Brendan McArdle remembers the (Cricket) Game of the Century

Brendan McArdle, legendary Victorian cricketer (recently admitted to the Lords’ Taverners’ Hall of Fame, on the same night as David Wilson’s great aunt, Betty Wilson) has been a friend of the Almanac for many years, and at times a regular contributor on all things cricket.


Recently he read Mic Rees’s wonderful account of the famous District Cricket Grand Final for 1965-66n between Northcote and Essendon.


He sent John Harms this email:



Reading Mic Rees’s brilliant 2016 article on the 1965-66 District cricket final recently on the Almanac brought many wonderful memories flooding back for a young northern suburbs boy of the time. Dubbed the ‘Game of the Century’, the Northcote v Essendon epic is still every bit the fairytale today that it was 54 years ago.


The circumstances of the match were almost surreal and, to any cricket fan under the age of fifty, virtually impossible to relate to  –  Northcote’s Bill Lawry scoring 282 not out after just having peeled off three centuries in an Ashes series, a score of 514 being chased down, 5000 people jammed into the Albert ground in the middle of April.


I was a wide-eyed 14 year old from Preston who’d just completed his first season in the lower grades at Northcote, and had recently started Year 9 at St. Kevin’s College. Post-Christmas APS cricket commitments meant that my seasons at Northcote were cut short, and I can still remember dashing from an U14 match at Melbourne Grammar to Punt Road to watch the ‘Cotes bowl out Richmond in the semi-final for 62.


I was privileged to be able to watch most of the four days of the final from the players’ balcony, thanks to my brother-in-law, Phil Burn, being part of that Northcote team. Somehow or other, I was able to sneak into places I wasn’t entitled to be even back then.


With the likes of Rodney Hogg and Gary Cosier also learning their trade in the thirds and fourths, Northcote was a great place to be. To us impressionable youngsters, firsts players like veteran Frank Brew and Ken Walker, who took 9/28 in the semi-final, were crusty competitors who played hard and drank beer. And of course Lawry was the guru.


Those were the days of buckle-up pads, featherweight bats and uncovered wickets. Northcote was an unfashionable club compared to Melbourne, St Kilda, Carlton and Richmond, but we regularly punched above our weight and often produced players for higher levels of cricket. ‘Cose’ opened for Victoria at the age of 17, fast bowler Gary Living took 5 wickets on debut as a 15 year old and played for Victoria as a teenager, and Hoggy went on to do his thing with Adelaide as his launching pad.


Daryl Foster, who later had a highly successful coaching career with Western Australia and Kent, was our club coach in those late 1960s and he was big on giving young players opportunities. Eight years after Northcote’s fairytale of ’66, Cosier, Hogg, Richie Robinson –  who’d transferred across from Carlton – and myself were back at the Albert for our own taste of premiership success.


Hoggy, of course, is the bloke everyone wants to know about, and I can reliably report that he’s still the same as he was back then  –  stubborn, loyal, self-centred, charismatic and extremely funny. And he bowled damn fast, as Living did.


Times change. They were great years at Northcote, and District cricket that day in 1966 enjoyed a profile that is completely unimaginable today. But I’ve been involved at Dandenong for the last thirty years and today’s Premier cricket is still a very very good standard despite its rather anonymous profile.


I’ve seen the likes of Ian Harvey, Cameron White, Peter Siddle and the Pattinson brothers come through the Dandy ranks and go on to wonderful careers. Their achievements have been as big a source of pride as those of Hogg and Cosier all those years ago. From Cosier’s back-to-back centuries in Boxing Day Tests, and Hoggy’s 41 wickets @ 12, to Siddle and James Pattinson in last year’s Ashes, it’s been a good ride.


In times like this, it’s worth noting that sometimes sport gives us back more than we ever expected.



Read Mic Rees’s account HERE.


  1. Terrific email.

    Does sport mean more in hindsight that the present moment?

  2. Great memories. Richie Robinson was the first of the real wicketkeeper batsmen. Tall for a keeper and a fine front foot driver. Playing at the same time as Rod Marsh limited his test opportunities but was at least the equal of Ian Healy.

  3. Great stuff B Mac and yes I was at Ad oval for you’re,1st class debut can even remember you walking down the steps at Ad oval mid arvo and fondly remember your company at Australian Sports clinics

  4. Hello Brendan, thank you for your kind words. Some truly outstanding players involved with the two pennant winning ‘Cotes’ teams of 65/66 and 73/74.

    The one name that never fails to elicit a “whatever happened to” response is Gary Living. If memory serves me correctly he didn’t play First XI cricket after the Christmas break of the 73/74 season. He bowled a 15 ball over on Cup Day 73 at the Western Oval having struggled with over stepping, at one stage bowling five consecutive no balls. You took three wickets that day – Jumbo Joslin, Jeff Collins and Easty. RM Hogg decked Ron Nicholls earlier in the day.

    One story is that Gary suffered an arm/shoulder injury that didn’t allow him to return. Would greatly appreciate if you could possibly shed a little light on the reasons for his premature departure from the game.

    Take care and stay safe.


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