“SURPRISES CONTINUE, AS FIGHT FOR WDCA FINALS TAKES SHAPE…..”

The WDCA’s 2021/22 season continues to throw up surprises………..

You were probably wondering if successive losses by competition powerhouse Yarrawonga-Mulwala was a mere blip, after a remarkable 14 years of consistency.

Well, they turned in another uncharacteristic performance in the match of the round against Wangaratta-Magpies yesterday, to fall short by 10 runs.

The Stan Hargreaves Oval is a veritable fortress for the Lakers. They were confident of re-discovering their form and proceeded to unveil it …….when they cut a swathe through the ‘Pies’ upper-order, to have them reeling at 8/70.

A formidable obstacle remained, however, in the shape of the competition’s recruit of the year – former Prahran all-rounder Prav Menon.

With support from youngster Tommy Rosser ( who has also proved a fine pick-up after arriving from Greta ), Menon ( 53* ) restored some equilibrium to the Pies’ innings after wickets had been clattering around the Indian-born star.

The pair proceeded to add 47, in a defiant, rear-guard, ninth-wicket stand of 42, to lift the ‘Pies to a barely-challenging total of 8/117.

But, as they say, the runs were on the board………The Lakers progressed at a steady rate, without ever appearing to take complete control.

Tall Matt Casey remained their ‘Rock’, but when he was dismissed for a patient 34 ( off 82 balls ) Yarra were 6/82 and there was still heaps of work to be done.

Spin, which has re-emerged as an attacking option in WDCA ranks this year, again came to the fore. Young offie Jimmy Thewlis sent down 8 overs for 2/14, whilst Menon was similarly miserly, conceding just 21 runs off his permissable overs.

But it was medium-pacer Nick Pell who took the bowling laurels, capturing 3/23, to clean up the tail, and finish with 3/23, as the Lakers were restricted to a total of 107.

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Delatite sent City Colts tumbling out of the four when they won convincingly at Lord Oval, Mansfield.

The boys from the hills were well on their way after opener Earl Ree-Goodings (51) got off to a flier. His departure, at 2/83, heralded the appearance of burly Matt Stevenson, whose 55 off just 26 balls assured that Colts would be chasing a formidable total.

The target of 4/207 was always going to prove difficult for Colts to overcome. …..They were dismissed for 84, to end a promising four-match winning streak, which had turned their season around.

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Cellar-dwellers Benalla won the toss and promptly invited Ovens Valley to bat in the encounter at Myrtleford’s McNamara Reserve.

It’s been a somewhat hazardous year for the Bushies, and little has gone their way, but on this occasion they were able to run through the home team for just 60, in 23 overs.

The prospect of negotiating his side to victory would no doubt have appealed to Benalla’s super-veteran opener Greg Hoysted, who has revelled in countless similar situations during his marathon career.

With undeniable patience, he faced 100 deliveries, and was undefeated on 23 when the Bushies crawled to victory….

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It’s a rare occasion for a batsman to score more runs, individually, than three other WDCA teams manage to amass for the round; rarer still when he smacks a brilliant, unbeaten century, only for his side to go down in convincing fashion……

That was the scenario, in cloudy, uncomfortable conditions at the W.J.Findlay Oval, when Beechworth’s Kayde Surrey conjured the season’s first A-Grade ‘ton’.

……But in terms of match highlights, the superb knock of 97 by Rovers-United-Bruck opener Luke Whitten also deserved a more-than-honourable mention.

As you can now visualise, the bat held sway in the clash between the two keen rivals.

The Hawks won the toss and, unsurprisingly, took advantage of the sultry atmosphere to put the hard-working, but under-strength Bushies’ bowlers to the sword.

Whitten, who’d suffered the ignominy of being dismissed off the first delivery of the previous week, elected to go on the attack from the first ball.

He and dashing Bailey Dale ( who has a real presence at the crease, and drives as well as anyone in the competition when in full flight ), were in fine touch. They had scored a brisk, entertaining 108 when Dale was removed by left-armer Matty Ryan.

His 42 followed on from an exhilarating 90 the previous week, but Whitten, who had regained superb touch, produced the full repertoire of shots. The best of them, in my opinion, a crisply-stroked on-drive, scurried to the mid-on boundary.

His brother Matt also joined the party, with a polished 22, and Jacob Beattie contributed quick runs towards the finish, to take the Hawks to an imposing 7/217 at the close.

Kayde Surrey’s 3/44 gave him the bowling figures, but was just the forerunner to the exhibition which was to provide him with ‘Man of the Match’ honours.

He had scored four previous WDCA tons – the last of them in 2015/16 . All fans in the area have become fully aware of his ( and his brother Brenton’s ) importance to the Beechworth side.

But the thought did run through my mind yesterday, that anyone popping into the Oval for a casual glance at the cricket whilst he was batting, would be convinced that the local game is still in pretty good shape.

Faced with a target of more than 5 runs per over, Surrey and his fellow-opener Matt Ryan didn’t waste time playing themselves in.

They raced to 45 before Ryan fell to first-changer Brady Bartlett. Unfortunately, wickets began to fall at regular intervals, as Surrey took complete charge, apart for a six-or-seven over lull in mid-innings, when he became quite circumspect.

With the overs ticking by, the right-hander produced pull shots in successive balls – a 6 and a 4, to rush into the nineties – and his inevitable march towards the century.

He had carried his bat, for 106 out of a total of 8/158 when time was declared……. Two outstanding individual innings’ – the WDCA’s highest for the season – had provided the highlights of a batting master-class……

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………..”