Almanac Cricket: Footscray Cricket Premiers

 

In this dystopian time everything is so different, even our sporting pastimes. Here I’m turning my mind to a not too distant period where everything was yes, so different. It’s early 1980, I’m doing my final year at Maribyrnong High School, and along with some other likely lads went to Albert Park Ground to see if our local, Footscray Cricket Club, cricketers could snare their first flag. My memory is still reasonably clear of this event, but there’s nothing like turning to other various reliable sources to fine tune the recollections.

 

Footscray Cricket Club can trace its history back to 1883.  They joined the Victorian Cricket Association (VCA), in 1947-48.  Though they produced a string of first-class cricketers, starting with the two Arthurs, Day and Dean, then test cricketers such as Ron Gaunt, and Les Joslin, on field success did not follow.

 

The 1979-80 season saw Footscray win their first Senior VCA District Premiership. (For the sake of brevity/familiarity I’ll use the term District Cricket from here) They had finished the home and away matches with 11 wins. In again making the District Cricket finals could they do better than they had in the previous season?

 

In 1978-79 Footscray won a finals berth with a team where run scorers such as Wayne O’Neill, Ken Stone, newcomer Warren Patterson, and Tony Paone were primary contributors for their success that season. It seemed batting was the club’s key strength. Reaching the semifinals, however they only totaled 193, losing a tight game by three wickets to the experienced Richmond team who totaled 7-197. Richmond who’d triumphed two seasons earlier were not able to defeat Carlton in the final.

 

1979-80 was an interesting time all round in Australian cricket.  We saw the end of the two-year schism involving World Series Cricket, and Australia’s cricketing establishment.  Australia hosted two touring sides that summer West Indies and England, losing to the former, winning a non-Ashes series versus the latter.  Victoria also turned it on collecting the second of back to back Sheffield Shield. To cap it off Victoria also celebrated being triumphant in the domestic limited overs competition.

 

For Footscray in 1979 -80 a strong bowling attack was the plan to go. The vaunted batting saw the loss of Wayne O’Neill to fellow District Cricket club Fitzroy, also Ken Stone whose work saw him moved to Canberra. Vid Richardson stood head and shoulders as the team’s leading batsmen. Batting at number three his 643 runs @ 37.52 provided the foundation for scores the bowlers could defend. Such was his contribution Richardson was the club ‘s champion player of the season. Among the bowlers Barry Watson led the way with 49 wickets @ 15.86. There was 18-year-old (future Australian cricketing legend) Merv Hughes who took 21 wickets in his first season. Rex Bennett, Peter Dredge and Damián Ryan were others to pick up 10+ wickets in a strong bowling attack.

 

Footscray played good cricket throughout the season, a finals spot being a deserved reward. Coming into the last three games of the season they needed to win all three to confirm their finals berth.  Firstly, a victory over Ringwood got them that step closer. Over to Richmond, where they won for the first time for over a decade: some revenge for the previous seasons’ semifinal defeat. A steady victory over Hawthorn-East Melbourne in the last game sealed a finals appearance.

 

A tight semifinal victory over Collingwood at the Western Oval, got Footscray into the decider. Batting first the home side were skittled for only 105.  Even that score was commendable when you consider the primary partnership in the tally was last wicket stand of 25 between Captain Lindsay James, and young Merv Hughes. Though this was Hughes’s second season he’d not yet bowled a ball in anger at a Collingwood team; this soon changed. At the end of the first day’s play Collingwood went in on 3-51 chasing a winning tally of 106.  A sensational collapse on day two saw the visitors bowled out for only 74. It’s worth noting that half an hour prior to stumps on day one Collingwood sat pretty on 1-37. Hughes with 5/32 showed the cricketing world a glimpse of his talent, as Footscray snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Amidst the scenes of joy, a spectator waving a bottle of discount spumante (like a parody of Cold Chisel’s, Cheap Wine) chased the winning players, who looked bewildered at this individuals’ bizarre actions.

 

Through to the final, Footscray now took on St Kilda. St Kilda had been a long-established team with 10 premierships, the most recent in 1964-65. That encounter had seen these two same teams’ clash. That season St Kilda were triumphant, scoring 232 & 4/195, in overcoming Footscray 203 & 223.

 

The result of their meeting during the 1979-80 home and away matches saw a Footscray win. St Kilda occupied the crease for 80.4 overs tallying 140. In reply Footscray were cruising 3-115 before losing 5-10.  A resolute stand between Damián Ryan and Peter Dredge saw Footscray tally 8-180.

 

The grand final started with Footscray captain Lindsay James winning the toss, deciding to bat. In a timeless final Footscray ground out a slow, first day totaling 4-144.  Tony Paone scoring 39, and Vid Richardson with 44, leading an even batting performance. How much could they add to the tally on the second day? The second day saw wickets tumble early, so when the scorecard read 8-175 there were grave concerns how far the innings could last.  Leading from the front a gritty Captains knock by James of 16 with help from the tail helped in posting a competitive score. Firstly, Rex Bennett scoring 17, then Merv Hughes undefeated on 10 helped them reach 221. Was it enough to bring them their first flag? Could the much-vaunted attack deliver?

 

St Kilda were in early trouble slumping to 2-7. A third wicket stand of 36 gave some stability to the innings, before a shaky middle order presented wickets to a fired up Footscray attack. Stumps on day two saw St Kilda limp in at 6-73. Only three of the top six managed double figures. The third day saw the English test cricketer John Emburey, and St Kilda skipper Geoff Tamblyn, fight stoically before Emburey, top scorer with 37 was caught by Vid Richardson off Rex Bennett. The tail didn’t wag as they succumbed to some fine bowling from Bennett who finished with figures of 6-37, including a final burst of 4-7 of 3.4 destructive overs, as the victory was sealed.

 

At 2.17 pm on April 5, 1980 Footscray had won their first District Cricket Premiership.  After a 32-year wait since joining the VCA they’d obtained the ultimate team success. The ‘Sons of the Scray’, now had both a cricketing, and football, flag proudly flying at the Western Oval.

 

For the victors there were players whose names are legendary with the club.  One is Ray Bright. Bright was just back from Australia’s tour of Pakistan, on which he picked up 15 wickets in the three tests. In the opening test of that series he picked up his best figures with 7-87, (10-110 for the match).  Of course, there was a young Merv Hughes, destined for higher honours with Australia.  There’s the winner of the 1979-80 Jack Ryder Medal for the best player in the competition, Barry Watson. Watson polled 36 votes, eight clear of the next placed, in a season where his 49 economical wickets were invaluable. Such was his contribution to the club he was nominated for life membership that season. The underrated Watson was exceedingly unlucky only playing twice for Victoria, these being two limited overs games in the 1980-81 season. Vid Richardson found further premiership glory being part of the victorious Northcote team in 1986-87: Rex Bennett also went to Northcote.

 

For the vanquished, English off spinner John Emburey was a valuable contributor during the Grand Final, his economical bowling  along with top scoring with the bat proving his mettle. Shaun Graf, a sometimes Australian limited over representative bowled well showing the form that took him to higher honours.  Former Footscray cricketer/footballer Graeme Joslin was another notable in the St Kilda line up, though only scoring 4 against his old side.

 

Over the next few decades, the club changed both names and home grounds. In 1996 they vacated the Western Oval moving down to a ground adjacent the Maribyrnong River, behind Victoria University Technology, the aptly named Merv Hughes Oval.  Footscray Cricket Club became known as the Footscray-Victoria University Cricket Club in the seasons, 2000-01, until 2003-04. The following season following a sponsorship deal with local developers they obtained the name Footscray-Edgewater Cricket Club, the name being retained until the 2016-17 season. In this period another District Cricket premiership was won, that being 2013-14. The club now is known by its original name.

 

In closing a big thankyou to well-known Footy Almanac contributor, Footscray Cricket Club historian, well known chap about the Western suburbs, and mate for 43 years, Mic Rees. Thanks for the much-appreciated advice Mic.

 

 

Glen!

 

Footscray 1st innings

D Ryan: C Tamblyn, B Graf 6

A Paone: C Emburey, B Ward 39

V Richardson: C Thwaites, B Ward 44

G Anderton: C Crocker, B Emburey 15

R Bright: C Tamblyn, B Ward 26

W Patterson: LBW, Graf 19

M Sheehan:  C Crocker, B Graf 7

B Watson: C Tamblyn, B Ward 11

L James: C Lynch, B Graf 16

R Bennett: B Thwaites17

M Hughes: N O 10

Extras 11

 

St Kilda Bowling

S Graf:   36O. 10M. 71R 4W

B Morphet: 12.4O. 2M. 29R. 0W.

J Ward:  27O. 8M. 56R. 4W.

J Emburey: 41O. 22M. 35R. 1W.

C Thwaites: 6.5O. 1M. 14R. 1W.

D Robinson: 3O. 0M.  5R. 0W.

 

St Kilda 1st Innings

D Robinson: LBW Hughes 1

A Lynch: B Watson 28

R Craig: C James, B Watson 5

P Crocker: LBW Bennett 18

G Joslin: C Sheehan, B Bennett 4

S Graf: B Bennett 10

G Tamblyn: C Ryan, B Bennett 8

J Emburey: C Richardson, B Bennett37

J Ward: B Bennett 0

C Thwaites: C James, B Bennett 0

B Morphett: NO  6

Extras 4

 

Footscray Bowling

M Hughes: 18O. 6M. 32R. 1W.

B Watson: 30O. 15M. 43R. 3W.

R Bennett: 20.4O. 5M. 37R. 6W.

R Bright:  8O. 5M.  5R.  0W.

 

Footscray 2nd Innings

D Ryan: C Joslin, B Graf 6

A Paone:  C & B Emburey 41

V Richardson: C Craig, B Ward 23.

G Anderton:  NO 16

W Paterson: NO 7

 

St Kilda Bowling

S Graf: 9O. 2M. 38R. 1 W.

J Ward: 9O. 1M. 29 R. 1 W.

A Lynch: 3O. 0M. 6 R. 0W.

J Emburey: 3O. 2M. 6R. 1W.

G Joslin: 2O. 1M. 3R. 0W.

D Robinson: 2O. 0M. 4R. 0W.

P Crocker: 1O. 0M. 6R. 0W.

 

 

Glen!

 

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Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    About 126 overs for Footscray’s first innings of 221. Hope you took a good book or two Glen!

  2. Good evening Glen. Thanks for helping to invoke some great memories of a wonderful summer for FCC fans.

    I draw parallels between the breakthrough title of 79/80 and the 2016 flag procured by the football club in that the victories in the penultimate contests (Collingwood CC and GWS respectively) proved to be just as if not more memorable as triumphs in the deciders.

    Terrific work mate, look forward to your next trip down memory lane. Getting on, aren’t we? Martha Davis turned 70 last week. Geez, time to go and wipe the cobwebs off.

    MCR

  3. Thanks for this, Glen!
    A good trip down memory lane.

  4. G’day Glen…….great recap of wonderful times in our youth…I remember the semi against Collingwood when they collapsed on day 2. The pitch was a dusty brown top yet when we turned up for day 2 the next day, it appeared to miraculously green up overnight. Special thanks to curator Brian Watt who somehow managed to put a bit of life into the deck overnight…. haha…..

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