The Box Hill Cricket Club commenced invitational games against other clubs local to the Box Hill region in 1890. At the time the City of Box Hill was part of the Shire of Nunawading which was a predominantly rural area and had a population of almost 4,500 people. In 1890-91 Box Hill competed with six other clubs (Blackburn, Canterbury, Doncaster, Mitcham, Ringwood and Surrey Hills) for the Reporter Trophy. Box Hill (8 wins, 0 losses) narrowly defeated Blackburn (7 wins, 1 loss) for the Reporter Trophy. Box Hill then challenged Burwood for the Gilmour Trophy, with Box Hill narrowly losing by 2 wickets.
By 1892-93 Burwood and Boroondara had joined the competition and teams competed for the Gilmour Trophy and 10 Guineas in prize money. Box Hill defeated Boroondara in the Final by 59 runs after trailing by 115 runs on 1st innings.
By the late 1890's the Reporter competition was struggling with lack of teams. It appears no competition was held in 1901/02. The competition recommenced in 1902/03. Box Hill became A Grade premiers in 1903/04 (shared with Mitcham). In 1910/11 the Box Hill Reporter District Cricket Association introduced 2 grades (A & B) with Box Hill competing in A grade. When the competition resumed after World War I, in 1919-20 Box Hill fielded a 2nd B grade team.
From the start of 1919/20, Box Hill began fielding two teams in the competition. Box Hill won A Grade Premierships in 1922/23, 1925/26 and 1926/27. The club also won B Grade Premierships in 1922/23, 1923/24, 1925/26 and 1930/31.
Box Hill was only able to field one side in the 1932/33 season. Records show that the Box Hill ANA club merged with Box Hill Cricket Club at the end of season 1932/33. The ANA club had played in the BHRDCA from 1922/23. Box Hill once again fielded 2 teams in the 1933/34 season. Despite this Box hill was once again only able to field one team for 1934/35.
The Box Hill Cricket Club formed itself as an Incorporated Association. The first annual meeting was held in the Mayor's Room of the Box Hill Town Hall on August 5th 1937 that the Box Hill Cricket Club, as we know it now, came into being. On that occasion the foundation members present were Messrs J.E. Payne, Arthur Pullen, J.W. Starling, E.C. Garing, J.D. Andrews, E.A. Stone, R. Pullen, A.E. Stone, Dr. W.J. Craig, Messrs F. Wiese, S.L. Watsford, F. Cheshire, A.E. Ferguson, E. Anscombe, P. Broadhead, A. Wood, Councillors W.F. Young, J.K. Archer and J.C. Hogan and Mr Birtles.
This gathering elected the following men to office: as first President, Dr. J.W. Craig; Vice Presidents, Cr. J.K. Archer, Messrs R. Pullen, and S.L. Watsford. Mr H.D. Riddell became Secretary, and Mr A. Pullen his assistant. The Treasurer for this opening season was Mr J.D. Andrews, and the committee comprised Messrs E.A. Anscombe, M. Birtles, E.C. Garing, J.E. Payne, J.W. Starling and E.A. Stone. The Club began under the patronage of Councillor W.F. Young.
The VJCA season of 1937-38 opened on October 2nd, and on this day Box Hill took to turf with a 1st and 2nd XI competing in the 1st and 2nd grades of the VJCA Turf Sections. In the opening round the 1st XI were at home, on the Box Hill City Oval, to the University High School, whilst the respective 2nd elevens were opposed at Parkdale. On this first occasion the Box Hill ground was to show how unkindly it reacted to overnight rain, for when the teams assembled at the ground, no play was possible; a situation that was to become a feature of this otherwise fine ground. But at Parkdale play was possible, and on this first day the following men had been chosen to play in the 2nd XI:
W.(Bill) STARLING Captain
Arthur THROSSELL and
with Ken Garing scoring and High School winning the toss.
Box Hill batted first and made 94 - with Graham Sleeth's 20 top-score. The High School were never in trouble to lead on the first innings, and by stumps on the first day had made 118 for 4 wickets, a tally which they advanced on the following Saturday to 216 for 6 before declaring. Box Hill batted their second innings under the threat of an outright defeat, when the 4th wicket fell at 60, but Graham Sleeth and Arthur Woods became associated in a stand that is still on the books as a record for the 2nd XI fifth wicket. Between them Sleeth and Woods blazed up 132, with Sleeth getting the first century - 101 with 14 boundaries and 2 sixes; and Woods remaining unconquered for 56, the match being won by the University High School by 98 on the first innings.
Meanwhile, on this second day at Box Hill, the 1st elevens were locked together in a dour one October 9th day struggle. In this match too, the High School won the toss and Box Hill batted first, in the following order:
Jock ANDREWS Captain
with future Life Member Mr E.A. Stone scorer.
This team was at one stage 6/16, but rallied to total 80 runs of which only Lyn BLAIR with 18, made more than the 17 sundries, although Max Birtles, who was to become the greatest run maker in the Club's history, went in No.9 and made 15 not out. When the High school batted the struggle was on in earnest, but at 5/59 the Box Hill bowlers made the effort that was to win the day by 11 runs with Joe Blair taking 3/17 from 5 overs.
Some fine players appeared in this first match. One was Jack McInerney. This player made a duck in that game, but finished that season on top of the batting averages and in later seasons went on to become the first of the Club's great all-rounders. In all McInerney made 2352 runs including the highest individual innings of 174, made against Black Rock on February 10th 1940, and in 16 innings he topped 50. As a bowler McInerney was just as good, taking 125 wickets from 388 overs of good, sometimes great, googly bowling. On 6 occasions he took 5 wickets or more in an innings, and when he took 11 Melbourne City wickets in February '46, he accomplished what only one other bowler before him, Joe Blair, and one since, Jim Russell, had done.
The Blair brothers, Lyn and Joe, crammed a lot into four short seasons; all-rounder Lyn making 1140 runs with one century and taking 93 wickets, missing by 7 the double that only two other fast bowlers, Bob Green and Val Stone, were able to achieve. Borther Joe, a swing and spin man, who took 10 wickets in a match, and on three occasions bowled unchanged throughout an innings, was not so hany with the bat, but like Tommy Good 15 years later, couldn't always be got out.
These were just four of the fine players who appeared in these first two teams, and within a season or two others were to appear and become equally prominent, and yet, although hopes always ran high, and sometimes were nearly realised, 15 long summers had to be spent in the cricketing wilderness before the first premiership flag fluttered from the pavilion pole.
Thus with a win and a loss, Box Hill appeared on the cricketing stage, and from there went on that season to do well in succeeding rounds; the 1st XI beating Alphington, Melbourne Parks and Old Xaverians, before the Fitzroy Footballers ended a fine opening run. On the other hand the 2nd XI, without a permanent captain and with a changing complement, were often struggling, following their opening loss with a draw against Alphington, a win against Spotswood, and then losses to Flemington-Kensington and South Hawthorn before drawing with Glenhuntly.
As has been recorded, Box Hill entered the VJCA in 1937, and by the end of the 1937-38 season, the 1st XI at any rate, was well established in the A section, winning 8 of the 12 games played that season, and finishing 5th. Jack McInerney topped the batting averages with 318 runs at 19.87 an innings, with Lou Sleeth taking 54 wickets at 8.5 apiece to top the bowling. Lou Sleeth also became the first winner of the so-called Points Award Trophy, or Club Champion. The Second Eleven found the going harder than the Firsts, when the 2nd XI won only 2 of its 11 game program, another 2 being drawn. Jack Fitzpatrick headed the 2nd XI batting with 161 runs at 13.4 a time, and Kel Howie, with 20 wickets at 14.5 was the leading bowler, the only occasion on record where the bowling figure exceeded that of the batting.
The 1938-39 season was something of a disappointment. There were too few successes for the number of fine performances. The 1st XI, again led by Jock Andrews, was always within striking distance of the "four", but never actually in it, and a reverse in the second last match of the season ended their hopes, the side finishing 5th, and in all winning 6 games, losing 5 and halving 1.
This was the season in which Max Birtles emerged as the Club's leading batsman, averaging 28.7 from 402 runs, and sharing the limelight with Joe Blair who took out the bowling figures with 43 wickets at 13 each. Joe's brother Lyn was the Club Champion for the season. Val Stone, destined for District ranks, topped the 2nd XI batting with 25.7 from 232 runs and again Kel Howie took out the bowling with, this time, 10.08 from 36 wickets.
The 2nd XI were struggling along, winning another 2 games this season, but losing 8 and drawing 2.
World War II and the 1939-40 season began almost simultaneously, and the Club's growing strength, both on and off the field, became evident. Dr Craig was still President, and Mr E. Garing similarly Secretary. A small three-man social committee comprising Messrs M. Birtles, H.H. Buzwell and J.W. Starling Jnr, were surprisingly active, and during the season organised no less than 5 tennis tournaments, 3 card evenings and a picnic match against Mont Albert at Rosebud.
On the field the 1st XI, under the leadership of Max Birtles, won its way to the semi-finals, but unfortunately could not sustain its efforts and got no further. In all, the two teams played between them 23 games, winning 13, losing 9 and drawing the remaining match, the team figures being: 1st XI - won 9, lost 3 and 2nd XI - won 4, lost 6 and drew 1.
Fine players beget fine performances, and this was the season for both. Jack McInerney took out his second 1st XI batting award with 432 runs at 30.8. Bert Rimmer had a magnificent season with the ball. Six times during the season did he take 5 or more wickets in an innings, twice taking 10 or more in a match, and thrice with Joe Blair bowled out an opposing side without relief. Rimmer's 58 wickets easily topped both Club and Association figures, and represented a tally which only one other Club bowler, Stan Smith, had equalled, and none had bettered.
Rimmer's 58 wickets cost him 5.43 runs each, a record low figure, but he wasn't the only bowler to do well that year. The week after Bert got 12 wickets against Black Rock, Joe Blair took 10 against Old Xaverians, whilst in the 2nds first year man Max Jeffs, in taking 8/18 against Elsternwick, also got the first hat-trick. With the bat Box Hill set a record for itself when the 1st XI, on February 2nd, 1940, slammed up 402 for 6 wickets in a match against Black Rock, McInerney getting 174, Birtles 132 and Stone 33n.o. - it wasn't all slather and whack either, at one time McInerney scored 22 successive singles before sneaking a fast two. For the records, Max Birtles took 12 catches this year, which no-one else got near.
Bill Starling led the 2nd XI for the third successive season, and with a lot more luck this time, for after a shaky start the side finished on in great style, winning 4 of their 11 games, and leaving 1 undecided. Kel Howie, who had the previous year won the seconds bowling award, and was to become a century wicket taker within 5 years, this season won the batting for the 2nd XI, making 234 runs from 10 innings, whilst Laurie Tulley took out the bowling figure with 22 wickets at 11.04. Ian McKay deserves a mention for taking 10 Elsternwick wickets on February 10, 1940, thereby becoming the first 2nd XI bowler to record the feat.
In his best season to date, Jack McInerney beat off some stiff competition to become the Club Champion for 1939-40.
1940-41 was Max Birtles year: he became the first player to amass over 500 runs in a season, and he did it by the simple expedient of averaging 49.4 runs every time he went to the wicket. In a great exhibition of consistent, high pressure batting, he reeled off the seasons 13 innings in the following sequence: 21, 33n.o., 16, 1, 8, 67, 2, 66, 76, 116, 34, 79, 74; with the next man on the batting list getting a mere 207 runs. Looking back it is hard to find a reason why the team did not do better than its customary third, for the bowling seemed well-balanced with Val Stone, Bert Rimmer, Ron Black and Lou Blair, but the scorebooks show that apart from Birtles, the batting was shaky and the attack relied too much on pace, lacking a successful spinner on whom to fall back when the wickets favoured the opposing batsmen. Max Birtles of course won the batting with his 49.4 from 593 runs, and Ron Black took the bowling in his first season with the Club returning 9.8 from 25 wickets.
The 2nd XI were beginning a slide downhill, but still managed to win 3, losing 4 and splitting 2, rain robbing the side of one certain victory that when into the book as undecided. Laurie Tulley showed his versatility by following his win in the bowling last year by winning the 1940-41 batting returning 23.77 from 214 runs.
Jim Russell's rather modest 19 wickets at 11.94 was good enough to carry him to the top of the trundlers for this 1940-41 season, which was, for the records, the year in which the 1st XI won 7 of its 11 matches, lost and drew 2 each, and was the first year of a left hander who was to later graduate from this Club to District and Interstate honours - Lou Green.
1941-42 was a triumphant procession - that is, until the finals. The 1st XI this season put up a performance that is without equal in this Club. In the home and home matches this fine XI won 9 matches straight, beat Sandringham in the semi to make it 10, only to go down by 23 runs (195-172) to Middle Park in the final. During this season the Box Hill team which did not appear particularly strong on paper, had combined very well out in the middle where it counts, and whilst it must have been a great disappointment to have done so well for so many seasons and then miss out when it seemed certain to be Box Hill's turn, there can be no doubt that the team was out-batted in what was primarily a batting duel. In passing two features of this game are worthy of comment: first, in this final, the first in which Box Hill had appeared, they were beaten by a team which had as a member a player who was to eventually lead Box Hill to its first premiership 11 years later - Colin Rudd, who in this 41-42 final batted No. 5 for Middle Park and made 11. The second point of interest rests in the fact that in the Box Hill team were three members of the one family: Arthur Green and his sons Lou and Bob, the father top-scoring the match with 50, and the sons making 12 and 14 respectively.
At the end of this season, when the 1st XI had won 10 of its 11 matches, a new name was at the head of the batsmen; Clay Crittenden, with 19.8 from 258 runs. Reg McKenzies name was also new to the honours board, if not to the newspaper summaries, and this year he took 25 wickets at 9.8 each. Apart from Bo Green's first appearances this season, eventual bowler-captain Wally Rayment established himself as an opening bowler of note.
On other less successful fields, the 2nd XI were coping as best they could, winning 2 of their 9 game fixture. Bob Green took out the batting with 13.07 from 170 runs whilst Jim Russell made it twice in succession with the ball by again taking 19 wickets - this time at 5.9 apiece.
1942-43. By the beginning of the 42-43 season the Pacific War was well under way, and sport largely forgotten, with cricket in particular reverting to what it was in the beginning - something that was played when, without any planning 22 men found themselves together near a cleared field. Like most Clubs at this time Box Hill found membership dwindling, and was able to field only one team, and that only when Service, Defence or Schooling duties permitted. Under these circumstances it is no wonder that fortunes were varied: Box Hill, after a great 41-42 season, crashed to rock bottom, with her single team winning only 2 of the 11 games played that year.
The slump 1s best illustrated statistically. That season Box Hill batsmen went to the crease 225 times, and 56 times returned without scouring: one in four a duck; on only 47 occasions were double figures reaches and as a team they failed to pass 50 on 9 attempts. The lowest scores in the Club's history were made during this period: 10 when batting against Richmond City on January 23rd 1943. But what the score-books didn't show was the pleasure and enjoyment that these games afforded: win or lose matches - and perhaps today it would be as well to remember more often that Cricket was a game long before it became a competition.
At the end of the 42-43 season it was found that Reg McKenzie had become the first, but not the last, player to head both batting and bowling tables as well as to win the Club Championship - taking out the batting with 259 runs at the all-time winning low of 11.7, and the bowling at 6.8 for each of 21 wickets.