When it comes to winning premierships, Macquarie University has had a knack for periods of outstanding form, when multiple grades would find themselves tasting success at the Grand Final. While the club founds its early years to be tough going, a maiden club premiership arrived in 1972/73. This was followed by Second and Third Grade winning their respective premierships on the same dayduring the 1979/80 season.
However, out of all these premierships, there was one period where the club truly was a force to be reckoned with.
From 1990 – 1996, the club saw unprecedented and continued success. The origins for this successful period came out of the lean years in the Eighties, as well as the very successful tour to the England at the start of 1990.
The Late Eighties had been a tough couple of years for the club, and for many it was epitomised by the controversial loss to Burwood in the Fourth Grade grand final in the 1989/90 season. However, in the eyes of Craig Edwards, something changed after that loss.
“Up until 1985, we played third and fourth Grade, and Shires,” says Edo.
“There was a few of us who had come to Macquarie and had wanted to play grade cricket, so there was a real opportunity there. Otherwise, we would have all gone back and played in our local district clubs to play grade.
“So, you basically had a good bunch of players, who once we’d left grade, decided they wanted to stay and play for the club. So, you had a base of very good cricketers who played several seasons, which fed into the growth in the Nineties.”
The growth in the Nineties led to Macquarie University winning the treasured Club Championship Trophy in 1991.
“We started to build depth in the club, and got stronger at all grades. It was not just in first grade, but all grades,” said Edo.
In this time, every grade would experience premiership success. Second Grade won the 1992/93 season, Fourth Grade earned their maiden premiership in the 1993/94 season, and Third Grade won the 1994/95 season. With competition fierce for spots, the club had developed so much depth they were regular semi-final contenders every other year.
And it wasn’t just the boys doing well. Macquarie University’s women’s team became the most successful of all the divisions when they won the Fifth Grade competition in the 1993/94 season, before following it up with winning the Fourth Grade competition the 1994/95.
However, the jewel in the crown of this period, undeniably, was First Grade’s maiden (and so far, only) premiership during the 1995/96 season. The writing had been on the wall for a long time, according to club historian Warrick Folkard, who, along with Edo, was part of that premiership winning team.
“The good thing was we trained well and we played well. And we had depth,” explains Wick.
“If a bloke had to come up from Twos, he could play. Most of us played most of that season though. Paul (Notaras) and Edo had been working down in Victoria, and when they turned up, it just gave us two more really good players. It was a pretty stable side overall, that was a big thing.”
First Grade had made the semi-finals three times between 1990-96, as well as making the grand final once in the 1992/93 season, which they had lost against Lindfield by five runs.
“Lindfield bowled really well. So, when we went into the finals in 95/96, we thought, we can’t afford to bugger this up,” laughed Wick.
First Grade ended up qualifying for the finals in fourth place, and faced a 1st placed Lindfield in the semi-final at Acron Oval. It would prove to be a very tense affair, and one Wick remembers well.
“To me, Lindfield was the best side that year,” concedes Wick. “They were the side we had to beat. To me, the win over Lindfield in the semi-final was probably the more decisive one than winning the competition.
“We always know to respect our opposition. But in that year, we rated Lindfield higher than Holroyd. We had to get Lindfield in that semi-final [who finished the season in first]. Once we knocked them out, we felt pretty confident that we were going to do it.”
They had to work for it in the semi-final. Uni had played fifteen games that season, with four outright wins and seven first innings victories. They had only three first innings losses and one outright loss. That outright loss was against Lindfield.
First Grade made 145 in the first innings, and successfully managed to bowl out a tough Lindfield batting side for 113. Macquarie then made it to 8/162 at the end of the second days play to set up an eventual final against Holroyd.
“Lindfield had a couple of former test players in their side: Peter Toohey and Dave Colley, both those blokes played for Australia. So they were a pretty fair side. It was a tough semi-final, but it was a good one to win. After that game, we felt we could do enough to beat Holroyd,” said Wick.
Going into that Grand Final against Holroyd, the main bowlingarsenal of the time was never doubted in Edo’s mind;
“We were a strong bowling side all year,” he declared.
“I think it was a fast bowling era: Notaras, Webb, backed up by Brown and Budge. Wick was the spinner. The side didn’t change very much at all during that year. Even more, surprisingly for club cricket, everyone turned up every week!”
“It was the same side, playing and having fun together every week.”
The final ended up being a comprehensive victory in the end. After posting an impressive 190 (Monahan 60), the team experienced some of the best bowling in the club’s history.
“I still remember that night,” says Wick.
“Paul and Webby… we had been batting a long time. Holroyd go in, about an hour to go. We had sixteen overs at them, and they were 6/30 at the end of days play. No one would have liked to have been facing that bowling that night. They were just so intimidating. We caught well, they bowled well.”
Holroyd were eventually bowled out for 70 the following day, and stuck the knife in and made 170, (Breden 31) in the second innings. With the game all but gone, Holroyd went in to try snatch victory by having a slash at it. The game ended up at 6/60 at the end of the days play.
The win was a huge moment for the club, and capped off what had been a stellar season. Dave Webb finished the season with a club record of 67 wickets, with a strike rate 11.27.
“I remember when we were in slips and they talked about how being there was like lining up to get the cane [when Dave was bowling]. The bowling was tight,” laughs Wick.
Paul Notaras, his partner in crime, finished with 32 wickets and a strike rate of 12, but also finished strongly with the bat, having the highest average for the team (29.77). On the batting front, Jamie Breden (aggregate 571), and captain Tony Monahan (517) were the biggest contributors in what was a champion team.
“A lot of us, Notaras, Browny, myself, we’d been playing together for ten years, back in the eighties, so the side was well-gelled, very established,” says Edo.
“It was a wonderful premiership to win because you won it with a bunch of great mates. A lot of us have been through some dark days at the club as well. The club wass very proud of that moment.”
The club underwent several changes after those years that saw a decline in premiership success, with many players moving on to other clubs or retiring, as well as the competition becoming stronger with the additions of Blacktown and South Sydney.
“[During that six-year period in the Nineties], had great club captains in Greg Gavin and Tony Monahan, who were very established first grade cricketers, were also able to lead the club,” explains Edo.
“Culture starts from the top, and they set the standard. It took a while for us to find our feet again after they left, even though we had plenty of players who became settled and went on to become solid cricketers in their own right.”
However, this period remains one the most successful periods for the club, and a time that deserves a special mention at the 50th Gala Dinner.
“It doesn’t get any better,” laughs Edo.
“I still have the first-grade picture hanging up in my hallway at home. So do some of the other guys. Those mates of mine, I’m still in contact with them, you have a bond that doesn’t dissolve over time. You won the clubs First Grade Premiership together!
“Looking back, it is a really significant event, although we didn’t think about it like that at the time. The only Mac Uni teams that come close to it were the teams on the UK Tour. But for us, that was it. It’s a very hard competition.”
“Winning the first-grade competition was like a monkey off our back,” says Wick.
“You know, we could have won it all those years, such as a few years back when we lost the grand final by five runs. There was a bit of a feeling, that we shouldn’t make a mess of this. And we didn’t.”
For information about the Macquarie University Cricket Club 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner, click here.