Calypso Capers on Cross Street

Last November Footscray Edgewater Cricket Club announced they had acquired the services of Surrey County Cricket Club captain Rory Hamilton-Brown for the remainder of the 2010/11 Premier Cricket season. This was quite a coup for the Dogs. Hamilton-Brown debuted for Surrey in 2005. He was named captain of the England Under 19 team in 2006, with injury denying him the opportunity of skippering the young Englishmen on a tour of Malaysia in 2006/07 and disciplinary reasons (a decision later overturned by the ECB) preventing him doing so a year later. After spending seasons 2008 & 2009 at Sussex, he returned to Surrey, as captain, for the 2010 season. He scored 808 runs at the reasonable average of 29.92.  The confident 21 runs he registered on debut against Geelong in Round 7 (26 deliveries, 3 boundaries) will more than likely be Hamilton-Brown’s highest score during his 5 game/6 inning tenure at the Mervyn G Hughes Oval as a report in today’s Sunday Age (23/1) suggests Hamilton-Brown has been called up to the England A squad to face India. Should this be the case he will play no further part in the Dogs quest for a finals berth this season, his season tally of 59 runs scored in 6 completed innings at a disappointing average of 9.83.  When Frank Tyson made eight appearances for Footscray over a five season period in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s he was “domiciled” in Melbourne. It would be incorrect to label him an import, therefore Hamilton-Brown is only the second overseas recruit to represent Footscray Cricket Club since it entered the Victorian Cricket Association at the start of the 1948/49 season, and it’s first in more than three decades.

The recruitment of high profile overseas cricketers to play in Melbourne’s Premier (District) Cricket competition has never guaranteed success for either club or player. Take the example(s) of Abdul Qadir, Carl Hooper & Paul Collingwood. These professionals provided their adopted clubs with sterling service with all three taking out the highest individual award the VCA has on offer, The Jack Ryder Medal in the process, whilst legends of the game such as Garry Sobers, Clive Lloyd and Ian Botham hardly set the world on fire during their brief tenures in the Garden City during the early/mid 1970’s.

In 1976 Barbadian born John Neil Shepherd completed his eleventh season of county cricket with Kent. His seasons work in the Championship was quite impressive, scoring 895 runs at an average of 38.91, and taking 48 wickets at a cost of 28.06. Shepherd had previously represented the West Indies in five test matches, and his resume included a tour of England with the Windies in 1969. After taking a coaching job in Rhodesia in the early 1970’s his international career came to a halt. In October 1976 Shepherd, accompanied by his wife Terri and infant daughter Caroline, made the trek to Melbourne to take up an offer to play District Cricket with Footscray for the remainder of the 1976/77 season. Lending their assistance to the Dogs in the recruiting of Shepherd were a number of local businesses, with Shepherd and his family’s accommodation being provided by the Palms Motel located on Geelong Road Footscray, and a hire car with compliments from Col Page Ford (employer of former Footscray FC champion and 1973 captain David Thorpe and sponsor of the Pick the Points competition on ATV0’s VFA football coverage).

In securing Shepherd’s services the Dogs believed they had obtained the player who would help it go one step further than its second place finish the previous season. In the finale of the 1975/76 season they faced Melbourne at the picturesque Albert Ground. Sadly for the Dogs a masterful innings of 189 from the brilliant A P Sheahan, his highest District cricket score, helped the MCC land their 13th pennant, and in doing so deny the Dogs from breaking their premiership “duck” for at least another twelve months.

Season 1976-77

Footscray didn’t have to wait long for their decision to recruit the 32 year old Barbadian to bear fruit. In somewhat bizarre circumstances his debut was delayed 24 hours due to Melbourne experiencing a total solar eclipse on Saturday 23rd October 1976. The following afternoon the Dogs travelled to the Junction Oval to take on St Kilda. Shepherd bowled 11 tight overs taking 2-41 and helped restrict the Saints to the very gettable total of 108. That meagre target was looming large after the visitors stumbled to 4-48. Shepherd, in partnership with Ray Bright, ensured the Kent professionals’ first VCA appearance would be a victorious one. He and Bright added 132 runs in 72 minutes to steer the Bulldogs to a comfortable win. Shepherd spent 98 minutes at the crease, his 79 runs including seven 4’s and one 6. His next match winning performance would follow three weeks later at Ringwood’s Jubilee Park. A 5 wicket effort in the Rams second innings would help the Dogs to rare back-to-back outright victories, and a share of first position on the table with Collingwood. A fortnight later 3/27 from 10 overs wasn’t enough to deny North Melbourne the points at the Western Oval, Ian Chappell & Rohan Kanhai getting the Roo’s safely past the 183 runs required for victory. A 17 over, 4/64 return from the first day of the clash with Waverley at Central Reserve contained the home team to a score of 274, still somewhat of a tricky target for the Dogs to chase on the final day of District cricket for 1976. Shepherd’s magnificent inning of 96 the following Saturday included nine 4’s and a 6, and ensured Footscray went into the Xmas hiatus on the winners list, the FCC reaching 9/347 by stumps, grabbing six valuable premiership points.

Despite the Bulldogs patchy form in early 1977, a couple of washouts and a draw doing nothing to boost their point total, Shepherd continued to shine taking 12 wickets in four completed games after the festive break. Shepherd delighted those in attendance at the Western Oval in early February by notching his maiden district century against Prahran. After sliding to 4/26 early on the second day Shepherd and former state representative Ron Nicholls added 146 runs for the fifth wicket to help the Dogs pass the 169 runs required to win. Shepherd’s 104 came off 116 deliveries, and included nine boundaries. At the completion of the home and away fixture the Dogs had risen to second place on the table and entered the finals as favourites to break their First XI pennant drought which had reached 29 seasons.

Norm Emerson & Colin Costorphin ended any fanciful flag ideas the boys from the Western Oval had, the Collingwood pace pair each 10 wickets over two Footscray batting disasters in less than 24 hours that resulted in the Dogs losing the semi-final by an innings & 43 runs. The Magpies moved onto the Final, one they would ultimately lose to arch rival Richmond. As Melbourne was hosting the Centenary Test the following weekend, the start of the VCA final was postponed seven days.

Although the ultimate team honour eluded Shepherd in his “rookie” season in Melbourne, his outstanding efforts with both bat (458 runs at an average of 38.16) and ball (32 wickets at a meagre cost of 13.62) saw him named as the outstanding player in District cricket, his total of 36 votes more than enough for him take out the Ryder Medal. He finished 14 votes clear of equal runners up Tony Steele (Waverley) and Richie Robinson (Northcote).

Many Happy Returns

By the time Shepherd returned to Melbourne 7 months later, this time as Captain/Coach, Footscray’s 1977/78 campaign had gotten off to a stuttering start. After dropping the opening two one-day matches to Prahran & Richmond, their first points for the season were secured with a comfortable victory against Fitzroy in Round Three.  Shepherd’s opponent in his sophomore season debut would be Melbourne. As was the case with his “eclipse delayed” debut a year earlier, Shepherd would come to the crease with his team struggling at 3/80. When he was dismissed a little over three and a half hours later, he had 156 runs next to his name, a score that had surpassed Ken Eastwood’s previous club record score of 153. He faced 162 deliveries, smashing eleven 4’s and a dozen 6’s, his century coming off 133 balls. The 143 runs he and Vid Richardson added for the fourth wicket would put the Dogs into a winning position (7/345 dec) they couldn’t take advantage of the following Saturday as intermittent rain throughout the afternoon denied them the opportunity to take the 10 wickets required for victory. A well made 69 and a 5/50 haul from 26 overs couldn’t stop North Melbourne (9/190) passing Footscray’s mediocre tally of 169 a fortnight later. Another half century the following week (FCC 9/325 dec) helped the Bulldogs overcome Hawthorn East Melbourne (174). At the mid season intermission the Dogs found themselves out of the top 4 with plenty of work to be done in the second half of the season.

Despite Shepherd’s efforts with the willow immediately after Christmas being a tad disappointing, his accurate medium pace bowling kept the Dogs finals pulse from flat lining. His 10 wickets in the first three games of 1978 would allow Footscray to loiter, not necessarily with any intent, within striking distance of the top four. Following a disappointing effort against Carlton at the Western Oval, one that saw the Blues prevail by 33 runs, the red white and blue required outright points in one, perhaps both, of their remaining two matches to return to finals action.  John Shepherd wouldn’t let his team surrender meekly.

A visit from St Kilda was the first hurdle Footscray were required to negotiate. Shepherd was simply unplayable on the first day, capturing 7 wickets at a cost of only 27 runs from 14.5 outstanding overs, one 21 ball stint returning figures of 5/7. With only 107 needed for a win on the first innings the Dogs slumped, again, reaching 5/89 at stumps on the first Saturday. Shepherd’s 31 runs would ensure the 6 points were secured early on the second day. However, the 34 year old reigning Ryder Medallist’s afternoon al was just starting to get interesting. By mid afternoon Footscray had taken the 10 points for an outright victory, St Kilda knocked over for 48 runs all out in their second innings. Shepherd’s 10 overs and 6 deliveries work returned figures of 8/10, his 26 overs for the two Saturdays producing match figures of 15/37. This was only the fourth time 15 wickets or more had been taken by one bowler in a match since the inaugural 1906/07 season of district cricket.

As good as Shepherd had been over the previous two Saturdays, Footscray still required at least a first innings, perhaps outright , victory from it’s visit to Victoria Park in the final home and away fixture of the 1977/78 season if it planned to return to the VCA finals for the third season in a row. Collingwood reached 208 in its first innings, Shepherd, brilliant again, taking 4/62 from his 22 overs. Footscray, as had been the case for most of the season, failed with willow and were bundled out for 129, 48 of its miserable total coming from the bat of its Captain/Coach. Collingwood declared their second innings closed at 8/135 (Shepherd 5/56 of 14.4 overs), but time was always going to beat the Bullies, and it fell well short of the target, finishing at 4/145. Unsurprisingly Shepherd did his bit with a brisk 39 runs. In the final two matches of the 1977/78 season Shepherd took 24 of the 38 wickets the opposition would lose, and score 118 runs at slightly under 40 runs a completed inning.

With the Dogs failing to reach the finals the only interest remaining was to see if Shepherd could fulfil his prediction of the previous March when he suggested he would return to “defend” his Ryder Medal. It’s more than likely that missing the first three matches of the season denied him a chance to go “back-to-back”. Carlton Captain Coach Keith Stackpole (38 votes) grabbed the second of the three Ryder Medal’s he would accumulate, finishing one vote ahead of South Melbourne’s Mick Taylor (37). It was a busy year for “Stacky” who spent a large part of the summer commentating for Kerry Packers World Series Cricket in its inaugural season.  Shepherd (449 runs at an average of 37.41 & 48 wickets at 10.56) would share “the bronze” with Stackpoles’ Carlton teammate, and Victorian cricket legend John Scholes (953 runs at 79.42), both men receiving 36 votes for their seasons work.

So long, farewell, adios

Shepherd’s stupendous efforts of the final two games in 1977/78 were to be his last hurrah in Melbourne club cricket. He scored 907 runs at an average of 37.79 and claimed 80 wickets at the miserly average of 12.41 during his two seasons at the Western Oval. Whilst Melbourne club cricket followers never got the opportunity to see him in action following the 1977/78 season, his successful county career would continue for almost another decade. A distinguished 15 year stint at Kent ended at the completion of the 1980 season. Shepherd would serve Gloucestershire for a further seven seasons (1981-87). When he retired at the completion of the 1987 season he had amassed more than 13,000 runs (13,359) and taken 1157 wickets over a dazzling two decade career in County cricket. In June 2009 Shepherd’s biography, The Loyal Cavalier, was released and in October 2010 Kent County Cricket Club announced John Shepherd would serve as its president for the 2011 season.


Apart from representing Footscray (Edgewater) Cricket Club, another, somewhat tenuous, link between the only two imported players to represent the Dogs is in 1975 Dennis Amiss, Hamilton-Brown’s godfather, was named one of Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Year. In 1979 at the age of 35 John Shepherd had that prestigious honour bestowed upon him.


  1. Peter Flynn says


    Some terrific names sprinkled through this great article.

    Shepherd took five-for on his Test debut.

  2. #1 Peter.

    Many thanx for your kind words.

    Two of his debut “5 for” included Carlton imports Barry Knight & John Snow.


  3. Peter Flynn says


    His first Test wicket was Boycott who played grade cricket in Sydney (Waverley 1976/77).

    He toured South Africa with the Robins’ XI in the 1970’s. I think he was the first black cricketer to tour the country.

    He also played for Rhodesia in the mid-70’s.

    Fascinating career.

  4. Martin Reeves says

    Mic, was Rory Hamilton-Brown also put up by the club at the Palms Motel on Geelong Road, and if so, is this attributable to his lack of runs? Footscray is a long way from Surrey.

  5. #3 – Peter.

    Was looking at an old “Cricketer”(Jan 77)recently.Had an article on Boycott’s efforts during the first half of the 76/77 Sydney Grade Cricket season. He’d averaged 197.33 after the first seven rounds, yet Waverley (reigning premiers) had won only two matches to that point.

    The Robins XI – 73 ?

    I still find it hard to believe we managed to obtain the services of Shepherd for those two seasons. Great fun to watch.

    #4 – Martin. I believe the Palms has had a facelift in recent years. He may’ve been happier at the more “up market” Plough Hotel on the Corner of Victoria & Barkly Sts. Not sure why he struggled with the bat.

  6. Peter Flynn says


    Correct re Robins XI.

    Playing for Rhodesia meant the end of international cricket participation.

    Footscray’s benefit.

  7. Mic

    Really enjoyable piece. So many names conjure up memories of cricket at that time. We used to follow Melbourne district cricket very closely (from Queensland) as two cousins, Chris and Tim Harms, played for Ringwood. So there were lots of names of blokes who must have been very good cricketers even though they weeren’t well-known on the first class scene: Murch, Iliingworth, Davies, Gott etc.

    I wonder whether the MCC has a position on eclipses and whether the notion of ‘percentage of partiality’ comes into it.

    I also wonder whether Rory Hamilton-Brown is the gentleman rhymer who has given us chap-hop.

    Putting on my Gigs hat for a second, I smirked at the 7/27 reference. It remains a very sore stat for me: it was the score we had reached by the end of the first hour in my first (and only) 4-day grand final. Our seventh wicket fell on 27. (At 6 for, I thought we were still in it.) We made 103. I batted at no. 3 and somehow managed to get 60. We took the game in to the fourth day, partly because our opponents batted so slowly in the first innings. I bowled about 25 overs of Yardley-offies and took 2/35 but managed to drop a caught and bowled off the bloke who made a hundred (Glen Nass, who could really play) when he was just a handful.

    Top level district/grade cricket in each metropolitan centre is good-quality stuff. Or it used to be. I have no reason to think it wouldn;t be now. I remmeber arriving at UQ in February 1980. The UNiversity facilites had just been voted best in Australia by one of the cricket mags and the QCA used to play the A Grade final there.

    So in March 1980 I watched (along with a good-sized crowd) the final weekend of the grand final: Souths v Wests I reckon it was. It was phenomenal cricket on what was a fast and bouncy (good for cricket) wicket. John Bell (the little keeper) captained Wests. Rackemann was trying to bowl Souths out in the fourth innings and was steaming in, and the new ball was flying. Big slips cordon. Bell back 25 metres. The sounds of cricket reverberating around the amphitheatre of eucalypts on the bank of the Brisbane River. And leading the chase for Souths was the West Indian, Monty Lynch. No helmets, he was taking the express bouncers from his nose and putting them into the practice nets to the sheer joy of the crowd and his team-mates. I can’t remember who won.

    But I do remember thinking, “Crikey, I’m no chance of playing at this level.”

    My judgement proved correct.

    Thnans for the piece Mic.


  8. On your eye, Mic, will Rory push onwards and upwards?
    Loved this piece. Go Dogs!

  9. John #7 & Crio #8 – Many thanx for your kind words.

    John – Did one of the Harms boys end up in SA and play for the state ? The MCC wouldn’t have happy memories of the “Eclipse” weekend, they got rolled by Carlton. John Douglas, one of six current/past VFL players to take part in the match, took a hat-trick. Which clubs in the Brisbane Grade comp are the traditional powerhouse teams ? 60 from 103 in a final is a pretty mean effort !

    Chris – RHB would struggle to get into the current England line up based on his PC form. He averaged just under 30 in the County Championship last season. Good luck to him, hope he makes it. Guy Walker has graduated to the 2nd XI at FECC – good work, you know how to pick ’em.


  10. Chris Harms played a dozen or so games for SA as an attacking off-spin bowler and handy left hand bat. Then Tim May came along. Tim Harms skippered Glenelg for a few years and won a Bradman Medal – tall, elegant, technically correct, but for some reason couldn’t crack it for a first class game. Must have been pretty close. he went to SA to teach at Immanuel College.

    That 60 was frustrating. Not sure why we got rolled so easily as we were a pretty solid Colts side. I batted No. 3. We scored plenty in our second innings but I only got 17, yorked by a sharp opening bowler called Scherwin. Lack of concentration in that one. As I say, the game entered the fourth day and they had to chase 80 or so, and got them easily. We couldn’t find the will to pressure them. We were beaten. But loved the fact it was four-day cricket.

    The Brisbane Grade scene was very strong in the early ’80s, with success quite spread – although not much for Uni. OUr A grade had Courtice, Traves, Bomber Bowers (recently CEO of the Brisbane Lions) Beetle Lillee, and a few others. Valleys, Wests, Wynnum all took their turn. I played mainly fourths and thirds. We had a very strong but ill-disciplined fourth grade side which was out of the four coming to the last round and had to win outright and make a lot of runs to finish fourth. We made 503 and won by an innings and 300 and missed out by about 0.04 of a point. A bit like Geelong in the AFL in 1993.

  11. Mic
    Fantastic! As mentioned previously, I know (and have played with) many ex-Footscray players, and they all speak reverentially of J Shepherd.

  12. cow shed end says

    Brilliant Mic! fortunate enough to see Shepherd in full flight at the western oval,he straight drove a ball down the Geelong road end and hit the base of the scoreboard on the first bounce,
    From memory I also recall English off spinner John Emburey winning a Ryder as well.

  13. Smokie#11 & CSE #12 – Thanx for your feedback.

    I’m sure John Shepherd made many friends during his two seasons of District Cricket. Forgot how many times I asked him to sign something for me, never a problem – unlike a certain former Australian Test Captain who told me to “go forth and multiply”….or words to that effect when I asked for his autograph – charming !

    Ray Bright almost hit the board one day, early 80’s. We had a terrific view, watching from the 1st floor of aforementioned scoreboard.

    Dogs won today, sit just outside the eight.

  14. Mic
    As an indirect result of your piece, I have it on good authority that Footscray CC are looking to secure John Shepherd as the guest speaker at their annual “Chairman’s Lunch” next season.

  15. Yes John Shepherd made a big impact in those 2 seasons at the WESTERN OVAL. You mention his spell in Zimbabwe, then known as Rhodesia, which led to an exile from International cricket. He was the first, and at the time the only West Indian cricketer, to my knowledge playing in this region. Do you have any more specific information as to why he chose to be a trend setter, albeit in a negative sense?

  16. #15 – Hello Glen.

    Unaware of the specifics behind John’s decision why he played in Zim/Rhodesia. Have ordered a copy of his biography “The loyal cavalier”, should receive in the next few weeks. This may shed some light on the reasons for playing there.

    I’ll take your question on notice if that’s OK ?


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