‘A Marathon Knock at the Top of the Order……’ by KB Hill

KB (Kevin) Hill is a Wangaratta-based sports historian specialising in coverage of country sport and local sporting icons. His articles appear on his website On Reflection and appear on the Footy Almanac site with permission.

 

Mention the name Hoysted in this neck of the woods and the sporting pundits will regale you with the feats of the nation’s most illustrious racing dynasty.

 

Frederick William Hoysted settled here from Ireland’s County Kildare in 1859. The family tree has provided, at last count, 19 renowned trainers, 6 jockeys, 3 bookmakers, a saddler, a horse auctioneer – and of course, Des, the famous race-caller.

 

Why, I ask Greg Hoysted, did he veer from the path of thoroughbred racing, and settle on cricket as his chosen sport ?…………….

 

***

 

“Simple, really,” he explains. “Hal, my uncle, gave me a pony for my fifth birthday. I climbed on and had a massive allergic reaction. I discovered I was allergic to horses, so that put paid to my involvement in the equine industry.”

 

When Greg’s grandfather, training wizard Henry Fred ( ‘Tib’ ) Hoysted passed away, Hal inherited the family’s stables; Jack, his dad, took over the Wangandary farm.

 

“Dad operated the farm for the rest of his life. He bred several fine horses, but at one stage he got tied up with helping to run junior footy, so I started playing with Combined Churches. A few of my mates were keen cricketers, too, and I joined them.”

 

The die was cast.

 

At 12, he was opening the batting in the local Under 16 competition. He made his senior WDCA debut at 13 or 14, as a fill-in for Wangaratta; an eye-opening experience that entailed facing the fearsome ‘Ab’ O’Brien on a sporty Moyhu track.

 

A year or so later he’d become a regular, playing alongside the legendary Max Bussell, quicks Mark Phillips and Brook Anderson and the steady medium-pacer, Graeme Sheppard. They were a team of characters, spiced with a group of kids – and the critical appraisal of Duke Goldsmith, a crusty old fellah who’d been tending the scorebook for years.

 

Duke’s authoritative voice would bellow across the Showgrounds from the Richardson Stand, “Put a man down at fine leg, Bussell,” or “ You’ll need an extra slip for this bloke……….”

 

Greg became the wicketkeeper and gravitated to opening the batting – a position that he was to make his own over the next four decades.

 

He won the Association’s ‘Keeping Award one year, thanks, he says, to left-armer Brook Anderson continually enticing batsmen to nick his swinging deliveries……….And he’d improved enough, in 1984/85, to take out the Batting Average and score the first of his 27 career centuries.

 

By now he was in Melbourne undertaking a Teaching Degree. An invitation to regularly practise on the hallowed turf at University Oval, facing the District club’s attack, was too good to pass up. No wonder the Hoysted technique tightened and he became more accustomed to fobbing off zealous pacemen with a glint in their eye.

 

Uni offered him a game in their Second XI, but he told them he was needed back home on weekends to pull his weight on the farm. Besides, as Wangaratta’s captain, the side was reliant on his run-scoring capabilities………………..

 

***

 

When the West Indies’ eagerly-awaited visit to the Showgrounds came around in March 1985, Hoysted and the team’s skipper Gary Lidgerwood, were the only Wangaratta members named in the Country XI team.

 

A Chronicle editorial panned the non-selection of in-form Brian Fisher and Barry Grant, a promising youngster who’d been in scintillating form that season.

 

“Some felt ‘Baz’ was unlucky. I suppose he may have replaced me, had he played,” Greg says. “I asked Keith Sherwill (Selector) later on, why he missed out,.He said they felt that, at 18, he was a touch young at that stage. They didn’t want to throw him to the wolves.”

 

Nevertheless, it was a memorable experience for Greg, shaping up on his home ‘deck’ in front of a large crowd and facing the might of Garner, Marshall, Walsh and Davis:

“The first ball of the day, Winston Davis has rhythmically run in. I’ve propped onto the front foot, to play my usual forward defensive shot. He has followed through, but I’ve seen……nothing. I thought, Geez, that was quick…..He’s more slippery than I thought! He must have been stirring up the crowd, or maybe got something wrong with his run-up, as he still had the ball in his hand……It wasn’t a great moment, that’s for sure.”

 

The defiant opener batted for just on 25 overs, for 44 of the Country XI’s 4/274, in response to the Windies’ total of 291……

 

 

***

 

The Hoysted reputation during eight seasons in the WDCA had been fashioned around a dour, rock-solid defence, unlimited patience, an organised batting technique and a strong off-side game.

 

Thus, those who’d spent hours attempting to penetrate this veritable ‘brick-wall’ in club cricket, were astounded at his flamboyance when they opposed him in North-East Cup matches in succeeding years.

 

 

He was now living and teaching in Benalla and had thrown in his lot with the BDCA.

 

“I remember a match in the late eighties. Cup cricket was big in those days,” recalls one Wang veteran. “We made 230-odd in our 50 overs. Benalla passed us with an over or two to go.”

 

“Hoysted opened and made a blistering, unbeaten 116. He even straight drove ‘Knackers’ Rundell onto the bike track a couple of times. We couldn’t believe how aggressive he’d become.”

 

Greg had been involved in the Benalla competition for just on a year when the long-serving President and Association icon, Tom Trewin, announced his departure from the role.

 

“I decided to put my hand up and did the job for the next 10 years. I had another stint a few years later.”

 

“We had eight senior and eight junior teams in those days. The competition was strong. For example, Albury & Border took out the Provincial CW title one year. There was a bit of paper talk that this was one of the greatest sides they’d fielded. But we knocked them over in a Cup match the following weekend.”

 

Greg began his annual odyssey to Bendigo Country Week in 1980, the first of his three trips with Wangaratta. He went on to represent Benalla for a further 26 years, and was inducted to the Bendigo CW Hall of Fame in 2009.

 

Numbered among the seven centuries he scored at Bendigo was a memorable 120 which piloted Benalla to victory in the 2003 Final against Wimmera-Mallee.

 

 

Teaching commitments interrupted most of his Melbourne campaigns, but he was usually able to fit in 2-3 days most years……. And whenever Benalla reached the Final they’d send an SOS for their run-machine.

 

That’s what happened in 1992 when they clashed with Grampians at Carlton’s Princes Park. Hoysted’s 84 was a key factor in their win and earned him the gong as Player of the Final.

 

“The conditions were phenomenal,” he says. ”A grassy outfield, bouncy wicket, and they had the full scoreboard running. It was the sort of day that country cricketers dream of…….”

 

Greg had one remaining item to tick off on his cricketing ‘Bucket List’. He headed to England in 1995, with wife Sue, to play a season with Illingworth St.Mary’s, in Halifax, Yorkshire.

 

“It was an enormous experience. We made friends for life and the opportunity to sample English cricket was terrific.”

 

He finished with over 1,200 runs for the season, the highlight of which was a 233-run club-record opening-partnership with Sam Smith.

 

 

When he returned home he chalked up another career highlight – captaining his BDCA side to a premiership in 1995/96. He’d spent nine years with All Blacks United since arriving in Benalla. It was their one and only title. They promptly disbanded, merging with home-ground rivals Benalla Saints.

 

Saints won three titles in their 13-year existence. In one of those – 2002/2003 – Hoysted carried his bat, making 138* of his side’s 350, clinching victory by 40 runs.

 

When Saints folded in 2008/09, he thought of giving it away. After all, he was 49. But Warrenbayne asked if he’d mind giving their young blokes a helping hand. They made the Final in the first year. The club celebrated its 130th anniversary the following season – 2013/14 – and won their first-ever flag.

 

The demise of the BDCA at the conclusion of the following year caused some heart-ache but in Greg Hoysted’s opinion it had become inevitable.

 

“As our junior numbers started to decline we began to run into trouble and were eventually obliged to seek affiliation with the Wangaratta Association,” he says.

 

At 53, Greg decided it was as good a time as any to retire, at that stage. He had three years off but was invited to become involved with the Benalla Bushrangers.

 

“Trevor Saker got into my ear and I started having a hit again last year, thinking I’d just play in the lower grades. But I’ve been alternating between A-Grade and A-Reserve. It’s been great…………”

 

 

***

 

In an involvement with cricket which is even longer than Greg Hoysted’s marathon innings, I thought I’d seen everything that the game could throw up..

 

But when I spotted a container sitting on the scorer’s table a few weeks ago, I became a tad suspicious.

 

“What the hell’s that?” I queried.

 

“Oh, they’re Greg’s heart pills. You’ve got to run them out to him at 3 o’clock………..”

 

 

 

You can read more of KB Hill’s great stories by visiting his website On Reflection – just click here. Alternatively, you can read more of his stories as they appear on Footy Almanac by clicking here.

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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Comments

  1. What a contribution to the game in the finest of spirits. Like many of KB’s subjects, Greg deserves a statue! And I just love the pithy denouement of the last line – a utter classic!

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