Larceny, Labour Day and Lakeside


by Mic Rees

Victorian Premier Cricket’s Country Round, traditionally played in early January, was brought forward to the final weekend in October this season with the North Victorian town of Numurkah hosting the clash between Casey-South Melbourne and Footscray Edgewater Cricket clubs. Casey-South Melbourne spinner Clive Rose’s figures of 5/43 included a hat trick (of LBW’s) and helped restrict FECC to 189. Footscray captain Travis Gloury led the way top scoring with 83, Dylan Kight provided wonderful support to his skipper compiling an invaluable 63, the pair adding 105 runs for the fourth wicket. The Bloods never seriously challenged the target and were eventually dismissed for 110.

Chris Bracher’s terrific piece on the Lakeside Oval reminded me of an interesting couple of afternoons I spent at the famous old venue in 1984 involving the aforementioned clubs.

March 1984

Melbourne in March 1984 was a vastly different city to the one we know today. Greater Melbourne’s total population stood at approximately 2,888,400 (4.1 million or so today). Bob Hawke’s federal ALP were celebrating their first anniversary in power. Four daily newspapers – the Age, Australian & Sun in the morning and The Herald in the afternoon kept us informed of local and not-so-local happenings.  The AM band dominated radio listening habits, with 13 stations on offer; the fledgling FM band had 6. If you were keen for some live music over the holiday weekend you could catch The Church at the Pier Hotel Frankston on Sunday night. Two dozen 375ml cans of Fosters Lager would set you back $16.89, a slab of Castlemaine Perkins’ flagship XXXX brand cost $15.99. 

With the start of the ’84 footy season less than a month away rookie Footscray coach Mick Malthouse wasted little time laying down the law to his new charges dropping Doug Hawkins and Allan Edwards from the senior squad to play Carlton in a pre season fixture at Bendigo. Hawkins and Edwards broke team rules by consuming alcohol on the flight back from Perth following a practice match the previous weekend. 22 year old Gary Ablett looked set to embark on his second crack at VFL football. Ablett, who spent the 1983 season with Myrtleford in the Ovens & Murray League, was training with Geelong and had applied for a clearance from Hawthorn. Hawthorn Football Manager Tony Farrugia said Ablett “was a required player at Hawthorn” and “a keen Gary Ablett would be a sensation in League football”.

A 7 room Victorian Timber House on The Esplanade Brighton, fetched $202,000 at auction on Saturday 10 March, the first day of the final round of District Cricket for season 1983/84.

The final countdown

The last round of District Cricket for season 1983/84 was scheduled for the Saturday & Monday of the Labour Day long weekend. The top three teams Prahran, Richmond & Essendon had already booked their finals place. Only fourth spot, tenuously held by Footscray (51.6pts) was up for grabs. The Dogs had blown a chance to render the last weekend of matches redundant the previous Sunday. Chasing Richmond’s gettable 262 their bats failed miserably, all out for 110.

St Kilda (48pts) required a first innings victory over Melbourne at the Junction Oval, coupled with another failure by the Bulldogs to grab fourth spot. Footscray would travel to the Lakeside Oval to take on South Melbourne. If the Bulldogs efforts the previous round were ordinary, South’s were lamentable. Set 256 by Carlton, the Bloods collapsed to be dismissed for 68 in their first innings, the Blues just failing to snatch outright points having the Swans 8/98 in their second dig when time ran out. Still alive mathematically, an outright victory to either Collingwood or Northcote, both on 42 points, and losses to St Kilda and Footscray would see either team make a dramatic last minute entry into the post season.

Day 1 – Saturday March 10

Despite finishing Day 1 with a total of 7/329, Footscray were far from secure in fourth spot at stumps on Saturday night. The Dogs impressive total was headlined by Tony Dodemaide’s maiden district cricket century; a performance even more meritorious considering the 21 year old recent travails with an injured back. Dodemaide, who’d made his Sheffield Shield debut earlier that summer,  remained unbeaten on 115 (five 4’s and one 6). He received good support from Rainer Reber (40no) the pair adding 86 runs in 50 minutes late in the afternoon. At the Junction Oval, Melbourne (8/292) thanks to Mark Hooper’s 109 had set St Kilda a difficult total to chase on Monday. Interestingly the two teams requiring the maximum 10 points for an outright victory were still alive. Northcote (5/111) had taken 1st innings points after dismissing table topping Prahran (105) to keep their finals heartbeat flickering. Collingwood’s play off pulse hadn’t flat lined either, the Pies dismissing Ringwood for 59, then sneaking over the line declaring at 7/62. The Maggies ploughed through the visitors top order to have Ringwood 5 wickets down in their second innings at stumps, the Rams holding a slender lead of less than 30 runs. Obviously the Victoria Park track had a little juice in it.

Day 2

Faced with the option of an afternoon at the Lakeside Oval, or taking in Moomba, with reigning monarch Kevin Bartlett leading the Parade, fellow Almanacker Glen Davis and I made our way down to Albert Park, fully expecting an interesting afternoon of club cricket. Interesting is the only way to describe the events that would unfold over the next hour.

Some time between Saturday evening and Monday morning the South Melbourne Cricket Club was burgled, all 8 new balls the club possessed were amongst the equipment pilfered. Had the game been a Saturday/Saturday fixture the Swans would have been aware of the problem on one of the clubs training nights. Realising the urgent need to produce a new ball South Melbourne delegate Max Reeve took off on a frantic, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to get one. His futile attempts included stops at Harry Trott Oval (3rd XI match) and the Albert Ground (2nd XI). Reeve belatedly obtained a new ball at the Junction Oval. He arrived back at the Lakeside Oval at 12.14pm. In the interim umpires Darryl Holt and Angelo Nicosia had informed Footscray captain Ray Bright of the situation.  Bright successfully appealed under Rule 10, Section 2 of the Victorian Cricket Association (VCA) Rules & Playing Conditions, and was subsequently awarded the game by default.

Rule 10/Section 2 stated:

        If play doesn’t commence within 10 minutes of the time appointed, the umpires, shall upon appeal, declare the match lost by the club unable to proceed with the match.

As a result Footscray had sewn up the fourth and remaining finals spot by 12.15pm.




What happened elsewhere

St Kilda fell 6 runs short of their target for victory, dismissed for 286. Neither Northcote nor Collingwood could force the outright victories in their respective clashes. Northcote finished 4/75 in the second innings, still 99 runs adrift of its second innings target against minor premier Prahran. At Victoria Park Collingwood, chasing 148 in its second innings for maximum points, lost outright to Ringwood – the Pies skittled for 76 following another dramatic batting collapse. Rams paceman Darryl Stranger took 7/26 in Collingwood’s second innings, his haul included a hat trick.

The fallout

Unsurprisingly Ray Bright’s successful appeal under Rule10/Section 2 placed his position at the top of the South Melbourne Cricket Club’s Christmas card list in immediate jeopardy. Graeme Phillips, the South Melbourne president said “Bright has brought disrepute on himself, and should lose the Victorian captaincy. We made every effort to get the game started on time. If that’s the way they (Footscray) want to get into the finals, good luck to them”. Bright’s role as the Victorian captain added to the intrigue as his vice captain at state level, Mick Taylor, was his opposing skipper that weekend. Taylor, a prolific scorer of runs at state cricket level (1010 runs, 72.14 average in season 83/84) likened Bright’s successful appeal to another controversial incident from earlier that decade “I’d have to rate it with Greg Chappell’s underarm incident, and, I guess, that was in the rules too” was Taylor’s take on the matter. VCA Pennant Committee Chairman, Ron Bowtell, said he was “disappointed with Bright’s action” saying it had brought “an unfortunate end to the home and away season”. Bright received support from his President Jim Mann “The club stands by Ray Bright. Ray made the decision at the time, and the club supports him”

Spotty speaks out

The coverage Premier Cricket has been afforded in Melbourne’s daily newspapers in recent years is miniscule compared to the column space devoted to District Cricket in the early 80’s. Additionally the VCA were fortunate to have two fine journalists in Michael Lovett (The Herald) and Garry Linnell (The Age) covering the leading club cricket competition in Melbourne. Lovett and Linnell were allocated healthy proportions of their respective sports sections covering the “no-ball” saga. Headlines such as “No Ball – Bright’s Bulldogs walk into finals” and “You’re not in it to win friends – Bright: Why I did it” were back page leads in the days following, the articles providing the under siege Footscray and Victorian captain an opportunity to present his side of the saga. Bright said “I don’t like winning points like that, but given the circumstances, I thought it was the proper thing to do”. In relation to how it may affect his relationship with his vice captain at Shield level Bright stated” Mick (Taylor) was obviously disappointed, just as we were because we wanted a good workout before the finals”. The Footscray captain added he had a couple of other factors to consider “A few of our blokes were injured, and there was a forecast for bad weather later in the afternoon. If there were interruptions we may not have gotten through our overs in time (6pm) and the whole year could have been wasted”.

Graeme Yallop, former Australian captain, and General Manager of the South Melbourne Cricket Club missed the game due to a knee injury he sustained in a one day international against the West Indies a few weeks earlier. Yallop was disappointed by the events of previous day as he’d hoped to see 2 potential Victorian players in Geoff Fontaine and Wayne Phillips (40 wickets & 576 runs respectively in season 83/84) perform against one of the best attacks in club cricket. Yallop said “Ray is a Victorian selector and we thought he might be interested to see how they went”. Yallop was feeling some love for fellow state squad member Len Balcam. Fontaine’s 40 wickets would lead all District bowlers that season, Balcam finishing the home and away season on 39. “Anyway, it means Fontaine is the leading wicket taker in district cricket which I don’t think will please Len Balcam, but, it looks as though he (Bright) didn’t want a game of cricket”.

The decision

The VCA Pennant Committee met on Tuesday 13 March to decide how many premiership points Footscray would receive resulting from the default. They decided to award the Dogs six points, meaning the top four places for season 1983/84 finished: Prahran (76 pts) Richmond (69), Essendon (60) & Footscray (57.6). Had the committee awarded the Bulldogs the maximum 10 points it would have moved them above Essendon into third position. The final standings meant that Essendon would take on reigning premier Richmond at Windy Hill in one semi final, and Footscray would meet Prahran at the Western Oval in the other.

How did the teams finishing 3rd and 4th win the right to host the semi finals? VCA policy at the time determined that semi finals would be played at the alternate venue to where the teams met during the home & away season.

Two left

Prahran, despite finishing the home and away season top of the table had limped into the finals on the back of some ordinary late season form. They turned it around when it mattered most and made very short work of Footscray in the Semi Final. The Two Blues routed the Dogs for 108 in their first innings, with Brad Green taking 5/44. Green wasn’t finished yet destroying the Dogs attack the following day scoring 124 in Prahran’s 5/235, the convincing win sending the boys from Toorak Park to their first VCA First XI final in 29 years. Essendon denied Richmond a chance to return to the Albert Ground and defend their title when they dismissed the Tigers for 270 in response to the Bombers first day total of 283.

Finally, at long last

Essendon, appearing in their first Final since their triumphant 1969/70 victory over University could manage a meagre 229 after batting first in the rain delayed finale. Jamie Siddons top scored for the Bombers with 48. It was a target that shouldn’t have caused indigestion amongst the Prahran batsman, and it didn’t, as Davenell Fredrick Whatmore’s one man wrecking crew left no doubt as to whom the kings of Melbourne club cricket for 1983/84 were.  Prahran cruised to an easy 7 wicket victory finishing at 3/235 and wrapping up their seventh District Cricket First XI pennant in the process. Whatmore’s 145 not out, his seventh District Cricket century for Prahran, came off 180 deliveries and included 20 boundaries. It took his seasons aggregate to 912 runs at an average of 57. His brilliant innings was made all the more special due to the fact he battled a deadly combination of hay fever and cracked ribs (ouch!) during the final. Upon receiving the Man of the match award Whatmore said “I can’t see any reason why we can’t be back here next year”

After all that

Did the controversial conclusion to proceedings at Albert Park earlier in the day have any effect on the result of any of the remaining games that afternoon, and, were South Melbourne a realistic chance to get the runs? If you based your prediction solely on their efforts with the willow the previous weekend, your answer would be a resounding No. A closer look at the Bloods batting line up would’ve instilled some confidence amongst the faithful. Taylor’s brilliant Shield season was mentioned earlier in this piece. Wayne Phillips, by then a fine District batsman, would represent his country at Test level by the end of the decade. Ross Moore scored his maiden First XI century a few weeks earlier and Ossie Wright provided great service to South for a decade. Footscray, not a heavy scoring team by any means had posted a 300+ score two days earlier. Most batsmen got a start on the Saturday which suggests the track was favouring the batsmen. It would’ve taken a massive effort for South Melbourne to reach the target set as the Dogs possessed a quality bowling line up, with Bright, Dodemaide, Colin Miller & Len Balcam all representing Victoria in some capacity during the mid 80’s. Of the four only Balcam failed to reach international level. Footscray rarely had 300 runs to play with; more often than not a total of that magnitude wasn’t required for the boys of the Bulldog breed to get the job done. 

‘Scrays and Swans today

Neither of the combatants of the famous Labour Day/Weekend clash of 1984 has tasted premiership success in the ensuing period. The Bloods most recent First XI pennant, as South Melbourne, was captured in season 1967/68, the Doggies one and only success came in 1979/80.  Casey-South Melbourne have appeared in the previous two First XI finals series, Footscray’s last serious push for a premiership ended ingloriously when the 2007/08 minor premier fell at the first hurdle to University.

The 2011/12 versions of sides that recently clashed 228 kilometres North of Melbourne have changed somewhat to the teams that were involved in the dramatic last round fixture of season 1983/84.

South Melbourne left the Lakeside Oval in the mid 1990’s, moving to the Harry Trott Oval at the start of the 1995/96 campaign. In 2004, following 10 years of financial struggle and clashes with Parks Victoria the organisation responsible for the management of Harry Trott Oval, the clubs members voted unanimously to relocate the club. At the commencement of the 2005/06 season it changed its name to Casey-South Melbourne Cricket Club, prior to moving all home games to the 70 hectare Casey Fields complex in Cranbourne the following season. The move to one of the nation’s fastest growing municipalities might provide the famous club its next national captain. South Melbourne can count nine ex Australian Test captains amongst its alumni.

Footscray Cricket Club played its final game at the Western Oval in December 1996 prior to moving to the Mervyn G Hughes Oval. MHO, situated on the banks of the Maribyrnong River sits just behind Flemington Racecourse, and has been the Dogs (now playing under the Footscray Edgewater banner) home for nigh on 15 seasons. It provides the club with the opportunity to draw any potential talent from a major housing development with the clubs facilities adjacent to the Edgewater development.

Long may these two great clubs survive and prosper.

By the way, the rule formally known as 10/2, is now 15.2 of Cricket Victoria’s Rules & Playing Conditions



  1. As always, exceptional research and detail Mic. Thanks for the magnificent snapshot.
    Anyone who treasures Melbourne sporting history, the Mic Rees byline is always a must read.

  2. chris bracher says

    Great work Mic- I love the time you deveote to setting historical and current context.
    You have captured the essence of what Mick Taylor refers to (paraphrased) as “just about the poorest example of sportsmanship he has witnessed to this day”.

    For the record, is the current Dogs Captain Travis Gloury related to South player at the time Geoff(?)Gloury?…would be an ironic twist.
    Also internsted to hear of the deeds of the Ringwood “quick” Daryl Stranger. I played against him in schoolboy cricket anbd he bowled powder-puffs!!

    Once again, nice work. Im glad that my intiial piece prompted yor mental flashback. CB

  3. Crio & Chris – Thanks for your kind words

    Crio – Whilst your racing duties make it difficult, if you get the chance to pop in and see the Dogs over the next few weeks do so. Young keeper Dylan Kight scored his maiden ton on Saturday. Looks the goods.

    Chris – 26 years difference in the ages of the two Glourys. – Glen played with SM for 5yrs/31 games in mid to late 70’s. Travis joined Dogs last season after more than a decade with Northcote. Cousins perhaps?

    Daryl Stranger was a fine servant of the Rams. 154 games over 12 seasons (durable) 265 wkts at an average over just over 24. Made a ton with the stick. Perhaps you got him on a good/bad day.


  4. Pump up the District cricket Mic. Very good standard. Mostly excellent grounds for relaxed watching. We like it at Carlton, Dogs and Uni. Maybe some weeks you can post a pre-weekend reminder for games…Sundays are my only option as if I don’t have races, Tom plays junior and seniors Saturday!

  5. John Butler says

    Classic stuff Mic

    Strange that the home teams needing outrights in the last round just happened to present ‘sporting’ wickets.

    Local showers didn’t just occur in footy. :)

  6. Peter Flynn says

    Thanks Mic. Very enjoyable.

    I wish that you had written this before the Galle Test.

    We were with RJ Bright in the Galle Turf Accountants during a rain delay.

  7. Mic,

    Once again, great stuff !!!!

    I played cricket with keeper Rainer Reber after he left district cricket.
    I have a wonderful story about him pitching a tent on the Western Oval on the
    last night before the tractors rolled in to dig up the wicket etc. The re-telling is
    better suited to one of the Almanac lunches.

  8. John – Plenty of “local showers” hit Postcode 3012 over the years – Didn’t hamper Gaunt, Hurst, Shepherd, Hughes, Watson, Dodemaide, Balcam or Miller.

    Peter – Sorry you weren’t aware of this incident. Would’ve been an interesting topic of discussion.

    Smokie – I beleive Rainer was handy between the sticks keeping goal. Altona City (?)


  9. Peter Flynn says

    At a cricket camp at Geelong Grammar School, I drove L. Balcam through the covers for 4.

    I didn’t really pick up the next delivery. I presume it must have cut a fair bit off the wicket.

  10. Peter – That’s bravery bordering on stupidity. I’m glad you’re still with us to tell the story.

    Fiery customer was Leonard Frank Balcam.


  11. Mic / Flynny

    Only a few short years ago I played against Lenny in a local cricket grand final.
    By this stage, he was only bowling left-arm spinners as his knees were shot,
    but let me tell you his tongue was as sharp as ever.

  12. Smokie – The only occasion I’ve seen a batsman dismissed “distracting the field” occured in the Sunday League (Channel 7 used to cover this comp) in the mid 70’s – Batsman dismmissed in this peculiar way was none other than L F Balcam.

    Good to hear he’s still going around. Great warrior for the Dogs.


  13. Mic
    Len Balcalm would warrant his own Almanac piece. Were you there when he ran through
    the crease when bowling to Trevor Laughlin and bowled one from about 16 yards?
    Another western suburbs legend worthy of his own piece: John Sharp. I had the misfortune
    of playing against Sharpy in my first ever game of senior cricket (as a 16 year old). Talk
    about a baptism of fire.

  14. Smokie – You’ve gone toe-to-toe with both Lenny Balcam AND Sharpy. You must’ve killed someone in a previous life.

    Can’t say I remember the Balcam/Laughlin incident. Sounds pretty funny, wish I did.


  15. Good stuff Mic.

    My Year 12 Economics teacher, Bruce Nunn, played at that time and I thought it was for Footscray, but now North Melbourne rings a bell. Did they merge in the mid-80s or am I totally off track? Maybe I’m talking about a idfferent comp altogether!!

  16. Hello Pete.

    Bruce Nunn was in the Dogs XI that game. Got a start, made 20 or so. Original VCA team was Essendon.

    He spent some time with North Melbourne/Geelong – that may be the merge you’re thinking of.

    Once refered to in the media as the KangaCats – Laugh? I almost started.


  17. Ahh, that’s right. KangaCats.

    Thanks for reviving a bit of personal nostalgia…

  18. Mic – great to read about a comp and a time that I recall with personal memories. I used to be a district cricket devotee at that time and attended the Essendon-Richmond semi final in 1984 that you mentioned.

    What was great in those days was the frequency with which top players appeared for their clubs. From State ranks, Essendon that day had Simon O’Donnell, Jamie Siddons and Peter Young in their lineup, and Richmond had Warren Whiteside, Geoff Richardson, Phil Hyde, Michael Quinn and Paul Jackson. The quality of the cricket was outstanding.

    As I recall, the Tigers had thumped the Bombers earlier in the year and fancied their chances chasing down the 283. However, they shot themselves in the foot losing 3 wickets for just 4 runs at the start of their innings. Unlike a certain national side, Richmond knew how to find their way out of early difficulty and subsequent partnerships slowly dragged them back into the game. The last hour or so was a brilliantly tense struggle that ebbed and flowed until the Bombers finally snatched the last couple of wickets.

    There were probably 1000 people at Windy Hill that day and I doubt whether there was a sharper atmosphere at the old ground even during the rowdiest of VFL games. Absolute silence punctuated by raucous shouts and cheers.

    It was only bettered in my experience by the end of the 1990 District Final when Richmond snatched a 3 run win over St Kilda. The Tigers were 8-54 on the opening day but Paul Reiffel and Ray Bright took them through to a score of over 200 and Rieffel then went to work with the ball. On the final morning, St Kilda needed about 65 to win with 3 wickets in hand. In tough conditions, Shaun Graf stood tall, notching a century and looking to have steered the Saints home with 9 wickets down. However, he glanced a leg-side ball from Daivd Saker and was caught behind amidst wild scenes from the Richmond camp. His batting partner at the other end? One S. Warne!

  19. Mic:
    Luckily I did not have to play against both J Sharp and L Balcalm in the same match!
    I will find out more about the Balcalm-Laughlin incident, but I don’t think Laughlin thought
    it was too funny at the time!

    For years, M Hughes has used M Quinn as the butt of many of jokes at “sportsman’s
    nights” .

  20. Stainless – Fond memories indeed, thank you for evoking them. I won’t attempt to compare players/teams from different era’s, however, I think it was a harder competition in the 70’s/80’s, Interstate and international players would regularly turn out for clubs whenever possible. Not the case these days.

    Smokie – As fiery as L F Balcam was I reckon Laughlin wouldn’t have minded a scuffle. Never struck me as a shrinking violet.


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