Notes of an address given to the Club on the occasion of a Club Reunion

Saturday, 4th December 1999 by Mr Ken Dowling.

Thank you for the honour and privilege of presenting some thoughts and information on the history of this wonderful club, with which I have enjoyed 34 years of association. I hope this address stimulates you to do your own reminiscing during the evening.

Firstly, I must pay tribute to Ken Hilton for supplying me with the results of some diligent research he has undertaken in the archives of the former Moorabbin City Council, the records of the Moorabbin Standard Newspaper and oral contributions from the late Lindsay Dudley. I have supplemented that material with comments from former players, including Bill Marsh, Dave Worrall and Bob Pert and my own rather imperfect recollections of my playing days here. Unfortunately, the Club’s early minute books and score books were lost when Secretry Alan Halbish’s car was stolen.

One purpose of tonight’s function is to strengthen the concept and importance of tradition amongst current members, to give them a sense of historical perspective in the hope that they will strive the harder to succeed on and off the field, thus ensuring the continuing success of the Club. To assist in that objective, my good friend Clive Elliott, an experienced photographer, is recording tonight’s proceedings on video for future use and I hope you will allow Clive every courtesy during his work.

This game of cricket is an ancient one, its beginnings undoubtedly in England, probably in the early 1700’s. The late Neville Cardus, great cricket and music commentator and writer, reports a match between Kent and All England in 1744. The first recorded cricket club was the Hambledon Club in England in the 1750’s. In those days, the game featured curved bats, best suited to playing under-arm bowling and only 2 stumps at each end. Round-arm bowling was not permitted until 1828 and over-arm bowling was not legal until 1862, by which time bats were straight and restricted to a width of 4.5 inches. At this time, WG Grace commenced his 46 year career, amassing a staggering 55,000 runs and taking nearly 3000 wickets.

The Melbourne Cricket Club was formed in 1838, only 3 years after John Batman sailed up the Yarra River. The first match was on November 22, 161 years ago on a paddock where the old Mint Building stands. The first first-class game in Australia was on the old racecourse in Launceston in February, 1851,to celebrate the separation of the colony of Port Phillip from that of NSW. Tasmania defeated Victoria outright by 3 wickets on a rough pitch.

I mention these historical matters to put into perspective the beginnings of cricket in McKinnon. Settlement of this area began in the 1840’s, the area being known as McKinnon Road in 1884 when WG Grace was at his peak. Early cricket games were played between the market garden families on a pitch in a park opposite the McKinnon Hotel, then appropriately named “The Gardeners’ Arms Hotel”.

The McKinnon Cricket Club was formed in 1928, when Don Bradman had just commenced his first-class career of attacking hapless bowlers. Our first season was 1928/29, in the B and C Grades of the Frankston-Glenhuntly Cricket Association, just before the Great Depression and about the time when my mother and father were courting.

This park was acquired by the Moorabbin Council in the 1920s from a local resident, Mr Bill Shanahan, hence Shanahan Crescent opposite the playground.

The first President was Dr Germon, the first Secretary Aubrey Reader, the McKinnon Chemist, the first Treasurer Fred Reveleigh, who with Jim Richards, the local barber, kept the Club going financially. Meetings were held in the Chemist’s shop and his assistant, Bill Moore [who is here tonight], delivered the notices and minutes. It was common for the local cattle to graze on the park and it was also Bill Moore’s job to remove the cow pats on Saturday mornings. Selection meetings were in Jim Richard’s shop and the teams went up in Reader’s window and on the McKinnon Railway Station.

Two seasons after starting, the Firsts were runners-up, the next season [1931-32] the Seconds won a flag and the first 1st XI premiership came in 1938-39.

World War II decimated many teams and some clubs closed, but we had enough young fellows to fill our ranks and supply players to opposing teams that were short. In those days of few cars, players had to get to games as best they could , on bikes or on the train and often starts were delayed. During the war, the Club decided to lay a turf table and with the help of 3 ward Councillors, Barr, Blackshaw and Pascoe, the assistance of the Moorabbin Council and Bert Carey’s truck, a working bee achieved this milestone in one weekend. In 1943/44, the ground was rebuilt by the Council, a perimeter fence was added and 3 years later we got turf practice wickets on the oval, on the west side near the present scoreboard. They were later moved to the south side near the oval gate and then to their present location in 1966. In the 50s, the outer oval had 4 concrete pitches, later reduced to 3 and then to 2 with the installation of the second turf wicket in 1968.

In the early years of turf, the Club had to make its own wickets [you can see how history repeats itself] and to help, the Council supplied a 3 ft 6 in. dia. concrete pipe, from which the members made a roller by filling it with concrete around an axle. It was so heavy that 6 to 8 men were required to move it, but it was evidently effective because one annual report of the FGHCA stated that McKinnon had the best turf wicket in the competition. It was great to see the main oval again reconstructed in 1998 and I would love to be playing on it now.

The Club joined the VJCA in 1947/48 with 2 turf teams and 2 on matting in the CMCA. Our first premierships came in a double in 1964/65 – a long wait, which long-serving opening bowler Doug Coates expressed as “having waited 18 bloody years”.

We expanded to 4 turf teams in 1970/71, but didn’t win a Senior Division flag until 1980/81 under Leigh Aitken, this time a wait of 10 years and it is our only Senior Division Flag, but the peak of our achievement.

Junior XIs started in the early 50s and Barry Edwards, who is here tonight, was selected as the CMCA Under 16 Combined Side Captain; Barry has for many years been an Executive member of CMCA. Fostering juniors has been an objective of the Club since then and it is more important than ever these days, with the sporting options now open to young people.

When I joined the Club in 1956/57, we had an old timber pavilion, with floors that had suffered from years of cricket spikes and football studs. It was a double room with matting boxes along the sides on which we sat, ripple iron showers which few used and crude toilets, where we had no option.

Due to the efforts of the footy and cricket clubs and the help of Cr Steve Stevens, the first stage of the present pavilion complex was built about 1962. The new scoreboard provided a popular place for our young sons like Russell [my son] and Ken Hilton, who delighted in juggling the numbers and looking down on the action and probably disturbing Mrs Sanderson in the kiosk below. Two change rooms were added for the outer oval in 1973 and this social room was opened by the Mayor on 29th March 1980 when the late Cr Max Fox was Chairman of the Reserve Committee.

A fact not known by many was that in 1972-73, the Club made application to join the Sub-District CA. We were rejected because of the close proximity to both Ormond and Moorabbin, although if the latter had been successful in joining District ranks, we may have stood a better chance.

These facts are all very interesting, but it is the contributions of the cricketers, administrators and supporters and the situations they create that go to develop the culture and tradition of a club like ours.

Who were some of the memorable personalities?

The bowling stars of the 50’s and early 60s were Doug Coates and Richie Cotter, a most reliable bat was Bill Marsh and Jeff Hall one of the best all-rounders and a brilliant slip catch. In his first game with us, Phil Rofe made 150 and a pretty sight it was. Barry Nye was a promising teenager in the 50s, so went to Elsternwick Sub-District before returning to coach us to our first flags in the VJCA. He was colourful character and also loved a game of cards. We had a trip away one weekend to the White Heart Hotel in Geelong and on the train, Barry lost a hand of cards and in disgust, promptly threw the whole pack out the window.

In the old wooden pavilion, we had our social nights and great fun they were. George Rolfe, who was a prolific scorer on matting and who put a notch in his bat every time he made a century, was an amateur hypnotist. George performed at club functions, getting fellows to do stupid things, with hilarious results, as Barry Simmons might recall.

In 1965/66, at the suggestion of the late Duncan Gates, former Coach, we organised a single wicket competition in aid of Red Cross. Each VCA club was asked to nominate a player and entry to the ground was charged. Jack Iverson, the former Test bowler, performed as commentator and the day raised $200. Max Papley and Darrel Baldock played an exhibition match during the lunch break and many sixes were hit. Our club members provided fieldsmen for all the matches, won finally by Jack Potter.

The Club’s sensible policy of appointing coaches for only one year has resulted in many different approaches and methods being used.

The late Jack MacKenzie, who got to the Shield Team, was a great one for the right mental attitude: “Application, Concentration, Dedication” – his ACD of cricket was emphasised on every possible occasion. Leigh Aitken,[here tonight] was a great motivator and got us our one and only Senior Division Premiership.

Leigh Coldrey, son of a former player, got us another premiership in 1986/7 and a lift back into Senior Division. Claude Reid [an apology tonight] played first class cricket in Sri Lanka and District Cricket with Melbourneand showed his class here with both bat and ball. One day at Frankston, we were reeling at the hands of a quick leftie and Claude rescued the innings by belting this fellow out of the attack. Claude is still playing with the Melbourne Club XI. Rick Gough comes from a sporting family and is our longest-serving coach.

I remember playing against the father of footballer and showman, Mark Jackson. His old man was a rough diamond, a roof tiler by trade playing with Hampton – I was bowling and he went for a quick single – straight through me – I thought I was back playing football. Anyhow, he stayed behind for a beer or 2 and we finished up having to cart him home in an advanced state of inebriation.

At a Grand Final played over a weekend at Moorabbin in 1961 in Ray Gough’s time, we were robbed of a win by “someone” watering the pitch on the Sunday. There was nothing else to do but drown our sorrows and I well remember handing Ray over to an anxious Betty and escaping before she could say anything.

The late Lindsay Dudley was one of the keenest clubmen we ever had. His love for the Club was such that he often stayed at the bar until the early hours of the next day. One night, Lindsay drove home late in pouring rain and decided to sit out the storm in his car. Unfortunately he fell asleep until sun-up and had a great deal of trouble explaining that to his wife Lois.

There are some spectacular performances by players over the years which have contributed much to club history, but the best of these will be described when the Teams of the Decades are introduced.

For off-field support, the Club has been blessed with some wonderful helpers. Just to name a few, and most of these are on the Life Members Board, we had the Sanderson family, various members of the Watts family, Jack and Lorna Cleland, the Pullmans, the McIntyres, the Simmons, the Keanes, the Black family, Dick Donaldson, Doug Murdoch, Peter Scott, Don Brown and lately, Peter Harber and Laurie Gillott. But there has been no greater worker for the Club than Ken Hilton. He is a superb administrator and much of the Club’s progress can be attributed to Ken. I trust that the Club continues to attract, not only good players, but also good support people who are prepared to put in the hard yards off the field. Life Memberships are never lightly awarded and may that always be so.

My greatest memories of McKinnon are the friends I’ve made over the years. This is what sport is all about. Whether you are a champion or a dud doesn’t matter, you can always contribute and that is what makes a great club.

To conclude, let me remind you of the Club song – I don’t know if it is still sung, but it is a great spirit lifter. It was introduced by Barry Nye from the now defunct McKinnon Football Club – let us sing it together; the words are on the back page of your program:

With best wishes for continuing success – thank you.

Ken Dowling, PSM

Life Member