Nunawading Cricket Club

Written by Trevor Saker

This is probably well documented. Dad (Bob) came to the club in 1955 which began a golden era for the club. George Dolan, Eric Thornton, Ian Rowe, Doug Bosworth amongst others all came to the club about the same time. Later on the likes of Ian Davies, John O'Sullivan then Trevor Hutchins kept things rolling. From 1955 to 1986/87 the 1st XI only missed the finals once, which is an outstanding record.

I first started in the under 14's at the old Silver Grove Ground under the tutelage of the late great Mick McLachlan at the age of 10. We weren’t very successful in my years but the under 16’s won the premiership in about 1970, names such as Graeme Davies, Bruce Lang, Steve McFarlane, Gary Hansen and Steve McNamara played. I didn’t play any senior cricket until I was out of juniors. My first two games were inglorious, in our 3rd grade side in season 1972/73. (We had 4 senior sides at the time.) I played as a batsman and managed two pairs. My first innings I was run out by the late Terry Harris, who was more upset than I . He was almost in tears as he apologised to me. I was dropped to the 4th’s for game three and managed to snick one through slips for a couple to get off the mark. I remember batting with Merv Legg, the game was against Blackburn Church of Christ and we put on a few runs together. I managed to get myself back into the 3rd’s before the end of the season.

The following year I started in the two’s under dad as skipper. After a couple of games we were about to leave Silver Grove for an away game when the skipper of the ones, Trevor Hutchins, said they were one short, so dad said you better stay. It was against Blackburn and I got about a dozen runs in my first hit. The scariest moment however was that I was fielding in third slip to Russell Baird, and I managed to take a catch early diving forward to a dolly off the gloves. Shortly after a snick off a cut shot flew directly at my head, and I had barely lifted my hands when Hutch casually sauntered across from second slip and took the catch as easy as pie. I swear it would have hit me between the eyes.

At Christmas time that year I left to work on a farm in NSW for a year, and in so missed playing in the winning grand final side. (73/74)

On my return, which was the last game before Christmas in 1974, I played in the 3rd’s and scored 99. I batted with the late Graeme Harris, and will never forget his famous quote after hitting a couple of boundaries in a row: “God invented boundaries so we didn’t have to run.”

I ended up playing in the 2nd’s semi final that year against Blackburn. I was batting number 5 following dad. Neil Price (who has been heavily involved in Cricket Victoria and now has a job in Cricket Australia) clean bowled dad first ball. I went in on the hatrick ball, but instead of being nervous I was angry at Pricey because he had got my dad out first ball. I survived the ball, can’t remember how many I got, and we got beaten.

The following year I can’t recall much about the season. We would have made the semi, it was probably against Forest hill. Ray Gale played for Mitcham and they won the grand final. Ray was going out with Roslyn at the time.

The next year was the 1976/77 premiership year.

We made the finals the next two years, beaten in the semi’s. In 1978/79 we played Mitcham. Ray Gale had gone back to Mitcham, and Bob had been recalled to the 1st’s as a 47 year old. We were chasing 200 or so on a slow ground, at Morton Park, when it used to rain in early autumn. The top order had failed and Wayne Stokes, who was a policeman dad had recruited to the club, and dad batting number 8 or 9 were in. They needed to score runs in a hurry, but neither batsman could go the aerial route, dad was too old and Stokesy was a stroke player, not a slogger. They were going all right until dad ran out of puff, having to run for everything as they couldn’t hit boundaries. In the end the came up short.

In the 1979/80 season I played all year but then went on a pre season rugby trip to New Zealand, and my place was taken by brother Bill. They duly won the game, Alan Gale and Keith Joyce bowled an enormous amount of overs.

In 1980/81 we played in the semi against East Burwood, once again the top order failed. East Burwood’s skipper Graeme Kelaart was extremely aggressive and he sucked in a few and intimidated a few. Alan Gale played great knock but we again came up short.

My last season at the club was 1986/87. I was made captain and we made a dismal start to the season. At Christmas time we were out of the four and needed to win the rest of our games to make the finals. Having only missed the finals once in 30 years I didn’t want to become the captain of a side to miss for a second time. After the break Bill returned to the club, I can’t remember where he had been. The first game after the break we were chasing a few runs against Heatherdale, and were in all sorts of trouble. Bill came in and won the game off his own bat, and we kept winning and made the semi against Mitcham. The top order failed again in pursuit of about 230 runs, when I joined Bill batting number 9. We were cruising and looked to have the game in the bag when I took off for a single in what I thought was a drive to deep mid off. Mitcham’s captain Dave Sutton was bowling and dived full length to field the ball then threw the stumps down from side on with me a couple of metres short. It was my last game for the club and I will never forget that moment. The last two bats., Keith Joyce and who ever couldn’t hang around with Bill and we got beaten.

I have been playing cricket at Benalla ever since. I been lucky enough to have been involved in 9 first grade premierships, 7 as captain. I played in 7 flags at St Joseph’s, including 4 in a row from 1991/92 to 1995/96. I transferred to Violet Town in 2000, and have played in two premierships with them. The highlight was the 2004/05 year when my three sons (Robert, James and Thomas) and I played in the premiership side. I have been to 20 Melbourne Country weeks (four division finals wins) and numerous Bendigo Country weeks, and enjoyed them immensely. I am still playing first grade and holding my own. Robert and Tom are played at Carlton last season, with both of them making the second’s during the year. This season Rob has moved to Northcote where he is playing 2nds and Tom has returned to Violet Town after spending the winter in England. James is more involved in football, playing with Werribee firsts in the VFL. He is probably the best cricketer of the three and plays at Violet Town when available.

I have now retired from the police force and have returned to Benalla to live but still playing cricket at Violet Town.. I also ventured to England during the winter for 10 weeks, and played for a village named Plaxtol who played in the Kent County Village League. I played 28 games of cricket in that time including 10 league games, Sunday and Wednesday Friendlies and 20/20 games on a Friday evening for an over 40‘s side in nearby Sevenoaks. I managed to win the bowling award for the club.  It was a great experience that exceeded all my expectations. I’m hoping to return next year.

The best game I was involved with at Nunawading was probably the 1981/82. We defended only 134 and overnight Heatherdale were cruising, only one or two down for about 60. But the pressure we applied through great captaincy from Trevor Hutchins and bowling from Keith Joyce enabled us to get over the line. The fielding was sensational and Scotty Gale’s run out to take the tenth wicket with only three runs to spare was magnificent. We batted a second time and I was in early batting number three. Andrew Sach was at the other end, and we had put on a few when John Mann (Heatherdale’s skipper) came onto bowl. He was frothing at the mouth as he did when excited (or pissed off after losing the grand final). Sachy walked out of his crease as Manny bowled the ball, and Manny madkadded Sachy. With tensions high Trevor Hutchins came to the crease. Early in the innings he knicked one behind off John Box but was given not out. Hutchy proceeded to knock up a ton and the game was safely ours. I scored a half century.

The 1976/77 season was my first premiership with the club, but I remember very little of the season. Ray Gale had crossed over from Mitcham, doing the right thing seeing he was going out with Roslyn at the time. I’d been dropped for one game during the season but quickly regained my spot as number 7 or 8 bat and not bowling at that stage. We came to the last game against Mitcham needing to win to make the finals. We were in big trouble chasing a sizable total, but I remember John O’Sullivan winning the game for Nuna. I’ll never forget the look of determination on Sully’s face before he went in to bat that day, there was no way he wasn’t going to bring home the victory.

I think the semi was against Forest Hill at Vermont. I got fifty, but I can’t remember any other details of the game except John Mann was playing for Forest Hill (that was his original club, and I’ve been told recently he’s back there)

The grand final was against Blackburn at Mitcham. Russell Baird opened the bowling and bowled a 13 or 14 ball first over (8 ball overs in those days) He either bowled off the pitch or in the centre of the mats. Neil Price was batting and being a state baseball he gave the ball a fair whack. So after the first over I’m thinking we’re in all sorts, score 0/20 or so. But Pricey liked hitting the ball over the slips off the short ball, so next over off Bairdy, skipper Trevor Hutchins positions Clive Mullet (Frank Ryan was keeping) at deep third man/fly slip. Price duly obliges and is out, and we roll Blackburn relatively cheaply. I made my big contribution to the game near the end of the first day when I was sent in as night watchman at the fall of the first wicket. I survived the day, but I get out early the next day for 0, paving the way for the real batsmen. Trevor Hutchins (200+), Ray gale (100+ after being sconed by a top edge off a Billy Main bouncer), Doug Bissett I think tonned up, we scored well over 500 runs.

It was a privilege for me to play in that side. I was 20 years old as was Ray Gale, Clive Mullet was a year or two older then the rest were men in their thirties. While it is the norm these days for younger players to be in first grade sides, it was not the case back in 1977, especially at Nunawading. I probably was not good enough to be there, but the experience I gained in those years has put me in good stead over the years.

The players in that side were from memory:

Grant McDonald, Barry Hahn, Trevor Hutchins, John O’Sullivan, Doug Bissett, Ray Gale, Clive Mullet, Frank Ryan, Trevor Saker, Russell Baird and Keith Joyce. Ian Donaldson was 12th man. 

I played at Nunawading because I probably had no other choice seeing dad (Bob) was such a big part of the club. But I was not dragged along to cricket, I went because I loved cricket and the club. The strength of the Nunawading Cricket Club in my time was its strong administration. In the early days you had the likes of Alec Culvenor and Tom Reeves, then Bob Saker and Bob Jenkins as presidents, secretaries such as Doug Bosworth, Alistair Pirie and Ian Donaldson, just to name a few. There was Mick McLachlan running the juniors, Gary Walker was a great social secretary. And it was real family club. After the games on Saturdays the club would go to different peoples houses for “drinks”, where the kids would have a ball playing cricket in the backyards and the men would drink long necks in glasses. The club ran three or four BBQ’s throughout the year, usually at Tom Reeves place in Mitcham and Ken Routs place in Morden Court, Nunawading. They were great days and made the club what it was.