‘And now the time has come…..’ – KB Hill

It’s the pinnacle of the season tomorrow; the culmination of a year’s hard work………

 

The WDCA Grand Final has provided a catalogue of upsets, controversies, brilliant performances, dramatic collapses and – dare I say it – rain interruptions.

 

My memories hark back to the fifties, when Dad and his brothers left you in no doubt they were playing for ‘sheep stations’, as they prepared for the ‘Big One’….. But for decades before that, tempers flared and emotions boiled when rivals fought for the flag.

 

Here is a selection of  games that fostered a tradition which has spanned 123 years…….

 

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1896/97 : Wangaratta v Exelsior.

“……At 9/68 on the first day, these were anything but cheering figures that greeted the Wangaratta skipper, as he strode out to join McCallum, in one of the most eventful partnerships ever seen on the Wangaratta ground.

 

He had a ‘grim smile’ and one of the onlookers remarked…..”what if the last two were to make a century ?”

 

The batsmen played with verve and judgement. Clarke was content to play a steady game, but Mac hit ‘bloomin hard’ and ‘ bloomin often’.

 

Hickey came on and clean-bowled McCallum and the innings closed for 137.

 

Exelsior’s reply began well the following week, but soon they slumped. Their hopes were revived by Joe Bath, as they edged ever closer to the Wangaratta total.

 

But Joe had the unpleasant experience of having his wicket put down by the Wang keeper.

 

He played a splendid and plucky innings – never giving a chance. He was very knocked about, but had the consolation of knowing that he received his wounds and spilt his blood in a most stubborn fight.

 

The ray of light that had started to glow in the breast of Wangaratta now burst into the sunshine of splendid victory as Jimmy Tough, the last man in, knocked the ball into Len Docker’s hands.

 

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While the ball was in the air, even the boldest held their breath, but when its career was stopped, the Wang supporters manifested their delight in no uncertain terms……”

 

Wangaratta 137 defeated Exelsior 130…..

 

 

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1928/29 : Wangaratta v East Wangaratta.

 

“Scarcely in the history of the WDCA have there been two stauncher rivals than the Grand Final combatants, who met at Oxley.

 

Wangaratta managed 136, with their premier batsman Alec Fraser registering 36, to be the main obstacle to the much-vaunted East Wang pace attack.

 

East gained a slender advantage by posting 158. Clem Fisher was his usual obstinate self in an innings of control, but it was the slow bowler Tom Nolan, with 8/48, who took the honours for Wangaratta.

 

Wang could manage only 99 in their second innings, after Harry Fisher had taken 6/5. So East needed 79 to take out the premiership.

 

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They still needed 9 runs when last pair Cliff Pratt and Bill McCormick were at the crease.

Easts supporters urged them along all the way, as they inched their way to a famous win…..”

 

East Wangaratta 158 and 9/79 defeated Wangaratta 136 and 99.

 

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1933/34: Footballers v. Wangaratta.

 

“It was a most riveting game, dominated by the slow bowlers.

 

Wangaratta’s score of 87 saw them take a 1-run advantage over Footballers, who wouldn’t have reached their total of 86, but for a fine contribution from Arch Wilkinson.

 

Wilkinson’s 7/44 wrecked Wangaratta’s second innings, but they reached 97.

 

Footballers, having given themselves a definite chance of taking the honours, were then bundled out for 65.

 

Don Young did the damage. He bowled remarkably well, flighting and turning the ball in a manner that made him nigh unplayable. Young finished with 6/29…..”

 

Wangaratta 87 and 97 defeated Footballers 86 and 65.

 

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1935/36: Footballers v. Eldorado.

 

“This was one of the most memorable of all Grand Finals, principally for the numerous batting records which were created along the way.

 

On the first day, Arch Wilkinson and Bernie Izard put on 245 for the first wicket. Resuming on Day 2, Charlie Heavey and Frank Archman carried on the awesome performance, and added 287 for the third wicket.

 

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The score at the end of the day was 8/634.

The first four batsmen scored centuries or over: Izard 100, Wilkinson 154, Heavey 187 and Archman 112.

Eldorado were to be congratulated for the wonderful way they stuck to their task.

 

Footballers declared after two days batting and Eldorado set out on their Herculean task. Several batsmen got a start, but the lower order failed badly and they were all out for 126.

 

In their second innings, Eldorado had compiled 5/196 when play was mercifully concluded……”

 

Footballers 8/634 defeated Eldorado 126 and 5/196.

 

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1957/58: Magpies v Bruck.

 

“The week preceding the Grand Final was chock-full of drama.

 

Magpies, in their third year in the competition, had staged a withering run after the Christmas break,  sneaking into the four at the death-knock, at the expense of unlucky Moyhu Gold.

 

They defeated Rovers Brown in a fiery semi-final clash, which saw three of their players – Jack McDonald, Peter Larkins and captain John Holloway – reported by umpire Bill Daly, for disputing an LBW decision against Graham Kerr.

 

All of them escaped with a reprimand, and were able to take their place in the Grand Final.

 

Bruck, led by Mac Holten, were the favourites going into the game, and they battled hard to contain Magpies to a score of 170. Jack Isles, with a handy 32, was the main thorn in Bruck’s side.

 

Bruck were always in contention, but were unable to gain the upper hand against some superb bowling from Jack McDonald, who finished with 8/67.

 

Bruck, at stages appeared to be on the verge of victory, but fell agonisingly short, by six runs……”

 

Magpies 170 defeated Bruck 164.

 

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1959/60: Rovers v Bruck

 

“Chasing their second successive flag, Rovers pacemen Jim Horne and Jim Chapman cut a swathe through the Bruck batting line-up to dismiss them for a paltry 90.

 

The swing of Horne (4/36) and the fire of Chapman (3/30) had given the Hawks the ascendency, but Bruck hit back well to have Rovers 5/14 at one stage, then 6/64 at stumps on the first day.

 

Jack Beeby (7/45) was the wrecker, as Rovers limped to a four-run lead, thanks to a lone hand of 50 from Len Hill.

 

Bruck were sailing along well, at 5/106 in the second ‘dig’, but collapsed dramatically to be all out for 115.

 

Chapman, Len Hill and Bob Rose shared the spoils for the Hawks.

 

Rovers had some anxious moments in pursuit of 113, and slumped to 5/74.

 

On a wicket which was affected by overnight rain, the feature of the day was the batting display of Fred Booth, who was 31* when Rovers claimed victory. It was only in the last hour that the Hawks put the match beyond doubt………”

 

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Rovers 94 and 6/114 defeated Bruck 90 and 115.

 

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1986/87: City Colts v Corowa.

 

“Corowa made history by reaching their first WDCA Final.

 

And although they were given a hammering by City Colts, local fans were soon to become used to the Border team winning their way through to the Grand Final.

 

Corowa could only muster 141, as Maurie Braden and Mick Lappin did the damage. Colts, who were also relative newcomers to the finals stage, gave themselves a fair chance. But this was one game where their batting line-up rose to the occasion.

 

Led by teen-ager Scott Clayton (146*), they amassed a huge 414, with Maurie Braden (97), Russell Harris (76) and John Hill (32) joining the action.

 

Rod Lane, who was to join Carlton the following season, toiled manfully to finish with 6/100……..”

 

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City Colts 414 defeated Corowa 141.

 

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2001/02: Wangaratta-Magpies v Rovers-United.

 

“One of the great WDCA Grand Finals went right down to the wire, in a low-scoring encounter.

 

Magpie star Duane Kerwin held his side’s innings together with a fine undefeated 73, to guide them to a respectable total of 151 after they had slumped to 5/55. Hawk speedmen Adam Booth, Peter Harvey and Trevor Anderson shared the bowling honours with three wickets apiece.

 

Rovers-United, 2/18 overnight, had slumped to 4/24 the next morning. Dogged right-hand opener Anthony Lawler then stepped up and proved the unlikely hero for the Hawks.

 

Recalled to the side after the unavailability of Peter Tossol, Lawler’s 61 was an innings of patience and defiance.

 

Even so, the Hawks still needed 12 runs for victory when the last pair, Peter Harvey and Adam Booth came together.

 

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It was Harvey who hit the winning runs to take Rovers-United to a dramatic victory, despite the lion-hearted effort of ‘Pies quickie Tim Sheldon, who finished with 6/34……..”

 

Rovers-United 9/153 defeated Wangaratta-Magpies 151.

 

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2011/12: City Colts v Yarrawonga-Mulwala.

 

“City Colts suffered Grand Final pain for the 4th consecutive year, after losing a nail-biting clash with Yarrawonga-Mulwala.

 

The Lakers caused one of the upsets of the season, at the most appropriate time, with a Marcus Hargreaves spell on the opening day proving the catalyst to their four-wicket win.

 

Hargreaves took 5/47 in a 24-over spell, to help restrict Colts to 177 off 75 overs. Colts flew away to a good start, with openers Jeremy Carr and Nick Norris crafting a 40-run stand. It was left to veterans Scott Clayton and Justin Solimo to steady the ship, but the going was slow.

 

Luckily, the tail wagged, to push the score to 177.

 

In reply, the Lakers also found difficulty in breaking the shackles, but Daniel Athanitis (33), Lee Fraser (34) and Dwayne Duxson kept them within reach of a competitive total.

 

But they still needed 33 off 8 overs when Fraser was dismissed, and youngster Paddy Martin strode to the crease.

 

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Whereas the batting over the two days had been circumspect, Martin cleared the field with some excellent hitting. Nineteen balls later, the game was over. Martin’s quickfire 26 and Duxson’s dogged, unbeaten 39 had taken the Lakers to their first WDCA flag……”

 

Yarrawonga-Mulwala 6/179 defeated City Colts 177

 

 

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2018/19: City Colts v Yarrawonga-Magpies.

 

“Who will write the next chapter in the WDCA Grand Final story……?”

 

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Footnote: In Saturday’s A Grade Grand Final, City Colts defeated Yarrawonga-Magpies. Scores: Yarrawonga all out for 86, City Colts 4/88. (With thanks to Prue Holmes, Administration Officer, WDCA.)

 

You can read more of KB Hill’s excellent profiles of local sports identities HERE.

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