I look forward to the annual pilgrimage to Yarrawonga’s Stan Hargreaves Oval……….
Situated on the eastern fringe of the town, a white picket fence surrounds a beautifully-thatched green sward, and a typically hard, true centre strip…
The balcony, which is situated on boundary’s edge, provides an excellent, sometimes rowdy viewing area……and leads into the Pavilion, which is, as usual, a hive of activity on match-day……
The Bar has been fully operational from the start of proceedings today , and there are more than a few of the locals sampling the amber fluid…….A giant TV on one wall screens the races from Caulfield and Rosehill…….On another, the uninterrupted vision of the current game is available to those who can’t be bothered craning their necks around to glimpse the action in the middle…..
They look after you a treat, the Lakers…….There’s always ample tucker on hand……….But someone offered the finest piece de resistance I’ve ever had as a scorer – a large plate of piping-hot fresh fish….
You know you’re always going to be in for a hell of a contest against the Yarra-Mul Lakers, who exude confidence and have become a traditional WDCA powerhouse.
They keep rolling out talented youngsters to complement the array of stars who’ve kept them at the top for more than a decade.
But today’s game, I sense, has a bit of extra meaning for them…….Their opponents, reigning premiers Rovers-United-Bruck, knocked them over in last season’s semi-final and they’re keen to exact revenge.
The Hawks, on the other hand, haven’t tasted success over here for six years……There’s a hint of summer finally in the air….. two top sides are in action……you couldn’t wish to be in a better place than Hargreaves Oval.
I’m not disappointed………it proves to be a fantastic, high-standard game……….
For the Lakers’ experienced openers Reed Clarke and Matt Casey, it’s ‘steady as she goes’ in the opening overs….
Left-handed Clarke, in particular, has decided to knuckle down, and provide support to his more adventurous team-mate. But they must have wondered what demons the wicket had in store for them when speedster Paddy McNamara incited a couple of venomous early deliveries to jump and spit.
You could see the Hawk skipper licking his chops, but that proved to be the only sign of mischief that the pitch displayed .
Tall and imposing Casey, whose only other knock this season had been an undefeated century against Delatite, looked completely at ease and again emphasised his standing as one of the competition’s top batsmen.
A solid, stylish defence is his keynote, but he dealt severely with the occasional overpitched delivery and he and Clarke guided their side to 0/ 51 at the 20-over mark.
There was really no cause for concern at the slow run-rate as the Lakers, with a lengthy batting list, reasoned that they could apply the pressure later in the innings…..The RUB bowlers, however, deserved credit for their accuracy and discipline.
The first twist in the game came after the drinks break, when Hawk speedster Brady Bartlett ended Clarke’s 76-minute stay at the crease…..He enticed him to nick one…..Keeper Perera did the rest….
Then youngster Zac Fraser swung wildly at a Bartlett delivery and middle stump was uprooted……A few balls later Corey McIntosh fended at a spinning delivery from South African leggie Koot Pienaar, who dived to take a brilliant catch mid-pitch…..
Suddenly the Lakers had slumped to 3/67.
But there was no more joy for the Hawks for some time, as veteran Matt Knight helped Casey to take charge of the game.
They added 40 in just 32 minutes……There have been few more aggressive stroke-makers than the solidly-built left-handed Knight in the last decade ……His innings of 28, which included 5 fours, ended when he skied one and was caught in the deep off McNamara.
Casey’s adventurous attempt at a second run brought his fine knock of 68 to a close, but he had piloted his side to a total of 6/137 at time; a target which, to my mind, would take some catching……..
The RUB innings could hardly provided a starker contrast to the solid foundation provided by Yarrawonga-Mulwala.
They were in immediate trouble……
Lakers speedsters Corey McIntosh and Angus McMillan cut a swathe through their upper order to have them reeling at 3/19.
A solid response was required……It was up to young skipper Paddy McNamara and a contributor to many such rear-guard actions – Jacob Schonafinger – to right the ship.
The runs came, firstly at a trickle…… then, as ‘Schona’ produced some deft cover drives and began pushing the ball behind square, the total began to mount…
Alas, he played all over one from Jacob Bartlett and was gone for 19. Five balls later, Matthew Whitten departed and the Hawks had tumbled to a disastrous 5/42.
Their prospects looked precarious, but McNamara found a capable ally in his new partner, Lucky Perera – a renowned cool-head in a crisis. .
They added 46 runs in close to even-time to resuscitate the innings. ‘Lucky’ was the dominant partner, but McNamara played an anchor-role, as he set about crafting his finest – and highest – WDCA innings.
Again disaster struck….Perera pulled a full toss from Ben Kennedy and was caught for 28…..the Hawks were 6/88 – still 50 runs away from victory..
Brady Bartlett and Matt Winter both produced valuable cameos, as the target began to inch closer.
There were 15 runs required, with eight wickets down, when irrepressible Blake Nixon, freshly promoted from A-Reserve, marched purposefully to the crease.
Not content to be cast in a subsidiary role, Nixon proceeded to carve 13 runs off nine deliveries to help steer the Hawks to an unlikely victory.
At the other end McNamara, who had played the perfect foil during his 143-minute stay at the crease, for his unbeaten 46, stood in the background, as Nixon began his victory lap of Stan Hargreaves Oval…..
Local cricket fans will be licking their lips at the Norm Minns Oval this Saturday, when the Hawks and Pies meet in the ‘Battle of the Laneway’, to decide the WDCA A-Grade Premiership.
It’s the first meeting of two Wangaratta-based teams in the ‘big one’ for 11 years……..and the first between entities of the two Clubs since Wangaratta/Magpies and Rovers/United tangled in a famous encounter 20 years ago………..
Yesterday’s Semi-Finals were typical, pressure-packed affairs.
Delatite, who won the toss and batted, got off to a horror start…….They lost both openers, Earl Ree-Goodings and Nick Scales without a run on the board. It was up to Mitch Copey to perform a rescue act in the face of some pin-point bowling.
His patient, undefeated 51 off 109 deliveries – with some assistance from experienced Chris ‘Fatty’ Anderson and Matt ‘Bull’ Stevenson – enabled them to crawl to 5/97 off their 40 overs.
It was hardly enough against a Wangaratta-Magpies side containing the competition’s ‘Recruit of the Year’, Pranav Menon. The former Prahran star’s 638 runs for the season have included only a couple of failures.
The Indian-born right-hander again lit up proceedings. He had cultivated a sprightly 41 when the Pies reached their target, off 27 overs, for the loss of just two wickets………..
Meanwhile, high drama was unfolding over the road, at the Findlay Oval, as Rovers-United-Bruck elected to bat.
The Hawks had certainly done their prospects no harm the previous week, when they snaffled handy extra bonus points, to clamber over the top of Yarra-Mulwala, into second spot, and earn the right to host the Semi.
The Lakers were certainly up and about, with consistent left-arm paceman Angus McMillan and young Rory Bartlett proving a handful for the openers. The first significant blow was struck when bulky ‘Gus’ enticed Bailey Dale to nick a superb delivery through to ‘keeper Reid Clarke.
Surprisingly, Jacob Beattie was promoted in the batting order and several daring shots by the tall, free-wheeling all-rounder kept the run-rate ticking over. He’d scored 16 when Bartlett ripped through his defences.
And that was probably the tale of the Rovers-United innings…………Handy partnerships continued to evolve, without any batsman taking complete charge. Paddy McNamara’s score-card showed a ‘picket-fence’ of 13 singles, but at least he was enterprising enough to keep turning the strike over.
The highest score of the day ( and easily the most impressive knock ) came from the blade of Alex Grant, the Kenyan recruit, whose tidy 20 included 2 fours ( the only boundaries for the game).
A more than handy last-wicket stand of 21 by youngsters Darcy Wilson and Brady Bartlett took the Hawk total to a challenging 9/123. Considering that the track was ‘doing a bit’, you felt that there was still plenty to play out in this encounter……..
What followed probably caused the Lakers’ highly-vaunted batting line-up to endure a sleepless Saturday night……..
The new ‘cherry’ was handed to the usual second-string paceman Brady Bartlett, who produced handy pace and life in his opening spell.
Surprisingly, spinner Jeremy Wilson operated from the other end. Considering that the Yarra/Mul openers had quilted the pacemen in their previous meeting, it proved an inspired move, as they approached him with uncertainty.
Bartlett had Ben Irvine fending at one in his second over, to be smartly snapped by ‘keeper McCarthy……..then the normally cavalier Josh Lawrence prodded at one from Wilson and was on his way…….2/5.
The situation only deteriorated from there……..Matt Knight was snapped up off Jacob Schonafinger ( who had immediately hit the spot with his medium-pace ), Matt Casey never looked comfortable in his 18-ball stay, and was a Paddy McNamara victim…….
The very next ball, Ben Radford nicked a McNamara flier to be caught behind.
At 5/9 the competition’s most outstanding upper order was in disarray. There was some resistance from Reid Clarke and leftie Fraser Smart, but by now the run-rate was also careering out of control.
Schonafinger nabbed his fourth victim – Brock McCabe – to close off the Yarrawonga-Mulwala innings for 56, and finish with the figures of 4/13 off 7.4 overs.
The other Rovers-United bowling figures would impress the most critical of bowling judges: Bartlett ( 4 overs 1/5), Jeremy Wilson (6 overs 1/3 ), McNamara ( 6 overs 2/13 ), Jon Hyde (8 overs 1/16), Darcy Wilson ( 3 overs 0/6 ).
It was a superb bowling performance from the Hawks – and plenty of credit should go to ‘Paddy Mac’, their 19 year-old skipper, who executed the team plan to perfection……………
But for a moment, let’s tread down memory lane, to that Grand Final classic of 2001/02……..
If you happen to be strolling around Norm Minns Oval this Saturday, you might come across a bloke, pensively sitting in a quiet corner, possibly with fag in hand, closely following the game.
He’ll be silently barracking for Rovers-United-Bruck ( even though you wouldn’t know it ) and may be inclined to cast a thought back to one of the greatest moments of his sporting life.
Anthony Lawler ( ‘Ant’ to his mates )……was the unlikely hero of a classic premiership victory………
Originally he was the Hawks’ 12th man…….His form as a solid opening batsman had fluctuated during the season, which was the reason for his demotion……But when his side lost the toss and had to bowl he was included, because star left-hander Peter Tossol had footy coaching commitments at Corowa-Rutherglen………
The Wangaratta/Magpies innings was held together by champion all-rounder Duane Kerwin, who remained steadfast when wickets were tumbling around him.
The Pies, in the face of some hostile pace bowling from Adam Booth, Peter Harvey and Trevor Anderson, fell to be 5/59 on the opening day. It was up to Kerwin to nurse his batting partners from then on….
At 7/94 they were still in deep strife; they recovered to 8/139, and finally limped to a respectable total of 151; predominantly because of the magnificent unbeaten 73 from Kerwin…….
With half an hour’s play before stumps on the opening day, a lively spell from quickie Tim Sheldon gave the Pies the upper hand…….The Hawks were 2/18 when play was halted……Importantly, Lawler was looking composed and solid, unbeaten on 11.
Aware of his knack of ‘having a few quiet ones’ to wind down after a day’s play, Tossol and his wife Bronnie invited the nonchalant opener to dine with them that evening, thus eliminating the possibility of being led astray.
When play resumed the following morning, Lawler showed admirable restraint, in the face of a Wang-Magpies attack which quickly gained the upper hand.
With the Hawks limping to 6/67, they appeared near-certainties to lose……..Left-hander Steve Croxford then combined with the redoubtable Lawler to undergo the rescue mission.
They added 68 before Sheldon, bowling as if his life depended on it, claimed Croxford for 34……A couple of balls later, Sheldon struck again, trapping Trev Anderson in front for a duck…..
Seventeen runs were required; two wickets in hand. Five runs later the monumental Lawler stay concluded, on 61, when Sheldon claimed his sixth victim.
There were still 12 runs required, and it was up to last-wicket pair Adam Booth and Peter Harvey to get Rovers-United over the line.
Lawler, after his heroics, couldn’t bear to watch…….He took the pads off and headed off for a long walk and a quiet ‘gasper’, as the runs, one by one, began to be whittled away.
Finally, as Harvey snicked the winning runs, players from both teams literally slumped with exhaustion…….and jumped with elation…….
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.
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.
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….
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……
Run the name McNamara past Yarrawonga’s historians and they’ll no doubt remind you of a family which was at the forefront of the region’s stock and station industry for more than a century………….
I’m talking to a modern-day descendant, John McNamara, who guides me back through the generations, to when his namesake, an enterprising Irishman, set sail for Australia in the early 1840’s.
A tiny, weather-beaten building in Belmore Street – suitably emblazoned : ‘J.McNamara & Co…Auctioneer…Established 1881….’ once stood as testimony to a livestock dynasty which spread throughout the state ……
“Just on sixty years ago ‘Pa’ ( also John ) was running the business, but when he got sick Dad was called home from Assumption College to operate it with his brothers.”
“Bill and Dave went their different ways, and Dad (Mick) stayed on in Yarra…..Australian Estates bought ‘em out at one stage ……Then Dad took over again and started his own firm ………..”
“When the four of us boys finished our schooling at Assumption we all had stints with M.J.McNamara & Co………..”
Chris and Brian are still involved in the stock game, as agents with Landmark; Adam switched over to selling Rural merchandise, whilst John found his vocation as a School-Teacher……….
The family is also synonymous with sport in Yarra – and beyond…..
Micky McNamara’s fascination with cricket and footy was fostered during his time at Assumption College. He developed into a tough-as-nails defender, who played his role in some handy Yarrawonga sides of the sixties before stepping down and spending years as a mainstay of the Reserves.
“They say he used to like a fight rather than a feed,” says John. “One bloke recalls him playing in a Seconds game one day……..A fight broke out down the other end of the ground and the old man said to his opponent: ‘By the time I get up there the blue’ll be over, so I’m gonna start one here……’ “
Mick played 322 games ( 150 Seniors, 172 Reserves ) in the Blue and White Hoops. It stood as a Club record until Clinton Shoppee snuck past it in recent times.
In the twilight of his career Mick featured in a hat-trick of Reserves flags (1973,’74,’75), as the deputy to another ‘old-head’, Frank Seymour. He then spent time as President, Secretary and committeeman, and remained an avid follower of the Pigeons until he succumbed to MND in 2007.
“Dad was also a wily right-arm offie, and left-hand bat for Yarrawonga Rovers in the YDCA. Their battles with Yarra Footballers were usually pretty intense affairs; and the after-match parties (footy and cricket) would always be at our place,” John says.
The boys started their cricket at Rennie: “ ‘Taity’ (Robert Tait) worked with Dad, and he got us out there when we were young kids, filling in. You’d field all day in the hot sun….hard wicket……..not a blade of grass……”
“Rennie used to always get smashed……….I don’t think they’d had ever enjoyed any success in the YDCA ……Anyway, we ended up winning three premierships and finished runners-up a couple of times……….”
‘Macca’ first dragged himself away from the YDCA – where he had been a veritable run-machine – in 1985/86, when he and Graeme McMillan moved over to play with Wangaratta club, United.
A technically-correct right-hander, with loads of concentration, he amassed 622 runs for the season, including a telling knock of 110 in the Semi-Final against emerging Corowa.
He had a run with Collingwood the following season. The ‘Pies were a District cricket power at the time, with Shield players, Trevor Laughlin, David Emerson, Grant Jordan, Kevin Whichello and ‘Polly’ Sleeman in their line-up.
“It was a pretty strong team to break into, but at least we won the Second XI premiership.”
“I should’ve hung around, I suppose, but a bloke from Darwin was recruiting a few Southern Riverina boys to play footy with Nightcliff, prior to the next season. He rang me and I caught the bus up. “
“How’d you handle it ?” I ponder.
“Amazing……good fun…..They had about three jobs lined up, but I didn’t last ‘em. It was too hot to work…….Came back after Christmas….I was getting itchy feet for cricket……”
He had a break from footy in 1993, when he fulfilled an ambition to play cricket in England, with Staffordshire League Club, Wightick-Finchfield.
They put John up in a large Castlecroft house, which overlooked the Oval. His job was to mow the ground…..and help with the preparation of the wickets.
“It was all paid for…..I was living in this little room, in a swanky building the size of the Gateway… having a ball…..but runs were few and far between, early on.”
“The old man suggested ‘it might be a good idea to get off the piss, and concentrate on your cricket’……..I did it for a few days and got a hundred straight away…..I was right then……finished with about nine tons in all their competitions….”
John recalls his good fortune in being at Old Trafford on the day Shane Warne sent down the ‘Ball of the Century’ to Mike Gatting…….
“The Poms were 0/80….and the crowd was screaming…… ‘Warnie came on….bowled his first ball….and there was this hush…..It was unbelievable……There seemed to be about 40 Aussie there, and we just went berserk ….”
On his return from overseas, John spent a year with Cobram, scoring three ‘tons’ and helping them to the ‘93/‘94 Murray Valley C.A premiership.
He was probably seeing the ball as well as ever, at that stage, and represented Goulburn-Murray, Southern Riverina and Riverina, besides scoring a pair of 90’s at Country Week with Murray Valley.
He says Mulwala United Cricket Club came into being a year later, predominantly through the friendships formed between YDCA clubs Rennie and Mulwala Footballers.
“Mul were, like us, very social….We’d fight tooth-and-nail out on the field, then sit in the pub ‘til all hours. We got talking one night and decided that we had to get our kids playing better cricket……There was only one Turf Wicket in Yarra and we agreed : “Let’s go and play a higher standard.”
Thus, Mulwala United came into being in ‘94/‘95…….They raised $25,000 for the construction of a turf wicket, and four years later took out the Murray Valley premiership under John’s leadership, with his brother Adam also playing a starring role.
Mulwala-United competed as a strong MVCA club, for 14 years, before merging into the Yarrawonga-Mulwala Cricket Club, and transferring to the Wangaratta competition.
John and Adam played with Bruck when they both settled in Wangaratta……Adam made his mark in 117 WDCA A-Grade games, which included four flags in five years, from 2008/09 to ‘2012/‘13.
‘Macca’s’ not exactly sure, but when I put the weights on him, reckons he chalked up over 30 ‘tons’ all-told in ( including three double-centuries ), in a career which only really concluded last year, when he filled in, alongside his son Cormac, with Rovers-United-Bruck’s C-Grade side.
The McNamara brothers all began their senior football with Yarrawonga.
“Brian copped a couple of knee injuries early on, and that buggered him for a few years, but Chris was probably the pick of us……He played over 100 games, including that famous flag in 1989,” says John.
“They were in all sorts of turmoil when ‘Salty’ (Parish) quit the coaching job on the eve of the season…..That’s when ‘Davo’ (Neil Davis) took over and steadied the ship…..Actually, the old man stepped into the Secretary’s role that year, as well……”
“Chris captained Yarra a couple of years later, and went on to coach Mulwala for five years…..he’s still President there …”
“Adam was pretty clever…skilful…but he didn’t like training too much, ‘Addsy’….not dedicated enough….”
“We both followed Brian when he coached Tungamah and Strathmerton, and of course, when ‘Addsy’ moved to Wangaratta he joined Moyhu……played in four premierships there….”
‘Macca’s’ career followed a familiar trajectory, after leaving Yarrawonga.
He enjoyed successful playing stints with Tungamah ( flag in 1986), Barooga (‘92 flag), Strathmerton and Moyhu before finally hanging up the boots.
In the meantime, he and Jane had re-located to Wangaratta, when he secured a teaching appointment at St.Bernard’s School.
He’d had a brief flirtation with the Rovers in 1995, when he played a handful of games on match permits from Strathmerton, the last of which – in his senior debut – he broke his hand.
Five years later, he took over as coach of the Hawk Thirds, guiding them to Third, Runners-Up (after being unbeaten prior to the Grand Final) in 2001, and Unbeaten Premiers In 2002…….
A two-year stint with the Murray Bushrangers – as assistant-coach to Xavier Tanner – followed.
“I enjoyed coaching…..Whatever I did, whether it was coaching seniors or juniors, I gave it my best, I was hell-bent on winning….. and I think I was able to get on fairly well with people,” he says.
Nevertheless, there was mild surprise among the outside football fraternity when he was appointed to succeed Peter Tossol as the Rovers’ senior coach in 2005.
But those in the inner-sanctum of the Hawk camp were confident, with his recruiting capabilities and communication skills, that he’d succeed.
He held the plum job for four years, during which he was exposed to the full gamut of emotions…..being hammered fairly severely with the injury stick, whilst still remaining in the fight for the finals.
Probably the best illustration of the highs and lows of ‘Macca’s’ coaching reign came in 2007.
The effects of a severe drought had forced the Hawks to play away from home for the first two months. They dropped the opening six games, and the media pronounced that their season was effectively over…….Then, in dramatic fashion, they got on a roll, to win 11 of the next 12, several of them by handsome margins, to cement a spot in the Finals.
The Elimination-Final clash with Wodonga was a classic. The Dogs hung on to win by 11 points, but the coach bemoaned the loss of his champion, Andy Hill in the opening minutes of the game.
“I reckon Andy going down made the difference….He was that good a player…..”
John moved on to coach one of his his old clubs, Barooga, in 2009, taking them to a Prelim Final, before he was snapped up by Moyhu the following season.
The 2011 O & K Grand Final against Tarrawingee, remains one of his cherished football memories..
“They’d been a crackerjack side throughout the early 2000’s, and still had a few of the older guys playing. The inclusion of some young kids added an extra dimension to the line-up, though.”
The Chronicle reported that : ‘…Moyhu were inspired by the outstanding performances of Andrew Balfour and Jaimon McGeehan…..But the match-winning move came when John McNamara switched beanpole Daniel McInnes to the forward line in the last quarter….”
The Hoppers fought back from a 10-point deficit mid-way through the final term to win by two points………
‘Macca’ bowed out of senior coaching in 2012, but has done his share at junior level over recent years, in both footy and cricket.
He’s still rapt in watching sport…….and following the progress of the current generation of McNamara’s.
Paddy, 19, is A-Grade co-captain of Rovers-United-Bruck, and played senior footy with the Wang Rovers this year…..Cormac is showing plenty of potential, whilst his other son, Fergie, is focusing his interest on the Arts……Adam’s son Reid, at 13, is also a budding star.
They’ll all be in action at Mulwala’s Lonsdale Reserve over the Christmas break, when the Beams v McNamara cricket Challenge is held.
“We’ve been playing this game for years,” John says. “The Beams’s were all tied up with Mul Footballers and we were at Rennie……Dad and Bobby Beams ( the patriarchs) were originally foes, rather than mates, but over the years some pretty close friendships have developed.”
“They’ll have some fair players in their side……both Dayne and Clay, who are both more than handy, usually come home to play…….we’ll have our work cut out, but as usual, it’ll be a great day…..and the beer and tall stories will be flowing afterwards………….”
Lucky Perera has become somewhat of an ‘Elder Statesman’ in his 13-year involvement in WDCA cricket.
The lightly-built pocket dynamo, salubriously christened Gangabadawatta Arachchiga Lakpruja Waruna Shantha by his doting Sri Lankan parents, can still be relied upon to provide a touch of nimble wizardry to his performances with the bat and ‘keeping gloves.
And he provided a healthy dose of that in guiding Rovers-United-Bruck to a nail-biting 17-run over arch rivals Wangaratta-Magpies, at the Findlay Oval yesterday.
Lucky has now accumulated 3834 A-Grade WDCA runs in his 157 games – always with a touch of polish. He migrated to Australia from the back streets of Colombo to play with Ovens Valley United in 2008/09, transferring his allegiances to Bruck in 2013/14. His youthful RUB team-mates stand tall in the presence of Lucky.
Nobody plays the delicate late-cut with as much precision, or takes toll of the poor delivery with such telling effect. In short, it’s a tribute to him that he’s still producing quality performances, as he enters the evening of his fine cricket career.
His undefeated 75, combined with two classy leg-side stumpings in a near-faultless display with the gloves, made the difference in this good-standard tussle.
Having won the toss and elected to bat, the ‘Pies progressed steadily. Another of the WDCA’s young talents, right-hander Angus Webb, impressed with his disciplined restraint against some aggressive new-ball bowling from Jacob Beattie and Paddy McNamara.
But it was first-changer Matt Winter who achieved the break-through, thanks to gloveman Perera’s brilliance, when he made something out of nothing; catching Jarrod Wallace short of his ground and sending him on his way for 7.
It was to be the emerging Winter’s only highlight in a bleak day with the Kookaburra. His usually spot-on radar was astray, as he twice sent wayward deliveries careering to the leg-side boundary. Umpire Briggs had a busy day, adjudging 22 wides in the ‘Pies innings.
Left-hander Corey Matheson lifted the run-rate upon his arrival at the crease, smacking a brisk 22 (featuring five boundaries) in his 31-minute stay, before having his stumps re-arranged by Hawk skipper Jacob Schonafinger. It was now 2/57, then 3/76 when skipper Jack Davies departed.
This signalled the arrival of Nick Bonwick, who certainly doesn’t leave you wondering. There was no science about his stroke-play, as he endeavoured to lift the run-rate.
For a period of overs, 15-year-old medium-pacers Will O’Keefe and Darcy Wilson, both playing their third senior games, had been impressively operating from the Barr End, with good effect. Both are spirited and have nice actions, and are sure to become even more dangerous when they grow into their slender bodies.
Wilson had some misfortune when a skied Bonwick flick was grassed at deep backward-square, but an over later, he nabbed the hard-hitter in exactly the same place, when the errant fielder nabbed a ripper. Bonwick was gone for 15, off 11 balls.
From then on the Magpies innings scooted along at a brisk pace. Young Webb went for a well-made 30, victim of another piece of Perera handiwork, off Jacob Beattie.
Son-of-a-gun Rhys Grant (16), who departed when he clean-missed an O’Keefe delivery, and Zac Guilfoyle (18*) were handy contributors to a solid total of 6/151, which was always going to prove difficult to surmount.
The pick of the bowlers, in this scribe’s humble opinion, went wicket-less. Paddy McNamara conceded just 11 runs from his eight tidy overs.
The Hawks’ innings fell into disarray in its formative stages. Opener Luke Whitten, fresh from a fine innings last week, was cleaned-up, neck-and-crop, by a beautiful swinging delivery from Chris Clement.
The solidly-built left-armer couldn’t have been more impressive, and looks to be one of the WDCA recruits of the year. Hailing from Melbourne’s South-Eastern Cricket Association, he looks to be an ideal two-day bowler, who could tie up one end for ages.
Despite the obvious danger he posed, he was only to be rewarded with the single wicket, but I’m sure he’ll pick up plenty of ‘bags’ in the future.
The Pies were completely in the ascendency when their faltering hosts fell to 3/19, with Jarrod Wallace and Zac Guilfoyle chipping in with handy wickets.
Enter Jacob Schonafinger (who has arrived on the scene to far greater crises than this), and the afore-mentioned Lucky Perera.
They were, of necessity, rather circumspect, treating the bowling with suspicion, but picking up their ones an twos, with a delghtfully-executed ‘Schona’ off-drive bringing applause from Hawk fans.
As they became more settled, the ‘Pies rung the changes at the bowling crease, realising that it was of little use preserving their stars until the final few overs if the game had, by then, got out of hand.
Jack Davies even took a turn himself, sending down a few overs of ‘toppies’. Schonafinger had a life when he square-cut a delivery which should have been taken, was fumbled, then hit the turf. Moments such as these can swing a game of cricket.
The ‘Schona-Perera stand had added 64 runs and brought the Hawks back into the game, but the skipper sparred at one off Corey Southern and was caught behind for a valuable 30.
Perhaps the ‘Pies had regained the ascendency…..Well, they certainly had when Jacob Beattie was run-out after an overthrow produced a mix-up between the batsmen. It was now 5/88, and the 64 runs required in diminishing overs seemed eons away.
Paddy McNamara, refreshed after a week-long ‘Schoolies’ trip, proved to be the man for the occasion, the support-act for the well-settled Perera.
McNamara’s score-sheet began to resemble a picket-fence, as he continually rotated the strike, to allow his partner to cut loose. One superb ‘Lucky’ six, over the mid-wicket fence, was the shot of the day. The Pies were now beginning to rue dropping the veteran when he was entering the forties.
The stand continued to grow, as Paddy ‘Mac’ began to exhibit more flair in his batting. His driving was a feature of a very sensible hand from the youngster.
With the batting pair now completely in control, they reached the target in the 47th over -timing the chase to perfection.
The unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 80 took the Hawks to 5/168 at time (Perera 75*, McNamara 25*)’ Having engineered an excellent fight-back against the odds, they have breathed fresh life into their finals campaign……..