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The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1934

V.U.C. Cricket and its Progress

page 81

V.U.C. Cricket and its Progress

Here's luck! for the sport we've had together,
For chances bungled and battles won;
For the wicket true, and the field in fettle,
And the man who's safe for a tingling catch.

—S.S.M., Sports Chorus.

"The Golden Calf," 1907.

"The Old Clay Patch," 1920.

For the genesis of the Cricket Club, one has to go back as far as the early summer of the year 1906 when, at a meeting regularly convened, about fifteen enthusiasts decided that the time was ripe for representatives of the College to show their prowess on the cricket field."

The formation of the Club and affiliation with the Wellington Cricket Association in that year led the way for an entry in the Association's junior and third-class championships the following summer.

Overcoming early difficulties as to practice wickets the Club with an eye to the future, as early as 1907, met Canterbury College in the first inter-'Varsity match, which resulted in a win for our Club after a stern uphill battle. 1909 saw the University Club classed as a district by the Association, with a consequent entry into senior ranks, but the wins were hard to achieve. Still the camaradie existing in the Club augured well for the future.

In 1911 Auckland University College was played for the first time, and at Easter, 1913, the first of such matches was played with Otago University.

Among the prominent figures in the Club's early years of senior cricket were H. W. Monaghan, a New Zealand representative player, who played for the Club for several seasons; F. Joplin, who gained Plunket Shield honours when with 'Varsity, and who was a sound and reliable bat; Gilbert Howe, for several years the Wellington representative wicket-keeper; C. Berendsen, another representative wicket-keeper; and the representative players Dr. Foster, J. F. W. Dickson and J. Fanning. J. V. Saunders the Australian and New Zealand International, who was coach here in Wellington for some years, was allotted to 'Varsity as a playing coach, his presence in the team tending towards further improvement, and indeed it was the War alone which halted the Club's progress. For with practically all the active members at the front 'Varsity cricket was hard hit, but it struggled on manfully. Many stalwarts of the Club made the supreme sacrifice during those four years of horror, and the Club's first eleven was no longer able to extend the other teams in the senior grade and consequently lost senior status.

After the War, however, a new start was made, with a team in both the junior and third grades, and the Club entered into things with renewed vigour, until in 1923-24 the First Eleven won the Junior A Championship of the Wellington Cricket Association. The 1923-24 season itself saw the beginnings of a brighter period, for the Junior A Championship win was the first championship ever won by the College cricket team, and the handsome win by an innings and 267 runs in the Speight Trophy Match with Auckland University College was a good augury for the future. In this game A. M. Hollings and R. H. C. Mackenzie, both destined to be Club stalwarts in later years scored brilliant centuries. With a young and keen team, only two members of which were over twenty years of age, no wonder the Club looked for great things ahead.

Expectations were realised, for in the following season the Junior A Championship was again carried off, and the Club earned the reward its enthusiasm had deserved, for its cause was taken page 82 up by some prominent members of the cricketing fraternity and at a specially convened meeting of the Association, 'Varsity was once more elevated to senior ranks.

The performances of the 1925-26 season demonstrate how well this promotion was justified, and V.U.C. again occupied a foremost position in Wellington cricket. Four teams were supported in the Wellington Association's championships, and the Club was third in the Club Championship. All honour to Mackenzie, Maurice Hollings and Edgar Wiren, the men who had worked so faithfully to restore 'Varsity cricket to its proper place. The first eleven had only two wins but was able to scare some of the leading teams in the grade. Mackenzie, Hollings and Leys played for Wellington representative teams, though no one was picked for the Plunket Shield games. The annual fixture with Auckland resulted in a draw, with Victoria in a leading position. The second eleven defeated every team it met and easily won the Junior B Championship.

Fair success attended the Club in the following season, the First Eleven doing very well until Christmas, but slumping rather badly after that, the net result being two games won out of nine played. Particularly noteworthy was Maurice Hollings' record in scoring a century in each of three consecutive matches, this earning him the honour of being the first post-war 'Varsity man to win a place in the Plunket Shield team. The annual fixture with Auckland was won by 71 runs.

In 1927-28 the senior team was third in the grade. This was largely due to the brilliance of Mackenzie, whose batting average was 69 and who accounted for 20 men behind the stumps. E. G. McLeod, a New Zealand International, joined up with the Club and proved a tower of strength. A particularly outstanding achievement in the junior grades was a brilliant 209 not out by C. H. Arndt for the seconds. Another satisfactory feature of the season was the splendid fielding of all teams. The match with A.U.C. was ruined by rain, with Victoria 24 runs behind with three wickets in hand.

The next season was not regarded as a very successful one, for although the Club had now some of the finest players in the City, it came only fourth in the championship. During this season the first of what has now become a series of annual tours of the Manawatu and Taranaki districts took place at Christmas. Mackenzie captained the Wellington town representatives in the annual match against the Country, and R. J. Bagge, a promising bowler, was also in the town team. The game with Auckland was drawn after a game of changing fortunes, Mackenzie getting a fine 70 not out in the second innings.

The 1929-30 season was the peak season of the period under review. The senior eleven was equal with Old Boys as runners up for the championship. Maurice Hollings had now left the Club, but the team comprised some excellent players who scored consistently well. McLeod, the captain, had a remarkably successful season and represented New Zealand against the touring M.C.C. team, gaining the distinction of being the first Victoria man to gain a place in a New Zealand team whilst playing for 'Varsity. McLeod, Mackenzie and Leys (unable to play) were chosen for Plunket Shield games, Leys representing the Wellington town representatives against the Country. On the Christmas tour, the games against Taranaki and Wanganui were drawn and the game against Rangitikei lost by 8 wickets.

The 1930-31 season was a much leaner one, the seniors winning only three games, and the averages being the worst for years. The loss of Mackenzie was severely felt. McLeod represented Wellington against the West Indians, and was again in the Plunket Shield team.

The 1931-32 season saw the departure of still more of the older hands, and a rather inexperienced senior team was successful in only two games. H. C. Bailey was captain of the Eleven. J. A. R. Blandford performed well with both bat and gloves, and played for a Wellington team against Hawke's Bay. There was a marked improvement in the junior grades, the Junior B's being runners-up in their grade. The Auckland match was won by ten wickets, and in the following season provided a sensational finish, Auckland nearly snatching victory in the last over, the match, however, ending in a draw.

In the following year this lower grade improvement bore fruit, the Club being third in the Club Championship. The seniors were mainly young players, but under the captaincy of L. M. Pacey the team was fifth equal in the grade and page 83 made some good showings. Blandford showed fine form and was the first 'Varsity man for some seasons to gain his place in the Wellington Plunket Shield Eleven, as well as representing Wellington town against the country. The Junior B's thoroughly deserved their place at the head of the ladder in their grade, gaining the first championship for 'Varsity since the 1925-26 season.

This brings the history of the Cricket Club up to the 1933-34 season which is chronicled elsewhere in this issue. It is sufficient to mention here the performance of W. Tricklebank, who captured 60 wickets at an average of 12.63 heading the Wellington club averages—an outstanding achievement. And we may perhaps compare the present position of the Club with that it occupied ten years ago. Comprised then of only a few members, but all of them young and keen, it was fighting for its promotion to senior ranks. To-day our First Eleven is again young and keen, but it is assured of its senior status, and its great fight this season is going to be for top place. In 1924 the 'Varsity Cricket Club had but one junior team, now it has four and all of them are capable of a good showing. In particular there is the Social team which offers a place to any cricketer wishing to participate in such cricket as the team's name implies.

No history of the Club would, however, be complete without special reference to those outstanding figures of the post-war period who placed the Club in the sound position it is in to-day. It was due to the leadership both on and off the field of three or four outstanding players that 'Varsity cricket emerged from junior obscurity to senior status. Foremost among those players were R. H. C. Mackenzie, a fine captain, sound and stylist bat, and safe wicket-keeper; A. M. Hollings, a player whose all-round worth is fully demonstrated in the averages; E. G. McLeod, a splendid all-rounder, the only cricketer to gain International honours whilst playing for the Club; and E. T. "Tiny" Leys, who signalled his farewell to V.U.C. cricket by a sparkling century on Kilbirnie Reserve one sunny autumn afternoon. For years it has been a hard fight for a young club to hold its own against the experienced and seasoned players of other clubs and, in no small measure, 'Varsity's prominent place to-day is due to the four men mentioned above and to the loyal support of many others. In them V.U.C. had stalwarts, who have left behind them a memory of ability with bat and ball which Time will be slow to erase.

J. A. Carrad, H. R. C. Wild.