Eastwood made our day

Upon his selection for the third and deciding Test match in the recent series against South Africa, John Wayne Hastings became the 430th cricketer to represent Australia in the five day form of the sport. The Penrith raised Hastings transferred to Victoria at the commencement of the 2007/08 season and joined the Footscray Edgewater Cricket Club. He is the ninth Footscray (Edgewater) player to be selected for Australian test honours.

Two factors set Hastings aside from Footscray’s initial eight Australian test representatives:

  • All previous FECC test representatives played home games at the clubs original venue, the Western Oval. Hastings’ home matches for the Dogs have been played out of the Merv Hughes Oval the clubs base since moving there in 1997.
  • Hastings is the first FECC test representative without a direct playing/coaching link to the Bulldogs third test player, Ken Eastwood.

At the time of preparing this piece Sydney, Eastwood’s home town and the venue of his one and only appearance at International level is hosting the final test of the 2012/13 summer. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to look back at the achievements at both club and state level of the man who could easily lay claim to being the most influential player in the history of the Footscray Cricket Club.

Kenneth Humphrey Eastwood, born in Sydney on November 23 1935, was a product of the Gordon Cricket Club. His solitary (unofficial) appearance for his home state came was as substitute 13th man against Len Hutton’s MCC side in 1954. Believing his opportunities to play interstate cricket would be stymied had he remained in Harbour Town, the 19 year old RAAF national serviceman moved south to link up with Melbourne district cricket outfit Footscray. His senior career would span 18 seasons over three separate periods, making the first of his 184 appearances for the FCC in 1955.

His initial stint with Footscray culminated in 1963/64, a season that saw Eastwood accumulate 632 runs at an average of 39.5, his efforts earning him the first of three club champion awards. Despite consistently strong performances at club level for the Bulldogs it appeared the Victorian selectors had put a line through his name, continually overlooking the left hander when picking the states best eleven players. Local sub-district outfit Williamstown made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, and with 3,279 runs at senior level to his name, a mere 65 short of Bert Wright’s aggregate club record of 3,344, Eastwood headed off to Point Gellibrand to commence his coaching career.

Eastwood’s absence from the top of the Footscray batting order probably cost the Bulldogs an inaugural VCA First XI pennant twelve months later. Due largely to the destruction caused by their  dynamic fast bowling duo of Ron Gaunt (68 wickets/12.67 ave) and Tony Leigh (55 wickets/14.69 ave) the Doggies went all the way to the 1964/65 Final. There they met St Kilda, the boys from the Junction Oval capturing their tenth First XI title in a low scoring affair. Upon Arthur Dean’s retirement as the clubs Captain/Coach at the conclusion of the season, Eastwood was mentioned as a potential replacement. It wasn’t to be as Tony Leigh assumed the role of on field leader, club legend Jim Mann taking over as senior coach.

Eastwood did return to the Kennel at the commencement of season 1966/67. If there were any doubts about his ability to make runs in the highest level of Melbourne suburban cricket they were quickly allayed. When the Bulldogs hosted Richmond in late October Eastwood became only the second player in more than sixty seasons of senior XI District cricket to score centuries in both innings of a game – somehow the Dogs still found a way to lose the match. He made it three-from-three in his next appearance for the Red, White and Blue, the helpless Fitzroy attack belted to all parts of the Brunswick Street Oval. When stumps were drawn Eastwood remained not out on 119. That Saturday (19 November 1966) proved to be quite a day for willow wielders from the West. With Eastwood scoring at will in Melbourne’s inner north his 18 year old Bulldog team mate Les Joslin was compiling his maiden Sheffield Shield century against Western Australia at the MCG.

Eastwood’s early season extravaganza with the stick (429@143) proved impossible for the state selectors to ignore. He was named in the squad for the late November clash with Queensland at the MCG, thus ending a five year hiatus from Sheffield Shield competition. The selectors’ faith was repaid in full when Eastwood notched a superb 121 against the Maroons. By seasons end he’d tallied 300 runs at an average of 42.85 for the state team. Disappointingly Footscray bowed out of the first XI title race at the semi-final stage. To no one’s surprise Eastwood, with 850 runs at the stupendous average of 94.44, took home his second club championship at the completion of 66/67.

Despite solid efforts at Interstate level over the next two seasons (516 runs/43 ave/2 centuries), it wasn’t until 1969/70, a season that him selected for all 8 Shield matches, that Eastwood cemented his position in the strong Victorian line up. Tallying 584 runs at around 42 per hit, he was a major factor in the Vics second Shield title in four seasons. Surprisingly, when it commenced the defence of the interstate trophy the following October, Eastwood wasn’t included in the twelve man squad to tackle the visiting Western Australians. A fortnight later he could do no better than be asked to “mix the drinks” for the clash with South Australia at the MCG. Victoria’s next assignment required them to make the trek up the Hume Highway and take on its oldest and fiercest rival New South Wales. When injury forced the withdrawal of Bill Lawry, Eastwood received an early birthday present with the soon to be 35 year old belatedly named for his 70/71 debut. His inclusion proved to be a gift that kept on giving all the way to representing his country a few months later.

Batting first New South Wales declared their first innings closed at 7/380 and would’ve been confident of obtaining first innings points when it took to the field. Prodigal son Ken Eastwood had other ideas. Opening the innings with Keith Stackpole, he saw partners come and go. Ably supported by future Claxton Shield representative Alan Sieler (53), and a defiant Alan Connolly (22), Eastwood remained unbowed and undefeated, reaching his first double century at either club or state level. His epic shift in the centre of the SCG came to an end when Victoria’s stand in skipper Paul Sheahan called time, Eastwood’s 201 not out.

Under the headline “More comebacks than Melba” the Melbourne Age’s cricket correspondent Peter McFarline heaped praise upon the plucky Eastwood, noting that the Victoria side

had reason to be thoroughly grateful for the persistency of the now 35 year old left handed opening batsman who must rank as one of the most unlucky cricketers around”,

 

McFarline added that Eastwood, usually a non-drinker,

“celebrated both his birthday and his innings with a few champers with the boys at Coogee Bay hotel

In the pre Christmas clash with Queensland at the MCG Eastwood made 30 in the first innings before suffering a rare failure when Tony Dell knocked him over for a second innings duck. When Victoria took the field for the (then) traditional Boxing Day clash with New South Wales at the MCG against New South Wales, it would be Eastwood who would once again take centre stage in the latest chapter in the clash of the interstate titans.

Striding to the centre wicket nine minutes prior to the luncheon interval on the first afternoon, the temperature already hovering around 95 degrees (Fahrenheit), Eastwood faced a combination of stomach cramps, heat exhaustion, dehydration and a Blues attack consisting of Steve “Brute” Bernard and Kerry “Skull” O’Keefe, both named in the St George CC team of the century in years to come. He remained unconquered on 131 not out at stumps, spending the vast majority of the final session seeking respite from the intense humidity that had engulfed the concrete colosseum throughout the days proceedings. Ninety minutes into the second days play, with his individual score on 177, Eastwood’s marathon effort finally came to an end.

As was the case a month earlier it was McFarline leading the chorus of hosannas,

this was Eastwood the stroke maker, the vicious cutter and the short- arm puncher of the ball through the covers”.

Torrential rain over the final two days of the match conspired to deny either team an opportunity to snatch vital first innings points. Rain seemed to be following the Vics to all corners of the nation, their late January date with Queensland at the Gabba abandoned without a ball being bowled. Ken Eastwood’s 1970/71 Sheffield Shield record stood at 408 runs at an average of 136, quite an effort considering he’d been overlooked for the first two clashes for the campaign. With six of the seven Ashes’ tests completed, and the visiting Englishmen 1-0 up, the Australian selectors swung the axe making four changes for the mid February finale. Controversially one of the changes included the sacking of incumbent Australian captain Bill Lawry. Averaging just over 40 for the series (324 runs /40.5) Lawry’s replacement came in the form of his Victorian team mate Ken Eastwood.

Sadly Eastwood’s ascension to Test match cricket didn’t have a fairytale ending. His contribution with the bat included a first innings score of 5, failing to trouble the scorers with his second effort. He did manage to take the wicket of Keith Fletcher in the Poms second innings, finishing with figures of 1/21 from 5 overs.  The match is best remembered for England fast bowler John Snow “bouncing” Terry Jenner. When a few SCG rowdies took umbrage with Snow, proceeding to throw rubbish at him (one “gentleman” going as far as to grab him when he was fielding on the boundary) England captain Ray Illingworth led his team from the field. England immerged victorious from the dramatic battle, prevailing by 62 runs and regaining the Ashes for the first time in almost 15 years.

A fortnight after his sole appearance for Australia Eastwood returned to the Victorian side for the clash with South Australia at the Adelaide Oval. If he’d harboured any frustrations they were emphatically taken out on the hosts’ attack scoring 221, his second double century in three months. Eastwood’s golden summer concluded on St David’s Day at the WACA, with scores of 47 and 61 taking his 1970/71 Sheffield Shield tally to 737 runs at a whopping average of 122.7 per dismissal. Despite going through the Shield campaign undefeated Victoria failed to repeat as champions, 1,000 runs from the bat of South African import Barry Richards helping South Australia to its second Shield success in three seasons.

Eastwood represented Victoria on five occasions in 1971/72, his 219 runs coming at an average of just over 24. In his penultimate shield match he registered his ninth and final interstate ton (107) at the Adelaide Oval. In 42 matches for his adopted state Eastwood scored 2717 runs at a little over 43. His third and final club championship award came at the end of the 1972/73 campaign. The Bulldogs lost their semi-final to a Northcote side that included three future Australian Test representatives in Gary Cosier, Richie Robinson and Rodney Hogg 12 months later bringing the second phase of Eastwood’s tenure with Footscray to an end. The following three summers were spent with local club United in the Footscray Cricket Association before a final Western Oval “encore” came in 1977/78. Eastwood’s only meaningful contribution with the bat (25) came in the home fixture against St Kilda, a game in which John Shepherd’s match figures of 15/37 captured all the headlines.

With the third and final stage of his Footscray Cricket Club career now complete Ken Eastwood’s record stood at 6,920 runs scored at an average of 32.49, the total remaining a club record for more than a quarter of a century. His superb work with the bat was complemented by taking 106 wickets with his left arm wrist spinners. On December 4 2004 Michael O’Keefe, one of the finest batsmen to grace the Melbourne District cricket competition either decade of the new millennium eventually claimed the record as his. O’Keefe, inexplicably overlooked for higher honours throughout his 15 season District cricket career (14 with the Bulldogs), retired at the conclusion of 2004/05 having totalled 7,194 runs at an average of 34.42. It remains a club record at the time of writing.

As mentioned earlier, Footscray’s Test representatives prior to John Hastings can claim to have benefitted from Ken Eastwood’s input as teammate, captain or coach. Ron Gaunt Les Joslin, Alan Hurst and Ray Bright played alongside Eastwood at various stages of his time on Barkly Street. Merv Hughes’ first season with the Bulldogs was spent under the watchful eye of Eastwood, the then 44 year old skippering the young pups to the 1978/79 Second XI pennant. Hughes starred in both finals taking 9/25 in the semi-final victory over the MCC and 6/57 in the Final against Carlton.  When Tony Dodemaide and Colin Miller were making their way through the clubs lower XI’s, Eastwood was involved as a coach at the Western Oval.

Neither Footscray, or by extension Victorian cricket, could’ve possibly envisaged the huge impact Ken Eastwood would have on the game at club and state level upon his arrival from Sydney’s North Shore in 1955. As the late Peter McFarline suggested more than four decades ago, let’s be grateful he made the journey.

Comments

  1. Wonderful detail, as usual, Mic.
    Thanks.
    Keep ’em coming.

  2. Skip of Skipton says:

    I loved reading that. Good on you Mic. I remember Peter McFarline writing for the Age or Herald? He was good. I never knew Alan Hurst was a Footscray man. I can remember him opening the bowling for Australia in Yallop’s team when WSC was about; they are my earliest cricket memories.

  3. Superb portrait Mick.

  4. Mic,
    Ken Eastwood is still putting back in to cricket.
    He is still umpiring in the VTCA.

  5. John Butler says:

    Superb as usual Mic.

    If FECC doesn’t have a plaque on the wall for you already, they should seriously consider it.

  6. G’day Tiger. Good to see you back writing. I noticed Skips comment on Hursty. Did he finish up @ North Melbourne?

    Glen!

  7. Michael, one point i forgot to raise earlier. Jog my memory. Was Ken Eastwoods’ final match at the Western Oval the occasion when Mr James got up on the pie stall to play the bugle?

    Glen!

  8. Well Done Mick . Great Article.
    The Coach at Footscray when Ken Made the Test Team was a guy by the name of Joe Plant. Joe made a statement to all the players prior to that season that his main objective was for Ken to make the Test team. There were many throwdowns made by Plant to Ken in that season and players watched in awe as Eastwood night after night at training ran up and down the steps of the John Gent stand.
    It is worth noting also that in that Test match he batted in fading light with 20 minutes before stumps in both innings and faced the best quick in World Cricket at the time in John Snow.
    You also noted that he made the Test team and played in that match when his previous innings due to washouts was about 7 weeks if I recall. The odds were against him having a successful game.
    Barry W

  9. A big thank you to everyone for your feedback, it’s much appreciated. I’ll try and answer your queries.

    Skip – Not sure if you’ve read McFarline’s “A game divided” – it covered the ’77 Ashes tour and the furore surrounding the signing of players for WSC. Great read. I’ve lost my copy otherwise I’d have offered it to you.

    Smokie – Nice it is to hear Ken is still involved in the game.

    John – No plaque necessary, another pennant would suffice.

    Glen – You are correct sir, AG Hurst was originally a FCC player 68/69-76/77. His debut for Aust came in the 3rd Test against NZ in Adelaide in 73/74. (Woodcock & Lance Cairns made their debuts in the same Test). Another local Jack Collins was one of the umpires in that match. Hurst crossed to Arden Street, and played district cricket (when available) for NM between in 77/78 and 80/81. Can’t verify the “bugle”, pretty certain the pies came from Sids in Barkly Street.

    Barry – Loved the John Gent story. So much for anyone who believes that fitness isn’t a prerequisite for a successful cricket career?

    Ken’s numbers for the FCC are superb, however you’ve got to wonder what they could’ve been had he played home games at a more “batsman friendly” venue than our beloved Western Oval?

    MCR

  10. cowshedend says:

    Mic superb,
    Little memory of Ken, after retirement umpired in the Footscray Cricket Association.Ken loved a punt, and the derby was on at Flemington,we were playing over the road at present home of the Dogs (merv hughes oval), we were batting,and Ken had an earpiece in his ear,the bowler was about to start his run as the Derby was mid race,Ken put hs arm out and strolled down the track to examine some imaginary demons,we were listening to the derby ourselves, and watched as Kens pitch inspection lasted precisely the time it took for the first three placegetters to cross the line.

  11. Lovely work as always, Mic. Love how Footscray managed to lose the match where he made a ton in both innings. That’s just SO Footscray!

    Thanks to Ken, I can boast a Test scalp as a bowler. In the early to mid 80s, I played in a Sunshine Cricket Association Under 23 rep side against a Footscray side that was made up of Under 23s. At least they were SUPPOSED to be Under 23s. Footscray were a bit short of numbers in that age group on that particular Sunday and Ken graciously stepped in to make up a full XI for the Dogs.

    The match was played at the Western Oval and I remember the pitch being a rock-hard road. I was known to get a bit movement in the air and off the deck but on that particular day was getting neither.

    But K Eastwood helped me out by trying to hit me into the John Gent stand. He mistimed his shot and the skied ball was safely held at about mid-wicket from memory.

    So there you go – I can legitimately claim to have taken the wicket of a Test opening batsman. Still looking for a second Test wicket at age 47.

  12. CSE – Did you ask him what he liked in the next across the road ?

    Gigs – Not sure what I’m most envious of – you’ve knocked over a former Test rep, you got a run on the Western Oval or the fact you witnessed the rare sight of a good deck at Barkly Street.

    MCR

  13. A great read

  14. Mic, I would have preferred it not to have been a good deck that day. Think I ended up with figures of something like 1/75 off 15 overs that day. K Eastwood was my only scalp.

    Pretty I crossed paths with Colin “Funky” Miller in junior (U14s and U16s) cricket. He played at Sunshine Heights and I played at Albion in the Sunshine Cricket Association. I’ll have to track down the scorebooks to see if I can add him to my Test scalp list.

  15. Great read Mic. Eastwood was truly a great talent and his influence is profound. Peter McFarline was without doubt the best cricket writer this country has seen. Not 100% sure but I think he broke the WSC story in Australia. Superb writer who understood the game and it’s players. Unlike the rabble (and I mean rabble) who “write” in today’s media.

  16. Shano, whist i agree Peter McFarline was a top writer, i don’t agree the current crop are a rabble. Gideon Haigh, Rohan Connoly, Gerard Whately, and Greg Baum
    are all good pundits, the first two especially.

    Glen!

  17. Gigs – I always thought Colin Miller was a better batsman (at district level) than his record suggested. Managed to regularly knock a few into Gordon Steet in the old days.

    Shano – I’ll send you a link to a McFarline piece from ’71, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it.

    Glen – Did you see Tim Lane’s tribute to CMJ in Sunday’s Age? Worth a look.

    MCR

  18. Glen

    Apologies – you are indeed correct. Gideon Haigh & Rohan Connoly are especially good writers and Gerard Whately & Greg Baum are very good. Maybe I should stop reading certain newspapers that really belong in the rubbish bin!

    Shano

  19. Shano, if it’s a Murdoch paper, you can find more appropriate uses. Putting it in the recycling bin, lining the kitter litter , both make far more sense.

    Yes Mr Rees, Colin Miller often hit the ball a country mile, and more. I read Tim Lanes article on CMJ. He didn’t mention the time iVA Richards had a ‘subtle word or two’ with CMJ in commentry box in the Carribean, back in the halcyon period of Windies cricket. CMJ came down a peg or two. Also whilst on CMJ, i have his book on 100 best test cricketers; it has no AW Grieg ,but has A Flintoff. Nuff said.

    Glen!

  20. “You’d be better off taking up umpiring, instead of playing.”

    Encouraging words from the great Ken Eastwood to an impressionable 13 year old when he was coaching at Altona Cricket Club juniors in the mid 90s. Ripping bloke he was. I enjoyed that season immensely.

  21. David Jenkins says:

    Mic,
    Just found this piece on November 23, 2014, which just happens to be Ken’s 79th birthday. Thoroughly enjoyed the article on a great fellow. Caught up with Ken last May in Sydney at a cricket function and great to see him and Patricia again. I wrote a small piece (meant as an article for a magazine but ultimately published as a small booklet) on how Ken got to play his first and only Test and all the stars that had to align to make it happen. Ken was a great help to that project. Of course, like all writing. as soon as it is published, people then come up and tell you yet another great story or fact which should have been included.
    Regards, David

  22. Thanks for the feedback David, and a big Happy Birthday with many more to come for Easty.

    How might I be able to get a copy/link to (if possible) of your booklet? Would love to get the chance to read your work.

    Take care

    MCR

  23. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Loved it Mick a fine tribute to obviously a fine player and influence on so many at the
    Kennel Mic your passion for the Footscray CC is admired and respected , brilliant as always thanks , Mic

  24. Footscray has always been good at producing bowlers with players like Ron Gaunt, Colin Miller and Ray Bright all appearing in the Australian test XII. Batsmen haven’t fared so well with very few playing for Victoria, let alone Australia, in my life time. We’ve had Ken Eastwod and Les Joslin, with a test apiece, but no one beyond that. Interesting.

    Glen!

  25. Malcolm – Thank you for your very kind words.

    Glen – As you mentioned only two of FCC’s nine Test players, Les Joslin and Ken Eastwood are batsmen. You would know as well as anyone how difficult it was to knock up a decent score on the bowler friendly Western Oval, the Dogs home venue until it moved in December 1996.

    The deck at the Hughes Oval, the clubs home base for the past 16 seasons, doesn’t have as much juice as Barkly Street did. All members of the Dogs top four (Russ, Crosthwaite, Dean & Kight) have scored “home” centuries over the course of the past twelve months. The times are a changing – maybe.

    MCR

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