“CRICKET FINALS PRODUCE HEROICS……..”

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…….

Are we in for a repeat clash this week-end ?……….

“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.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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……

“OH !…ME NAME IS McNAMARA………….”

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.”

Mick McNamara (left) at a Yarrawonga SheepSale

“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.


A Mul-United Re-Union. Back Row: Clinton Shand, Rod Peters, Michael Cooke, David Bott. Front: Adam & John McNamara, Daryl Beams

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………….”

“TYPICAL HAWK-MAGPIES CLASH PRODUCES THRILLING CLIMAX…..”

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……..

” ‘PEABO’…….THE POOR MAN’S WARNER…….”

It’s a Thursday morning……mid-January, 1994………….

A few spectators have braved the elements for this Country Week clash, and are scatttered under the shade of the cypress trees surrounding North Bendigo Oval. That will provide find some respite from the oppressive sun which tends to belt down on the central Victorian Gold-Rush city at this time of year.

An unlikely pairing of openers stroll to the crease…..One is strongly-built, tubby, laid-back….a veteran campaigner. His partner – a chirpy midget – twirls his bat, and flexes his shoulders like a seasoned pro…..despite looking barely old enough to be exposed to brutish new-ball bowling.

It’s obvious that what he lacks in size, he sure substitutes with confidence………

But what’s exercising the mind of the Red Cliffs quickie, who’s methodically shining the ball on his creams ?…… He’s probably ruminating on what has been a gruelling week: “I’ll get the joints moving with a couple of ‘warmer-uppers’…….then crank up and let a few rip at this little prick …..”

The speedster is forced to duck in his follow-through, as the first delivery is driven straight back at him and races to the boundary…..The second is square-cut past a fielder at point, who hardly has time to move…..The final ball of the over, directed at the tiny bloke’s throat, is pulled for four, one bounce, into the backward-square fence……….

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Darren Petersen threshed his way to 138 that day, and, as so often happened when he was on song, guided his side to victory.

For those of you who didn’t experience ‘Peabo’ in full flight ( and what a rollicking ride it was if he was on your side)……think David Warner.

They share similar characteristics……….Sandy-haired, ebullient, perky, left-handed rough-nuts who grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck…….and sometimes flirted with controversy.

‘Peabo’, like Warner, usually took the run-rate out of the equation, because once he got to 20-or so, you knew the Score-Board would be ticking over with a flurry……….

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

My innocuous career was grinding to a halt when the little fellah came to my attention. He’d become accustomed to spending his afternoons around the Rovers’ A-Grade matches, bat in hand, dropping unsubtle hints that someone might like to throw a few down to him…….. helping to demolish the Afternoon-Tea…..and possibly visualising himself mauling the bowling out on the centre-strip of W.J.Findlay Oval……

That would be after dominating Under 14’s cricket in the morning, where he’d bat for as long as permitted, send down his maximum eight overs, then take over the ‘keeper’s gloves for the remainder of the innings.

Little wonder that he scooped up the Player of the Year Award, and two years later repeated the feat in the U.16 comp.But the cynics suggested that he’d get sorted out once he reached Senior ranks:

“Takes too many risks”……. “You can’t keep playing that way and get away with it.”……..”Anyway, he’ll most likely lose interest and drift off……..”

They were wrong, of course………..People under-estimated his fascination for the game. And he had a priceless asset – an eye like a dead fish…….

At 14, he made his A-Grade debut with Rovers-United, and progressed steadily, as the Hawks won successive flags in ‘95/‘96 and ‘96/‘97.

‘Peabo’ soon won the begrudging die-hards over, but a blistering century against a much-vaunted Corowa attack convinced them that he was a special talent. The following year he scored 205 of Rovers-United’s 2/361 against Bruck, and followed it up with an unbeaten 135 at Beechworth.

His love-affair with Bendigo Country Week included four ‘tons’, but it was a breezy 89 at Kennington Oval that came to the attention of one bystander.

Burly Merv Hughes was conducting a Clinic in the nearby nets, and made enquiries about the diminutive dynamo creating havoc in the middle.

His team-mates dubbed it a ‘Meeting of the Minds’; the Aussie Test team’s ‘serial pest’ engaging in a tête-à-tête with his Wangaratta counterpart !

The result was an invitation for ‘Peabo to try his luck at ‘Big Merv’s’ District Club, Footscray.

He spent a season with the Bulldogs, and played 5 First XI games; numbered among them one sparkling half-century. But a knee injury, which he suffered whilst playing footy with Greta, required rehab……..Dreams of a long District career were put on the back-burner, and ultimately fizzled out.

Those oft-mentioned physical dimensions proved a barrier to his football ambitions. But he was a skilful, and more than handy player, and figured prominently in Greta’s 1999 flag, when they withstood a desperate last-quarter challenge from Moyhu to hold on by five points.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

I haven’t caught up with ‘Peabo’ for a few years. He’s become somewhat of a cricketing nomad, since the days of his not-so innocent youth, but when we spoke last week he was looking forward to saddling up for another season – his 30th in senior ranks.

Yes, he’s still a wicket-keeper/batsman……. still carving out the runs…….still enjoying it.

By the way, I asked, how many ‘tons’ have you scored….”Just a minute, I’ll count ‘em up. I’ve got ‘em jotted down on my thigh-pad.” (Short delay)………“Are you there, KB…….. Thirty altogether.”

I enjoyed a front-row seat to the ‘Peabo Show’ when he was coming through the ranks with Rovers-United, and can compare only Corowa’s ruthless ‘Psycho’ Carroll to him for entertainment-value in the WDCA. Most of the 2700-odd runs he scored with the Hawks before he moved on to North Albury, came at a rapid clip.

He announced his arrival at Bunton Park in ‘01/‘02 when he and another ex-Wangaratta boy, Greg Daniel, shared a 205-run second-wicket stand. ‘Peabo’s’ contribution was 173*.

It was a successful era for the Hoppers, who were either challenging for – or winning – flags when he was with them. The first of his ABCA Cricketer of the Year Awards came in 2003/04. By the time he’d won his second, he’d transferred to East Albury, where he scored 803 runs in ‘06/‘07, and helped them to a flag.

In his time in Albury, the little fellah also represented Victorian Country in a National Carnival at Lismore, and was a representative regular.

His move back to Wangaratta was timed to perfection, when he played in a flag with Bruck, but he had no sooner settled down, then was off for a season with the Bendigo Cricket Club.

Mention the Petersen name to anyone from over that way and they’ll no doubt refer to his knock in the 2010 Country Week Provincial Final:

“Man of the Match Petersen strode to the wicket in the 37th over, and for the next 11 overs the match was his,” reported the Bendigo Advertiser. “He attacked from ball one, blasting the Kyabram attack to all parts of the picturesque Albert Ground.”

“His first 50 came off just 34 balls…..Ben Gunn was on 57 when Petersen joined him, but such was the dominance of the pint-sized left-hander, he forged past Gunn just before he was dismissed.”

“Petersen eventually fell for 77 off 49 balls, with seven fours and two sixes.”

When he returned to Bruck, he found that the landscape of WDCA had altered, and that out-of-town clubs Yarrawonga-Mulwala and Beechworth had now become the pace-setters of the competition……….New teams, Benalla, Delatite and Ovens Valley were also capable of providing formidable opposition.

But shades of the old ‘Peabo’ were on show in a riveting semi-final clash at Hargreaves Oval in 2012/13.

Minor Premiers Yarra-Mul posted a challenging 9/209, and had reduced Bruck to 4/34 when old hands, Petersen and Jon Hyde, came together in an effort to restore their club’s fortunes.

Their stand of 160 took Bruck to within an ace of victory. When ‘Peabo’ was dismissed for 91, the salvage job was almost complete. The dependable Hyde, 69*, effortlessly guided them over the line with 10.5 overs to spare.

The following week, Bruck, who had strung together five successive wins to sneak into the finals, completed a remarkable turn-around by defeating Beechworth in a riveting Grand Final.

The Wanderers opted to send their opponents in to bat on a sporty pitch, and had them in dire straits at 6/47. Again it was the veterans – Petersen (38), Adam McNamara (37) and Andrew Balfour (27), who rescued Bruck, and helped them to 164.

Then some tight, disciplined bowling kept the pressure on the Wanderers, who fell 21 short. It completed a memorable finals campaign. Lengthy celebrations ensued for what proved to be Bruck’s last title.

‘Peabo’ moved on again, three years later, to take up an ill-fated role as captain-coach of CAW cellar-dwellers, Wodonga Raiders. The partnership was doomed almost from the start, and it was no surprise when he sought fresher pastures at rival club New City the following season.

By now his son Miles, a gifted ‘keeper/batsman like the old man, was coming through the ranks at East Albury. Early in 2017/18 he broke through for his senior debut at the age of 13; presumed to be the youngest-ever debutant in the competition’s 159-year history.

His 492 runs for Templestowe included three half-centuries and a brisk 121, which proved that, at 44, the super-veteran was still seeing ‘em like watermelons…………….

Another shift – this time to Melbourne – saw ‘Peabo’ throw in his lot with Ferntree Gully Association club Knoxfield. Last season, due to an alteration in his living arrangements, he transferred to the Box-Hill Reporter competition, still playing as a keeper/batsman.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

I took on the task of toting up a few of his career-stats, which proved mind-boggling – 14 clubs ( Rovers-United, Bruck, Woollen Mills, West End, Greta, Footscray, North Albury, East Albury, Wodonga Raiders, New City, Bendigo, Knoxfield, Forest Hill, Templestowe ), representing four Associations, achieving countless honours….

But the run-tally proved beyond me. “Have you got a rough idea how many runs you’ve chalked up,” I ask.

“No idea,” was the reply. Well, my guess is that, of the hundreds of games ‘Peabo’ has played, he’d be over the 25,000-run mark……and counting………….