Establishing the Groundwork
Snapshot: Mount Colah won B Grade
The 1970s started with a bang when Mount Colah finally claimed the Thomas Cup for B Grade in 1970-71. The premiership team “well deserved the crown” after being in the lead for the whole season (Annual Report 1970-71). It was by no means an easy win, however, as the team only defeated Hills Memorial by one wicket in the final. Graham Bender was again a standout player on the team, claiming the top bowling average for the season’s A Grade with 43 wickets at 9.20. Stuart Robertson rounded out the team with his batting, achieving first position in the grade with an average of 61.40.
The C Grade team achieved fifth place in a highly contested competition for the Weeks Cup. This team featured several players who would become familiar to MCCC and the HDCA in years to come for their success in A Grade. These names included Kevin Edmunds, Wayne Hughes, Bruce Jessup, and John Jessup. The Jessup twins, Bruce and John, can first be seen associated with Mount Colah in this season, presumably after the dissolution of the Perseverance club in 1970. Bruce Jessup came sixth in the association C Grade for batting, with an average of 27.53.
Mount Colah won the Dave Gawler Memorial Shield this season for best and fairest club in 1970-71.
Forming the A Grade Team
Snapshot: Mount Colah joined A Grade for the first time
According to Bruce Kimberley, by the 1970s, clubs had grown weary of playing in the increasingly competitive A Grade. Fresh off winning the B Grade premiership, Mount Colah was a contender to be promoted on condition that they merge with Berowra.
As I understand it, clubs refused to play teams in the A-Grade comp. (They were tired of getting flogged). Since Mt. Colah won the B-grade premiership, there was no other team wanting to play A-Grade. The association didn’t want us to play as MC, they tried to get us to amalgamate the A-grade with Berowra…No go. Anyway, they accepted us grudgingly.
Bruce Kimberley, October 2021
This was how Mount Colah Cricket Club introduced its first A Grade team in its history. The team would go on to perform admirably in the 1971-72 season, placing fourth overall.
The first A Grade team in 1971-72 included Graham Bender and John Jessup, who had already achieved great bowling stats in previous years’ competitions. Although playing A Grade for the first time, Bender and Jessup still managed to place second and third in the bowling, with respective averages of 10.49 and 10.63.
This season also saw the introduction of Bruce Kimberley to Mount Colah cricket, arriving just in time to join its inaugural A Grade team with Bender and Jessup. Kimberley has never played anything but A Grade since. Bruce’s junior career in cricket was played with Hornsby R.S.L., and his U12 team had been premiers for 1967-68. The groundwork for his future bowling success was laid in these years, as he placed third in U12 with a bowling average of 5.84.
Bruce Kimberley was just 15 years old when he came to play for Mount Colah, and the captain of A Grade (Robert Shield) was 19. Regardless, he achieved an impressive batting average of 20.33 for this first season. As a club personality and remarkable figure in MCCC history, it is interesting to go back to where it all began. Bruce describes his first encounter with MCCC below.
First memory of Mt. Colah Cricket Club was turning up to Mt. Colah Public school nets for a meet and greet of my new cricket mates. Originally, I played for Hornsby RSL juniors; but Hornsby A-Grade didn’t want me as they were too strong. The public school library was our 1st meeting room. We also met in individuals’ houses.
Bruce Kimberley, October 2021
MCCC also entered the B and C2 Grades for the 1971-72 season, both of which placed middle of the pack for their competition (fifth and seventh). The B Grade had some particularly strong players, with Graeme Kurtz, Bruce Jessup, and Wayne Hughes all proving impressive batsmen.
For the 1972-73 season, Mount Colah’s A Grade continued to rise in the competition, placing third. John Jessup should be commended for great batting, running 502 overall at an average of 29.53. Graham Bender was another team highlight, bowling 49 wickets at an average of 12.10. The club also entered a B Reserve team, which achieved sixth place.
The First 1970s Winning Streak
Snapshot: Mount Colah A Grade won three premierships in four years
Mount Colah won its first A Grade premiership 1973-74, after the team clawed its way back from two losses early in the season.
Mount Colah, in contrast to West Pennant Hills, began the season slowly with losses in their first two matches and their success was just reward for the fighting spirit they displayed in forcing their way through to the final.
Secretary John McCormack, Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Cricket Association Annual Report 1973-74
This team contained six players from the B Grade premiership team from three years earlier. Several members from this team also played representative cricket this season in the Telegraph Shield and the John Durham Shield. In the latter competition, Wayne Hughes took a wicket on his first ball at the final against Newcastle and then bowled 8/63. The team would go on to win the game, and manager Graeme Kurtz claimed that from Hughes’ first ball, they “were never going to lose” (Annual Report 1973-74).
John Jessup was again a standout of the season in A Grade, achieving the most runs in any grade with 737 total, and an impressive average of 38.79. Jessup also played commendably in the Martin Shield and a member of the winning NSW team at the Australian Junior Cricket Carnival at Melbourne.
Mount Colah A Grade unfortunately fell from its premier position briefly in 1974-75. The team reluctantly placed third when Hornsby advanced to the final against Berowra only two points ahead. John Franken and Graham Bender made valiant efforts in the team’s bowling, with averages of 11.45 and 11.60. Kevin Edmunds and Graeme Kurtz were the standout batsmen with averages of 30.14 and 26.47.
B Grade placed fifth, and Mount Colah entered two junior teams: U11 and U14. Richard Matthews proved himself a promising upcomer in U11, bowling 32 wickets with an average of 6.91.
Mount Colah A Grade was back with a vengeance in 1975-76, re-claiming the Rofe Shield after a very consistent season. With ten wins and only three losses, the team never dropped from the top of the points table. They carried this momentum through to a difficult final at Parklands Oval, orchestrating a decisive win even as the rainy weather allowed only four hours of gameplay.
John Jessup and Graham Bender again dominated the association annual report, placing second and third in batting for the season. Bender’s affinity for bowling also came to the fore, as he ended up second overall for best bowling average. Graham Bender and Ivan Hess both played in the Martin Shield, with Hess achieving an average of 28 runs over his five innings. Mount Colah also made a mark in Telegraph Shield where the “Mt. Colah trio” of John Franken, Wayne Hughes, and John Jessup managed thirty wickets between them.
The B Grade competition was particularly competitive in 1975-76, and Mount Colah did well to place eighth. Mark Duclos was a particularly promising young batter for Mount Colah in U15, batting 321 runs with an average of 53.2.
The 1976-77 season saw Mount Colah win the premiership in A Grade for the second year in a row, and for the third time in four years. Berowra reigned as minor premiers after the elimination round, and Mount Colah went into the final one point behind. The final was a tense match at Berowra Oval, where Berowra trailed by 11 runs after the first innings but set the task of 160 for Mount Colah to win outright. Mount Colah succeeded in claiming the shield with three wickets to spare.
Graham Bender cemented his legacy as one of the all-time greats this season by breaking the A Grade bowling average established by C.V. Duffy in 1926-27 (the first year of the association). Taking 85 wickets over the course of the season, Bender ended up with an astonishing average of 6.57. His match figures for the season were as follows: 4/30, 1/38, 1/25, 5/20, 3/25, 9/60, 6/56, 6/42, 4/14, 7/54, 14/45, 8/35, 5/12, 3/3, 2/40, and 7/55.
The association characterised the Mount Colah team as relying of a “troika of pace bowlers” with Graham Bender, John Franken, and Wayne Hughes (Annual Report 1976-77). These three phenomenal players took the top three spots in the association for A Grade-bowling averages and combined to take 180 wickets at 7.50 each off 522 overs in just one season.
The B Grade team were not to be overshadowed by the As, playing a fantastic season and placing third. Bruce Jessup in B Grade took an impressive 31 wickets. In junior cricket, Mount Colah’s U16 claimed the runner up spot in their competition, with B Clarke bowling 33 wickets at an average of 9.50.
The talent of the club could also be seen in representative cricket, as the Telegraph Shield for the season was mostly Mount Colah players. Mark Duclos, who made a mark in U15 batting the year prior, was selected for the NSW Junior Cricket Union team. With this selection, Mount Colah had supplied at least one member for the team for six successive years.
Finishing the 1970s Strong
Snapshot: Mount Colah A Grade finished the 1970s with five premierships over seven seasons
In 1977-78, Mount Colah temporarily lost the Rofe Shield, playing runner-up to Glenorie Hills District. In this season, both days of every final were rained out, and all Minor Premiers advanced as Major Premiers by default. Mount Colah’s A Grade had led for most of the season, but stumbled in Rounds 10 and 11, being defeated by Glenorie and Berowra. With the final washed out, Mount Colah lost the opportunity to keep hold of the A Grade Rofe Shield for a third consecutive year.
John Jessup achieved the top spot for his batting average of 50.6 and achieved his first century in the same innings as Bruce Kimberley. Graham Bender again won the bowling average but changed to play for Wahroonga mid-season. Bruce Jessup was a standout wicketkeeper for the team, catching 24 out during the season.
B Grade placed seventh, with Mount Colah achieving six wins. C2 ended up in last place.
Mount Colah D Grade placed second and experienced an overall record-breaking season. Ken Lee captured 89 wickets and thus broke a D Grade record that had been set in 1936-37. The whole team also surpassed the record D Grade team total by running 396 against the Marauders. The fact that this was achieved during a one-day match off only 32 overs make it all the more impressive.
In contrast to this mammoth run-total, the Mount Colah D Grade team also played in a remarkably low-scoring game against Hills Memorial. HKCA records describe the match.
There was an extraordinary match played between Hills Memorial and Mt. Colah in Round 12. Mt. Colah scored 48 and 56 and Hills Memorial 42 and 61, so losing by a single run. Only five batsmen reached double figures and 28 were dismissed for less than three runs.
Secretary Alfred James, Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Cricket Association Annual Report 1977-78
In junior cricket, Mount Colah entered in both U11 and U12, placing fourth and tenth for each division entered. Promising newcomer C Duncan in U11 managed the highest batting average for his division, with 304 runs total and an average of 43.42.
In 1978-79, Graham Bender returned to Mount Colah’s A Grade team from his brief stint with Wahroonga, just in time for the club to once more lay claim to the Rofe Shield. Mount Colah led the competition throughout the season alongside Normanhurst, who they had defeated once before the final. The final at Berowra Oval ended decisively in Mount Colah’s favour, with the team achieving 203 runs in its first innings, and Normanhurst only managing 39 and 67. Winning by an innings and 97 runs, the day’s success was attributed to the deadly combination of Marc Duclos, John Jessup, Graham Bender and Bruce Kimberley. Marc Duclos’ recent elevation into A Grade from his junior cricketing career for Mount Colah made his performance even more impressive.
In A Grade batting, Graeme Kurtz came fourth in the competition with an average of 39.54. Kurtz’ batting garnered even more praise when he broke the record for the highest score at Parklands Oval, batting 129 not out against Kenthurst. Graham Bender topped the association’s bowling statistics for the third year in a row, with 51 wickets and a 10.98 average.
Mount Colah B Grade again stood their ground in a very close competition, placing sixth overall. Bruce Jessup was a standout batsman and wicket-keeper, winning the Sheppard Memorial Trophy and becoming joint winner of the wicket-keeping trophy. Jessup proved himself an impressive all-rounder, scoring two centuries throughout the season, running 818 runs total at an average of 54.53, and orchestrating 32 dismissals behind the stumps (setting a B Grade record).
After just missing out on the crown in 1977-78, Mount Colah’s D Grade team celebrated a decisive win in 1978-79. After winning the first 12 matches of the season – including four outright – the final against Wahroonga failed to faze Mount Colah. Over the course of the season, N Gardiner and Ken Lee effectively dispatched the competition as opening bowlers, removing 122 batsmen between them. One match against Kenthurst constituted a particularly decisive display of talent, as the opposing team was dismissed for just 13 runs. The innings included one double, eight singles, two ducks, and three sundries.
Mount Colah’s junior cricket contingent continued to train future star players for seniors, as the club entered teams into U11, U12, and U14. The U12 team won their competition, largely due to the efforts of a talented set of bowlers. A Fonti and P Gasnier made waves with their averages of 3.76 and 5.44.
Mount Colah again won A Grade and the club championship in 1979-80, ending the decade at an all-time high. MCCC A Grade had thus won the premiership five times in seven years. In the final at Berowra Oval, MCCC scored 208 and dismissed Kenthurst for 130 and 76. John Jessup delivered a fantastic final performance, taking 9/79.
Graeme Kurtz broke the association record for highest individual score at Berowra Oval playing against New Line earlier in the season, achieving a whopping 159 runs. Graham Bender ended up topping the bowling average once more, maintaining his position of honour for the fourth consecutive year. Terry Austin set a record 32 wicket-keeping dismissals, which would not be matched until 1982. This meant that Mount Colah held the association record number of dismissals in both A Grade and B Grade, with Bruce Jessup’s record from the previous year still standing.
Mount Colah also entered a B Reserve and D2 team, which both ended up middle of the pack. Phillip Patterson constituted a standout performance in B Reserve with impressive numbers in both batting and bowling. Junior cricket consisted of U15, U11, and U10 teams, all of which ended up lower middle in their respective competitions. U15 player Bruce Osbourne marked himself as a bowler to watch in the future with an average of 6.88, coming second in his grade.
Mount Colah A Grade at the End of the 1970s
Mount Colah’s A Grade established an enduring legacy by dominating the Rofe Shield for most of the 1970s. Their winning streak in the latter half of the decade evidenced a truly talented collection of players.
Above, you can see a team photo from Alf James’ Summer Saturdays, captioned, “Mount Colah A Grade Team During Its Dominant Run.” Based on the team list provided, the photo would have been taken either late 1970s or early 1980s.
The names listed are familiar ones based on even the most cursory perusal of local cricket in Hornsby-Kuringai during the 1970s. Many are included in the top batting and bowling averages across the HK&HDCA, and Bruce Kimberley (bottom right) is still involved with the club today.
Graham Bender has been considered the most successful bowler in the association’s history. He won the A Grade bowling trophy five times. He was right-handed, and a slow medium in-swing / leg cutter bowler. In his junior cricket career, he took 40 wickets in U14 in 1965-66, then 33 wickets in U16 in 1966-67. He then moved through C2 and B Grade, taking 71 wickets in 1967-68 and 99 wickets in 1968-69. Over the course of his A Grade career, he bowled 1025 maidens and took 863 wickets, at an average of 11.92. He set a new A Grade record in 1975-76 by taking 85 wickets at an average of 6.57. This achievement topped the record bowling average set in the association’s first year (1926-27). Alf James writes:
The Champion Bowler from Mt Colah, who dominated A Grade for nearly twenty years. … [Graham Bender] was extremely accurate and could bowl to his field for hours on end. He was well supported by a brilliant Mount Colah fielding team.
Alf James, Summer Saturdays, 75
John Franken is widely regarded as one of the fastest and most dangerous bowlers in the association’s history. He was right-handed, fast out-swing and off-cutter bowler. Over three seasons from 1974-75, Franken took 160 wickets at 10.74. During this period, he was twice chosen in the Australian Under 21 XI. From 1972-73 to 1986-87, John Franken took 465 wickets at an average of 15.11. Bruce Kimberley remembers Franken as the fastest bowler he saw in A Grade.
I remember John bowling to P. Keene at Storey Park before helmets; bowled a bouncer breaking Peter’s jaw and then watching the ball bounce just before the groundsman’s shed. He was big, fast, dangerous and a big wicket-taker. Scored 106 opening after being promoted from No. 11. Great fieldsman.
Bruce Kimberley, October 2021
Wayne Hughes joined the ranks of Franken and Bender in the 1970s, proving himself to be be one of the best bowlers of the association at the time. In 1976-77, the combination of these three bowlers took 180 wickets in 15 matches off 522 overs at an average of only 7.50.
John Jessup was the all-rounder of the team, serving as the opening batsman and an impressive bowler. He bowled medium fast out-swing / off cutter. Tom Richmond referred to Jessup as a “unique talent” (Summer Saturdays, 66). In his eighteen seasons of A Grade, Jessup scored 7224 runs at an average of 32.11 and took 546 wickets at an average of 13.41. John Jessup’s twin brother, Bruce, was a brilliant wicketkeeper and batter who was a prominent player in Mount Colah’s B Grade during the same period.
Bruce Kimberley was another star all-rounder for the team. He joined Mount Colah A Grade in 1971-72 and went on to play around 400 games. By the end of 1999-2000, Bruce Kimberley had scored 7220 runs at an average of 25.61 and taken 528 wickets at an average of 17.81. He had also taken 223 catches. He is one of the very few players to achieve both best bowling and best batting in the HK&HDCA, winning the bowling trophy in 1980-81 and batting in 1982-83.
Graeme Kurtz was the left-handed opening batter of the team. Bruce Kimberley refers to Kurtz as “our batting lynchpin for many seasons,” as well as a “Personality” for the team more generally. Kurtz won the A Grade batting average on two occasions and scored 6274 runs at 27.76 over 18 seasons.
Terry Austin was one of the best wicketkeepers of the association during his years playing A Grade. Austin was a frequent winner of the A Grade wicketkeeping trophy, making over twenty dismissals in a season on at least six occasions playing for MCCC.
Ivan Hess was a strong batsman from the team. Greg McCann, Lawrence Price, Geoff Arthur, and Gary Barton were also regular players. Robert Shield was the team captain when Bruce Kimberley joined and has since become a grade umpire. Another A Grade player for Mount Colah was Ian Lees, who eventually retired from cricket to pursue a music career as a bass player in Moving Pictures/1927.
Bruce Kimberley recalls a tradition in these early seasons of Mount Colah A Grade, where the team would go to the Blue Gum at Wahroonga for milkshakes after the afternoon games.
At the end of the matches everyone would go to the Blue Gum for 1 or 6 milkshakes…. When we played at Berowra Oval, we went to Berowra Tavern.
Bruce Kimberley, October 2021
The 1980s would see team members come and go from Mount Colah A Grade. Yet, this snapshot of the team at the end of its 1970s winning streak illustrates the extraordinary talent playing for the club in this period. Mount Colah’s A Grade team would continue to be a force to be reckoned with for the next decade, further solidifying its legacy in club and association cricket by winning a continued series of premiership titles.
Mrs. Cricket: Lyla Rae
Any discussion of this period of Mount Colah cricket would be remiss without mentioning Lyla Rae, who was instrumental in local cricket on a team, club, and association level.
…then Mrs. Ray should be known as Mrs. Cricket, aiding and assisting in lunches, afternoon teas, under 11 secretary, senior executive member etc.
Secretary Winston Leahy, Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Cricket Association Annual Report 1971-72
I feel I speak on behalf of all members of the association when we say thank you to Lyla. I am prepared to say that if every member did one tenth of what Lyla does for cricket in our association we would have the greatest cricket association going.
Secretary Jack McCormack, Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Cricket Association Annual Report 1973-74
Mrs. Ray once again did a magnificent job as Assistant Secretary, ensuring that all records of the Association were kept up to date and that registrations were in order.
Secretary Richard Martin, Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Cricket Association Annual Report 1974-75
If you were involved in Mount Colah cricket during the 1970s, you were familiar with Mrs Lyla Rae. Lyla Rae became involved in local cricket when her son started playing juniors. Lyla Rae stayed involved in the club and the HKCA for over a decade. In the association, Lyla Rae was the first woman involved in the executive level, earning the title “Mrs. Cricket” in 1972 due to her involvement in all levels of club cricket. The role of Assistant Treasurer was even created in the HKCA to capture all the work she did for the association.
Lyla Rae was a staunch supporter of Mount Colah’s A Grade team during its dominant run in the 1970s, attending and scoring for their games, and providing afternoon tea. One of her most valued roles was keeping the team in line, credited as being a “steadying influence” for a team with many big personalities. In essence, Lyla Rae was a person who loved the game. Bruce Kimberley recalls Mrs Lyla Rae spectating his games at the side of the field, “When the scores got close, many cigarette butts could be found under her scoring chair because she suffered many nerves.”
For her service to the club, including the A Grade team, Lyla Rae was inducted as a life member of Mount Colah Cricket. At the end of the 1981-82 season, the association reported the passing of Lyla Rae, thanking her for her years supporting local cricket.
Mrs Lyla Ray was the first woman elected to the Executive of the Association and in the mid-1970s was Assistant Treasurer, a position especially created to cover the numerous duties she carried out. She was also Divisional Secretary for the Schoolboys and scorer for many representative teams. For more than a decade she was chief organiser for the Mt. Colah Club and the present A Grade team gratefully acknowledge her steadying influence at a time when their waywardness matched their talent.
Secretary John Vanderlight, Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Cricket Association Annual Report 1981-82
In the years that followed, the award for best scorebook in the HKCA was dubbed the Lyla Rae Trophy. On a club level, the best bowler in MCCC A Grade is awarded the “Lyla Rae A-Grade Bowling Award” in honour of Lyla Rae’s contribution to Mount Colah cricket.
Below is every winner of this coveted award: