On Monday the 25th August 1947, a group of cricket followers from Ferntree Gully and its surrounding districts, led by Cr. Frank Pickett, held a meeting in the Ferntree Gully Shire Hall for the purpose of forming an Association within the Ferntree Gully Shire. Those in attendance at the meeting were, Frank Pickett, Wally Tew, Lindsay Ewart Snr, Alex Aplin, Bob DeCoite, Allan Barber, Arthur Hicks, Jim Bradley, Keith Jensen, Ron Lomax, Lance Lancaster, Roy Dinsdale, Roy Sidebottom, Jolly Rowe and Murray Furmston. Appointed as President for the inaugural season was Frank Pickett, with Alex Aplin (Secretary) and Lindsay Ewart Snr. (Treasurer).
The first competition was made up of teams from Scoresby, St Johns, Boronia Church of Christ, whilst Ferntree Gully, Upper Ferntree Gully and The Basin had two teams each. The nine teams played a series of home and away matches against each other with the top four teams playing for the No. 1 pennant whilst the bottom five sides played for the No. 2 pennant. The Basin’s first team completed the season as undisputed leaders of the competition and rightly earned the title of hot favourites for the Frank Pickett Shield, however Ferntree Gully defeated them in the final. Inaugural trophy winners were presented to The Basin’s George Fiedler (Batting award), Ferntree Gully’s Arthur Hicks (Bowling award) and Mick Godfrey (The Basin) won the best all rounder award. Scoresby’s Jack Zander is on record as scoring the first century in the association.
In 1948, Bayswater, Bayswater North, Boronia Methodists, Lysterfield, Main Road Methodists, Upwey Youth Club and Wantirna joined the FTGDCA. Some of the stalwarts in that period included, Wally Tew, Bob DeCoite (currently Patron of the FTGDCA), Alec Dinsdale, Ron Lomax, Bill Bowen, Laurie Benoit, Harry Mackinlay, Jack Tucker, Aldo Adjani, Ehrenfreid Exner, George & Fred Williams, George Robinson, Peter Kinna, Harry Anderson, Jack King, Jim West, Dr. Mal Leembruggen, Bill Fairfull, Don Maguire, Bob & Doug Finger, John Keating and long time association secretary Jack Feaver were but a few.
1950 saw The Footballers from Ferntree Gully form their own club with Don Downes, Roy Sidebottom and Bill Paton dominating for their new club. In the 1950’s other new clubs included Olinda, Dunlops, Rowville, Upwey Districts and The Basin changed their name to Somerville Park, and names such as former Australian Captain from the famous bodyline series, Bill Woodfull had a season with Upwey Tecoma whilst Principal of Upwey High School, ex Victorian & South Melbourne player Dudley Fitzmaurice, John Atkins Snr, John Closter, Lloyd Bracher, Harry Padgett, Les Webb, ex Richmond player Ken Whyte and Don Jones were part of the cricket scene. Later that decade saw Menzies Creek, Monbulk, Salvation Army, Basin Footballers, St Stephens and St Thomas’ join the association – the first two coming from the defunct Mountain District Cricket Association.
Newcomers in the 60’s were Mountain District club, Belgrave, Mt Gate, St Josephs who later became Knox and The Basin and Church of Christ joined forces as Batterham Park which widened the competition area even further. The association changed its name from the Ferntree Gully Cricket Association to the Ferntree Gully and District Cricket Association in 1966/67 acknowledging the spread of the competition that now included clubs from the hills, the foothills and flats of the Dandenong Ranges.
Notable names from the 1960’s and 70’s included Upper Gully’s Ray Skelton, Keith McAllister and Norm Reeves. The latter also played for Footballers and Upwey Tecoma whilst McAllister also played for the Footballers. Ferntree Gully’s Rob Sidebottom and Rick Joyner were great players with Sidebottom also having a stint at Rowville where he won that club’s first Feaver Medal in 1977, sharing the award with Norm Reeves. Others to dominate at Seebeck Oval were Dennis Doolan and David Long. Current Sub District President Ken Fewster OAM, brilliant all rounder Doug Chapman, Chris Elliott and Bryan Mitchell represented Footballers while the stars at Bayswater were Norm Wright, John Barry, John Mulvogue and the Dunstan brothers. In the 1964/65 final Mulvogue had a day out taking 9/28 to help the ‘Waters’ win the premiership. He figured in all ten dismissals participating in the 10th wicket with a catch! That season Mulvogue also took 9/8 against Mountain Gate to set an association record for the best A Grade (1st Eleven) bowling figures in an innings, a record that still stands today.
St John’s had former district batsmen Peter Joiner and Karim Khan, whilst Wantirna South was well served by Phil Brewis, Brian Power, Gary Turner, Russ Handasyde and former FTGDCA President Alec Ingwersen. At Batterham Park, now The Basin, Fred ‘Froggy’ Davis, Peter Hinch and Steve Plymin gave good service. Belgrave proved successful with Graham Dickey, Kevin Sonogan and Kevin Duane. Sonogan showed his class whilst playing for a Victorian Country X1 against the mighty West Indies in 1979 taking the prize wickets of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes at the Yea oval, when at the time the West Indian combination was regarded as the best opening pair in the world. Monbulk’s Ken, Don and Ray Fleming, Max James and Ken Utting were others to perform at the highest grade with Utting winning six Association 1st XI batting averages. In the lower grades Tecoma’s Leo and Terry Wright and Barry Lockett, Gus Mitchell and Trevor Hollier from Menzies Creek gave sterling service to their clubs.
During this time the expansion of the Ferntree Gully & District Cricket Association was rapid as the paddocks and orchards of South Wantirna and Ferntree Gully became the suburbs of Knoxfield and Mountain Gate. By the late 70’s South Belgrave and Bluebirds entered the competition whilst Knoxfield moved across from the Ringwood & District Cricket Association to affiliate in 1980. It was at that time, the association boasted a membership of 126 senior and junior teams, a far cry from six clubs and nine teams 33 years earlier.
In 1951 the association entered Melbourne’s VCCL Country Week and moderate success had been achieved with several premierships and finals appearances. Many of the great players of the competition have participated in these matches bringing cricket comradeship to its highest order. One such player, Lance Symons did much to improve the standard of our competitiveness and professional approach, which is very much a part of our club cricket today. Symons coached three of our senior clubs, represented against the West Indies and also spent several years as an Association executive member.
For more than two decades, two outstanding workers held the administrative duties of the association, Jack Feaver as Secretary and Ron Lomax as Treasurer. Their endeavours were of such exceptional quality that two medals were created in their honour, and are awarded annually to the two outstanding Best & Fairest cricketers in the two highest senior grades. South Belgrave and Upwey Tecoma all rounder Stephen Lee has had the distinction of winning the Feaver Medal on four occasions, a feat that may never be equalled.
During the 80’s the FTGDCA was capably managed by Belgrave stalwart Don Claringbould, Keith Hill, Jenny Flanagan, Peter Fahy, John Barry, Arthur Bailey and Norm Reeves, later joined by Allan Gottliebsen and Steve Brown with the umpiring fraternity being led by Lindsay McNair and Ron Richards. The junior section continued to grow under the guidance of Ron Neville, Alan Bailey, Peter Heath, Sandra Berry and Gwen Palandri. In 1982 a Veterans section was formed to encourage former players to return to the game. This concept has been embraced by many clubs and has provided the opportunity for many former team mates and opponents to enjoy the game and after match fellowship. Many of the association’s greats of past seasons have been regular players in the Veteran competition.
In 1970 the association sought its first sponsorship to enhance the local competition and for almost ten years Neilsen Holden provided the prize money in the top two senior grades. The Neilsen Shield was the pinnacle for our top grade and many junior players benefited from the Neilsen Scholarships. Saxon Sports (Paul Attfield) has been a major sponsor for the past fifteen years along with Knox Tavern’s (David Cruse), current sponsors of the Senior Grade.
1988 saw Eildon Park form and join the league, Lysterfield formerly known as Bayswater United, Knox Gardens and Scoresby followed them in the 90’s, the later two clubs returning after stints in the RDCA. Some big names in the 80’s & 90’s included fast bowler Garth Smith, Tony ‘Tacker’ James, and David Lambert from The Basin with Knoxfield boasting Mark Stewart and Peter Linford. Johnson Park’s popular Mal Francis won the 1988 Lomax Medal, whilst another Lomax Medallist, Tony Sheehan had successful periods with Footballers, Belgrave, Mountain Gate and Bluebirds. Trevor Ashton won the 1995 Feaver Medal whilst with Rowville; Knox had David Graffen, Mark Papworth and Michael Hoban who unfortunately retired prematurely due to business commitments. Ferntree Gully champion Andrew Downs, scored the association’s second highest score in one innings in Shield cricket with 234 against Mountain Gate in 1992. Other Gully stars were Simon Spalding, Cliff James, Kim Mastertoun and Peter Solohub. Monbulk left arm spinner Mick Surwald, Ken Utting and Graham Salan were great players as was Shane Cross from Upwey Tecoma and Tony Smith from Bluebirds who made his Premier Cricket debut with Ringwood aged 32. The Toms brothers (Neville and Lynton) at Belgrave have given great service as did left arm quick Glen Cook. Upper Gully players, Rod ‘Rocket’ Ingwersen, Darren Smith, Simon Reeves and former state squad member Paul Wilson performed at the top as did Mountain Gate youngster Brendan Heath who would later cross to Upwey Tecoma and blossom into one of the best local batsmen.
Over the years there have been some memorable performances in the Senior Grade final. Who could forget Upwey Tecoma’s Craig Graham’s knock of 139 in a losing final to Mt Gate in 1981/82 or David Leathem’s match winning 6 wickets and 97 runs in Upper Ferntree Gully’s 1983/84 Premiership. Knoxfield’s Craig Christie smashed an unbeaten 135 out of a total of 6/196 depriving Footballers of the pennant in 1996/97. Two years later Upwey Tecoma and Shane Cross with 7/31 knocked over later Knoxfield for just 78. Perhaps the best bowling effort of all time came in 1950 when Ferntree Gully’s Jim Bradley took match figures of 21 wickets for 102 runs in the finals series which certainly assisted the Gully to win one of its 14 premierships, the most by any club in the FTGDCA.
Currently Division 1 boasts many fine players. The Country Week competition thanks to the management skills of former executive member, Michael Beyer opened the door for further achievement with several premierships in the past few seasons. In 1994 Darren Smith (Upper Gully), Shane Cross (Upwey), Simon Reeves (Upper Gully), Brendan Heath (Mt Gate) and Craig Brown (FTG Footballers) represented a Victorian Country XI against new Test nation Zimbabwe in front of 2500 spectators at Yea. Cross and Brown claimed international wickets whilst Heath (40*) and Smith (36) were top scorers for Vic Country. The following season saw Simon Reeves selected for the Victorian Country team, which competed in the Australian Country Cricket Championships in Gippsland. The left arm spinner performed strongly and was duly selected to play for the Australian Country X1 against the Victorian Bushrangers at the Sale Oval. In front of a crowd of 4000, Reeves took the wickets of national players, Ian Harvey and Matthew Elliott to return figures of 2/52.
In 1998, Reeves together with Upper Gully paceman and former state squad member, Paul Wilson and Monbulk’s Jason Fraser were selected for the Victorian Country team to play in the national championships in Mt Gambier, SA. The trio performed credibly during the carnival and Reeves scored his second Australian Country XI cap and played against the touring New Zealand side, capturing the wicket of Matthew Horne. Having three players selected in the state team from the FTGDCA in an organisation consisting of 100 Associations was a great endorsement for our competition. During the 1998/99 season the Association’s Country Week representatives created history within the VCCL by winning the Division 3 & 4 Premierships against Traralgon CA and Maryborough CA at Optus Oval and Windy Hill respectively. No other association had performed this achievement in the 75 year history of Country Week.
The new millennium saw the arrival of former Sri Lankan captain, Roshan Mahanama to the FTG Footballers straight from the 1999 World Cup. The world record holder for the highest and longest batting partnership in Test Match history (576 runs in 2 days and 1 hour, against India 1997) had retired from intense international cricket and was lured to the FTGDCA after playing 52 Tests and 213 One Day Internationals in a career spanning 13 years. Mahanama is now a respected ICC match referee.
Upper Ferntree Gully won their first Topline Shield in 16 years under the leadership of Paul Wilson and long serving President, Mick Beyer. They defeated Belgrave by 52 runs in a match where brothers, Neville and Lynton Toms playing for opposing sides, both captured 5 wickets each; however it was Neville who would taste premiership success.
Several weeks later Lynton received some consolation when he was awarded his second Feaver Medal in a thrilling vote count involving a four-way tie. Together with Scoresby’s Dain Howe, Upwey’s Ryan Pitts and Knoxfield youngster Trent Scholfield, they were presented with their medals by former Australian Cricket Board Chairman, Mr Bob Parish, a central figure in the resolution of World Series Cricket saga with Kerry Packer.
In another highlight, the Association took a group of 15 players selected from the Country Week Squad to Sri Lanka where they played three one day games against Bloomfield CC, Access International CC and a Kandy & District Schoolboys XI. During the tour national heroes such as Aravinda DeSilva, Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama along with coaches Dav Whatmore and Trevor Chappell and the Sri Lankan Cricket Board hosted the team. The tour was an outstanding success mainly due to the efforts of David & Cathy Cruse from the Knox Tavern.
Upwey Tecoma made it three out of the four flags when they defeated Rowville in the 2000/01 final in amazing circumstances. Rowville playing in their first Senior Grade final since entering the competition appeared set at 3/106 in reply to Upwey’s modest 169 with the final day to play. Speedsters, Shane Cross and Matthew Grace who formed arguably the best bowling combination in the past 25 years, had other ideas. On the final day they routed the Rowville line-up taking 7/13 with Cross finishing with 6/30 and being awarded the Stephen Lee Medal for the best player in the final. The next year Cross won back to back Lee Medals when he took 8/18 in the final which ended Knoxfield's dream of winning the Topline Shield. That year also saw fast bowlers Darren Hill (Rowville) and Paul Wilson (UFTG) tie for the Feaver Medal.
During 2001/02 two local players, Paul Barber (Johnson Park) and Danny Taylor (Upwey Tecoma) represented the VCCL in the National Championships held in Warrnambool. Both players performed creditably and Barber was awarded our second Australian Country XI cap against New Zealand played at the Bradman Oval in Bowral, NSW. The all rounder had a great day top scoring for Australian Country with 27, which included 5 boundaries off Dion Nash and Andre Adams. Barber also chipped in with 1/54 from 10 overs, clean bowling Craig McMillan in front of 4,000 spectators and a small contingent of his Johnson Park team mates who made the journey north.
Season 2002/03 saw former South Belgrave player Brendan Joseland become the first FTGDCA player to represent Victoria at first class level when he was selected for the Bushrangers in the ING Cup. Upwey Tecoma made it a hat trick of premierships under Dain Howe’s leadership and team mate Danny Taylor represented the Victorian Country XI against Sri Lanka at Hastings in front of 8,000 spectators. Several FTGDCA Under 11 players were photographed in their club shirts with both teams before the match. In Sub District ranks, former Bluebirds and Bayswater junior Barry Ensil (Bayswater) won the R.M. Hatch Medal for the best player in Sub District cricket after returning from Fitzroy Doncaster. The following season saw the first Knox Tavern Cup final contested by Upper Ferntree Gully and Belgrave with the latter winning the Cup by 5 runs in a thrilling contest. Rapidly expanding club Lysterfield gained promotion to the Knox Tavern Cup grade with a comfortable win over Footballers by claiming the DeCoite Shield. Jason Fraser collected back to back Feaver Medals to add to his two Lomax Medals and young players Steve Seymour (Johnson Park – Prahran), Rhys Adams (Eildon Park – Hawthorn Monash) and Phil Salter (Upper Gully – Richmond) made their Premier cricket debuts. Johnson Park wicket keeper Joshua Dowling gained selection in the Victorian Country XI winning the National Championships held in Mt Gambier SA. At the end of the season a talented senior squad travelled to Sri Lanka playing at Premadasa Stadium Colombo, Kandy and the Galle International Stadium where they defeated the Galle Cricket Club. Jason Fraser completed a memorable year when he was adjudged best player on the tour.
After 52 years in the Association, Rowville finally broke the ice when they celebrated their first premiership in the Knox Tavern Cup in season 2004/05, whilst Knox Gardens won the DeCoite Shield in a thriller by 3 runs over Upwey Tecoma. Former Test player Dulip Samaraweera became Johnson Park’s first Feaver medallist and Jason Fraser collected his third Lomax Medal. Rowville captain Paul Evans capped off a great season by gaining selection in the Victorian Country team playing in Lismore NSW. Twelve months later saw Rowville repeat premiership success and Jason Fraser gather his fourth Lomax Medal, whilst the Feaver Medal was won by new comer Matthew Black from Ferntree Gully upon the clubs return to the association from the RDCA. The Eildon Park Panthers earned promotion with a hard fought win over Monbulk to claim the DeCoite Shield. The individual highlight of the year was Dulip Samaraweera’s record breaking 235 not out against Knoxfield, whilst an outstanding team led by Fraser won the Division 2 Country Week flag to put us into the Provincial competition for the first time in 28 years. Monbulk became the first team to win the Knox Tavern Cup after being promoted from DeCoite Shield when they defeated a gallant Rowville by 3 wickets in 2007/08 whilst Lysterfield regained a berth in division 1 by defeating South Belgrave for the DeCoite Shield. Eildon Park all rounder Shane Cosstick claimed his second Feaver Medal in two seasons.
There were many highlights in the 2008/09 season, with FTG Footballers recruiting the ‘Bush Bradman’ Robert Bedford from the Mornington Peninsula, former South Belgrave all rounder Glenn Maxwell and former Johnson Park player Steve Seymour, both being selected for the Victorian 2nd XI. Ferntree Gully won their 14th premiership and the Knox Tavern Cup when they defeated Eildon Park by 6 runs in a thriller, whilst in DeCoite Shield it was even closer with Knox Gardens and Knoxfield both locked on 239 runs for a history making tie, with the Falcons being awarded the premiership finishing higher on the ladder. Lysterfield leg spinner Chris Hill was a clear winner of the Feaver Medal while in the Lomax Medal there was a three way tie, with Nathan Phillips (Auravale), Travis Mulder (Knox Gardens) & Knoxfield’s Trent Scholfield all sharing the medal.
Season 2009/10 saw many highlights, with Glenn Maxwell making his first class debut for Victoria in the Ford Ranger Cup Final at the MCG against Tasmania. Former Richmond player, Matt Mulcahy along with Simon Dignan and Peter Dunlop won Victorian Country selection honours and Johnson Park finally broke through for their inaugural Knox Tavern Cup flag in the final over against Paul Wilson’s Upwey Tecoma. Unfortunately for Wilson, he was unable to get his team over the line in his final game in what was a magnificent career. Footballers returned to Division one after winning the DeCoite Shield despite a brilliant century from Knoxfield’s Ben Morris. Jay “Sticks” Colee was a popular Feaver medallist whilst Chris Brittain claimed the Lomax Medal after a great season.
Footballers were denied the impossible dream of winning the Knox Tavern Cup the following year, struck down by left arm medium pacer Nathan Caton-Robertson, who’s six wickets propelled Eildon Park to their first premiership since forming in 1988. Former Richmond batsman, Sam Taylor won the Feaver Medal in his first season at Upwey and Knoxfield’s Ben Morris dominated in DeCoite Shield winning the Lomax Medal and the Ken Utting Medal for best player in Knoxfield’s premiership triumph. Upwey’s Matt Mulcahy became our first R.M. Hooper Medallist when he was awarded the best Victorian representative in the Country Championships in Bunbury WA.
On 26th August, 2012, Glenn Maxwell created history by becoming the first FTGDCA player to be selected in the Australian team when he played a ODI against Afghanistan in the UAE. Maxwell is an emerging young talent and hopefully enjoys a lengthy international career. He was, like most juniors today, a kid who grew up across the road from his beloved cricket club, with a dream to one day play for Australia.
Norm Reeves continues to lead the FTGDCA in his 26th season as President and his passion for the game at a local level remains unchallenged. Norm’s services to country cricket were recognised in 2004 when he was awarded the R.F. Merriman Medal at VCA House by the Chairman of Cricket Australia, Mr Bob Merriman.
The competition has seen continued growth with improved coaching and better grounds but needs to keep abreast with trends to ensure further progress and consolidation. Club officials need to be ever aware that traditional cricket is very much under threat from other sports and leisure activities. The Ferntree Gully & District Cricket Association now caters for 90 Senior, 30 Veterans and over 100 Junior teams, with 3,200 registered players. Some old clubs may merge or depart, new ones may be formed but the core of the Association remains solid.