“BOONY AND THE CURATOR…….”

He’s a constant presence at the Barr Reserve’s O’Callaghan Oval on any summer day……….Strolling at funereal pace, back and forth, manipulating the roller………His faithful Golden Labrador, Boony ( named after the rotund, taciturn former Test opener ), keeps him company. Boony, like his predecessors, Border, Bobby and Ruby has spent more time on this precious centre square than some cricketers do in a lifetime.

It’s said that a passer-by once laid a complaint of cruelty, alleging that, upon venturing down Park Lane one stinking hot day, she saw a distressed dog, tied to the roller (untrue, of course) being dragged repeatedly up and down the wicket.

Fat chance of that……..John Hill and his ‘Lab’s’ are like peas in a pod.

For more than two and a half decades, John has persisted in his efforts to convert this slab of black dirt into a flat, evenly-grassed, hard, true, sporting, ‘track’ – one of the best in the area.

It provides him with plenty of ‘think-time’, whereupon he may hark back to those days when his involvement in the game began…………..

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His father was a sporting fanatic. Blessed with oodles of ability as a cricketer and footballer, Jack was shipped off to St.Pat’s College, Ballarat, where his Mum ( John’s and my Grandma ) hoped and prayed that he’d answer the vocation to become a priest.

There were thoughts of entering the Seminary, but he came to the conclusion that the life of a religious wasn’t for him. He returned home in the early post-war period to become a livestock agent, Wangaratta Rovers centre half forward, dashing Keith Miller-type cricket all-rounder, husband to Maureen and father of eight kids.

John was just a whippersnapper when footy and cricket began to take second place for Jack. He’d discovered a far more lucrative pastime – as an S.P Bookie – which meant that keeping an eye on the fields at Morphettville, Rosehill and Doomben was of more consequence than kicking goals and taking wickets.

Instead, he found the most convenient way to sate his passion was by playing Sunday cricket, and enthusiastically urging the three boys – John, Brendan and Paul – to follow their sporting dreams………….

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John was a star all-rounder in his final years in the WDCA’s Junior comp and at 14 was handed a few senior games ‘for experience’. As captain of the Rovers U.16’s he once took 7/3 to lead his side to the brink of victory. Chasing a meagre 41, they capitulated for 22.

His father was the mainstay for Socials and John and his mates were regularly co-opted into the Sunday team, which would occasionally be one or two short.

The Socials line-up was an eclectic mix of racing figures, comprising Bookmakers ( both legal and S.P ), horse-trainers, punters and greyhound owners.

They would conduct a vigorous post-mortem of the previous day’s racing ( pink Sporting Globes in hand ) before each game, whilst the lads warmed up with batting and fielding drills.

But when the match began their focus would be on cricket. There was plenty to learn from these veterans who had been high cricket-achievers……….

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John became a regular with Rovers in 1966/67 and made his mark as more of a bowling all-rounder. He had a good grasp of the off-spinning craft and was a regular wicket-taker.

As understudy to his uncle, Len, who was in the evening of a long career, he learned plenty about the flight, variation and super-competitiveness of a cunning ‘offie’.

Always a good timer of the ball, he believed in extracting full value for his shots, sometimes to the detriment of his batting partner. A call of ‘Yes’… ‘No’….‘Wait’……would often leave the non-striker contemplating his demise in mid-pitch…….John’s defence would be : “I thought I called No”…..

He was part of an emerging group of young players who formed a close-knit Mac Holten Shield team, which won four titles. In one memorable encounter Ovens & King speedster Trevor Harding snared 9/18, to have Wang in dire straits. Hill produced his best-ever figures (8/43) to secure an unlikely victory,

Maintaining his close bond with the players, he managed the side in succeeding years.

He’d also enjoyed a taste of captaincy with the Under 21 team and slipped into that role a few times with the Rovers.

He was nothing, if not innovative. With the identical Bell twins in the line-up, he once batted Graeme, who was a superior stroke-player to Trevor, twice in the same innings. Graeme recalls John handing Trevor the new ‘cherry’ at one end, then using him from the other end in the next over .

In his 11th WDCA season John played in his first premiership, a convincing win over Magpies. Rain ruined the first day and it reverted to a one-dayer. He was secretary of the Club, a vital member of the side and a renowned ‘stayer’ at after-match activities.

Out of the blue an offer came from City Colts to become their captain-coach. This was a role hitherto unheard of in local cricket. When his Rovers team-mate Brian Carr was also approached they decided to cross over.

The boys were 26 and regarded this as an opportunity to rejuvenate their careers. It was to prove a recruiting master-stroke for the previously down-trodden Colts, who were given the boost on the field – and in leadership – that they sought.

Within five years Colts were playing in their first Final. Four successive semi-final defeats followed, before they finally cracked it for a flag, in 1986/87. They were emphatic in victory, replying to Corowa’s 141 with 414, the highest WDCA Grand Final score in 51 years.

John was now rated one of the competition’s stars. He won successive ‘Cricketer of the Year ‘ Awards, in 1980/81 and ‘81/82. The highlight of the 517 runs he scored in the latter season was his first WDCA century..

The runs came at a lively clip that day. He opened the batting against Beechworth, as he had an important function to attend later in the afternoon. The time of his scheduled departure came and went, and when he was finally dismissed for 157, he explained that no matter how hard he tried: “I just couldn’t get out……”

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John made six trips to Melbourne Country Week, and thrived on his seven visits to Bendigo. He captained the 1980 and ‘81 sides, and was a member of the winning squad of 1983 .

As he moved into his forties he slipped into the minor grades at City Colts. This was partly out of necessity, because a good portion of his Saturday arvo was taken up with pencilling for his Dad ( who was now licensed ) at the Albury – and, later – Wangaratta greyhound meetings.

He played the last of his 264 WDCA A-Grade games in 2003, but continued to plunder the runs in B and C Grades .

His lengthy Sunday cricket career with Socials, Postals and Tarrawingee made for a hectic cricket week-end in his prime . He had accumulated 4472 runs in that competition before it unfortunately folded.

His 5474 WDCA A-Grade runs and 386 wickets tell the on-field story, but his WDCA Hall of Fame Induction in 2012 was recognition of a sterling off-field contribution over 40 years.

He served as Association Secretary and Treasurer and was an administrator in several other capacities.

Such as being the designated man in charge when representative matches were allotted to Wangaratta. Whilst the Association received plaudits for the smooth functioning of the games, John was generally the ‘nuts and bolts’ man whom the touring teams dealt with……….

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The ire of this fastidious local cricket legend was recently raised when he voiced his concerns about the state of the newly-completed $1million Barr 2 re-development.

It’s the Council’s plan for Colts to use this as their new home, but as far as John’s concerned, there is a long way to go before the pitch – and the Oval itself – are anywhere near ready.

“I was really disappointed. As people who have put hundreds of hours into preparing wickets at the Barr over the years, we weren’t given the chance to provide any input to the project.”

“After all, we went through the experience of installing a new wicket at Barr 1 ( O’Callaghan Oval ) fifteen years ago.”

“They didn’t bother to ask us: ‘What do you think ?……What do reckon you need ?’ “

“It does irk you a bit. But then, they probably think I’m just another cranky old bugger who’s living in the past……”

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John’s greatest cricketing thrill came when his son Simon followed him into the Colts side in the latter part of the 20th century.

Old-timers reckoned that the youngster’s batting style rekindled memories of his grandfather – also a swashbuckling left-hander.

But Simon was destined for bigger things, and was guided into the elite pathway, which saw him represent Australia at Under-17 level, and commence his association with Camberwell-Magpies in 2002/03.

He is among a select group of nine players who have scored 10,000-plus runs in the 114-year history of Victorian Premier cricket; one of just 14 who have played 300 games or more.

His grandfather never got to see Simon play District cricket. He reached the outskirts of Melbourne one day, but, after receiving a message that it was raining, turned around and headed home…..

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John Hill spends most Saturday afternoons these days at his vantage spot on the Park Lane side of O’Callaghan Oval. With a pair of binoculars at the ready, he keeps a close eye on play, and, courtesy of My Cricket, obtains regular updates on the changing fortunes of Camberwell-Magpies.

He reckons this is the closest thing you can get to cricketing bliss……..

‘AND NOW, THE TIME HAS COME…..’

It’s the pinnacle of the season tomorrow; the culmination of a year’s hard work………

The WDCA Grand Final has provided a catalogue of upsets, controversies, brilliant performances, dramatic collapses and – dare I say it – rain interruptions.

My memories hark back to the fifties, when Dad and his brothers left you in no doubt they were playing for ‘sheep stations’, as they prepared for the ‘Big One’….. But for decades before that, tempers flared and emotions boiled when rivals fought for the flag.

Here is a selection of  games that fostered a tradition which has spanned 123 years…….

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1896/97 : Wangaratta v Exelsior.

“……At 9/68 on the first day, these were anything but cheering figures that greeted the Wangaratta skipper, as he strode out to join McCallum, in one of the most eventful partnerships ever seen on the Wangaratta ground.

He had a ‘grim smile’ and one of the onlookers remarked…..”what if the last two were to make a century ?”

The batsmen played with verve and judgement. Clarke was content to play a steady game, but Mac hit ‘bloomin hard’ and ‘ bloomin often’.

Hickey came on and clean-bowled McCallum and the innings closed for 137.

Exelsior’s reply began well the following week, but soon they slumped. Their hopes were revived by Joe Bath, as they edged ever closer to the Wangaratta total.

But Joe had the unpleasant experience of having his wicket put down by the Wang keeper.

He played a splendid and plucky innings – never giving a chance. He was very knocked about, but had the consolation of knowing that he received his wounds and spilt his blood in a most stubborn fight.

The ray of light that had started to glow in the breast of Wangaratta now burst into the sunshine of splendid victory as Jimmy Tough, the last man in, knocked the ball into Len Docker’s hands.IMG_4021

While the ball was in the air, even the boldest held their breath, but when its career was stopped, the Wang supporters manifested their delight in no uncertain terms……”

Wangaratta 137 defeated Exelsior 130…..

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1928/29 : Wangaratta v East Wangaratta.

“Scarcely in the history of the WDCA have there been two stauncher rivals than the Grand Final combatants, who met at Oxley.

Wangaratta managed 136, with their premier batsman Alec Fraser registering 36, to be the main obstacle to the much-vaunted East Wang pace attack.

East gained a slender advantage by posting 158. Clem Fisher was his usual obstinate self in an innings of control, but it was the slow bowler Tom Nolan, with 8/48, who took the honours for Wangaratta.

Wang could manage only 99 in their second innings, after Harry Fisher had taken 6/5. So East needed 79 to take out the premiership.IMG_4022

They still needed 9 runs when last pair Cliff Pratt and Bill McCormick were at the crease.

Easts supporters urged them along all the way, as they inched their way to a famous win…..”

East Wangaratta 158 and 9/79 defeated Wangaratta 136 and 99.

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1933/34: Footballers v. Wangaratta.

“It was a most riveting game, dominated by the slow bowlers.

Wangaratta’s score of 87 saw them take a 1-run advantage over Footballers, who wouldn’t have reached their total of 86, but for a fine contribution from Arch Wilkinson.

Wilkinson’s 7/44 wrecked Wangaratta’s second innings, but they reached 97.

Footballers, having given themselves a definite chance of taking the honours, were then bundled out for 65.

Don Young did the damage. He bowled remarkably well, flighting and turning the ball in a manner that made him nigh unplayable. Young finished with 6/29…..”

Wangaratta 87 and 97 defeated Footballers 86 and 65.

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1935/36: Footballers v. Eldorado.

“This was one of the most memorable of all Grand Finals, principally for the numerous batting records which were created along the way.

On the first day, Arch Wilkinson and Bernie Izard put on 245 for the first wicket. Resuming on Day 2, Charlie Heavey and Frank Archman carried on the awesome performance, and added 287 for the third wicket.IMG_0828

The score at the end of the day was 8/634.

The first four batsmen scored centuries or over: Izard 100, Wilkinson 154, Heavey 187 and Archman 112.

Eldorado were to be congratulated for the wonderful way they stuck to their task.

Footballers declared after two days batting and Eldorado set out on their Herculean task. Several batsmen got a start, but the lower order failed badly and they were all out for 126.

In their second innings, Eldorado had compiled 5/196 when play was mercifully concluded……”

Footballers 8/634 defeated Eldorado 126 and 5/196.

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1957/58: Magpies v Bruck.

“The week preceding the Grand Final was chock-full of drama.

Magpies, in their third year in the competition, had staged a withering run after the Christmas break,  sneaking into the four at the death-knock, at the expense of unlucky Moyhu Gold.

They defeated Rovers Brown in a fiery semi-final clash, which saw three of their players – Jack McDonald, Peter Larkins and captain John Holloway – reported by umpire Bill Daly, for disputing an LBW decision against Graham Kerr.

All of them escaped with a reprimand, and were able to take their place in the Grand Final.

Bruck, led by Mac Holten, were the favourites going into the game, and they battled hard to contain Magpies to a score of 170. Jack Isles, with a handy 32, was the main thorn in Bruck’s side.

Bruck were always in contention, but were unable to gain the upper hand against some superb bowling from Jack McDonald, who finished with 8/67.

Bruck, at stages appeared to be on the verge of victory, but fell agonisingly short, by six runs……”

Magpies 170 defeated Bruck 164.

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1959/60: Rovers v Bruck

“Chasing their second successive flag, Rovers pacemen Jim Horne and Jim Chapman cut a swathe through the Bruck batting line-up to dismiss them for a paltry 90.

The swing of Horne (4/36) and the fire of Chapman (3/30) had given the Hawks the ascendency, but Bruck hit back well to have Rovers 5/14 at one stage, then 6/64 at stumps on the first day.

Jack Beeby (7/45) was the wrecker, as Rovers limped to a four-run lead, thanks to a lone hand of 50 from Len Hill.

Bruck were sailing along well, at 5/106 in the second ‘dig’, but collapsed dramatically to be all out for 115.

Chapman, Len Hill and Bob Rose shared the spoils for the Hawks.

Rovers had some anxious moments in pursuit of 113, and slumped to 5/74.

On a wicket which was affected by overnight rain, the feature of the day was the batting display of Fred Booth, who was 31* when Rovers claimed victory. It was only in the last hour that the Hawks put the match beyond doubt………”img_4025.jpg

Rovers 94 and 6/114 defeated Bruck 90 and 115.

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1986/87: City Colts v Corowa.

“Corowa made history by reaching their first WDCA Final.

And although they were given a hammering by City Colts, local fans were soon to become used to the Border team winning their way through to the Grand Final.

Corowa could only muster 141, as Maurie Braden and Mick Lappin did the damage. Colts, who were also relative newcomers to the finals stage, gave themselves a fair chance. But this was one game where their batting line-up rose to the occasion.

Led by teen-ager Scott Clayton (146*), they amassed a huge 414, with Maurie Braden (97), Russell Harris (76) and John Hill (32) joining the action.

Rod Lane, who was to join Carlton the following season, toiled manfully to finish with 6/100……..”IMG_4026

City Colts 414 defeated Corowa 141.

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2001/02: Wangaratta-Magpies v Rovers-United.

“One of the great WDCA Grand Finals went right down to the wire, in a low-scoring encounter.

Magpie star Duane Kerwin held his side’s innings together with a fine undefeated 73, to guide them to a respectable total of 151 after they had slumped to 5/55. Hawk speedmen Adam Booth, Peter Harvey and Trevor Anderson shared the bowling honours with three wickets apiece.

Rovers-United, 2/18 overnight, had slumped to 4/24 the next morning. Dogged right-hand opener Anthony Lawler then stepped up and proved the unlikely hero for the Hawks.

Recalled to the side after the unavailability of Peter Tossol, Lawler’s 61 was an innings of patience and defiance.

Even so, the Hawks still needed 12 runs for victory when the last pair, Peter Harvey and Adam Booth came together.IMG_4027

It was Harvey who hit the winning runs to take Rovers-United to a dramatic victory, despite the lion-hearted effort of ‘Pies quickie Tim Sheldon, who finished with 6/34……..”

Rovers-United 9/153 defeated Wangaratta-Magpies 151.

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2011/12: City Colts v Yarrawonga-Mulwala.

“City Colts suffered Grand Final pain for the 4th consecutive year, after losing a nail-biting clash with Yarrawonga-Mulwala.

The Lakers caused one of the upsets of the season, at the most appropriate time, with a Marcus Hargreaves spell on the opening day proving the catalyst to their four-wicket win.

Hargreaves took 5/47 in a 24-over spell, to help restrict Colts to 177 off 75 overs. Colts flew away to a good start, with openers Jeremy Carr and Nick Norris crafting a 40-run stand. It was left to veterans Scott Clayton and Justin Solimo to steady the ship, but the going was slow.

Luckily, the tail wagged, to push the score to 177.

In reply, the Lakers also found difficulty in breaking the shackles, but Daniel Athanitis (33), Lee Fraser (34) and Dwayne Duxson kept them within reach of a competitive total.

But they still needed 33 off 8 overs when Fraser was dismissed, and youngster Paddy Martin strode to the crease.IMG_4029

Whereas the batting over the two days had been circumspect, Martin cleared the field with some excellent hitting. Nineteen balls later, the game was over. Martin’s quickfire 26 and Duxson’s dogged, unbeaten 39 had taken the Lakers to their first WDCA flag……”

Yarrawonga-Mulwala 6/179 defeated City Colts 177

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2018/19: City Colts v Yarrawonga-Magpies.

“Who will write the next chapter in the WDCA Grand Final story……?”

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THE GENTLEMAN FAST BOWLER…………

It’s stretching a long bow to suggest that one of cricket’s legendary opening batsmen, Desmond Haynes, was troubled by the pace and venom of Gary Lidgerwood………….

“Hardly,” ‘George’ says, with a grin. “The first time I played against the West Indies at Benalla, he miscued a pull shot and hit it straight up in the air. He was out for a ‘duck’. Then when we met them at the Showgrounds the next year, he tried to belt me over the fence and was bowled – for 1.”

Still, as the years roll on, sporting stories have a knack of ‘growing legs’ and, over a few beers his mates sometimes refer to ‘Dessie’ Haynes as ‘Lidgerwood’s bunny.’
‘George’ laments the absence of those Country XI matches, which used to be an eagerly-anticipated part of International touring teams’ fixtures.

“You grasped the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the greats of the game. Good crowds turned up and there was a buzz around town for weeks beforehand.”
“Unfortunately, there’s not enough room in the schedule these days.”…………

Gary’s regarded as an icon of North-East cricket. A fast bowler who could produce a bit extra on the big occasions – and a personable type who was a fine leader and ideal team-man.

He thrived on competitiveness and camaraderie and – in something that sat well with selectors – made himself available for any representative match that was on the horizon……..
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The tiny hamlet of St.James, perched almost equidistant from Wangaratta, Yarrawonga and Benalla, was the launching-pad for the storied sporting career of Gary Lidgerwood.

When barely a teen-ager, this slightly-built kid, who hailed from a nearby farm, laboured enthusiastically on the  hard wicket and dry terrain of the St.James oval. Gnarled veterans of the Lake Rowan competition nodded sagely, as he made them hurry their shots and withdraw from rearing deliveries.

In winter he lined up on a wing for neighboring Tungamah, and did enough to prompt an approach from O & M club Benalla.

It was 1974; he was travelling in to attend Benalla Tech and saddling up with the Demons’ senior side. A stooped, persuasive old recruiter called Alan Killigrew – one of the most recognisable faces in football – pulled him aside one day and suggested he might consider having a run with North Melbourne Thirds.

That suited. He was heading down to attend Swinburne Tech the next year, so he came under the influence of Raymond Clarence ‘Slug’ Jordan, a coach with a reputation for colourful language and a confrontational approach.

What an experience ! In the time he spent under the brutal ‘Slug’, who, it was claimed, had a tongue like a Chainsaw, he learnt plenty about the rigours of sporting life. But it was a pleasure to be around Arden Street at that time. Barassi’s Northerners were en-route to their first-ever flag.

And, as a lowly Thirds player he was also along for the ride……. At the end of the day, however, Gary deduced that he had a limited future in League footy.

He had, though, considered accepting one of the several approaches he’d received about playing District cricket. Instead, he decided to travel back to play in Benalla each week-end.

He joined Goorambat – perennial BDCA finalists and home club of the Cleary and Trewin clans – sharing the new ‘cherry’ with experienced campaigners John Cleary and Johnny Ashton.

And he became a valuable component of a Benalla football line-up which had been barking at the heels of the flag contenders for a few seasons.

They had been building up to something – and in 1978 it all came together. Under the coaching of local boy Billy Sammon, they chalked up 16 wins on the trot, to secure a Grand Final berth.

The Demons went in as ‘red-hot’ favourites, but were blown away by a Rovers side which dictated terms, almost from the first bounce, to win by 54 points………….
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Gary had played 110 senior games with Benalla -and was a vital member of their rep cricket sides – when he accepted a shift to Wangaratta in 1981, as Manager of Paterson’s Furniture Store.

He threw in his footy lot with Wangaratta, and linked up with City Colts, a club which was making steady progress after years in the WDCA wilderness.

Colts hadn’t played in a finals series in their first 20 years of existence. With Lidgerwood in their ranks they appeared in nine of the next ten.

Younger players grew taller alongside the inspiring fast bowler. In his first season there was immediate success. Colts were defending 116 in the semi-final against powerhouse, United.

Lidgerwood and his bowling partner Bruce Hookey smashed through the United line-up to have them 9/30 at one stage, before finally dismissing them for 76.

Unfortunately, it was Colts’ turn to be humbled in the Grand Final, when they could only muster 52 against Whorouly.

Four years later, they finally broke through for their first – and only – WDCA senior flag. Sneaking into the finals by just 1.1% they squared off against Corowa in the big one.

It was a decisive victory, as Colts responded to a score of 141 with a mammoth 414.

‘George’s’ remarkable consistency in club cricket saw him finish in the top three of the Association’s bowling averages in eight of his first nine seasons. He won the ‘double’, the Chronicle Trophy and Cricketer of the Year Award in 1982/83, with 49 wickets and 381 runs.

His batting style in amassing those 381 runs could simply be described as unorthodox.

Coming in down the list, he would back his eye and tee off with a shot that sent the ball over the field, anywhere from backward point to deep mid-wicket.

Defensive prods were negligible and bowlers who felt they had broken the back of the Colts batting would be frustrated by a flurry of late-order runs.

His second Cricketer of the Year gong came in 1985/86. On the eve of that season, he had played in his only football flag, as a member of Wangaratta’s ‘85 Reserves team.

He’s pretty handy at socialising, is ‘George’. Two years ago he and his old Magpie team-mates gathered together and made a great fist of celebrating the 30-year Anniversary of that Premiership. The flag was all the more memorable because it was the last game of footy he played.

He was just 29 when he hung up the boots, but he reckons it helped to elongate his cricket career.

Back then, in his halcyon days, he had a long, rhythmic run-up. Straight, black hair would flop in the breeze, as a slightly round-arm action propelled the bright red ‘Kookaburra’ at a decidedly slippery and uncomfortable speed.

The ability to bowl a decent out-swinger and a dose of old-fashioned cricket nous made him a formidable opponent.

There was occasional criticism that he needed a touch more mongrel, but ‘George’ replied that he’d rather attack the stumps than than the body. “I preferred not to go head-hunting,” he says.

As his pace began to wane in latter years, he became a dependable ‘stock bowler’, tying up an end with accuracy and subtle variation of pace.

He opened the bowling for Victorian Country in the first-ever National Country titles in Brisbane.

Appearances against New Zealand Under 21’s, the ACT, and those two West Indies sides were part of a bulging CV.

He took 4/50 in the Showgrounds match against the Windies, but hastens to point out that, after he had claimed his fourth victim, opposition captain Richie Richardson proceeded to take 22 runs off his next over.

“He told me I’d bowled one over too many.”

‘George’ played 250 games for City Colts, and took 600 wickets. He was a key player in 14 Melbourne Country Week trips as a player, and was captain in eight of these.

He also figured in eight North-East Cup victories.

When he finally left the playing-field he Managed the Country Week side for several years, then had a five-year stint as President of the WDCA.

It was the least he could do, he said, to repay the debt he owed to cricket…………………

THE UNFLAPPABLE MICK LAPPIN

Michael Lappin’s earliest cricket hero was the pugnacious, stubborn, dour, Bill Lawry.

That figures. Left-handed Bill used to lean his angular body over the bat and stare down that 22 yard strip, giving the approaching bowler the impression that it would take something akin to an excavator to dig him out.

So did Mick, whose broad bat and instinctively forward prod also delivered the message that he wasn’t about to sell out cheaply.

The Lappins of Chiltern have long been famous for their deeds on the football field. Mick loved the game too, but says that he and his brother Donny (‘Duck’) became enraptured with cricket through watching Test matches on television.

They started playing with Chiltern when they were about 11 or 12. When the family shifted to Wangaratta they joined City Colts.

It was 1970 and Mick was 16. Don was a polished right-hand bat with plenty of flourish. Mick was more introspective at the crease and could bowl a bit.

Somehow or other, though, he ended up with the wicket-keeper’s gloves for a year.
But because Colts were struggling and a bit light-on for bowlers, he took the new ball at the start of the next season and surprised by generating swing and working up venomous pace.

And, with the bat, he concentrated on occupying the crease, minimising the risky shots and being the ‘anchor’ – ‘Phantom’ Lawry-style.

In his early years, Colts didn’t have a lot of success, but he and ‘Duck’ were fortunate to be part of a successful Wangaratta Under 21 side which won three Mac Holten Shields.

His consistent form earned him a trip to Country Week in 1974. A solid knock from the debutant in the opening game was one of the few highlights, as Wang lost all four games and were evicted from Provincial Group. They have never returned.

Mick won the first of his Chronicle Trophies in 1974/75 and was the stand-out player in the side.

His first stint at the captaincy came the following year, when he was a tender 20. He felt an affinity for the role, but, by the end of the year, had moved to Melbourne, transferred in his employment as a bank clerk.

He joined leading sub-district club Brighton and proceeded to make his mark in this high-quality competition.

Over the next five seasons he probably played the best cricket of his career. The highlight came when he captured 8/29 to bowl Brighton to victory in the 1979/80 Grand Final.

He took out the bowling average twice, won a Club Championship and finished with 125 wickets in his 54 sub-district games.

Mick returned to O’Callaghan Oval in 1981. It was the beginning of his gradual evolvement into an off-spin bowler, lower-order batsman and, eventually, captain.

The arrival of a champion speedster, Gary Lidgerwood and the presence of a couple of other new-ball bowlers probably prompted his decision to revert to spin. Or maybe, he couldn’t be bothered expending more energy than he needed.

Mick talks slowly and walks slowly. Unflappability is a family trait . He wasn’t one of those exciteable, demonstrative types as a leader, but knew how to ‘wind-up’ some of the ultra-competitive opposition players.

It might have been a murmured uncomplimentary remark from the slip region, or the ‘urging-on’ to his pace-men to ‘see how they handle a few short-ones’ .

Whatever, it often had the desired effect and Colts earned the reputation of being a hard side to play against.

By the mid-eighties they had developed into a more than handy side, but bowed out in four successive semi-finals. In the fifth (1986/87) they snuck into the finals after an indifferent season, but narrowly pipped Whorouly in the semi, thanks to an unbeaten 85 from youngster Scott Clayton.

They were rank outsiders in the Final, but cleaned up a powerful Corowa batting line-up, with Mick (3/15 off 10 overs) and his partner-in-arms, Maurie Braden (4/36) sharing the bowling spoils.

Again, it was the talented Clayton (146 not out) who showed the way, as Colts racked up a total of 414.

For skipper Lappin, his plans could not have been executed any more precisely, as he, and his club shared a memorable victory.

Mick picked up his second Chronicle Trophy in 1989/90. With a season-haul of 310 runs and 32 wickets he also finished runner-up in the Cricketer of the Year Award, captained Wangaratta at Bendigo Country Week and played in the Ensign Cup-winning team.

He also won selection, along with Barry Grant, in a Victorian Country team, which met a Victorian Celebrity XI at Ballarat.

1989 was the first of six years that he led Wangaratta at Bendigo C.W. Those who had played against him and didn’t know him all that well, expected a surly, uncommunicative captain, but were surprised by his affability and the ease with which he carried out the skipper’s role.

He was, above all, a team-man and this virtue shine through in his leadership.

His biggest thrill at Bendigo came in 1994, when Wangaratta scored a last-gasp win in the Final against Upper Loddon.

Batting on a damp track, there was an early – and serious – upper-order collapse. It was Lappin and Paul Miegel who righted the ship. Mick’s 60 was an innings full of courage and patience.

Season 1995/96 was the last of his 8 years as captain of City Colts. One of the younger players recalls a relatively jolly bus trip home from Beechworth after the final game.

When the bus pulled up at Wangaratta, the mood became serious, as Mick, usually a man of few words, rose to his feet and calmly proceeded to address each of the players ; giving them a ‘resume’ of their season, what had been expected of them, and how they could improve.

It was thought-provoking stuff.

Mick continued playing until well into the 2000’s, He stepped back into B-grade for a few seasons and reckons he’s still got the whites packed in case there’s an emergency call from the selectors.

He played 310 A-Grade games with City Colts, scored 4656 runs, took 426 wickets and was named captain of the club’s Team of the Half-Century.

A memorable career……..


 

KENT’S THE KEY MAN FOR COLTS

It’s hard to believe that, when the City Colts came into being 54 years ago, they would ultimately become the Wangaratta and District Cricket Association’s longest-serving club.

Mergers have become fashionable in recent times and have swallowed up a few of the traditional teams for one reason or another, but Colts have been able to maintain their status-quo.

The face of local cricket has changed at a rapid rate. Thirty-five years ago the WDCA’s only outlying club was Whorouly. Now the Association’s tentacles spread as far as Mansfield, Violet Town, Yarrawonga, Corowa and up to Harrietville.

In the interim, seven defunct Associations have been incorporated into the ‘new-look’ WDCA………

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The Colts were formed in late 1961, at the instigation of a well-known livestock agent, Neil McConchie, who, upon arriving in town, spent a couple of seasons with the Wangaratta club.

McConchie, a handy cricketer, and father of a promising all-rounder, noticed that the popular clubs, Wangaratta and the Rovers seemed to swoop on all of the high-profile recruits. He felt that many talented, but inexperienced local players in other teams were being stifled in their development, through not being guided by senior cricketers.

With that in mind, the club’s mantra in its infancy, was that, ideally,  the team should include four players over 21  – and that its principal aim was to promote young talent.

Their early years were testing. Unable to recruit that core of seasoned players, the young line-up was subjected to many a shellacking.

They eventually settled into a ‘home’ at the Barr Reserve and installed a new turf wicket ; their fledgling players began to show signs of maturity and eventually the odd win started to come along .

But it was a long and winding road to the top. Twenty-one years after their formation, Colts played in their first semi-final.

A major factor in their improvement had been the ‘raiding’ of Rovers stars John Hill and Brian Carr in the late seventies. Besides being more than handy players, both were cricket ‘nuts’ and did as much as anyone to create a strong culture around the club.

The proudest moment in the history of the City Colts came in 1985/86. After having bombed out in four successive semi-finals, they again snuck into fourth spot by just 1.1 points, then went on to defeat Whorouly in the semi and convincingly toss Corowa in the Final.

They scored a mammoth 414 to take a vice-like grip on the premiership Cup. The baby of the side, Scott Clayton, who emphasised his precocious talent with a dashing, unbeaten 146, went on to enjoy a fine sub-district career. He is now back at O’Callaghan Oval – wiser, plumper, but just as difficult to dislodge.

A key to the title success was a brilliant paceman from Benalla – Gary Lidgerwood – who was to provide an abundance of leadership and inspiration to the club over the succeeding 20 years.

Some of the team-mates he bonded with belonged to long-standing Colts’ families – the Lappins, Carrs, Daniels’ and Bradens. Other familiar faces, like Peter Mullins, Justin Solimo, Noel Gilbert and Peter Farquhar, were part of the framework of the club.

Undoubtedly the finest player the Club has produced is Simon Hill, who continues to score heavily with Camberwell-Magpies and now sits 15th on the table of all-time Premier Cricket scorers.  Malcolm Smith (Hawthorn East-Melbourne) and, more recently,Isaac Willett (Essendon), have also gone from Colts to senior VCA teams.

But undoubtedly their biggest celebrity export would be national television and radio personality and cricket-lover, Ross Greenwood, who cut his teeth with the club before moving on to become a prominent financial analyser and media guru.

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City Colts have pressed strongly in the modern era, but their last six appearances in the A-Grade Final have resulted in tears . Their record is beginning to assume ‘Collywobble-style’ proportions.

They head into another finals campaign with justifiable confidence.

But it’s my guess that if they are to land the ‘Big One’ it would be on the back of a tall, athletic all-rounder, who has been their heart-beat over the last 10 or a dozen years.

Kent Braden is a long-striding right-arm quick who can do a bit with the ball. He has a bustling approach to the crease, culminating in him stiffly directing his left hand towards that imaginary spot on the pitch, which he hits with unerring accuracy.

He has reportedly become a lot more driven over the years and has long abandoned the ‘large’ Friday nights which could sometimes deliver him to the game in less than pristine condition.

Others believe it’s just the competitive Braden nature shining through. He certainly doesn’t seem, from a distance, to have the win-at-all-costs attitude that was a trademark of his feisty old man Maurie ; just a fervent desire to succeed.

He is a left-hand batsman with style, and seems better suited to forcing the pace. He can cut and pull with the best of them, but it’s a wonder to me why Kent bats so far down the list.

In a couple of those losing Finals, Colts lost control of their seemingly-attainable run-chases because they became bogged down, then had a clatter of wickets, which left him to protect the tail.

It happened again last Saturday. Their opponents were well in the ascendancy when he came to the crease. The game had slipped away.

He is one of those players you can sometimes take for granted, but when you look at his record it stands up against the greats of recent times.

Kent plays his 199th A-grade game this week-end. He captained the side for three seasons, but was content to hand over the reins to Greg Daniel, focusing his efforts on the team and lending support to the brigade of younger players filtering into the senior side. He is an excellent influence, they say.

He has now scored 4001 runs and taken 387 A-Grade wickets for Colts. There have been two centuries and four hauls of six wickets, or more, in that lot.

And, as further proof of his standing among the WDCA’s elite, he has won three Association Player of the Year awards, a Chronicle Trophy, 2 Bowling Averages, 2 Bowling Aggregates and 2 Batting Averages.

He made the first of his 14 trips to Melbourne Country Week, as a promising 18 year-old, in 2002, taken more for experience than the expectancy of a huge input. But, in an era when officials find it increasingly difficult to get players to make the commitment, Kent has become a fixture and captained the side on four campaigns.

2016 proved to be among his most consistent at Melbourne, with the feature being a five-for against Goulburn-Murray and a couple of cameo knocks of 30-odd.

The Kent Braden career is seemingly far from its conclusion. Despite being in his early 30’s, he concentrates more on his fitness these days. And he’s still as keen as ever to grab that red cherry and attempt to make the vital break-through when things are looking bleak.

Just as Neil McConchie visualised in 1961, he’s the experienced old hand lending support to the youngsters…….

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