Success in the 1980s
Snapshot: Mount Colah A Grade won two more premiership trophies and MCCC rejoined junior cricket
The 1980s picked up where the 1970s left off, with Mount Colah A Grade once more claiming the Rofe Shield in 1980-81. Graham Bender, although in line to win the best bowling average for his fifth successive season, was just beaten out by his teammate, Bruce Kimberley. Mount Colah A Grade bowling was superb this season, with four bowlers who took more than seven wickets in one match. The final against Normanhurst was played at Berowra Oval, where Bender took 5/39 and Kimberley took 4/57. Terry Austin again made a name for himself as a wicketkeeper over the season, coming second in the association for dismissals with 16 caught out, 6 stumped, and 22 total.
Mount Colah’s B Reserve team placed eighth in a very close competition for the premiership, with G Hoare achieving a hat-trick during the season. Mount Colah D Grade placed fourth with the help of some very strong batting. Unfortunately, Mount Colah dropped out of the junior competition in 1980 and entered no junior teams.
Mount Colah rejoined junior cricket in 1981-82, however, with an U12 and U11 team. B Sweeney in U11 appeared as some promising new talent, achieving 249 runs over the season. A Grade met the incredibly high standards they had set for themselves, once again reigning as premiers for the season. This development meant they had won six of the last seven years.
The A Grade final was again at Berowra Oval, and again played opposite Normanhurst. Mount Colah batted through the first day and into the second, ending up with 340 runs. Graeme Palmer made a century in this game with 109, greatly contributing to this final score. Normanhurst only managed 87 runs before being dismissed. The trio of bowlers, John Franken, Graham Bender, and Bruce Kimberley speedily dispatched opposing batsmen to end the game with impressive speed. Graeme Kurtz achieved the highest batting aggregate and average for the association with 451 and 32.21. Terry Austin again proved a capable wicket-keeper, with 21 dismissals over the season.
Mount Colah’s C Grade team placed fifth in a very tight competition.
The Early-80s Stumble
Snapshot: Growing success in juniors, A Grade lost the Rofe Shield
Mount Colah senior cricket took a little bit of a dip in the 1982-83 senior competition, as the A Grade team didn’t make it to the final, and B and C Grade placed eighth and seventh in their competitions. However, there were some outstanding individual performances this season. Graham Bender and Bruce Kimberley topped the batting and bowling averages for A Grade. Graeme Kurtz took two centuries during the season, including 121 runs and 118 not out. John Jessup successfully took eight wickets in one innings, and Terry Austin totalled 25 dismissals as wicket-keeper.
Junior cricket for this season made a triumphant come-back from its dwindling numbers in recent years. Mount Colah entered four teams: in U14, U13, U12, and U11. U12 and U11 were particularly successful, placing second and third in their competitions. Bowling was a strength with these young players, as one player from each team was listed having impressive bowling averages for their division. P Blade topped the average for U12 with 3.19, and Christian Stebbing placed second in U11 with 3.50. There were also some impressive batting performances in junior cricket, with Stephen Thompson proving a standout by achieving an average of 36.92 in U14.
Mount Colah A Grade just missed out in 1983-84, winning the minor premiership but losing to Kissing Point in the final. Mount Colah led throughout the competition, but were dismissed for 137 runs at Berowra Oval while chasing Kissing Point’s 190. The team’s performance in the season was still remarkable, with Geoff Arthur achieving the best batting average and Terry Austin again garnering praise as a wicket-keeper for his 20 dismissals. John Jessup was a fantastic all-rounder, winning both best bowling average and highest run total in the association.
Mount Colah didn’t make it to the final in C2, despite taking six wins over the season. Junior cricket was where Mount Colah shined, entering five teams between U11 and U15. U11 won their competition, with one B Lewthwaite achieving the second-best bowling average in the association with 3.73. A McKinley in U16 also made a mark with his batting average of 34.50, which was the highest in his age group.
Mount Colah A Grade missed the final in 1984-85, placing third overall. Graeme Kurtz and John Franken constituted the best batting partnership of the year, running 205 in only 145 minutes. John Franken made a century in the process, with 106 runs. In bowling, John Jessup delivered the best performance of the season with an average of 13.98.
This was Mount Colah’s biggest season yet in terms of registered players, entering an unprecedented five senior teams and seven junior teams for this season. Among these other teams, centuries were made by Robert Gatecliffe (104) in B Grade and B Castle (104) in B reserves. David Keith in B reserve had a great season for both bowling and batting, with a batting average of 27.93 and bowling average of 20.95. In U12, one out of the two Mount Colah teams won their competition. Christian Stebbing was again impressive in this age group, with a batting average of 49.11 and bowling average of 3.76.
The Next Victorious Run of A Grade
Snapshot: Mount Colah A Grade won three consecutive premierships, D2 won one
Victory! Mount Colah A Grade reclaimed the Rofe Shield in 1985-86. After a predictably strong early half of the season for Mount Colah, Beecroft and New Line grew as viable opponents in the later rounds. The final facing Beecroft was a tense one, confronting a team including their former teammate, John Franken. In the first innings, Beecroft seemed in trouble with a score of 5/56. A remarkable Beecroft partnership of 115 between Dean Guy and John Franken lifted the team to a competitive 205. Mount Colah responded with 3/206, assisted in large by Graeme Kurtz’s 64. The day saw other great performances by John Jessup (39 not out) and Geoff Arthur (35 not out).
Graeme Kurtz topped batting honours for the season with an average of 43.93 and an aggregate of 615. Kurtz also took a century of 106. John Jessup took the most wickets for the season with a formidable 62. Terry Austin was again noteworthy, with 29 dismissals as wicket-keeper.
The other three senior teams had some talented players, but overall placed low in their competitions. In junior cricket, still known as the “Schoolboys’ Competition” despite a growing number of girls in their ranks, Mount Colah U13 just missed out on the major premiership after finishing first in their division. In this age group, W Peihopa had the second-best bowling average of 7.13.
In 1986-87, Mount Colah A Grade won the minor premiership in a closely contested race between five teams. The final facing West Pennant Hills was again played at Berowra, where Mt Colah won the toss to bat first. The first innings was a resounding success with the team scoring 247 total, after John Jessup (61), Greg McCann (38), Graeme Kurtz (36), and Geoff Arthur (31) led the way. The pitch was soaked with rain overnight, leaving West Pennant Hills with a difficult surface the next day. Eventually, they were dismissed for 94, with Graham Bender and Bruce Kimberley delivering fantastic performances of 5/29 and 4/38. With this, Mount Colah A Grade retained the Rofe Shield for the second consecutive year.
Graeme Kurtz once more achieved a century, this time for 121 not out. Peter Olsen took 35 wickets, and achieved a fantastic match figure of 7/20. In B Reserve, David Keith was once more the man to beat, running 622 at an average of 44.43. Keith also took two centuries (121 and 132). In the same team, David Single was a formidable bowler who took seven wickets in one innings.
Mount Colah C Grade made it to the final against a fierce Normanhurst team, who were seventeen points ahead in the minor premiership points table. The final was played on an Astroturf wicket, and was a relatively low-scoring game in Normanhurst’s favour. Mount Colah’s 139 runs were taken to task by Normanhurst, despite the team’s reliance on two batters at the bottom of the order. Andrew Foord was Mount Colah’s most successful bowler, taking 4/20.
In C2, Mount Colah also lost out in a low-scoring final, this time against Thornleigh. In a moment of strange parallels, the team entered the final ten points behind Thornleigh and were dismissed for 139 runs. Ian Ward delivered for the Mount Colah in the next innings by bowling a well-timed 7/75, which brought Mount Colah back into bat with a fighting chance. Unfortunately, after Mount Colah batted 84, Thornleigh ripped through the 68 runs needed to win outright.
Throughout the season in C2, Simon Besley took a century (141 not out), ending up with a total of 516 at an average of 57.33. Steven Dutton took the best bowling average for the grade with 30 wickets at 7.90. Ian Ward and Adrian Muir also took 56 and 40 wickets apiece.
Mount Colah were minor premiers in D2, establishing supremacy from the season’s opening weeks. Batting first in the final, the openers Tony Wicht and G Higgins got the ball rolling with 40 and 37 runs each. The batting collapsed thereafter, however, with only one other batter achieved double figures. Out for 150, Mount Colah were in trouble when Kissing Point ran 232. Going into bat again, Mount Colah made 148, whereby Kissing Point made up the required 70 runs to win the game and the premiership. For the season, Mount Colah’s G Clubey won honours for his bowling, taking 33 wickets at an average of 9.88.
A Grade retained their crown in 1987-88, despite a haphazard season where the turf pitches were frequently rendered unplayable due to wet weather. It was a close thing, however, as Mount Colah scraped through as minor premiers by one thousandth of a percent, and claimed the title when the grand final was washed out without one ball being played.
Mount Colah’s B Grade team secured a place in the final against Normanhurst after an incredibly close race with Asquith Rugby League. The groundsmen at Kenthurst worked hard to make the Kenthurst ground playable for the final after a deluge of rain. When the day arrived, Mount Colah was promptly dismissed for 37 on the damp pitch. In their second go, Mount Colah scored 111 with Gavin Bramwell getting to 37 not out. Normanhurst won the chase, however, achieving the required 58 runs to win. Bramwell had a good season overall, achieving a century of 106 (not out) in another match. The team’s left-arm bowler, Craig King, managed a personal best of six wickets in an innings and finished third overall in B Grade bowling with 46 wickets at 11.35.
In C Grade, Mount Colah’s Ian Ward achieved the creditable match performance of 7/16. The team was overall competitive, but landed just shy of the final in fourth place. D2 won their major premiership after a just missing out the previous season. They were called the “big guns” of the competition, pulling out in front of Thornleigh’s point total in anticipation of the final. The final was played at Thornleigh on malthoid, with Mount Colah batting first for 193. Thornleigh was thereafter dismissed for 173. The game featured an unusual number of sundries, with 77 recorded and “sundries” being the top scorer for each team. G Higgins ended up with the second highest batting averagefor the season at 35.20, while Tony Wicht scored a century one match with 115. G Cluley achieved bowling honours with 60 wickets at 8.80, which also constituted the most wickets of any grade.
In junior cricket, Ben Geoghegan of U13 achieved the top batting average for the age group, with 479 runs at 53.2. Matthew Hall of U14 made both lists of high achieving batsmen and bowlers, with a batting average of 21.0 and bowling average of 12.40.
Mrs Joyce Edmunds
Another key player in Mount Colah A Grade’s success during the 1970s and 80s was Mrs Joyce Edmunds, who was the team’s main scorer for twenty years. Mrs Edmunds was the mother of Kevin Edmunds, who played senior cricket for Mount Colah for the first half of the 1970s. Even after Kevin Edmunds stopped playing cricket, Mrs Edmunds remained a steadfast supporter of the A Grade team.
As a scorer, Mrs Edmunds excelled in her position. Her scorebook for the 1980-81 season even won the best scorebook in the association, highlighted in the year’s annual report.
Mrs Edmunds was a valued part of the team. Bruce Kimberley recalls how she “kept us young guys in line… no swearing etc.” Mrs Edmunds was inducted as a life member of the club in consideration of her service.
In honour of Joyce Edmunds’ contribution to the club, the MCCC awards the “Joyce Edmunds A-Grade Batting Award” to the best batter across the club in A Grade. Each winner of this coveted award is listed below.
In our discussion so far of local cricket during the last quarter of the twentieth century, we have neglected a war being waged in the background that shaped how the game was being played. Since the inception of the HK&HDCA (in its original HDCA form), the association has been concerned with the availability and quality of grounds in its regions. This concern became heightened with the introduction of synthetic pitches, or “Astro turf.”
Synthetic pitches were introduced to the area in the early 1980s and were largely welcomed due to a desperate need for new spaces to play on Saturdays. However, injuries began to be reported as a result of the extra bounce on the harder surfaces and the pace bowling encouraged by the uniform surface (Annual Report 1983-84).
It was in the mid-1980s that opposition to synthetic pitches came to a head within factions of the association. In 1985, James articulated his case against the replacement of malthoid pitches with synthetic pitches, accusing synthetic pitches of dulling the game by privileging high-speed, short-length bowling. James argued that the pitches discouraged players from learning the complexities of bowling required for a transition to turf, disadvantaged younger batsmen, and rendered the game more monotonous (Annual Report 1984-85). When the HKCA voted in support of the further replacement of malthoid surfaces by (synthetic) Astroturf in 1987, Alf James set himself apart from the association he chaired over, reiterating:
I, myself, will never cease to assert that this is a bad move for the simple reason that the steeper and higher bounce of astroturf mitigates against slow bowlers and also reduces the opportunity for all batsmen to play the drive which is the foundation scoring shot of cricket.
President Alfred James, Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Cricket Association Annual Report 1986-87
In 1988, James went as far as to partially attribute the general decline in players across NSW to the widespread introduction of Astro turf pitches. This claim was made after the association had seen a dramatic drop in registered players between 1986 and 1989. His protests fell on deaf ears, however, as 1988 then saw the installation of four additional synthetic surfaces by Hornsby Shire Council.
When existing turf pitches were endangered by installation of easier-maintained synthetic ones, the association rallied around James. The late 1980s and early 1990s featured extensive lobbying by the HK&HDCA executive to ensure local councils retained existing turf wickets, rather than replace them with Astroturf. The association was resigned to the pre-eminence of Astroturf in lower grades by the mid-1990s, only insisting that pace bowlers play in a sufficiently advanced grade to ensure batsmen playing on Astro still had the opportunity to shine.
Bringing the Decade to a Close
Snapshot: Mount Colah finishes with strong performances
The 1987-88 season would be the last time Mount Colah fielded a premiership A Grade team in the twentieth century. In the final years of the decade, the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Cricket Association would officially incorporate the Hills District in its name, becoming the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai & Hills District Cricket Association (HK&HDCA) we know today.
In 1988-89, the rainy season affected the A Grade the most due to the use of turf wickets, ending many matches before they could begin. Mount Colah broke its winning streak, landing sixth in the competition. The A Reserve team, promoted from B Grade after a strong performance the previous season, played well but placed seventh overall.
In B Reserve, Mount Colah’s Wayne Richards (102 not out) and Ian Ward (100) achieved centuries, and the team’s wicketkeeper, R Castle, managed 18 dismissals. Mount Colah was a strong contender in C2, but were edged out into fourth place by an unexpected outright win by West Pennant Hills in the last round. S O’Sullivan – a recent transfer to Mount Colah from West Pennant Hills – achieved the best bowling average for the grade, with 35 wickets at 10.45. The team’s G Higgins claimed the title of best wicketkeeping with 16 dismissals.
Mount Colah became premiers in U14, with Ben Geoghegan as the best batsman for the age group (435 at 48.33) and D Sharp winning the second-best bowling average (28 at 9.57). There were three other junior teams run by the club, in addition to one merged Colah/Heights team for U15.
Mount Colah finished up the 1980s by entering five senior teams in 1989-90, in a season characterised by teams closely missing out on playing finals. The re-introduction of semi-finals this season had unfortunate consequences for our club, when B Grade, C2, and D Grade teams were all barred from playing in their finals despite placing second on the points table. In C2, both top teams in the points tally (Berowra and Mount Colah) were usurped in exciting semi-finals, depriving the season-favourites from their chance at the trophy.
These teams all featured standout performances, including several centuries. In B Grade, these were from Paul Hilton (105 not out), Brad Irvine (100 not out, 101 not out), and Gavin Bramwell (101). In C2, Mark Bolger achieved 111 not out, and in D Grade we saw G Higgins score 107 and Stephen Thomson 145. G Higgins had the winning batting average for D Grade with 79.85, while Stephen Thomson won the aggregate with 567 runs. Stephen Thomson excelled in bowling as well, recording a hat-trick. P Busby was also a great all-rounder in C2 with 315 runs and 33 wickets. Although B Reserve ended up sixth on the points table, the team’s R Castle was a strong wicket-keeper, managing 23 dismissals during the season.
Mount Colah A Grade missed out on semi-finals altogether in 1989-90 after they lost a match with Kissing Point vying for fourth position. Although disappointing for the team, this year showed a strong all-round performance from Bruce Kimberley, who took 31 wickets and scored 308 runs.
The twenty years between 1970 and 1990 were landmark years for Mount Colah Cricket, seeing the victorious run of the club’s first-ever A Grade team. This team introduces us to many of the club’s greatest players, including Graham Bender, John Jessup, and Bruce Kimberley. The team’s winning streak can be seen below, rendered all the more tantalising with the knowledge that their loss of the trophy in 1977-78 was after the final was washed out.
Yet, MCCC is not just one team. Over these two decades, the club grew from entering one or two senior teams each season, to four or five. After entering the 1970s as a footnote in HK&HDCA records, Mount Colah left the 1980s as a recognised hub for local talent and a force to reckoned with in competitions.
The club also cultivated a healthy, growing junior cricket administration, which fostered young talent and encouraged local kids to learn the game. Nowhere is this clearer than in 1989-90, where three out of the six Mount Colah junior teams made it to the final, and players like Ben Geoghegan continue to feature as award-winning players moving up the age groups with the club.