The Barkly Street Methodist Cricket Club, as it was originally known, is one of the oldest church cricket clubs in Victoria. It was formed in 1925 and continued until 1944, when the war intervened and the club ceased to function for two seasons due to many players being committed to active service. During the pre-war period (for which, unfortunately, many records have been lost) we had some outstanding performers, such as J.Trevorrow (100 wickets) and J.Saunders (80 wickets) both in the one season! In another season, W.Hobba took an incredible 129 wickets for the year at the miserly average of 3.6. The amazing thing about these performances is that, during this time and for many decades to follow, only one ball per match was used between the two sides, making the toss of the coin extremely important.
In 1946, the club was relaunched. That year also set in motion one of the finest careers at our club, that of Leon Bates, whose father Sid had been the secretary until 1944. Bates, along with Ian Moore and Jack Law recommenced the club, entering an Under 18 team on Saturday afternoons in the Footscray District Protestant Churches Cricket Association. Our first season was played on a ground next to the wool stores in Sunshine Road, on coir mats over stone dust wickets. The mats, which were extremely heavy, needed to be transported from Essex Street, West Footscray on bicycles. We lost every game outright in our first season, but with the inclusion of one of our clubs best ever cricketers, Jack Collett, and the late Ron Clifton, we made it to the semi-finals the following year.
For season 1947-48, we shifted to a new ground at Johnson Reserve, West Footscray. This period was the foundation for a very successful era of our club, we were runners-up in 1948-49, premiers the following two years and then runners-up again before the Under 18 competition ceased. In 1949-50 the club also entered a B Grade team formed from many of our past Under 18 players, including Charles Graham (number 1 Life Member), Wes Hogg (number 2 Life Member), Jack Renouf and a first-rate pick-up in Bill Doult, who just happened to wander over during practice looking for a game.
This team went through undefeated, with the unbelievable Doult taking 100 wickets, including 15/65 in the final. Season 1950-51 represented a major step for the club, when we were promoted to A Grade, where we have remained ever since. We were runners-up in our first season, while B Grade won back-to-back premierships. Doult again amazed by taking 80 wickets in A Grade. The competition was still playing on coir mats over stone-dust wickets and the players were allowed to wear matting spikes due to the toughness and thickness of the mats, which were made at the now defunct Pentridge Prison. In the late 1950s we shifted our home base to Footscray Park, where we dominated the Association winning three consecutive premierships (1962-65) under the guidance of Ron Austin. Some of our clubs greatest cricketers played during this era: Peter Hollings, Norm Walker, Ian McPherson, Ron Christensen, John Bohmer, Leon Bates and Jack Collett (all of whom have become Life Members of our celebrated club), Noel Graham, Ken Kennedy, and many more whom are too numerous to mention.
The Footscray and Williamstown competitions amalgamated in 1965-66 we were first introduced to what has become the norm, concrete wickets. In the mid 1970’s we again moved, this time to Henry Turner Reserve and, in September 1979, we built the only ever pavilion erected by a club from its own resources in the Association. We remained at Henry Turner until we were relocated to Robert Barrett Reserve in 1997. In the period 1970-1980 we were again dominant winning the following premierships, four A Grade, two B Grade, one C Grade, two Under 16, one Under 14 and one Under 12. This was another golden era, where many more fine cricketers came to the fore in Geoff Hart, John Williams, Tony Hill, Mick Hughes, Bob Mollison and youngsters Jeffrey Law, Ivan Tudor and Jim Verduci. The 1980s saw the club go through a rebuilding phase corresponding with what has probably been our leanest time for on field success, but we still managed to win a couple of junior premierships which have always been the base for our club’s strength. The 1990s opened with premierships to the Under 16s and A Grade, and finished with strong A Grade performances and more premierships to Under 12s and D Grade. In 2000/2001 the Under 12s won a premiership, going through the season undefeated.
The 2003/04 saw the beginning of a new era for our club, when we moved to the Moreland Moonee Valley Cricket Association leaving the Churches after 78 years, the longest serving club in their history. Our first season in the MMVCA reaped two premierships for our first and third XI teams. In 2004/05 even greater challenges awaited us as we switched to turf. Our first season on turf had us immediately thrust into A & C Turf, a huge step forward from matting and initially a very daunting task. But as always the players and the club’s professionalism came to the fore as we excelled way beyond our expectations and saw the first XI make the finals, being beaten by the eventual premiers.
The early glory of the new decade was short lived as the club has not performed at this same level since. Season 2009-10 saw what the club hopes will be a very prosperous period begin with the emergence of many fine young cricketers during this season. The likes of Connor and Lachlan Danaher, Ryan McGhie, Dale Williams, Kane Liossis, Josh McCabe, Anthony Hoang, Sean Johnson and Heath Tudor all prodigies from our juniors filling the bulk of the first XI and second XI teams so the future looks extremely bright.
Throughout our wonderful history we have been ably served by numerous members, but by none more so than two people who were responsible for the clubs reincarnation – Jack Law, who remarkably guided our club for an incredible 57 years as Club Secretary and who still remains an active member of the executive, has been recognised for his services to cricket with an Order of Australia Medal, an Australian Sports Medal and most recently Maribyrnong City Council’s Sports Volunteer of the Year. The other outstanding servant of our club, Leon Bates, served as Treasurer from 1946-80. Former President, Peter Hollings also gave invaluable service in his 25 years as the club’s leader.
Others of note who have achieved higher fame were Owen Davidson (Professional tennis player, Davis Cup representative), Rex Whitehead (Test Umpire), Rodney Woods (Olympic Water Polo team, Montreal), Dean Marnell (Australian National Team, baseball), Tony Hill (Footscray, VFL) Mark Whitzell (South Melbourne, VFL) and Albert Proud (Brisbane Lions, AFL). District and Sub-District players have included Barry McDonald, Ken Higginbotham, Arthur (Chico) Marks, Darren Kennedy, Scott and Grant Gilham, Geoff Hart, John Williams, Ross and Steven Christensen, Graham Mitchell Tony Austin, Peter Herrick, Kane Liossis and Justin Summerfield. Many others have represented the Association at the Bi-Annual Interstate cricket carnivals. Some of these players have achieved higher honours and have been selected in the All-Australian team, namely Alan Cocks, John Williams, Robert Jones (twice) and Jeffrey Law who, on two of his three selections, has been appointed Captain and Vice-Captain. Tudor and Law have also recently been winners of the WSUCCA Associations President’s medal award for the best player in the competition.
In 2002 the club held what was arguably its greatest function when it named its Team of the Century. Like all these occasions, there is always debate and discussion, comparing players from one era to another, but like others before us we believe that our club should not only recognise the worthy twelve but many other great players who have played for our club as we did on this night.
The players selected for the Barkly Street Team of the Century XII were: John Williams (Capt), Peter Hollings (V-Capt), Tony Austin, Leon Bates, Jack Collett, Noel Graham, Geoff Hart, Ken Kennedy, Jeffrey Law, Ian McPherson, Ivan Tudor and Jim Verduci.
The year 2005 saw our club celebrate our 80th Anniversary where it proudly announced its inaugural inductees into its Hall of Fame. Ron Austin, Leon Bates, Jack Collett, Charles Graham, Peter Hollings, Jack Law and Ian McPherson. Other greats who have been added since are Norm Walker, Wes Hogg, Ken Kennedy, John Bohmer, Noel Graham, Ron Christensen, Ian deMedici, Bill Mitchell and Bob Mollison.
Over eighty-five years young and still, the envy of most clubs whether they be our opposition or clubs at a higher level.