Coronavirus has had the last say on the WDCA finals. They’ve been abandoned without a ball being bowled.

It’s an untimely conclusion to a season which has been rudely interrupted by Bushfire-haze, heavy overnight rain, or plus-40 degree heat.

There’s nothing unusual about Finals failing to reach their inevitable conclusion. Inclement early-autumn weather has often intervened in a competition that has spanned 125 years..

But permit me to explain the hiccup that came in April 1948, when Whorouly were sensationally punted from the Finals.

The Maroons, thanks to a contribution from the brilliant Nicoll’s, had overpowered St.Patrick’s in the Semi. Their total of 402 included a bludgeoning 130 from Wils Nicoll and 111 from his brother Ron.

The following Thursday, on Grand Final-eve , a lengthy, and heated WDCA executive meeting decreed that Wils Nicoll had flouted Association rules during the season, and had thus been ineligible for the recently-concluded Semi-Final.

His ‘crime’ ?…….Failing to take part in a WDCA representative match against Albury, after being selected and agreeing to play…………..

The decision caused ripples of discontent throughout cricket circles and rankled Whorouly followers. But the man at the centre of the controversy accepted it on the chin.

His effective response was to guide his side to a premiership the following season – and continue to represent the Association for the next ten years………


Few families have played as significant a part in the WDCA’s long history as the famous Nicoll’s of Whorouly.

Their patriarch, William Wilson Nicoll, emigrated from Alyth, Scotland in the late 19th century. Excited by the prospect of a new life in Australia, he travelled firstly to Queensland, then in 1893, settled in Whorouly, with his wife, on a property they named after the town of his birth.

He was short of stature, had a troublesome hip and leg and wasn’t the sporting type. Nevertheless, he wholeheartedly encouraged his boys, who displayed an aptitude for cricket.

And he also made available some land, on which the Whorouly Recreation Reserve now stands.

His sons were all blessed with outstanding qualities as cricketers. Over the years debate raged as to who was the best of the clan.

Some say that Vic, who was tragically killed in a machinery accident in 1929, might have been the pick of them…..Ernie was another who had many admirers……Wils and Ron were powerhouses……


Ron Nicoll’s talent was obvious when he made his debut for Whorouly in 1922, aged 12. But his development was halted when he contracted diphtheria. Seriously ill and reduced to just ‘skin and bones’ at 4 stone, it was to be the best part of three years before he fully recovered.

On his first season back he played with Everton, as Whorouly had disbanded for a year, but in 1926/27 the Maroons returned to the WDCA with a vengeance. The Nicoll’s played no small part in the premiership season, with Vic (649 runs, 39 wickets), Ernie ( 637 runs, 84 wickets) and 16 year-old Ron (492 runs and 40 wickets) contributing strongly.

Tall and rusty-haired, Ron stood upright at the crease. He drove and cut beautifully and was rarely mastered by the bowlers. It’s said that he could play what seemed like a routine forward defensive shot and the ball would scoot to the boundary.

That magnificent timing…….and a fine array of shots, were the key weapons in his armoury.

1938 was a Golden year for Ron Nicoll. At Melbourne Country Week his figures were: 112, 19 and 6/43, 168 retired, 70 and 74 not out. His tally of 443 runs is still to be bettered and helps explain why Wangaratta took out the ‘A’ Group title.

He scored 717 runs for Whorouly in the same season, including four centuries. His knock of 202 in a semi-final was described by the Chronicle as among the finest ever seen at the Showgrounds.

One of Ron’s most satisfying innings’ came three years earlier, when he opened the batting at the Gardens Oval with Benalla’s Tom Trewin, against an all-star New South Wales line-up. The pair added 91 before Trewin was removed. Nicoll top-scored with 65 out of the North-East XI’s total of 207.

Around this time he was approached by Richmond, who were keen to lure him to District cricket. But they were unable to drag him away from the farm.

A quality leg-spinner, Nicoll wasn’t afraid to toss the ball up, and possessed a handy ‘wrong-un’. His 322 wickets complemented the 6673 WDCA runs he scored.

Genuine and quietly-spoken, he was a popular figure in cricket circles and his love for the game had not abated after the War. He was a veteran by this stage and scored the last of his 16 centuries ( still a WDCA record ) in 1950/51, aged 40.

His Whorouly team-mates knew the end was nigh in 1953. Whilst still batting well he did the unthinkable one day, and dropped a couple of ‘sitters’ in slips.

“ ‘Ginge’ has grassed one,” was the surprise reaction to the first. Shock greeted the second.

Ron made 14 and took 3/43 in his final appearance, the 1952/53 Final. He had played 190 WDCA games ( and another 51 in the Myrtleford competition ) and a good portion of these were as captain of Whorouly.

He continued to be a mentor to the Club’s up-and-comers. His three daughters, Beth, Shirley and June were all taught to bowl the googly and leg-break and adopt the correct batting stance.

His service to the community included 15 years as a Shire Councillor and two terms as Shire President. Whorouly’s Ron Nicoll Bridge honours his contribution to sport and public life………


Ron and his younger brother Wils gelled perfectly at the wicket, despite their contrasting batting styles.

This was best exemplified in a Wangaratta v Benalla Country Week clash at Collingwood’s Victoria Park in 1938.

Sent in on a dicey wicket, Wang were reeling at 2/1. The pair proceeded to put on 221 for the 3rd wicket. Wils was dismissed for 77 whilst Ron retired on 168 in a total of 378.

Ron was a craftsman at the crease, whereas Wils was murderous when in full flight.

Wils was slight and craggy-faced, spoke with a drawl and was completely bereft of style – the epitome of a ‘Bush Bradman’.

The story is told of the day he pushed open the white-picketed gate and sauntered onto St.Kilda’s Junction Oval, in a time of crisis for Wangaratta.

An old weather-beaten hat was pulled down to shield his eyes from the belting sun. Black socks were tucked into his well-worn white dacks , and his trusty, heavily-marked pigskin-covered bat had seen many a battle……

One fieldsman sneered, within hearing distance: “Have a look,at this bush yokel will ya……..”

Wils’s jaw tightened, his eyes narrowed….. and the battle began…….

Two hours later, he returned to the pavilion, having plundered the bowling in his usual ruthless manner. His innings of 130 had set up an easy victory.

He was a run-machine. His tally of 10,710 club runs, amassed in the WDCA and O & K competitions from 1927 to 1961, was staggering. He also took 418 wickets with his medium-pacers and played 293 games.

He won the WDCA batting average five times in eight years during the fifties,and finished with 20 centuries .

I witnessed one of the last of these – 178* at Tarrawingee. Yet to reach my teens, and pressed into ‘subbing’ for the ‘Dogs’ for part of the afternoon, the ball zoomed off the Nicoll blade, as I made countless trips to the boundary to retrieve it.

That was convincing enough for an impressionable youngster, but the thing that got me was that the old fellah smoked throughout his innings.

He would have a couple of drags between overs, then park the cigarette behind the stumps while he dealt with the Tarra attack……..


Wils shared a 240-run stand with his 15 year-old son Peter in 1959/60, which gave every indication that the stylish left-hander would be a star of the future.

And the youngster certainly carried on the family tradition. His occupation as a stock agent took him away for periods of his career, during which he played with Richmond, Mansfield, Temora and in Wagga, but he managed to fit in 27 seasons with Whorouly.

After he’d negotiated the early overs and got into stride, Pete could turn on a batting ‘clinic’. If you happened to be driving past an Oval and spotted him at the crease it was well worth pulling over and catching half-an-hour of ‘Hollywood’s’ panache.

He scored 7561 runs and took 466 wickets for the Maroons, made 17 trips to Country Week, was selected to open against the West Indies, and played three games against touring Shield sides.

His brother Ian became better-known as a footballer who came from the clouds. He was floating around with Whorouly Reserves, but within two years was stripping with Carlton in an MCG Final.

“I didn’t have the batting skills of Dad or Peter,” Ian once told me. “I just took the advice of my uncle Ron, who said: “Just give it a good crack, son.” and that’s what I did.”

His most famous contribution to local cricket folklore was the double-century he scored, which included 24 fours. His second century came up in 40 minutes. The fifth-wicket partnership of 302 that he shared with his cousin Lex remains a WDCA record for any wicket.

Lex Nicoll’s story is a triumph of courage and determination. The son of Ernie, Lex was tipped to be a champ of the future.

On the eve of a 1951 footy semi-final, however, he woke up with a splitting headache, was rushed to hospital and diagnosed with the polio virus. “You’re lucky to be alive,” he was told.

Doctors informed him that he probably wouldn’t play sport again. But he set about proving them wrong.

Three years later, Lex returned to WDCA cricket and used a runner, as he was obliged to do for the remainder of his career. Opposition sides were pleased to see him playing at first, but soon found him an ‘immovable object’ in Whorouly’s upper-order.

He made 7 WDCA centuries and was part of Wangaratta’s much-lauded 1957 Provincial Country Week championship team. The 30-odd he made against a South Australian Sheffield Shield side in 1957 created a huge impression on the visitors.

But the locals were unsurprised by his fine knock.

After all, he was a Nicoll………..


One of the great things about sport is the terrific people you meet……the lifelong friends you make.

I accidentally ran into one of them the other day, whilst strolling the corridors of the Rehab Ward at the Wang Hospital. He told me he’d been rounding up cattle on his quad bike……the bike flipped…..the next thing he remembered was waking up in an Ambulance, half-way to Wangaratta.

If any bloke is bemoaning his rotten luck in the field of sport, I’d urge him to meet Lex Nicoll.

Lex is a true optimist. One of nature’s gentlemen. I’d like to tell you his story….

He was barely 18 and had been selected at full forward in Whorouly’s semi-final team of 1951. It was to be the biggest game of his life to date and he was nervously excited on match-eve, despite having been off-colour for a few days.

He woke up with a splitting headache, the worst he’d ever had. His mother suggested he pull out. Lex replied that, no, he didn’t want to let anyone down.

He kicked a few goals and played pretty well in the win over Milawa,  the experts said, but the headaches just wouldn’t go away.

He ended up in Hospital, days later, gasping for breath, with machines whirring, nurses scurrying around and a doctor with a furrowed brow diagnosing him.

Sorry, they informed him, but the polio virus has attacked your nervous system. You’re lucky to be alive.


Lex is part of a famous Whorouly cricketing family. His uncles Wils and Ron were two of the greatest batsmen that the area has produced. Another uncle, Vic, who died in a farm machinery accident at a young age, could have been anything. His dad, Ernie, had heaps of admirers as an all-rounder of quality.

Lex went to his first Country Week, as part of the Ovens and King rep team, at the age of 14 and was undaunted by opening the batting. As a Nicoll, much was expected of him, but he was a talent, to be sure.

He had represented a Country Colts team against the VCA’s City Colts early in 1951. And the way that he was progressing meant that the sporting future was indeed rosy for the lean, lithe, athletic youngster.


So the doctors gave him the bad news that the polio had affected muscles in both legs and it was unlikely that he’d be able to play sport again.

He set about proving them wrong.

With the assistance of a dedicated physiotherapist, Barry Robinson, he exercised every morning and evening.

“Barry gave me plenty of support, as did my family. At first I could hardly walk half-a-dozen paces, but I gradually increased this”, he recalls.

Lex was resigned to wearing callipers on both legs. ” I was lucky that I’d stopped growing. Otherwise I might have had twisted legs”, he said.

As time rolled on, Lex slowly improved his mobility. He even got to occasionally have a hit on the makeshift wicket his dad had made on the family farm, learning to improvise with his stroke-play despite his physical impediment.

The day that things turned for him came when a sub-district team made its annual Easter visit to play Whorouly. He was put in to bat at number eleven.

“I was as nervous as could be”, he said. “A fast bowler was operating and sent down a few deliveries that were half rat-power. I walked up to him at the end of the over and said to him on the side : ‘Either flat-out or not at all’.

“He started to let a few go and I knew then that I’d be okay to play the next season. It changed my life, knowing that I’d be able to turn out regularly for Whorouly.”

He came back to WDCA cricket mid-way through the 1954/55 season and used a runner, as he was forced to do for the remainder of his career. Opposition teams were pleased to see him participating, and it just became an accepted part of the game.

Lex developed a fine repertoire of shots, particularly on the off-side, hit the ball with power and had an excellent defence. In short, he became pretty, darn difficult to dismiss, batting at number 3. He fielded at first slip and occasionally bowled spin off two paces.

He seemed to save a lot of his good knocks, in my eyes, for the Rovers. One of the best was in a   Grand Final, in March 1956, when he compiled an unbeaten 96 in the Maroons’ total of 204.

Rovers Gold then crashed for 55, fought back to wreck Whorouly for 52 and needed 201 to win the game. They could only manage 130. Another flag was fluttering at Memorial Oval, Whorouly.

Lex scored seven WDCA centuries, including a magnificent 115 in the 1964/65 semi-final against the Rovers. All told, he finished with 5694 runs for Whorouly.

He once shared a stand of 252 with his cousin, Peter, and put on a record 302 for the fifth wicket with another cousin, Ian, who was later to play football for Carlton.

Of the five trips he made to Melbourne Country Week, he cherishes the part he played in the team that secured Wangaratta’s only Provincial Group title, in 1957. Each player was presented with a blazer to commemorate the achievement.

Probably the highlight of his career came the following season, when he won selection in a North-East representative team which played the touring South Australian Sheffield Shield side.

It was a star-studded local line-up and it proved to be a tight contest. Lex came in to face tear-away quicks Peter Trethewey and Alan Hitchcock and handled them capably, then had to contend with ex-Test spinner Bruce Dooland.

He hung around to stabilise the innings and finished with 30 out of a total of 195, after the Croweaters had been dismissed for 150.

Some people joked that Lex had it easy with a runner doing the hard work for him but he said it sometimes backfired. He was run out three of the four times he batted one year at Country Week.

Life hasn’t treated him all that kindly in recent times. He lost his wife Jill many years ago and had another bingle on a motor-bike which knocked him around a bit.Then, about five years ago, his house burnt down, along with all of his belongings. His son Glenn managed to grab a few family photos, but two precious items that he lost were that treasured 1957 cricket blazer and his favourite, trusty old cricket bat.

But, as always, Lex found a positive side to things. He reckons, at 83, he’s had a great innings.

When I told him I’d like to write a yarn about his sporting life, he reluctantly agreed, but warned : “Keep the bullshit to a minimum”.

Good bloke, Lex ……














Rod Newton was a conglomeration of flailing legs and arms and contorting body parts when you were facing his left-arm ‘Chinaman’ bowling.

That he was able to drop the ball on a consistent length was a minor miracle. His style was reminiscent of the successful South African, Paul Adams, whose action, they said, resembled a ‘frog in a blender’.

Newton was a magnificent servant of his home club, Whorouly. He was a  star footballer and a brilliant cricket all-rounder, who made his debut as a 12 year-old in 1972 and was still going around 42 years later.

Rod’s dad Bill, uncles Alan Newton and Brian and Stuart Elkington were all stalwarts of the footy and cricket clubs. Over the past couple of decades, Rod and his brother Wayne proved to be mainstays, as Whorouly’s cricketers battled the odds to remain competitive.


The sizeable Newton dairy farm is situated a couple of kilometres from the Oval, and Rod has spent most of his life criss-crossing between the two.

He once recalled the ‘apprenticeship’ he served, helping his uncle look after the ground and wicket.

“It was always dry by Christmas and I remember the first time I came in to play at the Showgrounds. I was so excited, my stomach was in knots. It was such a beautiful, green surface. ”

“We only had one team in those days, and about 12 players, so if a couple were unavailable I’d be roped in to play. ”

But he had plenty of good role models and soon showed enough in his brief innings’ to indicate that he was a star in the making.

The feisty, competitive streak that used to sometimes get up opponents’ noses, was on show early and he was difficult to dislodge.

He was an excellent on-side player with a good technique and would take charge once he got on top of the bowling.

“He was aggressive and tried to dominate you early. And he wasn’t frightened to loft you over your head,” one long-time rival recalled. “And if you dropped anything short he would hoik you through mid-wicket”.

“He did his block one day when he was given out caught behind first ball”, this adversary continued. “He reckoned he didn’t hit it. By the time he reached the boundary he had shed his pads, gloves and any other equipment he was wearing. And all the while, he was looking over his shoulder, muttering in the direction of the umpire. It was a memorable display.

“But one thing about Rod. For all his aggressiveness on the field, he was the first bloke to come and have a yarn and a drink with you after the game.”

From the time he was 18, Rod had become a consistent run-scorer and was recognised as one of the Association’s up-and-comers. He played at his first Country Week in 1981, one of 12 trips he was to make to Melbourne.

Two years later he won selection in a VCCL/North East XI which played the New Zealand ‘A’ Team in Wangaratta.

It wasn’t until the mid-part of his career that he re-invented himself as an all-rounder. A natural right-hander, he taught himself to bowl left-arm spin and began to take plenty of wickets.

Brian Hargreaves, who kept wickets for Whorouly during this time, said that Rod always believed he’d take a wicket with his next ball. “With his action, he was hard to read. He liked to throw the ball up and had a good wrong-un and got good bounce. And he didn’t like it much if you dropped a catch off him”, he joked.

His biggest thrill came in March, 1982, when Whorouly broke through to win their first WDCA flag in seven years. He liked that premiership feeling and could reasonably have expected to repeat the dose a few more times during his career.

But it wasn’t to be. They were runners-up in the following two seasons and twice again in the mid-nineties.

The Grand Final of 1995/96 left a sour taste, as weather intervened and Whorouly were left with about an hour and a half to chase down a large Rovers-United total. Years later, Rod was still livid about the injustice of the finals system.

He scored six centuries, including a career-best 138, but has a soft-spot for an innings of 87 that he scored against Rovers-United at Whorouly in 1990. The Hawks had set a target of 271 and the Maroons, fired by Newton’s superb stroke-play, scored at seven an over for the last 28 overs to chase down the total.

Perhaps one compensatory factor for the solitary WDCA flag that he shared, was that he was a member of 8 North-East Cup-winning teams over a 20-year period. He had a few memorable performances in Cup finals, but one that stands out, came in 1994.

Wang had been placed in a perilous position in pursuit of Benalla’s 8/173. A clutter of middle-order wickets at the Gardens Oval saw him take charge of proceedings. His unbeaten 48 guided his side home – nine wickets down and with two balls to spare.

Two years later he top-scored with 58 against Albury, then, just as the home team were sailing along comfortably, he and Peter Tossol wrecked their lower order, to clinch victory.

Rodney Newton’s record stacks up, with the best of all-time. He scored 9318 runs and took 419 wickets in 415 A-grade matches with Whorouly. He was a four-time winner of the WDCA’s Cricketer of the Year Award and also won the Chronicle Trophy in 1994/95.

The Newton clan played an integral part in the ongoing fortunes of the Whorouly Football Club. Bill chalked up 295 senior games in the Maroon and White guernsey. Wayne was a 200-Gamer and Rod made more than 160 senior appearances.

Rod was enticed to have a run with the Wang. Rovers in 1981 and showed a fair bit as a creative half forward in his 3-year stay at the Findlay Oval. The Hawks were sorry to see him go after 49 games, but knew that his heart lay at Whorouly.

He had been the ‘baby’ of Whorouly’s 1977-’78 premiership sides, under Norm Bussell’s coaching, and was a seasoned campaigner when Billy McMillan led them to another flag in 1989.

His wife, Kerrie won a swag of best and fairests in a terrific netball career and daughter Kristy is following in her footsteps, having taken out the Rovers ‘A’ Grade award last year.

The Newtons lived the AFL ‘dream’ when son Michael, a high-flying forward, was drafted by Melbourne. Often hampered by injury, his interrupted five-year stint with the Demons produced 28 senior games and some sensational aerial displays.

Michael moved to SANFL club Norwood in 2012. He recovered from a knee reconstruction to figure prominently in the club’s third successive premiership last year.

Sport and dairy-farming have dominated Rod Newton’s life and he wouldn’t have it any other way. He has no regrets…but another couple of cricket premierships would have been handy.