A brief history of the Hampton Cricket Club
THIS IS AN EDITED VERSION OF THE SCRIPT USED IN THE RECENTLY RELEASED DVD ABOUT THE CLUB’S HISTORY
1. A DIFFICULT BIRTH
The Hampton Cricket Club shares its birth date with Australia’s most celebrated cricketer, Sir Donald Bradman. On the 27th August 1908, as the Don was being born in the New South Wales town of Cootamundra, thirteen residents of Hampton were convening at Frank Stewart’s hairdressing saloon in Hampton Street to establish the Hampton Cricket Club. Some 90 years later Don Bradman, in recognition of the coincidence of the two births, graciously accepted the Club’s offer of life membership.
While there were great hopes expressed for the new Hampton Club at that first meeting not everyone in the district was so impressed. The Sandringham Cricket Club, which had been playing on the Triangle Reserve (where Beach Road, Linacre Road and Hampton Street intersect) for a number of years, did not believe the district could support two cricket clubs and suggested Hampton join forces with them. Hampton was just two weeks old and already the merger talks had begun. The talks came to nothing as it happened and Hampton prepared for its first game.
Hampton had been allocated the Triangle Reserve on the assumption that Sandringham would move across the road to the Beach Oval. Sandringham had other ideas. Two months into the cricket season Sandringham was continuing to occupy both grounds and Hampton had none.
There were endless talks involving the clubs and the Council but Hampton remained homeless. Eventually the Hampton players decided to take matters into their own hands. The club went ahead and organised for its first match, against the Government Printing Office, to be played at the Triangle on the 5th of December 1908.
Early that day the Hampton players went down to the Triangle and occupied the Reserve well before the scheduled start of play. Sandringham arrived to play their match and, what became known as “The Battle for the Triangle”, took place. Exactly how much blood was spilt was never recorded but Hampton’s conduct was described as “disgraceful”. “Disgraceful” or not it must be recorded that Hampton won the Battle for the Triangle and Sandringham reluctantly withdrew to the Beach Oval.
Unfortunately, tensions became even further heightened at this stage as it appears that while the battle was at its height, someone had gone over to the Beach Oval and vandalised the new clay wicket that Sandringham had recently installed. Understandably, Hampton was always held responsible for this outrage and relations between the two clubs remained strained for many years. It was hardly the ideal preparation for Hampton’s first game of cricket and it came as no surprise when it lost its first game by a good margin.
2. THE EARLY YEARS : 1908-1915
The Battle for the Triangle behind them the Hampton boys spent the next few years playing essentially social cricket although in those times such fixtures were quite structured and organised for the season ahead. In Hampton’s case, having the Triangle Reserve as its home ground proved an advantage and most of these social games were played on the Reserve, visiting teams more than happy to travel for a game at this picturesque little ground by the seaside.
A point of interest is that a person prominent in those early years, and the Club’s first captain, was George Morrison who was the grandfather of current clubman Ken English. As Ken’s father also played with Hampton there exists quite a remarkable link spanning the 100 years of the club’s existence.
For several years Hampton attempted to enter competitive cricket but were not considered by the Brighton District Cricket Association to be good enough. It is pure speculation but it is likely that the “Battle for the Triangle” did not go down well with the local cricket establishment and Hampton was required to “do time”. However, in 1912 Hampton were finally admitted to the BDCA. The highlight of that first season was the match against Sandringham who had been undefeated for the previous two seasons. Given the early controversies the match had all the earmarks of a clash of traditional rivals even though the two clubs had never actually met on the field, well, not in a cricket match.
The local press reports of the time reveal the huge local interest the match created and tell of the large crowds that were present on both Saturdays. Whenever Hampton is involved in a big game there is inevitably a controversy. On the second day, chasing Hampton’s competitive 167 Sandringham was in difficulty when it lost its 8th wicket still 40 odd runs short of the target. At the fall of the 8th wicket the Hampton players were surprised to see the Sandringham captain coming on to the field rather than the next batsman.
A couple of the Sandringham players had not fronted on the second day and their captain asked permission to bat a couple of ring-ins. The exact terms of the Hampton captain’s response to this proposal is not recorded but the local paper of the time reports that there was “considerable ill feeling” was displayed at Hampton’s decision not to allow the substitutes to bat.
Well, Hampton won the game; the local paper’s editorial noted that the decision by the Hampton captain, while controversial, was within the “strictest rules of the competition”, but one got the impression that the local establishment was less than impressed with the new team and its attitude.
As it happened, Hampton had little time to establish itself in the local competition. Within a few years, the playing fields became deserted as Australia’s youth departed for distant and more dangerous fields abroad. Few of these pioneers of Hampton cricket returned to play with the club after the War.
3. HAMPTON’S GOLDEN AGE: 1921-1931
The club did not re-form after WW1 until 1921 and there began the most successful era in the club’s history. Over the next decade the club was only out of the finals once and in fact played in 9 of the next 11 first grade grand finals winning 4 of them. It should have been 5. In 1928-29 Hampton needed only 3 wickets to wrap up the flag but the match was called off early on the fourth day because of Hampton’s football commitments. It was one of the great controversies of the 1920s. Hampton claimed that the match had merely been postponed until the following week; Hurlingham insisted that Hampton had abandoned the game. After a series of decisions and appeals the BDCA eventually awarded the premiership to Hurlingham. Hampton appealed to the Victorian Cricket Association but they declined to overrule the local association’s decision.
During this golden era many wonderful players represented the Club but one stood out above all others. A batsman by the name of David Dick re wrote the record books at Hampton with regular run tallies of 400, 500, 600 runs and in 1928-29 over 850 runs in a season, still by a wide margin the best aggregate for our 1st X1. As he also managed a score of 132 in an inter-Association match it was essentially a 1000 run season for him. He was also a fine spin bowler.
While Dave Dick was the most acclaimed cricketer of this era there were many other champions: the great all rounder and captain of Hampton’s first ever premiership team, Bill Costelloe; Doug Hayes and Jimmy Rigby were both batsmen of the highest calibre as was the little left hand opener, Ray Vaux. Bill Webster and Alby Letch were the dominant bowlers.
4. ON TURF BUT DIVIDED: 1932-1941
Throughout the 1920s Hampton had shared the Beach Oval with Sandringham. As the suburb expanded to the east, Hampton sought to establish its own headquarters at a more central location and in 1932 moved to the newly developed Castlefied Reserve in Ludstone Street.
In 1933 a local entrepreneur named Hughie North developed a plan to convince the local councils to install turf wickets and then he would run a new Southern Turf Association as a feeder for the senior cricket competitions. His dream, if short lived, did come to fruition and the Henty Cricket Association was born. In 1935 Hampton made a decision to join the new Association and the turf wicket was laid at Ludstone Street. Hampton amalgamated with a small club called Ludstone to facilitate the turf wicket initiative.
The decision to join the Henty Cricket Association had long lasting effects on the club. It appears to have been the most significant of a number of divisive issues which arose during the course of that year and by the end of the 1935-36 season the club split down the middle and the Hampton Centrals Cricket Club was formed. The split caused great bitterness and many long standing friendships were tested or lost. The full story of that year has never come out and probably never will because those who were part of it have now passed on. A degree of mistrust still exists between the two clubs; it is a cause of much frustration that we don’t know why we dislike each other.
The internal conflict within the Club in the Thirties has tended to overshadow important success during that era. In the early 1930s in particular, Hampton continued to field strong sides, regularly made the finals and won another flag in 1931-32. Players who should never be forgotten from this era include:
- the great opening batsman Fred Adams,
- all rounder Bob Cave, who holds a unique place in the club’s history because his father, his son and his grandson all represented Hampton.
- Although he only played for a few seasons, George Lucas must be considered one of the Hampton greats. He was genuinely fast and aggressive. In the 1931-32 Premiership season he took an astonishing 74 wickets which remains to this day a club record for senior competition (Tony Curry holds the Junior record).
- The brilliant Doug Hayes, dropped first ball against North Brighton in 1931-32 and went on to make 181 n.o. still a club record for the 1st X1.
- Les Shinkfield, Pat Hubbard, Darcy Le Blanc and George Follett were all batsmen of quality and played representative cricket.
- Bill Costelloe continued his brilliant career and his sons Bill and Ted emerged as talented juniors.
- Hampton also had another great fast bowler during this period in Norm McLeish.
The Henty Cricket Association lasted only a couple of years and Hampton then began its long and continuing association with the VJCA. It had barely done so when WW2 intervened and, for the second time in its history, the Club went into recess.
5. THE POST WAR REBUILD: 1946-1959
The club re-formed in 1946 amid great optimism. Many of the players and officials that were part of the club before the war continued their association. Notable among these was Bill Costelloe, after whom the Club Champion Trophy is named, who joined the club in 1921 and had a distinguished career both as a cricketer and an administrator. In this period he seemed to fulfil whatever role was needed including groundsman, umpire, scorer and, of course, President.
In the first few years after the war Hampton struggled but by the early 50’s Hampton fielded more competitive teams. There were two finals appearances but no premierships. Bruce Winship was the most reliable and successful batsman of this period and won three consecutive 1st Eleven batting trophies. He was also regularly selected in the VJCA representative teams of that period. As Hampton was not in Senior Division at that time Winship’s automatic selection in the representative team underlines his talent. Jack Sales, Geoff Brokenshire and the effervescent Ferge Anderson were other prominent batsmen of this time. The bowling was consistently strong led by Ray Jarvis, Bill Donaldson and Herb McLeod.
The buoyancy of those early post war years was not to last and by the mid fifties the club was in crisis. The loss of players and administrators left the club in such a parlous state that by 1954 it was facing extinction. The Brighton Cricket Club, which had for some years been looking for a second turf ground, sought to merge with the club and a decision for that to occur was perilously close. The Club survived but it continued to struggle on the field.
It is doubtful whether the club was ever at a lower point than at this time and a small group of people stood between survival and extinction: Harry Sutton, Grant Evans, Geoff Evans, Tom Howell, Ferge Anderson and John Kenny probably stood out but there were others and together they began almost a total rebuild of the club both on and off the field. It was not going to be an easy task.
In the 4 year period between 1954 and 1957 the First Eleven won only 7 matches and the Seconds had even less success. Several players did not play in a winning Hampton team until their third season with the Club.
One of our more infamous scorecards belongs to that era when the second eleven was dismissed by Murrumbeena for a total of 3. Ron Fensham, often feted for being the top scorer with 2 did ultimately come clean and admit that both his runs had come off the pad so only one run came off the bat that day. During the same round the First Eleven were dismissed for 12, also against Murrumbeena, marking round one 1954-55 as surely the low point of Hampton’s history.
Although the efforts of those involved were slowly developing an increasingly cohesive club the continuing lack of on-field success finally resulted in the ignominy of relegation to South ‘B’. The Club’s flagship, the Firsts, was now competing in the 3rd Grade of the VJCA!
While it was the Committee that had started the club’s rebirth it was probably the arrival of George Jackson which sparked increasing success on the field. George was a controversial figure at times and his leadership style was not without its critics. However, under George, the days of Hampton being the competition chopping block rapidly disappeared. Hampton’s batting was still fragile but the club was blessed with two great fast bowlers in the late 50’s in Ron Paterson and Kevin Gleeson who were supported by an exceptional fielding team. It was during the 1959-60 season that Kevin Gleeson returned the remarkable match figures of 17 for 29 against Carnegie. Kevin had joined the club the previous season. Remarkably, he bowled nearly 50 overs before he took his first wicket for Hampton. Once he broke through he went on to become one of Hampton’s finest. He was declared “Hampton’s best junior” that year and was awarded a pewter mug!
The centre of club life in those years was a pavilion at Ludstone Street known as the old green shed. It was a weatherboard and corrugated iron construction. It was cramped, drafty, the roof leaked and the toilets stank. The Council, in its wisdom, tore it down and replaced it with a brick construction with exactly the same chacteristics. For some reason the old green shed holds a special place in the hearts of those who played in that era. It remains an important symbol although nobody is quite sure of what. In some ways its demolition was really the symbol.
6. THE TIMES THEY ARE A’CHANGIN: 1960-1971
The rebuilding of the club which had began in desperate times in the mid fifties culminated ten years later in a South A premiership and an expectation of promotion to Senior Division. The early sixties was the time when the foundations of today’s club were laid: Junior teams were established for the first time, the number of senior teams expanded initially from 2 to three and then out to 5 which was unheard of at that time, the Committees were organised along more modern lines and began longer term planning, player statistics began to be compiled and a club magazine was born.
Con O’Donohue presided over much of this development and, on the field, it was Don Ayre a gifted captain who shaped the first eleven into a dominant force which was eventually to take the first flag for 32 years. These teams were more conventially strong and boasted solid and at times brilliant batting of the likes of Jim Toohey (also a great keeper), the great opening pair Don Ayre and John Kenny, Laurie Morrison, Doug Powell as well as top fast bowling in John Wintle and Barry Reddie, the peerless medium pacer Kevin Gleeson and the spin of John Manzie and Barry Thomas.
The club had enormous depth at that time. Doug Powell’s 1966-67 2nd Eleven team contained players such as Denis Bouyer, Laurie Clancy, Barrie O’Keeffe and David Berry who would have been automatic First Eleven players in most clubs of that time.
This era also produced one of only two Hampton players to play cricket for Victoria, John Stevens. Of course he was never considered good enough to break into Hampton’s first eleven. Another player to arrive at this time was a prodigious hitter by the name of Roy Bright. It was said, without jest, that when Roy was on song it was not the houses in Amiens St whose windows were in jeopardy but the houses backing on to Amiens St! A generation earlier it was another big hitter, Ted Costelloe, who would terrorise the Castlefield neighbours.
Despite the fact that Hampton dominated the South A competition for several years and then won the premiership the Club was not promoted to Senior Division. Just as surprising was the decision a year later when promotion was granted even though the club missed the finals altogether. Within three years we found ourselves back in South A. The momentum had been lost.
In the late 1960’s one of Hampton’s other great symbols was born: Barrells by Candlelight. The original “Barrels”, which was held in Mr Clarke’s backyard in South Road, was organised to generate money for the Royal Children’s Hospital Appeal although “club overheads” tended to absorb most of the funds raised. The pretence of fulfilling a social obligation to the community soon disappeared and Barrels has become a 40 year tradition at Hampton.
Whether by co-incidence or not one of our other great symbols, the Cooper clan, arrived at Hampton around the same time as Barrells by Candlelight. As a family they were to have a profound and positive effect on the Club for the next 30 years. A few years later the first Curry boy arrived at the club and another family dynasty began. The Curries, like the Coopers, have had a huge influence over the club’s evolution.
The Sixties ended with the disappointment of relegation but it had been a grand era for the club similar in so many ways to the 1920s.
7. OF DREAMS & NIGHTMARES: 1972-1994
If the 50’s and 60’s had laid the foundation for the modern club it was in the seventies that the structure was built. It has been said that in the Seventies Hampton was not so much of a cricket club but a way of life.
The social life of the club expanded almost out of control, new teams were added, turf wicket was laid at David Road making four teams on turf for the first time, turf practice wickets were installed, new social rooms were designed and erected in a major joint effort with the Hampton Rovers Football Club and women’s cricket came to Hampton for the first time. Each of these initiatives was a significant milestone; collectively they represented the greatest period of change in the Club’s long history.
Initially it was Doug Powell and later Peter Wright who presided over this era of development. They were supported by strong committees involving people such as Laurie Morrison, Russ Cooper, Ray Cooper, Jim Kenny, Len Manzie and others.
The other critical decision the club made at this time was to pursue and eventually entice Bill Pewtress to the club as coach. Of all the good things Doug Powell did for the club his insistence that we pursue Bill probably had the greatest impact. Earlier Doug was also instrumental in recruiting Bob Christie and Max Grimmer back to the club and it is difficult to overstate the contribution of those two Hampton legends. Among other things Bill Pewtress taught Hampton to play the game at the Senior Division level. It is a peculiar brand of cricket and Bill had the formula.
It was an era unlike any other in that people of all sorts were attracted to the club. Some had played the game at a high level others had never played before. It was an unusual mix of people. It was also a time when the club became more inclusive of people generally and women in particular and there is no doubt that the development of the club’s successful social life and the money it generated for the things that needed to be done were a direct consequence of that.
It is impossible to do justice to the richness of club life during that time and it is interesting to reflect on how the club responded to the diversity of people now welcomed as part of the family.
A brash young man arrived at the club from Sydney. He told us he had opened the batting with Rick McCosker up there or, more correctly, McCosker had opened with him. Andrew Hildich had been his partner in a number of innings and he had been able to pass on some useful advice to Andrew. He’d also played against a slightly chubby left hander who was just starting to look at Australian selection but he informed us that having studied young Alan Border up close he wouldn’t make a test cricketer as long as his bottom pointed to the ground. It all presented a challenge as to how best to deal with the well credentialed player that Paul Ryan surely was. He was nicknamed “GOD” and the selectors gave him the traditional Hampton welcome by inviting him to represent the 5ths. Unfortunately he had the last laugh by going out and making a century.
Others were attracted to the club who had never played the game and were uncertain of its conventions. One small incident has entered club folklore not just for what it says about Hampton at the time but also about that constant struggle between cricket as a team game and an individual game. This player when asked how his team had performed on arrival back at the pavilion said: “We got them out for 140” “Who got the wickets?” “Ah, I got one and the rest were spread around”
As we know Mao tse Tung’s long march was important in the creation of modern China. Only serious students of history would know that Hampton too had a “Long March” although John McCulloch’s did not have quite the same impact as Mao’s. John was batting against Highett West at their home ground in Highett Road. Whether it was a bad call by his partner Colin Cooper or a bad decision by the umpire (or both) is unknown but John was adjudged ‘run out’. He marched from the ground past his teammates without so much as a sideways glace ; up Peterson Street into Wickham Road, left into Bluff right into David Road, past the pavilion, tuned into No84 and that is where he was found some time later in his lounge room still with pads, gloves, box and bat in hand.
In amongst all of this the Club was winning a lot of cricket games not just in the firsts but at every level. The highlight was the 1st Eleven’s great win against Moorabbin in the South ‘A’ Grand Final which gained the club promotion back into Senior Division. The win was all the more meritorious because Moorabbin, a Sub District team, had stacked their side for the occasion. In what was to be his last match for the club John Samson played a superb Grand Final innings and, in a great partnership with Max Grimmer, put the match and the flag beyond doubt. A devastating spell of fast bowling by Ken English was also critical. Major contributions were also made by John Wintle, Ian Cooper, Peter Neville and Bob Christie.
It was the year that Christie established himself as the best keeper in the VJCA. In one match he took the risk of standing up to the stumps to one of Hampton’s quicks and completed a brilliant leg side stumping only to be informed by the square leg umpire that he had taken the ball in front of the stumps and so the decision must be “not out”. Nobody disputed the decision.
The Seconds, Thirds and Fourths were also regular finalists during this time and the Junior Section, under the astute coaching of Ted Anderson, was a constant source of fresh talent.
Women’s cricket also came to Hampton in the Seventies. The famous Semco Women’s Cricket Club disbanded and, after some delicate negotiations, its members decided to throw their lot in with Hampton. Opinions are divided on whether this initiative was a success or not. For some players it was a life changing event as several met their wives through the women’s section of the club. For them it was a happy circumstance. Others felt that the integration of the women’s cricket into Hampton was all too rushed and that there were cultural issues which the club at large did not deal with all that well. Whether this is true or not the Women’s Cricket added a spice that has been missed since their demise in the 1980s.
There were some great players as well: Leigh McNamara, Fiona Breen, Robin Collins, Laurel Phelan and Karen Grimmer being among the best. Both Women’s teams were among the record breaking 9 Hampton elevens that competed in the final series of 1979-80.
It was a memorable era that deserved a fairytale ending and in March 1982 in the club’s first Senior Division Grand Final appearance and at 2/97 chasing East Malvern’s 187…… that ending was in sight. A dream which began in the ruins of the old green shed twenty years earlier was about to become reality. The fact that Hampton managed to find a way of losing that match was, indeed, devastating for the club not the least because for some of Hampton’s greatest players it was to be the last roll of the dice. For Max Grimmer (now the Club’s most decorated player) it was a nightmare he was to relive twice more.
To its credit the club lost no momentum following that defeat and continued to be competitive in Senior Division. In 1987-88 Hampton again made it to the Grand Final and again suffered a defeat which in many ways was more heart breaking than the first. It was literally a one wicket game..A wicket that to this day Max Grimmer and Mick Reidy claim was theirs with Royal Park still short of the target.
The era, for all its disappointments, will be remembered as adventurous and exciting. It will be remembered for great players such as Bob Christie, Max Grimmer, and Barry Hewet continuing their phenomenal careers, the emergence of the brilliant Craig Kernick and gifted openers in James McNamara and Andy Powell. It will be remembered for the emergence of juniors including the highly talented Clint Ferguson who became the youngest player ever to score a century for the Firsts and who won the 1st X1 batting average at just 16 years of age. Also coming of age was a tireless young left arm swing bowler in Sam Kenny just starting what was to be a wonderful career. Gary Nash went on to coach the Club with distinction and the superb economy of his bowling action enabled him to enjoy longevity as a quick. Mick Reidy emerged from Bob Christie’s shadow to become one of Hampton’s finest glovemen. John Wintle attained legend status.
It was also an era which saw the burgeoning of trophies at Hampton. One of these was the Killara Medal, the captains’ award based on votes each match for the player who is “always there” for his team. The name of the medal was an early, perhaps fumbling, effort to recognise the original inhabitants of the district. With few exceptions the Medal winners have reflected the spirit of this award.
Another award of note, the Vince Palamara “Duck of the Year” Award, underlined Hampton’s love of the anti hero. “Ponga”, as he is known, once had a season so dismal that it simply had to be immortalized in a trophy. It is now awarded annually to the player adjudged by club statistician, John McCulloch, to have excelled in this particular field. In addition to receiving the prestigious Award the recipient is also provided with a “Wagon Wheel”,blank of course, to rub further salt into the wound.
8. THE MODERN ERA: 1995-2008
Most observers would have considered the club as a powerful force at the end of the Eighties and in many ways that was true. However, there were broader issues in play to which many clubs, including Hampton, were slow to respond. For the previous 30 years the club had enjoyed almost certain financial liquidity by virtue of the bar. It was the cornerstone of the club’s social and financial life where it had always been possible to deliver a painless profit.
The short term impact of the .05 laws had been minimal. Longer term it was beginning to erode a significant part of the income on which the club relied. Years earlier it may have been less of a problem but by the Nineties the cost of running the Club had increased significantly. Demands such as Player payments, insurance, and so on, largely irrelevant concerns for the Committees of the Seventies, were now consuming a bigger slice of an ever diminishing pie.
When Alan Broadbent assumed the presidency in 1990 the Club’s financial stability was under significant stress and he had little alternative but to make direct appeals to past players to ensure the club’s future. The fact that so many responded so generously and so quickly underlines just how deeply people from earlier generations felt about the club.
Having put itself on a steadier financial footing the club entered the Nineties with a degree of optimism but more risk averse than previously.
Approaching the 1993-94 season the loss of experienced players left many around the club pessimistic about the Firsts chances. The wizeheads saw great potential in the young squad but were insistent: avoiding demotion must be the main objective. The young team saw it differently. As so often happens, the season came to a head on the Labour Day weekend when, to everyone’s surprise but their own, the Firsts found themselves in a Semi Final clash with Chelsea.
Some games define the moment and this was one such game. In the tightest of struggles neither team ever gained an advantage. It came down to the last over with Chelsea needing 8 runs to win. In failing light at David Street, Peter Jorgenson swooped on the ball and threw down the stumps to seal an historic win. Somehow, it was more than a victory. As the bails fell to the ground that day the mantle passed to a new generation of Hampton cricketers………The Modern Era had begun.
Ultimately, it was going to be a successful Era but few of those celebrating that night could have imagined what a rocky ride it was going to be along the road to eventual success.
The Firsts did not win the resulting Grand Final that year but the club remained bouyant. The following season, champion Hampton junior player, Paul Chernikeeff returned to the Club to add further strength and experience to the team. Expectations were high but they remained unfulfilled. The 1sts won only 7 games over the next two seasons.
And then, at the end of 1995-96, four of Hampton’s most senior players left to pursue their cricket elsewhere. The loss of such talent and experience was impossible to replace short term and a swift exit from Senior Division was inevitable. Only 4 of the exceptional Grand Final team of 1993-94 were still at the club when demotion was stalking Hampton through that fateful year.
The Hampton decline from this critical point in the mid nineties was both deep and rapid. Following demotion to Senior A division after the 1996-97 season, the Firsts lasted only two years in this competition before being further demoted to South A.
One sad consequence of this fall from grace was the gloss it took from one of Hampton’s best coaches, Michael Mitchell. Mitch was innovative, methodical and strategic. His methods bore fruit later and he did not enjoy the acclaim to which he was entitled. In common with Hampton’s Coach of the Century, Bill Pewtress, he involved himself fully in the Club’s activities.
After the second relegation the Firsts finished only 7th in the lower grade. It was clear that on field performance required a major overhaul if the club was to return to the halcyon days of the more distant past.
While the Firsts were in freefall other things were happening around the club. In the early Nineties the club formed a veterans’ eleven to keep some of the legends of earlier times around the place.
The “Old Bastards Eleven” or OBEs as they were known, brought together a collection of old warriors intent on reliving old dreams and past glories. They did so with a surprising level of success. Generally the games were played in a good spirit but, with players such as this, competitive instincts are never quite extinguished and and calls to “fire up” from legends such as Robbie Cottle were never ignored. As far as is known not one player was placed on report during the OBE’s reign although there were several near misses. In one match Russell Cooper was run out by a considerable margin but believed his progress had been impeded by the wicketkeeper. In scenes reminiscent of the legendary W.G.Grace, Russell ignored the umpire’s decision, proceeded to reassemble the shattered stumps, put on the bails and instructed the bowler to bowl the next ball which, to the amusement of everyone, he did!
Often when the 1sts have been struggling there has been counterbalancing success in the lower elevens. In the Nineties this was not the case. In fact, when the 4ths finally broke though with successive premierships at the end of the decade, it had been 18 years since Hampton had tasted VJCA success. Paul Curry’s team had reason to celebrate….and they did! It was a comprehensive victory remembered in part for Greg “Twiggy” Hamer’s unusual hat trick. He dismissed South Caulfield’s last man with his only ball of the second innings having previously finished the first innings with wickets from his last two deliveries.
This flag was the first of seven in seven years by the Thirds and Fourths. The Thirds won four times in five seasons beginning with 2001-02, and they were runners up in 2002-03. Successful skippers included Mick Dove, Tim Siemering twice and Matt Kenny. The 3rds claim that they were “creating a dynasty” was difficult to ignore (no matter how hard we tried).
The 2003-04 side included Dale Aitkin, a Bali bombing survivor, whose comeback to Aussie Rules football was well publicised at the time. His return to cricket was just as inspiring to his teammates but did not generate the same publicity. During the season he scored 290 runs including an unbeaten century and also took 5/37 in the semi-final win against South Caulfield.
The Fourths under Bob Cottle beat Mentone by 6 wickets in 1999-2000. The side relied heavily on age and experience with youthful promise of Justin Vaughan and Luke Bahramis thrown in for good measure. Bahramis started on a record of achievement which is going to be difficult to emulate – by the end of 2006-07 he had played in six premiership sides in eight years, starting in the Fourths and finishing with the Seconds.
The age and experience was epitomised by wicket keeper Alan Broadbent. Alan was one of 36 members of the Order of the Hook, awarded to players who reach 200 games, an impressive achievement for a man who first turned out for Hampton at the age of 44.
By contrast the 2003-04 side captained by Ben Kezilas averaged in age around 20 except for its two oldest members – father and son Max and Mark Grimmer whose combined ages exceeded 100.
A major highlight the following season was Len Manzie’s amazing achievement of playing his 400th match for Hampton. Add in Len’s extraordinary contribution to the Club off the field and it is obvious why he is revered so much at the Club.
Hampton experienced some much needed luck in 2003-04 when vacancies occurred in Senior A due to the promotion of two Senior Division clubs to play at the Sub-district level, Hampton’s recent consistency together with a strong performance in the VTCA’s Centenary Cup where they reached the semi-finals earned a well deserved, if unexpected, promotion. Hampton finished a creditable 6th in their first year back in Senior A. But it was a strange season where Rob Elliott who had been recruited as captain-coach to strengthen the batting won the bowling average, Sam Kenny who started the season at No 11 and batted most of the year at No 8 won the batting average, and Joe Kenny hit the side’s sole half century in the last home and away round.
In a move similar to the planning behind the South A Premiership in 1973-74, Hampton now made one of its best moves by appointing Justin Ferguson as Captain-coach and Joel Crouch as his assistant. The Club had recruited two class cricketers who would be instrumental in the premiership win in the following season. Some years earlier the club had recruited a young fast bowler from Keighley in Yorkshire. Ross Towler’s stay was relatively short but it was the beginning of a remarkable partnership between the two clubs which was to have a profound effect on Hampton’s quest for premiership glory. Towler’s brother, Dale migrated to Australia and confirmed his potential by winning the bowling average. A year later Matt Bottomley was to join the club from Keighley.
The 2005-06 season was not without its traumas and relegation was a possibility until a Round 11 win against MHSOB. The season’s other two wins both occurred in the last over of the match when the result could have gone either way.
The constant effort to improve the batting saw the return of Clint Ferguson the following year and the icing on the cake was provided by Bottomley, the young
opener from Keighley recommended by Ross Towler. He announced his arrival by carrying his bat through the innings against Strathmore, was rarely out for less than 20, totalled 500 runs for the season and made a grand final century of such quality that he could easily have been adjudged man of the match.
Darren Docksey with 10 wickets in the game including an unchanged spell of 5/84 in the second innings was the player who beat him to that honour. After a couple of average seasons Docksey took 52 wickets. When this was combined with the outstanding form he displayed after first appearing in 1999, he was a serious nominee for a position in the Hampton Team of the Century.
The last 6 weeks of the season represent one of the most dominant spells in Club history. In Round 11 the lost only 3 wickets in defeating then second placed Sunshine Druids by 106 runs. In the away semi final against Strathmore they won by 133 only after Strathmore’s last wicket delayed the inevitable with last wicket stand of over 50. MHSOB was dispatched for 141 and 176 as Hampton easily won the Grand Final by 8 wickets. In this short time against the best three sides in the competition, Hampton had made 822 runs for the loss of 22 wickets while taking 40 wickets themselves for 622. As if playing to the script the Firsts had delivered the Club back into the top division for its Centenary Year.
It was an emotional victory. Justin Ferguson, who started his playing days with the club as a ten year old, became only the third 1st X1 Premiership captain of the modern era and the first graduate from the junior section to lead the Club to the ultimate prize. It was fitting that another five ex juniors were part of that Premiership Team: Clint Ferguson, Sam Kenny, Joe Kenny, Anthony Quon and Matthew Pearson……..It was one for the Hamptonians.
For the Kenny boys it was a particularly sweet victory towards the end of their long careers at Hampton. Each, in their own way, had shouldered a significant burden during the turbulent Nineties.
To complete the fairytale run into 2007-08, the Seconds, captained by Heath Tregear also broke a drought (25 years in their case) when they joined the Firsts in winning a 2006-07 flag. Only once previously, in 1926-27, had Hampton completed this double in the same season.
The Centenary Season will be remembered for a host of reasons but unfortunately the fairytale of 2006-07 could not be repeated. No senior team made the finals but the Firsts did extremely well on their return to Senior Division and went into the last round still with a chance of making the Four. A year of consolidation but the celebrations were mostly off the field. Those celebrations came to a memorable conclusion when over 300 past and present members gathered at the Brighton International to pay tribute to a great cricket club. Among the many highlights of the evening was the announcement of the Team of the Century…… Lead by the great Max Grimmer it reads……… in batting order: BOB CHRISTIE, DON AYRE, DAVE DICK, CLINT FERGUSON, JUSTIN FERGUSON, CRAIG KERNICK, DOUG HAYES, MAX GRIMMER, SAM KENNY, KEVIN GLEESON and JOHN WINTLE. BILL PEWTRESS was chosen as Coach of this wonderful team.
That same night also saw the inauguration of Hampton’s Hall of Fame and the induction of the three foundation members: GEORGE MORRISON, BILL COSTELLOE sen. and GRANTLEY EVANS. No doubt there will be many more inductees as the great club moves into its second century.