There were a host of stars, but stats-wise, the performances of ‘Schona’ (229 runs and 7 wickets), Luke Whitten (210), Jack Davies (205), last-minute addition Mitch Howe (16 wickets and a knock of 75*) were the stand-outs. Handy contributions from Cam Nottle, Reid Clarke, Landgren and Will Creed were factors in a strong team display.

I’ve always felt that a break-out week by a young player can provide the impetus to go on to bigger things. So It was great to see 19 year-old Luke Whitten enjoy a consistent week with the bat.

His maiden century (105) against Upper Loddon was a masterful knock and provided the base for Wangaratta’s huge total of 5/316.

The young fellah has been developing gradually since he made his A-Grade debut at 15, back in 2012. There’s no-one keener, but this season he’s developed more authority in his shot-making and now completely looks the part in his role as an opener.

The feature of his game is his concentration, something that has become more evident as his 41-Game A-Grade career has progressed…………

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And thank goodness it again came to the fore yesterday, during the absorbing Rovers-United-Bruck versus Yarra-Mulwala clash at the Findlay Oval.

The Lakers were defending a meagre total of 95, but no-one was expecting anything less than a stiff rear-guard action from the competition heavyweights.

So it proved.

The action started from the first ball of the day, when Hawk left-hander Jordan Blades didn’t offer a shot to sprightly Angus McMillan and had his ‘castle’ rattled.

It was a beautiful delivery and left the experienced Blades, who has never been dismissed in such a fashion, shaking his head.

One run later, his opening partner Whitten, whose head may still have been fuzzy from the previous evening’s celebrations, careered down the wicket for an impossible single and left the newly-arrived Jon Hyde well out of his ground.

And it proceeded to get worse for the Hawks. Jacob Schonafinger, looked to be settling in after a steady 20 minutes at the crease, but nicked one from McMillan to the exhuberant ‘keeper Reed Clarke, who accepted it gleefully.

Suddenly, from a dominant position, the home team had slumped to 3/28 and were being subjected to some extreme pressure from the Lakers’ pacemen.

Fortunately for the Hawks, Whitten was holding up his end. He was having difficulty piercing the field, however, and just couldn’t release the shackles.

The veteran Adam McNamara produced a couple of the shots of the day in a cameo of 15, but in attempting to sweep spinner Brock McCabe, played across the line and was on his way, adjudged LBW.

With Jordy Hansted’s dismissal five runs later, RUB were on the ropes at 5/53, still 40-odd in arrears and with a lower-order which had shown a propensity to self-destruct during the season.

It was bite-your-nails stuff and the miserly, disciplined Yarra-Mul attack deserved credit for the way they had reduced runs to a trickle.

After 42 overs, for instance, the Hawks had crawled to 60.

Lucky Perera then embarked on a partnership with Whitten that was to clinch the game. The enterprising Sri Lankan is handy in a tight situation and was able to find the boundary with a couple of pull shots.

The pair had added 43 runs and nosed just past the victory target of 96, when Lucky became another run-out victim. The fleetest runner between wickets in the side, he fell short by inches.

When Jeremy Wilson and Hamish Busk both fell to hard-working Matt McCabe for ducks, the match began to meander towards its conclusion. The only remaining interest was whether a visibly-tired Luke Whitten would reach his half-century.

Alas, he became involved in the third run-out of the day – his own- and walked from the ground after a valuable 46, which had consumed 256 minutes. He, as much as anyone, had managed to stifle the Lakers’ bid to snavel the six points.

Considering that the sides will probably meet come finals-time, RUB would be slightly peeved that they weren’t able to establish more of a psychological edge over their keen rivals.

A reply of 118 was far from convincing. But then again, it was a tension-filled match that produced just 213 runs off 133 overs and a dominance of ball over bat that provided more than it’s fair share of drama.

Just another week in the life of local cricket………

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