Written by Stu Hamilton
Season 79/80 found NCC in a purple patch. Our firsts were to win the Shield One flag this year and two more in the next four years.
Our President was Bob Jenkin and the Secretary was Russell Baird. Wayne Stokes won the batting in the Firsts that year, and Alan Gale won the bowling. Ian Donaldson won both awards in the seconds. The golden years.
The club was travelling so well that the next year we added a 7th team, and the year after that an 8th team.
Kevin Steele was captain of our 5ths (jn C2) this season. He appointed me as vice-captain, which was a daunting prospect for me. Many a famous Nuna name played in C2 that season, like Steve McNamara, Jeff Woolley, Peter Jenkin, Col McWhirter, David Cowell, Peter Donaldson, Mick Viljeon, John Fisher, Lloyd Kitt and Steve Opray.
Round One was washed out, which was no different to any other year in that period. Round 2 was a loss to Bulleen Temp when we could only manage 130 when chasing 150. The best of our bats was Cwopper with 35.
Round 3 saw us have an outright victory, dismissing Burwood Districts for 37, with Steve McNamara taking 4/10. We declared at 5/111, then Steve took 4/8 as we dismissed them for 99. We won outright after scoring with 4/37 in the second dig.
Round 4 saw us with another outright win, dismissing Box Hill North for 110 (Kevin Steele 5/24) and 89 (Steeley 5/39 and Jerka 4/23). We scored 251, with Cowelly scoring 51.
Round 5 was not great with Nuna scoring only 82 and 108, beaten by Heatherdale who scored 173.
Round 6 was another loss, with East Burwood Uniting scoring 7/198 and we could only reply with 154.
Round 7 produced three losses in a row, only managing 181 in reply to East Burwood’s 188.
Round 8 saw us needing to win all our remaining games to make the finals. A solid 206 (Pete Donaldson 47) was enough to see off Forest Hill who could only manage 77 (Pete Donaldson 4/12) and 6/85.
Round 9 was a highlight for myself. Steeley was unavailable, so I was captain for the game. We were playing East Box Hill on the back oval in a one-day game, and dismissed them for 188. Kevin Cresp came out of retirement for this game to help out. Kevin managed 16 overs straight, to finish with 4/52. The run chase was tough, but we passed them 9 down, with Steve “Horrible” Hargreaves 39 not out. I remember umpiring at square-leg when he hit the winning run. Man, I was pumped.
Round 10 saw us at Vermont, where they opened up with 207. I remember this game very well. My sister was moving house the morning of the second day, so I helped her move. By the time I got to the ground, I could not move my arms, and could only just pick up the bat. I came in at 3/77 and departed at 7/212 after scoring 59 runs. No great shots, I just kept getting the bat in the way. Of my last 23 scoring shots, 21 were singles, mostly just dropping the ball at my feet and running. Jeff Woolley scored a nice 66 opening the batting, managing to run out Lloyd Kitt in the process (for the umpteenth time).
Round 11 saw us take on Bennettswood at home and we struggled to 177, with me scoring 55. The bowlers took care of the business, dismissing them for 73 (Steve Opray 5/15 and Steeley 3/26) and 116 (Peter Donaldson 5/16 and me 2/19). Our 0/14 was enough for our third outright of the season and primed us for the finals.
The Semi final was against Bulleen Temp, at the Templestowe ground. We batted first, with Jeff Woolley opening up with a fine 42. Not only did he run Lloyd out again, but also ran himself out as well. Twenty-odd each from Steeley, Warren Presnall and John Fisher was only enough for a 172 total.
On the second day, things were not looking great. They were 1/79 and looking the goods. I remember some of the guys who didn’t make the team sitting on the Templestowe hill, in full voice. Peter Jenkin, Steve McNamara and Col McWhirter were enjoying a few frothies and offering all sorts of advice all day long. Maybe they unnerved the opposition, or spurred us on, because Steeley took a couple of wickets and the game was back on. Wickets continued to fall steadily and we dismissed them for 150. Now for the final.
We played the final on Nuna’s middle gound. We batted first and lost Lloyd early (surpisingly caught before Jeff could run him out). Jeff made 37 and in Jeff’s words, he “took the full brunt of the opening attack, paving the way for easy runs to be scored from the lower order team members”.
I came in at 3/80, but we were soon 4/90 and I was joined by Steeley. We put on 91, before I was dismissed for 55. Steeley just kept going and going, including a partnership of 74 with George Wilson for the 9th wicket. Kevin was the last man out for a magnificent 148. Our total was 379. They were never in the hunt after that, being dismissed for 156 (Steve Opray 5/39, Lloyd Kitt 3/19).
Apart from winning the game, a memorable moment was when Jeff Woolley copped a wayward Steve Opray thunderbolt on his skull whilst keeping (“temporarily knocked out” as Jeff puts it). He spent the rest of the arvo in Box Hill Hospital. After not being seen to by a doctor for over two hours, Jeff decided that drinking beer was the perfect cure for concussion, so returned to the club to join in the celebrations.
We won the premiership because Kevin Steele was our captain. The biggest day of the year brought out Kevin’s best. I’ve played under many captains over 30 seasons. Two stand out with their ability to place a fieldsman in EXACTLY the correct position at EXACTLY the right time, Bob Saker and Kevin Steele. Stainless is a legend.
This was one of the three flags I won in three years. The year before I played in the 6ths Premiership (also on our middle ground). I played in the Third’s flag the next season, getting dropped from the Second’s semi-final team (who went on to lose the final). Cowelly will never forget that he was the player dropped from the thirds to make way for me. I thought that it was normal to win premierships. Little did I know, that nearly three decades later, I’m still waiting for the next flag!
Naturally enough, there aren’t many players from C2 that season who are still around. Jeff, Dave and I are still playing, Stainless and Jerka are still helping and supporting.
I’ve been here a long, long time and I’ve enjoyed every minute. 1979/80 is one of the best memories I have from playing at Nunawading. I just want one more flag before I give it away. Maybe this season?
Kevin Steele provides a footnote :
"Stuart's view of the season and it's ultimate result is partly clouded by his own close proximity to all the events as they unfolded. What he has gallantly overlooked is the fact that he and the ultimately amazing Jeff Woolley played in every game in that team that season (or just about), and I can inform readers that as the season progressed their growing influence on the team (whether each was in-form or in a momentary slump) became so important that it turned, from being a probable also-ran, into a credible finals contender.
Stu pointed out that the team collected 4 wins including one outright from the last 4 rounds, to reach the Final series with about 48 points. Work it out, readers. We won rounds 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, &11!! And round 10 was against the short-priced Flag favourite! With reasonable form, just being there gives any resolute group of players an even chance of stealing a Flag, and that's what happened.
Were it not for some influential and timely stuff from Stu and Jeff, along with Pete Donaldson, in the second half of the season, there wouldn't have been the opportunity to bag the prize! So the Hamilton/Woolley influence grew as the season progressed, and it was a pleasure to watch that happening.
As always, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. We were all also aware as the season progressed that our Flagship First X1, under John O'Sullivan, had a strong chance of achieving the mighty feat of Undefeated Champions, which it did.
I was certain at the time, and have become more certain in the years since, that our First X1's performance in the 79/80 season directly influenced the output of a number of our Fifth X1 players. And. oh what a season it was.!!"