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Club history

Club History
 
 
The origins of St Francis De Sales Cricket Club can be traced back to the establishment of the St Francis de Sales Parish of Oak Park in the early 1960s.
Some parishioners with a love of cricket, formed a committee with the support of the Parish Priest Fr Atkins.  Names from this beginning included the late Frank McDonough, Gerry Welch, Maurie Prendergast, Roy Guy, Reg Taylor and John Nelson.  Gerry Welch took on the role of President and assumed responsibility for the formation of the club.
A senior side was put together and in the summer of 1965/66, while Australia was battling to a one all drawn test series against the Poms, St Francis de Sales Cricket Club took to the field in the Essendon and Broadmeadows District Cricket Association (later to incorporate the Keilor region and become the EBKCA).  In the first year of competition the side took to the field in the idyllic surroundings of Happy Valley (now known as John Pascoe Fawkner Reserve). Roy Guy had the honour of being the first Captain of the club.  After a successful debut season, the club numbers steadily grew with the influx of locals such as Stan Ralph and Peter Eilers.
Under the inspired leadership of Reg Taylor, on-field success came with a premiership in the clubs third year. More local recruits of the likes of John Smales and John McCormick added to the talent already at the club.  The club had also moved its base to the peaceful surroundings of Rayner Reserve and introduced a second side.  Simultaneously with this on field success, the club identified a need to ensure its on-going survival. A junior program was implemented providing the club with the opportunity to identify and develop local on-field talent and provide a strong base on which to develop future sides.  Included in this program were cricketers who would go on to take a leading hand in the future success of the club through their participation in off field and administrative roles at the club.
The success of this belief can still be evidenced today through the solid core of former junior players who continue to play or be involved in the club.
Despite early premiership success at senior level it was to be another ten years before another senior premiership was to be achieved.  Former junior players in Danny Ryan and Michael Welch, together with new recruit Mark McLennan took up leadership of the club as some of the older founding players retired.  Despite many finals appearances through the mid-seventies, the Sainters could not take that next step to secure a premiership.  After 12 years as president, Gerry Welch decided it was time to stand aside.  The club had been well and truly established, was in a good financial state and had a regular social calendar including renowned Melbourne Cup Eve gala occasion which provided the main income stream for the club for many years.
Peter Eilers took up the challenge of leading the club off the field as President, but it was left to a young crop of players to compete on the field.  Phil Cuffe found himself on-field leader, captaining a side comprising players just out of the junior program.  With a team consisting of 9 out of 12 former junior players, the senior side won through to the Grand Final where against all odds the side won a nail-biter by 7 runs on the fourth day. The spirit of closeness engendered in the junior ranks had finally come to fruition at senior level but again success was to be short-lived.  The EBKCA was about to start a Turf competition and as premier side the Sainters had the opportunity to take up a position in the Turf competition.
The club’s readiness for such a step was debated at Committee level and the decision not to take the opportunity saw many senior players depart over the next couple of years. Kevin Cartwright was left as the new captain of the 1st XI and an even younger playing list with which to work. Senior numbers were still growing steadily from the junior program and a third senior side was established to cater for the increased numbers.

After a few years as President, Peter Eilers handed over to Chris Blake. ‘Blakey’ made it clear as President he wanted two things – for the club to play at the highest possible level and to improve the condition of the clubrooms at Rayner Reserve.  Phil Cuffe returned to Captain the club, followed by Peter Jones and within two years the club took to Turf cricket.  With this move the club also entered four teams for the first time.
Paul Furey lead the side for its first year on Turf and over the following years he was followed by our first ‘professional’ Captain/Coach, Jim Drummond, Phil Cuffe and Brendan Smales. While the early 80s were not the most successful years in terms of on-field success, a highlight of the turf years was the achievement of the seconds to reach a Grand Final under the leadership of Anthony Jolley.
Off-field things were progressing much more ‘fluidly’.  Legendary (if you were there) social happenings such as the Crown Lager Club, Cricket ball Bowls, the St Francis Gift, Trots Nights, End-of-season Trips and Phantom Melbourne Cup Calls (by the erudite Doug Sandiford) were all events which commenced during these years. The Sainters even had a Ladies Auxiliary!!!  No doubt a real social spirit had been discovered (or at least social spirits were being devoured).
Whilst the club was competing at a high level there was still the small matter of the clubrooms. Commitment had been obtained from Broadmeadows Council for new clubrooms to be erected (hopefully a level surface would at least ensure a fair game of bowls) but not a stone had been turned. Work took ‘Blakey’ to Sydney and Peter Jones, followed by Phil Davern took up the Presidency. The work commenced by ‘Blakey’ would be seen to completion by ‘Davs’ who had worked so closely with ‘Blakey’ from the beginning.  Work on the new clubrooms finally got underway during the last year of the Turf era.  Ironically after all the work done by previous committees the club nearly didn’t get to enjoy the new surroundings.
Despite the success of the off-field antics during this era, Turf cricket the EBKCA way came at a massive cost.  By the end of the 1988/89 season the club was heavily in debt to both the EBKCA and the Essendon Council from whom the Turf Ground was rented.  Player numbers had dwindled considerably and it was not possible to keep the fourth side going through the 1988/89 season.  Compounding this problem the junior program was breaking down with only one side now coming through the junior ranks. With player shortages and the massive debts incurred it was debatable as to whether the club could continue.

Luke Tomkinson took on the Presidency and with a small but dedicated committee set about getting things right.  First off a repayment agreement was entered into with the Essendon Council.  Turf cricket was no longer a playing option and the club left the EBKCA.  A repayment scheme was also agreed to clear most of the debt to the EBKCA. The Essendon and Broadmeadows Churches & Northern Suburbs Cricket Association (‘Churches’) was targeted as the Sainters preferred new competition.  After endorsement from other clubs who had made the same move for much the same reasons, the Sainters were accepted into the Churches association for the 1989/90 season.
Mick Donohue was appointed captain and the club went straight into a Grand Final while the thirds under Adrian Smith also made the finals.  Debts were effectively cleared in one year and the club could look to the future a little more positively.
After the successful year, Luke left the running of the club to Phil Cuffe, Ron Costello and Brendan Smales for the next few years while on-field leaders included Phil Davern, Anthony Furey and Duncan Harrison. Following the clubs first up success in the Churches competition 'Davs' took the firsts into the next two Grand Finals but ultimate success eluded the club.  The seconds under Greg Walker added to the list of runners-up trophies piling up in the closet. The ‘runners-up’ label was starting to aggravate everyone at the club and provided our opposition with easy sledging material
Little did we know, but Saint Francis De Sales Cricket Club was about to enjoy it’s most sustained period of success to date. Fortunes took a turn for the better with the appointments of Brendan Smales, Darren ‘Moose’ Hynson as President and Richard Eilers as Captain.
Richard and Brendan introduced a more aggressive attitude both on and off the field.  Sponsorships to sustain the club financially were pursued off-field while on-field, Richard introduced a far more competitive spirit so that second-best would no longer be acceptable.
Although no side won a premiership in the first year under ‘Itchy’, the following four years saw the 1st XI win three out of four premierships. The 2nd XI managed to go even better, winning four out of four premierships with first ‘Smalesy’ and then Greg Reed leading the ‘twos’.  The junior program was re-introduced under Ron Costello's guidance and this was also able to secure an Under 14 premiership after just a few years. This level of junior talent coming through was something that the club could look forward to progressing through to the senior sides in the coming years.
With all the success at the senior level it would be easy to gloss over one the biggest successes the Sainters were enjoying off-the-field – a club within the club was being created.  Having taken over the Presidency from ‘Smalesy’, Moose had organised for a 30th Anniversary Gala Event to coincide with the Annual Presentation Night.  Following on from the success of this evening Andrew Nelson worked on a network of former players and associates to re-form a fourth side, referred to simply as ‘The Vets’.
The success of this side (not in terms of immediate on-field success, but rather the social success) has seen well over 50 past and present players and friends play a game or two.  Its success has also lead to the establishment of the Vets Vs Legends fixtures, which for a time was a regular social occasion within the club.
During this successful period the Churches merged with the Coburg District Cricket Association to form the Moreland & Moonee Valley Cricket Association (MMVCA). This again opened the possibility of playing Turf cricket.  Riding on the back of their success the 1st XI moved straight through B Turf to compete at the highest level in the Turf competition.
With two sides now on playing on turf, two matting sides and a strong junior program (which had already introduced a third generation Sainters) the club had survived its up and downs and was set to continue into the 21st century.

The priority for the new millennium was aimed squarely at setting the club up to be in the position where the mistakes of previous decades were not repeated.  Ron Costello, Andrew Nelson and Ross Davenport all took their turn in the president’s chair. The club embarked on a new era with an aim to not only strive for on field success, but also develop an off field infrastructure that would continue to support the club going forward and provide opportunities for home grown players through a progressive junior program.
Under the direction of the aforementioned trio, the club developed a strong sponsorship base by recognising and supporting local companies, providing numerous social activities incorporating both senior players and junior players and their parents. Pavilion facilities were given a major upgrade with the introduction of a liquor licence, live music and pay television, allowing access to a variety of sporting (and some non-sporting) telecasts.
On field sights were set high hoping to ride the back of the successful nineties and capitalizing on the bevy of new talent now coming through the junior ranks. A Turf under Steven Gleeson, Paul Steward and Jason Ball continued to be competitive but failed to reach finals. The second XI made 8 out 10 Grand Finals from 1995 -2004 but could not improve on the four in row from the 1995/1999.
2003/2004 marked a tragedy for the club. Senior Coach and club stalwart, Jason ‘Jabba’ Ball was diagnosed with cancer.  Shane Eaton accepted the challenge of taking over Jabba’s role at short notice in this trying time.  While Jabba failed to beat his battle, the club responded on the field as a true mark of dedication to the work he had started as coach.  Our 1st XI playing A Turf, reached the finals for the first time and 4 out of our 5 senior sides made the finals.  On the downside only the One Day Veterans side advanced to the Grand Final but the growth of the Vets Team reached its pinnacle with a massive Grand Final victory.  Celebrations went well into the early hours of the morning as the Vets forgot how old they had become!!!  Further junior success saw back-to-back premierships in the Under 16s.
Phillip Eilers took over the on-field leadership role as Club Captain and saw it as a priority to gradually introduce the youth coming into the club through the juniors to senior cricket.  A third Turf side was introduced in 2004/05 to assist this junior group make its way through senior ranks and introduce them to turf cricket.  After two years at the helm, Shane Eaton found work commitments prevented him from devoting time to his role and he handed the reins over to Peter Cartwright as the club entered its fifth decade.
In an amazing cameo year as coach in 2005/06, ‘little Ach’ assisted our top four sides finish the home and away season in the top two positions in each grade.  Despite this fantastic effort across all grades, it was only the 1st XI lead by captain Phillip Eilers that went on to claim the ultimate success. In a stirring performance including an eight wicket match haul by Nick Eilers, St. Francis de Sales went on the defeat The Socials and record our first Moreland Moonee Valley Cricket Association A turf premiership.
Again the importance of the club’s junior program was reinforced with 8 of the 12 players selected in the grand final winning side having played junior cricket with the Sainters (and another one doing the reverse by playing with the Vets as a junior before advancing to the senior side!!!!).
Whilst most of eastern Australia at this time was in the midst of a once in a generation drought, Rayner Reserve was also experiencing drought like conditions, albeit of a slightly different nature. Red tape associated with our application for a liquor licence severely limited the serving of alcoholic beverages. If not for the generosity of the Mildura boys, Jason Bibby, Ian ‘Pip’ Hedger and Jason Lang, who were living on the corner of Forbes Grove and Grevillia Street (before the units) in offering their back yard (and dining and living rooms) as a pseudo after hours club rooms, the club would have been in for one tough year socially and financially.
To cap off a wonderfully successful season, Ross Davenport as President successfully lobbied for Moreland Council approval to the clubrooms located at Rayner Reserve the ‘Jason Ball Pavilion’ as a fitting tribute to a great person and clubman.
Work commitments prevented ‘little Ach’ continuing in a lone coaching role and the search was on for a suitable assistants with Nick Eilers and John Chapman agreeing to step into the breach. Late season injuries restricted our 1st XI backing up their A Turf success, losing the grand final to Saint Andrew, however our 4th XI were successful in the end of season finale.
Containing a generational mix of players, the win was seen as a likely last hurrah for co-captains Ron Costello and Greg Walker, along with club luminaries Phil Cuffe, Mick Egan and Shane Eaton. The success would also trumpet the arrival of a new generation of St. Francis de Sales cricketers, fresh from our junior ranks. Jack Crossley, Colin Slater and Jimbo Roberts were all part of the team that defeated Moonee Valley in front of a near capacity Rayner Reserve.
2007/08 saw continued success with premiership wins to our 3rd XI captained by Richard Eilers and our 5th XI captained by Adrian Smith. Containing an eclectic group of blokes with vastly differing amounts of cricket ability, under the Mike Brearley-like guidance of Captain Smith, this group emerged from the an up and down home and away series, to not only qualify for the finals, but finish with a 45 run victory over on odds on favourites, St. Albans.
On the back of a 6 wicket haul from Johnny Balliro, and with Captain Smith barking orders from the sidelines, after being incapacitated with a slight strain of the hamstring (that conveniently allowed the more nimble 12th , 13th and 14th men, Michael Calleri, Chris Roberts, and Keegan McIntyre to take the field,) this motley crew were able to defend the 180 they had put together earlier in the day.
The foundation for the match winning total came from a top order that had hit form at the right time of year. Will Ross, Brad Budge and John Samson all contributed heavily with the bat and allowed for cameos from Brad Tozer, Will Irwin, Gavin Davies, and Mark Eilers later in the innings.
In 2008/09 the 3rd XI with Richard Eilers again at helm along with members from the year before, Peter Cartwright, Ron Costello, Nick Eilers, Matthew Heard, and Colin Slater went back to back. In a truly remarkable season of cricket, Itchy managed 1,197 runs (including 6 tons) for the season at an all conquering 171.
The 4th XI, despite Chris Rizzo making a much celebrated grand final ‘pair’ were able secure a hard fought premiership victory against Maribyrnong Park.  Captained by Greg Walker (who said there was a last hurrah 2 years ago?) and on the back of a stellar bowling performance from Jason Thompson (6 first innings wickets) and a second innings cameo with the bat from Dale Matthews,  the team again contained a cross mix of seasoned St. Francis de Sales stalwarts and graduates from our junior programs.
In a remarkable effort, the 3rd XI went back to back to back in 2009/10. While Richard Eilers and Colin Slater were the only two who were part of all three C Turf successes, another 22 players had played in at least one of these Richard Eilers led premiership teams.
With grand final runs to Chris Rizzo this year, (7 and 45) the 4th XI also went back to back with a comprehensive victory over long-time rivals Aberfeldie St. Johns. This win also announced the arrival of another generation of players supporting familiar St. Francis de Sales Cricket Club names. Joel Costello and Joshua Eaton shared premiership success with players their fathers had played cricket and won premierships with over their journey with St. Francis de Sales in this Jason Thompson captained team.
The arrival of the late 2000s saw the introduction of mid-week evening T20 cricket to suburban grounds. With our young playing list, who through our junior tutelage could all bat, bowl, field and move like gazelles, the older generation took a back seat. This form of the game was designed for a new generation of players. Ably marshalled by Matthew Costello, we had success in the knockout form the game in 08/09, 09/10 & 10/11. A truly remarkable effort considering the variable nature of this format.
2010/11 was to ultimately turn out to be last year of the Moreland Moonee Valley Cricket Association with premierships recorded by our 2nd XI (captained by Richard Eilers) and 3rd XI (Greg Reed,). The 1st XI, under the leadership of club captain and coach Matthew Costello, lost a hard fought grand final to Glenroy.

With the demise of the MMVCA, our turf teams were welcomed into the Victorian Turf Cricket Association (VTCA) and our non-turf teams, into the North West Metropolitan Cricket Association (NWMCA).   Club President, Ross Davenport made way for Grant Smith in a seamless takeover. After overseeing the most successful period of the club, Ross’ new mandate was explore the feasibility of a joint sporting club initiative with other local sporting groups that would ensure the continued survival of our club.
With our 1st XI playing VTCA North B1, (which was essentially a mirror of last year’s MMVCA A Turf competition) the team beat West Coburg in a tight, low scoring Grand Final over four days at Ormond Park. Captained by club coach, Matthew Costello, the side recovered after being bowled out for 113 in the first innings, to dismiss West Coburg for 102 before then putting the game out reach, making 9 for 292 before West Coburg threw in the towel.
With the bat, Nick Parthenopoulos (28) and Joel Costello (27no) were first innings standouts. Along with Marcus Rees, they were the only batsman to get above double figures first time around.   With a small total to defend, wickets were at a premium but Matthew Costello (5/44), Michael Calleri (2/22) and Ben Harding (1/18), supported by Darcy Ryan and Michael Costello were able to roll West Coburg for 102.
The 3rd XI, captained by Greg Reed was also successful in a grand final win over Hoppers Crossing. This side contained names seen before in grand final winning teams, but for an injured, Ron Costello (41 & 50no), Richard Keenan, Darren Hynson (5/37) and Warren Fawcett, it was one more premiership to put in the Sainter’s cabinet.