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The First Grade premiership team of 1977-78.
Back row: Kevin Connor (umpire), Michael Hortle, Philip Richardson, Simon Allen, Paul Cossum, Roger Clemons, Glenn Richardson, Alan Jones (umpire).
Seated: Bob Cotgrove, Geoff Abbott, Michael Norman (captain), Ray Brown (vice-captain), Garry Collins, Leon Wootton.
In front: Martin Brown (mascot)
"Like good food and fine wine, cricket has been an integral part of the sporting and social activities of UTAS since its inception."
The Tasmania University Cricket Club (TUCC) website (www.tucc.org.au/) records a meeting held on 16 September 1898 to establish a University Cricket Club with colours similar to those of the University Tennis Club. The meeting agreed a proposal to use the Queens College nets and to share a joint pitch with Queens ‘at the Upper Cricket Ground’ (the old TCA ground on the Queens Domain).
Most cricket activity at the university in the early decades, being essentially informal in structure, ad hoc in organisation, and social in purpose, unfortunately has been lost to the archival record, awaiting an historian with a passion for cricket to uncover.
It was not until 1955 that Dick Bentham, then a young lecturer in law, put the effort into recruiting sufficient staff and student players to form the TUCC and enter teams in the Old Scholars and Mid-Week competitions.
Unfortunately for Bentham his commendable efforts were dealt the cruellest of fates by the cricketing gods, when he was run out by his opening batting partner, another stalwart of the TUCC, Ted Stokes, from the very first ball delivered to a University batsman in the Mid-Week competition!
Success in these ‘junior’ competitions led to intense lobbying by Bill Bale, Tim Burbury, James Menadue and others for inclusion of the club in the Tasmanian Cricket Association (TCA) pennant competition.
Somewhat grudgingly, given the district-based nature of the TCA, the club was finally admitted as the 10th team in the Second Grade competition for the 1961-62 season.
That very first TCA team comprised Gerald Johnston, captain, Tony Harrison, vice-captain, Bill Bale, Tim Burbury, David Collins, John Davies, Greg Foot, Ross Monro, Graeme Morris, Michael Shore, Don Stewart and Alan Taylor. Several were First Grade players from other TCA clubs, willing to step down a grade to help the fledgling club.
The talented team easily topped the ladder at the end of the pennant matches and went on to win the premiership beating Brighton by an innings and plenty in the semi-final and then New Town convincingly in the grand final.
As a result the club was admitted to First and Second grades the following season and the year after became a full TCA member, fielding teams in all three pennant grades.
My own association with the club began as a mature age student opening batsman at the start of the 1965-66 season, and I was elected to president in 1966-67 and continuing through to today as patron.
Recruiting was a constant problem for the club in its early years. TCA regulations limited us a total of only 8 graduates, with no more than 3 in any one team. Unlike university clubs in other Australian metropolitan premier competitions, undergraduates here were allowed to continue playing with their district clubs rather than being obliged to play with the TUCC.
The start of the cricket season coincides with examinations and the long summer break when most students, of financial necessity, went home to the mainland or to other parts of Tasmania.
Despite these difficulties the TCA, after recruiting the young Yorkshire professional John Hampshire as its first international coach at the start of the 1966-67 season, assisted our cause by assigning him to us as a player for each of the three seasons of his contract.
Notwithstanding his frequent absences for intrastate and Tasmanian matches, Hampshire was a most valuable player and mentor, teaching us the tactics and subtleties needed to win matches and maximise our playing potential. Key student players at the time were batsman Graeme Farrell, wicket-keeper batsman Bruce Doolan, all-rounder Brent Palfreyman, all future Tasmanian players, and Jock Abey, the first TUCC bowler to reach 100 first grade wickets.
Without Hampshire, who had to return to Yorkshire for pre-season training, we made the First Grade finals in 1967-68, beating Glenorchy in the semi-final before losing to Len Maddox’s New Town in a closely fought rain-affected grand final.
Management of the club in those days was in the hands of students and finance was a constant problem. We were dependent on the TUU Sports Council for paying TCA registration, umpires fees, and equipment, including new balls for each match. A team kitbag containing 2 or 3 well-oiled bats, 4 pairs of batting gloves (2 right-handed, 2 left-handed), 4 pairs of pads, stumps, bails and spare balls was used by most of the players for their essential playing equipment. Wives and girlfriends prepared afternoon teas for home and visiting teams, and the after-match bar trade was an important source of income.
The 1970s brought further progress and success. Relaxation of the graduate restrictions allowed longer playing careers. New players, in particular batsman Mike Norman (105 First Grade matches), all-rounder Ray Brown (243), wicket-keeper Mike Street (231) and fast bowler Paul Cossum (147) gave exceptional service throughout the decade and beyond.
Under coach Graeme Mansfield we finally won our first First Grade premiership, in 1974-75, and repeated the feat in 1977-78. Both victories were against Clarence and in both matches we lost the toss and were sent in to bat, scoring enough runs for our bowlers to put pressure on the highly favoured eastern shore side. Our pace bowlers in particular produced some of the best match figures in the club’s history. In 1974-75, Ray Brown took 7 for 39 and Graeme Mansfield 7 for 44. In 1977-78, after Paul Cossum, 8-79, and Ray Brown, 6-47, had destroyed New Town in the semi-final, Roger Clemons, 7-70, took the bowling honours in the grand-final.
Inter-varsity matches were important fixtures on our cricketing calendar in the early years and continued into the 1980s when, following Tasmania’s admission into the Sheffield Shield competition, the focus turned more towards developing local talent and fostering junior cricket development.
Intervarsity matches, usually 3-day (occasionally 2-day) duration, provided valuable experience of playing against university teams from other states both home and away. They were also an important recruiting tool. The attraction of a 2-week tour to Adelaide, Melbourne or Sydney to play cricket and enjoy the attendant social activities was often the carrot needed to encourage student players from other clubs to switch their allegiance to the TUCC.
The 1980s saw the recruitment of another English professional cricketer. Simon Hinks, a tall 22 year old left handed opening batsman, made an immediate impression, scoring an unbeaten century on debut only hours after arriving from a harrowing 40-hour flight from Kent. In three seasons with TUCC Simon amassed 2,011 runs at 45.7 with 4 centuries and 11 fifties and, like John Hampshire, was appointed as the TCA’s schools coach and cricket development officer.
Graeme Farrell returned to the club and with other experienced players under the astute leadership of Mike Street the club secured back-to-back premierships in 1985-86 and 1986-87, both again against Clarence.
The latter premiership was assisted primarily by West Indian test player Eldine Baptiste, a fellow Kent professional replacing Hinks, took 6-55 as part of his season’s tally of 832 runs at 59.4 and 41 wickets at 17.6.
The 1990s saw a break with tradition with the election of Murray McDonald as president, the first to hold the position who had not been a former student player.
McDonald’s presidency, spanning eleven consecutive seasons, coincided with major changes in the way Australian and Tasmanian cricket was organised. In 1991 the Tasmanian Cricket Association assumed the supreme role for the development of cricket in Tasmania, replacing the former Tasmanian Cricket Council, while in 1998 the Australian Cricket Board funded national and state player contracts, establishing for the first time squads of fully professional cricketers.
As a result of these changes TUCC, along with other TCA clubs, became nurseries for aspiring professional cricketers from within Tasmania and from interstate.
Following McDonald, the tradition of electing former student players as president has resumed, with Michael Graham-Smith 2000-07, and Paul McNamara, from 2007 to the present. However, the focus on developing junior talent and offering a home for aspiring state and national players remains.
The richness of talent at the TUCC in recent years has been impressive.
Jamie Cox, Dene Hills, Ben Hilfenhaus, Jason Krejza, James Faulkner, Ben Loughlin, and Tim Paine have become household names in Australian cricket due to their success at the national and international level. Others to attain first class representation since 1990 have been Graeme Cunningham, Tony Daly, Josh Marquet, David Millns, Gavin Robertson, Brad Thomas, Rhett Lockyer, Darren McNees, and Greg Rowell.
Although some, due to representative commitments, have had limited opportunities to perform at club level, Cox, Hills, Daly, Cunningham, Lockyear, Faulkner, Hilfenhaus, McNees, Paine, and Thomas, as well as regular players Josh Bean, Gordon Kerr and Andrew Kealy, have given consistent and outstanding service to the club’s successes in winning the premiership (now renamed Cricket Tasmania Premier League First Grade) in seasons 1999-2000 and 2008-09 and the Kookaburra Cup one-Day trophy in 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2003-04 and 2012-13.
Brad Thomas, in particular, can justly claim to be the club’s best ever player, being the leading run scorer with 6,663 runs at 31.6, the 4th leading wicket-taker with 370 wickets at 20.6, and winning the TCA’s best player medal on three times occasions.
Leg spin bowler Josh Bean has become the club’s leading wicket-taker and an almost automatic selection in the TCA Team of the Year, while Gordon Kerr, the current captain, has achieved a fine double in scoring in excess of 1.500 runs and taking more than 150 wickets.
And so the caravan rolls on. Whatever the future holds for the University of Tasmania in an ever changing world of globalisation and electronic communications, it is certain that the TUCC and the timeless craft of cricket will continue to be an integral part of its culture.
About the author: Bob Cotgrove, in addition to his involvement with cricket, was a lecturer at the University of Tasmania in the School of Geography and Environmental Studies from 1970-2004, and was with the Shanghai Ocean University from 2009-2011.
Minutes of meeting to establish University Cricket Club – September 16th 1898
A meeting was held at the University to establish a Cricket Club.
Professor Williams in the chair.
Present: Professor McFarlane, Messrs WJT Stops, RL Blackwood, RS Waller, C Brammall, EL Piesse, WID Butters.
Apologies for absence were received from Professor McAulay, Messrs W Walker, CW Butters, JB Walker, EH Butters, E Maxwell and others.
Resolved that the name of the Club be the University Cricket Club.
Proposed by W Stops and seconded by Professor McFarlane that a provisional committee be formed consisting of Messrs Butters, Waller and Blackwood for the purpose of taking such steps, as are necessary for the formation of the Club, and arrange, if possible with Queens College concerning a joint pitch in the Upper Cricket Ground.
Resolved that the subscriptions be 10/6 per annum payable on the 1st October and also that the colours be the same as the University Tennis Club.
Minutes of the first committee meeting of the University Cricket Club
On the same date 16th September a committee meeting was held.
Present: Messrs Blackwood, Waller and Butters.
It was resolved that WID Butters be Secretary and Treasurer.
Arranged that Blackwood was to see about the pitch and it was subsequently arranged with WAA Stephens to share the pitch on equal terms.
Queens College to lend us their nets and to have Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as practice days and the University to have Tuesdays and Fridays.
The committee of the S.T. Association agreed to the arrangements.