‘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…..

“THE EPITOME OF ELEGANCE……”

They called him ‘Hollywood’.

The nickname seemed to stick after one of his team-mates compared his sartorial elegance to that of the flamboyant Sydney punter of the fifties and sixties, ‘Hollywood’ George Edser.

That was one of the colourful characteristics of Peter Nicoll, who was a true personality of Wangaratta cricket for almost three decades.

There was no more imposing sight for an opposition player than to see the bulky frame of Nicoll striding purposefully to the wicket. A gifted left-hander equipped with the full range of shots, he could murder an attack when in full flight. You probably considered yourself a reasonable chance to pick him up in slips early, but if you didn’t, then … ‘look out’.

Peter Nicoll was part of a blue-blooded cricketing dynasty at Whorouly. His uncles, Ernie,Ron and Vic were all champions, as was his cousin Lex.  Brother Ian, a future proficient Carlton winger, could wreak havoc with his ruthless hitting, whilst his father Wils, a fellow ‘Hall of Famer’, had a peerless record and scored over 10,000 WDCA runs.

Yet Wils and Peter were poles apart in the rudiments of batting. Peter, stylish and playing through the lines, was a conventional stroke-player. Wils, more rough-hewn, relied on a superb eye to plunder the bowling. But both shared an appetite for runs which produced monumental results.

The story is told of Wils, striding to the crease at Country Week, looking like he’d hastily changed after a tiresome day on the farm. Trousers tucked into black socks, well-worn pads offering scant protection. And carrying a single, spiked batting glove.

There was collective derision from the fielding side. Someone sneered: “Get a look at this yokel will ya !” It was just loud enough for the ‘yokel’ to hear, and store in his memory bank.

After a commanding knock,  during which he’d taken toll of a highly-rated attack, he quickly departed, in search of a relaxing ‘roll-your-own’ as his method of winding down.

Peter, to the contrary was all sophistication , replete with  finely-tailored creams and the most up-to-date equipment.

He was just 13 when he lined up alongside Wils in the Whorouly side. Two years later he was hailed as a prodigy when he shared a 240-run opening partnership with his father. His contribution was 104.

He was one of the youngest-ever Country Week players when selected that year. A season later he was representing a Wangaratta team against the visiting Victorians. It was all very heady stuff for the lad, but he handled a Shield attack with aplomb.

“Ian Meckiff routed the remaining bats, although young Peter Nicoll provided stubborn  resistance with a fine innings of 17. He certainly justified his selection and played a fine array of shots to score his runs”, said the Chronicle reporter of the day.

Peter headed to Melbourne , where he spent a couple of seasons with Richmond. To the surprise of most WDCA followers, who rated him an excellent chance of playing District Firsts, his time was spent in the Seconds and Thirds, with a Third XI Batting average and a top score of 99* being the highlight.

Employment as a livestock agent took him away from Whorouly for a period. He represented Mansfield at Country Week on three occasions whilst working in the town and he had spells at Ariah Park and Wagga in the early seventies. But for 27 seasons he was one of the cornerstones of a usually-strong Whorouly line-up.

Besides his formidable batting he adopted another string to his bow, as a medium-pace swing bowler. He was under-estimated in this role, but showed accuracy and guile to trouble the best of batsmen.

Nicoll enjoyed an excellent season in 1967/68, scoring three centuries and taking out the Chronicle Trophy. But he would probably rank ‘71/72 among his most enjoyable. It was a season of one-day games and he totalled 623 runs, finished runner-up in the Chronicle Trophy and played in his first Whorouly premiership.

He had scored 114 not out in the final-round and played a lovely hand of 46 to help the Maroons defeat Tarrawingee in the semi-final. He then hammered a top-class United attack to the tune of 116 not out to assist in knocking off the hot favourites in the Final. Some people rate this as his finest and most disciplined innings, but then again, any of his other 11 WDCA ‘tons’ could rival that honour.

Nicoll played in two other premierships with Whorouly – 1974/75 and 1981/82, but figured in four losing Finals.

His name was regularly thrown up when representative fixtures came around and he was selected for two international games. The first, against England at Euroa in 1965 was washed out, but he opened the batting against the West Indies at the Showgrounds in 1969, defying the pacemen Wesley Hall and Richard Edwards for more than half an hour, for 13.

Nicoll was a permanent fixture at Melbourne Country Week and his 17 trips as part of the Wangaratta team spanned 26 years. Only Max Bussell, Clem Fisher and Barry Grant  made more journeys down the highway for the best country cricket around.

He was always a vital part of the upper-order, with his highest score, a breezy 86, helping Wang to defeat Ballarat in 1966. In his last innings, at Coburg in 1985, he promised the boys, on heading through the gate, that he would ‘turn it on’ for them. True to his word , his 69, against Colac ,was a classy swansong. In latter years his bowling at Melbourne had  also proved invaluable,

There were few more recognisable players in local cricket than “Holly”. His competitive nature was a vital part of his make-up. There’s no doubt that occasional sparring sessions with opponents may have rubbed some of them up the wrong way.

But he gave great service to Whorouly in his 286 games and the stark statistics of 7561 runs and 466 wickets speak for themselves. So does his record with the WDCA – 17 Country Week trips and 50 North-East Cup games.

His prowess as a footballer often faded because of his cricket achievements. But he was an aggressive, strong defender, who starred in key position roles with Myrtleford during the sixties.

The Nicoll residence borders the Whorouly oval and if the present-day merged Ovens Valley side happen to be playing there he usually sidles up to peruse the state of the game . Old-time cricket watchers would say that , when he was in his pomp, there was no more attractive sight than watching “Holly” unveiling  his repertoire of shots.

 

FROM ARARAT……. AND BEYOND

Ararat, the ‘Golden Gateway to the Grampians’, is the birthplace of Olympic sprint cyclist Sean Kelly, ‘Bush Bradman’ Henry Gunstone, and the old Collingwood heroes Barry Price and Rene Kink.

Kink was later dubbed the ‘Incredible Hulk’ in a colourful journey as a footballer, hairdresser and fleeting film star. He was in his last year of Ararat cricket before seeking wider horizons, when a feisty youngster, Duane Kerwin began to make his way through junior ranks.

The Kerwin story is that of a sporting journeyman who found recognition on the other side of the state as a champion cricketer – one whose feats place him among the greats of the game in Wangaratta.

He first landed here as a 20 year-old in 1985, transferred in employment by the National Bank, but with a reputation that preceded him as a capable all-round sportsman. He had already made his mark in Grampians and Hamilton cricket and early evidence was that of a super-competitive player.

He had a season with College, which included a century and 24 wickets, and proved to be a footballer of promise in  Wangaratta’s Reserves premiership side………….

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But a football odyssey to the far north saw ‘Kerwy’ spend successive footy seasons in Brisbane and Cairns.

He played under former Wangaratta Rovers and North Melbourne legend Mick Nolan, at QAFL club Mayne, and then spent a gruelling season with North Cairns, during which he represented North Queensland.

It was an idyllic lifestyle. To all intents and purposes Wangaratta had seen the last of the nuggety sporting all-rounder.

Fate intervened. His acceptance of an invitation to the wedding of his mate ‘Chimpy’ Lockyer saw him lob back in Wangaratta and yield to the pressure of the Magpies, who urged him to stay.

What a far-reaching decision !

He enjoyed a dream season as an in-and-under onballer, won Wang’s Best and Fairest, and represented the Ovens and Murray League the following year.

However, the first of a number of shoulder dislocations  eventually prompted a ‘reco’ and ended his career with the ‘Pies.

When he had returned to full fitness, he headed out to Greta  as assistant-coach to Peter Mulrooney, then Rod Canny.

‘Kerwy’s’ four seasons  with the Blues included  three Best and Fairests and and a starring role in a dramatic 1993 premiership triumph, against the odds, over the unbackable Chiltern.

But niggling shoulder and knee injuries eventually forced him out of the game and prompted him to concentrate his energies on cricket.

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He had given Wangaratta Cricket Club a huge lift when he joined them on his return from Queensland.

But it wasn’t until he formed an opening liason with Rick Lawford after being there for a few years, that the cricket public sat up and took notice. Their stand of 228 against Whorouly in 1991/92 was followed by 170 against Bruck the next week.

Finally ‘Kerwy’ had won respect as a more than capable player.

This breakout season saw him make 548 runs and take 36 wickets, as he cleaned up several Association honours. He was a busy right-arm bowler who could vary his pace with great success.

His ability to use the new ball and also come on as a change bowler and occasional ‘offie’, was an added facet to his game. Able to shuffle down the batting order, from 1 to 9, he could play with studied responsibility or recklessly wield the willow.

He did the latter with great effect in an Ensign Cup game at the Bruck Oval, in an innings of 144 in 123 minutes, against Euroa.

‘Kerwy’ was the WDCA’s Cricketer of the Year on 6 occasions and won 7 Chronicle Trophies. He won 2 Bowling Averages, was runner-up twice and took out the Batting Average in 1999/2000.

Ample proof, indeed, that he was among the competition’s best-performed and most consistent-ever club cricketers.

In 1996, he and good mate Ian Rundell took a cricketing holiday to England. ‘Kerwy’ had arranged to play at an attractive Cumbrian town named Cockermouth. He made a huge impression, with the highlight being representation for his league against the might of Yorkshire.

In a summary of the season, the ‘Cockermouth Post’ reported: “…. Everyone will be well aware of the phenomenal all-round contribution made to the cause by the Australian Duane Kerwin, who scored over 1000 runs and took 86 wickets. It is not surprising that several North Lancashire clubs are keen to recruit him if he does return to England next year….”.

But ‘Kerwy’ and ‘Knackers’ headed home, richer for the experience and eager to snare another premiership with the now-merged Wangaratta-Magpies.

They had to wait until 2000/01 to inflict defeat on the powerful Corowa, but they reckoned that sharing that flag was more than all the individual honours that had come their way. Both of his WDCA flags ( the other was in 1993/94) came at the expense of the Roos .

Kerwin relished the step up to representative cricket. He had nine trips to Melbourne (two as captain) and seven to Bendigo and was an automatic selection in Wangaratta’s Ensign Cup team.

As a four-time ‘Rep’ Cricketer of the Year, he was at home against the best from the bush. But he met his match in an Ensign Cup match against arch rivals Albury & Border, when opposed to West Indies batsman, Clayton Lambert.

A typically  ‘cool’ left-hander, Lambert smashed ‘Kerwy’s’ first couple of balls over his head. “After this I thought, why not try going around the wicket “, he said. “I’ve never forgotten Lambert’s reply to the umpire “. “Good”, he said in his deep Caribbean voice. “I knew then that I had my work cut out! “

His 212 WDCA matches yielded 5461 runs ( including 7 centuries) and 528 wickets. His career-best bowling figures (14/53) were obtained against Beechworth in 1996/97, among the 61 victims that he claimed that year.

‘Kerwy’ had also been a proven performer in Sunday cricket for many years, playing with a group of mates, for Royal Vic Cricket Club. The two WSCA Chronicle Trophies he won sat nicely alongside the  7 WDCA awards he received.

It was a shock in cricketing circles when the reigning Cricketer of the Year and representative captain declared that he had lost the battle with his body and could not go on. So, in 2004, he turned his back on cricket.

He returned  for a brief period as coach of Bruck and enjoyed imparting his vast knowledge of the game to willing youngsters.

The golf course provides an outlet for his highly-tuned competitive juices these days. He plays off single figures , in between following his kids’ sporting pursuits.

There was little doubt that ‘Kerwy’ extracted the maximum out of the sporting ability with which he was endowed.

That was the secret of his success.

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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