‘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 HAPPY HOOKER……..’

He was regarded by his team-mates as a happy-go-lucky soul – the ultimate fellah to lift spirits when they were down – but they reckon Anthony Carroll was also afflicted by a sizeable dose of ‘White-Line Fever.’

Hence the nickname ,’Psycho’…….

They recall the time he came to the aid of a debutant batting partner who was being heavily sledged. As he marched towards the offending fieldsmen, they defended their actions: “You started this stuff,” one said.

‘Psycho’ motioned to take off his batting gloves: “We didn’t start it boy, but I’ll certainly finish it,”

“Just a bit of banter,” was his response at the post-match drinks when his foes remarked how serious he had become………

There were the days he would ‘ark up’ when an enthusiastic quickie might offer a few words of advice and proceed to test him with a bit of chin music.

That was cannon fodder for the ‘Happy Hooker’. The shorter the deliveries became, the harder he would hit – then respond with a satisfied smirk in the direction of the bowler…….

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He’s a Buraja boy…….and proud of it.

That faded red Buraja Cricket Club cap was his lucky charm – part of his armoury – as he presented a formidable target to the bowler. With an unruly head of ginger hair, healthy beard, solid build and  a perpetual grin – minus a couple of teeth – he showed no fear……

Except for one day, perhaps, at Dandenong, in just his second Country Week innings. Surprised by the pace of a South Gippsland speedster, the first ball of the day glanced off his head and sped away for four byes.

He was still trying to come to terms with the barrage of short stuff an over or two later, when he conferred with his partner in mid-pitch….

“These pppricks are tryin’ to knock me bbbloody head off……”

He gutsed it out to score 40 of Wangaratta’s winning total of 163.

‘Psycho’ loved his two trips to Melbourne, scoring a couple of important half-centuries and thriving on the lift in standard. He didn’t mind the night-life either. The story he tells against himself possibly sums up his personality:

“We ended up at this night-club and someone talked me into presenting a rose to one of the dancers. I got half-way up on the stage and a bouncer came after me. I headed for the door, with him in pursuit. He followed me out into the street”

“I hid in a nearby construction site for a while, ’til I thought it was safe. I can’t believe it when I think about it, but I walked back into the night-club half an hour later……. !”

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His three brothers played for Buraja, and ‘Psycho’ was 13 when he joined them in the side. They won two flags in his 12 years there – 1982/83 and ’85/’86.

He was a star in the Rutherglen comp and was recognised by Zone selectors when he was invited to captain the North-East’s 1981 U.21 Harvester Cup team. His undefeated 129 at Shepparton was the first century scored by a N.E player in the series.

With 274 runs at 91.32, he had shown the way. But ‘Psycho’ came to the attention of WDCA players a bit later, when he belted 57 out of Rutherglen’s 108 against them in an Ensign Cup final.

His last innings for Buraja was 112 in a Final. The next year he was invited to join the newly-minted Corowa team in the Wangaratta Association.

So with ‘Cyril’, ‘Boofer’, ‘Gull’, ‘Popeye’, ‘Red-Dick’, ‘Whale’, ‘Harry’,’Keenesy’ and later, ‘Stumpy’ and ‘Puppet’, among others, ‘Psycho’ formed part of a developing team which was to dominate the competition .

Because they were all of the same vintage, they gelled perfectly. Outsiders admired how they played with such freedom; contested the game fiercely, yet were the first to knock the top off a stubbie and have a yarn with the opposition at the end of a game.

“We were a pretty social mob,” says ‘Psycho’. “And we drank our fair share of grog on those trips home on Saturday nights. ‘Whale’ and I were lucky we had ‘Gull’ (Rod Gulliver) who didn’t drink, was very patient and must have driven thousands of miles from Daysdale (50 km north of Corowa) over the years.”

Corowa won their maiden WDCA flag in 1987/88, the first of six in succession.

They were an all-powerful, beautifully-balanced side; among the best in WDCA history.

” ‘Boofer'(David Lane) was captain in those years and thought he was in control. He was too, I suppose, but we all played our part. At one stage he instituted a $5 fine if you got out playing the hook shot. I had to fork out a bit for that, ” ‘Psycho’ says.

He lapped up the big occasions and produced some fine batting performances during the eight flags with which he was involved.

One which earned him celebrity status came in the now-infamous clash between Corowa and College in March 1992.

College pacemen Barry McCormick and Ashley Gilbert had blitzed Wangaratta in a one-sided semi-final and were the key weapons for the popular fancies in the ‘big one’ at the Bruck Oval.

They both did well with the bat, as College mustered a tantalising 284 on the first day. Overnight, ‘unknown persons’ had clambered over the fence and used hammers to vandalise the wicket. Play was delayed for some time to enable the ‘track’ to be repaired, but still, Corowa had misgivings about beginning their innings.
When they did, ‘Psycho’ set the game alight. He was dropped on 6, but made the most of his good fortune to belt 16 boundaries and a towering six. The Chronicle report stated that “………Carroll showed all the class and flair that has made him one of the WDCA’s most dangerous batsmen……”

His swashbuckling 153 took his side past their target, and on to 311. College chased quick runs in their second ‘dig’ and left Corowa 131 to win. Another Carroll ‘gem’ , an unbeaten 59, got them there with the loss of a solitary wicket.

‘Psycho’ scored six centuries in his 11 WDCA seasons and his arrival at the crease usually signified that the fireworks were about to begin.

He played his 124th – and last – game in the 1997/98 Grand Final and chalked up his 8th flag, to put the stamp on a glittering WDCA career.

The Carroll football credentials were equally impressive and have earned him eternal recognition as a Corowa-Rutherglen great.

He began with the ‘Roos in 1976, as a 15 year-old, and when he departed in 1990 after 212 games, was renowned as a fearless, tenacious and skilful on-baller. His ability to dodge and weave out of trouble, turn on a ‘threepenny bit’ and use his left boot to advantage, marked him as a danger-man to opposition teams.

His only time away from the John Foord Oval had been to twice travel up to sweltering, humid Darwin, where he spent a couple of summer seasons with Nightcliff.

‘Psycho’s’ dad, Dinny, was a Corowa champion in his day, and a multiple best and fairest winner with the Spiders. He was named on a half forward flank in the combined Corowa and Rutherglen Team of the Century.

The ‘young bloke’ must also also have come under consideration, as he was a five-time runner-up  B & F and had represented the O & M 12 times.

‘Psycho’s’ fairytale footy season arrived in 1991 when he was enticed out to Coreen as captain-coach. He handled the leadership role with ease and played superbly, taking out the League’s Archie Dennis Medal.

And the climax came when he ‘turned it on’ in the opening quarter of the Grand Final, as the Swans took charge and went on to clinch the flag by 34 points.

He returned to help the ‘Roos out after he hung the boots up, and acted as Chairman of Selectors for 3 years.

But a battle with leukaemia has been the focus of his attention over the last seven and a half years, It has done little to dull the good humour and spirit of one of local sport’s greatest characters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘ROCKET’

 

To his Corowa cricket team-mates he was ‘Harry’, the most important component in a premiership juggernaut . The ‘go-to’ man who could be relied upon to extract the side from a crisis with a big innings or a fiery 5-over spell.

To opponents he was ‘Rocket’, the unsmiling, aloof, taciturn leader, begrudgingly acknowledged as the first bloke you would pick in your ‘Dream Team’.

Many cricket followers in this area rated him the outstanding player of his generation – and possibly among the best in the WDCA’s long history.

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Rodney Lane grew up in a football environment. His dad, John, had been one of the old-style ‘tough-men’ of the Ovens and Murray League, who played in middle, or lower-ranked Corowa teams for most of his 253-game career.

‘Big John’ assumed the role as ‘protector’ for his less physically-adorned team-mates, and at 6’4″ and tipping the scales at 16 stone, he was a daunting opponent.

The two undoubted highlights in his lengthy spell at the John Foord Oval were Grand Final appearances. In 1963, Corowa were belted by Benalla, but in 1968 they caused a major boil-over in defeating raging-hot favourites, Wodonga.

It was the Spiders first flag for 36 years and a rich reward for the hard-toiling ruckman.
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‘Rocket’ was to make his own telling contribution with the merged combination – Corowa-Rutherglen – as a raw-boned, lanky centre half forward-cum ruckman with sharp elbows.

His 150-odd games were full of endeavour and featured one Grand Final appearance, in 1992, when the Kangaroos shocked Wang.Rovers in a thrilling Preliminary, but were not quite good enough to match Wodonga in the ‘big one’.

He played it hard, with shades of his old man’s spirit. And was an important component of those good ‘Roo sides of the ’90’s.

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But it was as a cricketer that Rodney Lane will live long in the memory. He and his older brother David were part of the inaugural Corowa Cricket Club, which made the move to the Wangaratta & District Association in 1985/86.

The reasoning was full of logic. There were many talented young cricketers in the area and, if they were to progress, they needed to be playing on turf – and in a higher-standard competition.

Two years earlier, the Rutherglen Association had played Wangaratta in a North-East Cup final. Many of the members of that team were to form the nucleus of the Corowa line-up which would take the WDCA by storm throughout a dominant era.

Within a couple of years the Lavis boys had been enticed from Balldale. Greg Hennessey joined from Cornishtown, the inimitable ‘Psycho’ Carroll came from Buraja and long-serving spinner Rod Gulliver was recruited from Rand.

They complemented the local talent, such as medium-pacer Michael Keenes, mercurial ‘Popeye’ Livingstone and that veritable run-machine, school-teacher John McPherson.

And in Rodney Lane they had an exciting prospect.

He had won selection in a VCCL team which played the West Indies at Wangaratta in early 1985 and showed enough to indicate that, indeed, he was out of the top-drawer.
After just two seasons – and 65 wickets – in the WDCA, he was recruited by Carlton.

He spent six years at Princes Park and played 63 matches, taking 136 District wickets. His accuracy and big heart impressed the Blues’ hierarchy and his development as a lower-order batsman was duly noted.

Three appearances for the Victorian Second XI proved that he was probably on the perimeter of State selection.

But he returned home in 1993 and settled back into life as a builder, Corowa-Rutherglen footballer and Ball Park regular.

In his absence, Corowa had won six straight flags and their reign of power in the WDCA was rivalling that of the great United sides of an earlier era.

But inexplicably, after some dominant batting performances during ‘Rocket’s’ comeback year, they suffered a dramatic batting collapse in the semi-final.

He had to wait until the following season – 1994/95 – to play in the first of his four premierships with the club. Rovers-United had compiled a challenging 181 and, after a good start, Corowa lost 3 quick wickets to be exposed at 5/112.

Was another clatter of wickets on the cards ?

No ! A Shane Norman-‘Rocket’ partnership of 71 guided them out of stormy waters to reach their target without the loss of another wicket.

A couple of worrisome batting performances in semi-finals over the next couple of seasons suggested a hint of mortality in the Border line-up, but they soon rectified this misconception by winning a hat-trick of flags to round out the millennium.

Paving the way a lot of the time was ‘Rocket’, who led by example with his captaincy.
Opponents found him to be an intimidating presence on the field. Some suggested that the strains of ‘white-line’ fever that he displayed were part of the family genes.

‘Rocket’s’ height, allied to a longish, stiff-limbed run-up, made him an awkward proposition to contend with, as he broached the crease.

His ability to get the ball around your solar-plexus from a good length was disconcerting. He rarely wasted a delivery and when you played and missed, you were met with a stony glare, which could make an edgy batsman decidedly uncomfortable.

Knee problems took the sting out of his bowling durability for a few years. But he was still capable of wrecking a batting line-up with an explosive spell.

Word spread around WDCA circles in the early 2000’s that his knee ‘op’ had been a success. There was trepidation when he again began to measure out the ‘long-run’.

His batting seemed to develop as the years wore on. The first impediment to a bowler who would prepare to launch into a delivery, was the big left foot that he planted down the wicket. He had a strong defence and a good array of shots. 7 club centuries and 30 half-centuries indicate how effective he was.

His twin ‘tons’ ( 111 not out against Central Gippsland and 103 against Warragul ) at Melbourne Country Week in 1999 put the stamp on his transition into a champion all-rounder.

WDCA officials were delighted to see his commitment to representative cricket. He captained Wangaratta at Country Week from 1996 to 2000, exhibiting sound cricketing nous.

He was still performing solidly for his side in 2011, when he decided to retire, aged 43. In his 257 WDCA games ‘Rocket’ had scored 6,681 runs and taken 384 wickets.

When you add the contribution of his brother David, who played 172 games, captured 330 wickets and featured in 10 premiership sides, you’ll see why Corowa have found it difficult to replicate the deeds of the Lane’s and the other superb players of their club’s Golden Era.

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