The History of the Gisborne Cricket Club
(written and compiled by Steven Docherty - 2004)
“He (George Lyell) said they might fairly claim that the Cricket Club was one of the most popular institutions of Gisborne, and it provided an excellent means of recreations and amusement for the young men of the town.”
GISBORNE GAZETTE - OCTOBER 7, 1898
From "The Beginning" to 1900
The earliest record of the Gisborne Cricket Club’s existence is in a newspaper article dated March 25, 1858.
It describes a match between Gisborne and Kyneton CC in which Gisborne is unfortunately heavily beaten in two innings.
Most evidence suggests a well-established club with its own permanent ground, as can be read from an article in the Gisborne Express dated October 14, 1859:
“To Let – By Tender, the GISBORNE CRICKET GROUND, for a period of Twelve Months, to be grazed by Horse or Sheep only.”
Also, the players must have had enough talent for the local newspaper to think they would provide enough opposition in a match between Gisborne and Melbourne in March 1860:
“Though Melbourne can boast a large amount of cricketing talent, including several of the team who played the celebrated Intercolonial Match; yet in the bush are to be found many players of well-known abilities…”
There is some mention of hope for Gisborne in the outcome of the match, of which a record has not yet been found.
The same article also raises the interesting debate that appears to have continued through the 19th century – should Gisborne join a home-and-away competition or continue with their fixture of social matches?
The local newspaper certainly favoured the current fixture, expecting the proposed match between Gisborne and Melbourne to be close “without the stimulus of a champion cup or any other Coppin rubbish”.
The mention of “Coppin” is a reference to the Kyneton district cricket competition.
By the mid-1890s, the Gisborne Cricket Club, like many other local clubs, was still not part of a competition fixture and instead continued to play about 20 matches per season against various clubs. The season’s fixture was arranged at the start of every season, but no points were earned, there was no ladder and no premiership cup awarded.
The matter was discussed at the Club’s 1896 Annual General Meeting but it was decided not to form a local competition with the likes of Sunbury, Romsey, Macedon and Woodend.
However, by the start of the 1899-00 season, Woodend had decided to join the Kyneton District Cricket Association.
Early Clubs of Gisborne
Cricket during the 1860s appears to have been flourishing in the district despite Gisborne, the town, only being founded a decade earlier.
More than one club grew out of the young town in a short amount of time, such as the club named Defiance.
“NOTICE – A Preliminary MEETING will be held at Gardner’s Telegraph Hotel, THIS DAY, at FOUR o’clock, for the formation of a new Cricket Club, to be called the ‘Defiance’. Those wishing to join will please attend.”
Gisborne Express - February 28, 1860.
Evidence suggests both the Gisborne Cricket Club and Defiance Cricket Club existed at the same time but were closely aligned.
In a proposed match against a visiting team, there was expectation by the local newspaper of "…the two clubs joining in a challenge to the Melbourne Club".
“ …arrangements were made to commence practice in the course of the week…we trust that they will meet with success, and that both this and the senior club will maintain an honourable rivalry…”
The Gisborne Express - 2/03/1860
Later the same month, despite being late in the season, another club appears. Notice of a meeting of a Gisborne club called Albion.
“ALBION CRICKET CLUB - The Committee of the Club are requested to meet at the Telegraph Hotel, on Tuesday (this) evening, at half-past eight o'clock. GEO H. SKOILES, Secretary.”
The Gisborne Express - 20/03/1860
Albion played Riddell's Creek at Gisborne on Good Friday, April 6, 1860 in its first match. The scheduling of the match raises an editorial comment in the local newspaper about the existence of the original Gisborne Cricket Club.
“A match will be played on Good Friday, between the Riddell's Creek and Albion clubs, on the ground of the latter…we suppose the old Gisborne Club is defunct, as we hear nothing of it now.”
The Gisborne Express - 30/03/1860
However at the start of the following season, an article in the Gisborne Express reports on the Gisborne Cricket Club AGM.
The Club promises to come out strong in conjunction with its younger brother, the Albion. It also suggests that Defiance failed to make it into the new season.
“The finances are in a very satisfactory condition, and this club is enabled to do what some others of greater pretensions cannot accomplish… the whole of the liabilities have been paid, and has closed its annual account without a shilling of debt.”
The Gisborne Express - 16/10/1860
The growth of cricket and its clubs did not quell in the light of Defiance’s failure, as two years later yet another club forms.
“A meeting was held on Wednesday, 15 January, 1862 and a decision was made to secure a piece of land from the government for use.”
“CRICKET AND QUOIT CLUB. This club is now an established fact, and does great credit to the promoters for the energy they have displayed in its formation. On Tuesday night the wickets were pitched for the first time, and practising commenced.”
The Gisborne Express - 18/01/1862
However, as quickly as articles regarding the local cricket appeared in local newspaper, they just as quickly vanish.
“Every now and then we hear of a meeting of Cricketers being held at the Telegraph Hotel to consider the subject but in consequence of the non-attendance of members on such occasions nothing has yet resulted to advance the progress of this locality.”
Gisborne Express – January 4, 1862
Gisborne Cricket in the late 19th Century
Unfortunately newspapers in the region either ended or there are no longer any copies of them covering the period between the mid-1860s until the early 1890s.
The next article found is dated September 23, 1892 and gives the impression that the Gisborne Cricket Club has been alive and well during the media absence.
The article is a report of a club annual meeting including batting and bowling averages.
During the 1892-93 season, the club was busy raising funds and improving facilities.
A meeting was held on February 21, 1893 where new office bearers were elected. A report was made of a concert that was held to raise money for the erection of a pavilion and seats at the Gardiner Reserve, known then as “The Island Reserve”.
The ground was known as The Island Reserve because Jackson’s Creek was once split in two at the north-west side of the ground and surrounded the oval and then joined up again at the south-east side (near Mt Macedon House). Later, the part of the creek that meandered around the southern side of the ground was filled in and encouraged to travel around the northern arm of the creek.
The pavilion proposed in the February, 1893 meeting was erected by the January of 1895, however a freshly painted wall presented the same problems then, as it does now.
“We notice, however, that the boys who frequent the place are doing their utmost to disfigure the place by drawing characters and writing obscene language thereon.”
The Gisborne Gazette.
The club’s main revenue during the 1890s was the annual Easter concert at the Mechanic’s Institute in Gisborne. From all accounts it was a popular event, locally.
“The hall was fairly well filled, considering the counter attractions in the immediate neighbourhood.”
Gisborne Gazette – April 7, 1893.
“…the large attendance must be taken, not only as showing how they the people of Gisborne appreciated good music, but also as showing the interest taken in the local cricket club.”
Gisborne Gazette – April 19, 1895.
“This event is an annual affair, and it is always held at Easter, at the wind-up of the cricket season, so a great many look forward to it as one of the concerts of the year.”
Gisborne Gazette – April 10, 1896.
“Every effort is being made to prepare a programme worthy of the occasion, and there should be little doubt that our cricketers will have a bumper house on Easter Monday night.”
Gisborne Gazette – April 6, 1900.
However, there is the enduring problem of persuading women to attend cricket club functions, even in 1898.
“Admission – Gentlemen, 2s; Ladies, Free.”
Gisborne Gazette – September 24, 1898.
The Club, at the start of the 1895-96 season, was beginning to develop off the field as depicted in the following report of the Club’s AGM.
“It was decided to ask the Lands Department to grant the ‘Island’ to be used as a recreation ground. The committee were instructed to proceed with the painting of pavilion, erection of flag pole and scoring board…”
The Gisborne Gazette - September 13, 1895.
The pavilion was painted and the flag pole erected and before the first match of the season, the Club flew a flag consisting of its club colours – blue and yellow.
Interest in the club grew as did the willingness of individuals to support the players.
“Mr Ernest Woods, of Upper Macedon generously offers a pair of framed photographs to the players obtaining best batting and bowling averages during the remainder of present season.”
The Gisborne Gazette – January 10, 1896.
The local newspaper, The Gisborne Gazette, also provided support regardless of the outcome.
“Although our ‘knights of the willow’ were unsuccessful they returned home in no way discouraged, but well pleased with their day's outing.”
March 6, 1896.
“This is the first victory Gisborne has secured away from home for over two years…” November 20, 1896.
“It might be mentioned that this is the first time for four years that Romsey has been beaten on their own ground, so the performance of ‘our boys’ is a very creditable one.”
December 18, 1896.
“This is the first time this season that ‘our boys’ have suffered a defeat, which was no doubt owing to the absence of A and F Oakley and R Sause…”
January 20, 1897.
“A large crowd witnessed the match, and amongst the numbers were some typical Australian ‘barrackers’, who boisterously cheer a champion in success, and mercilessly hoot him in failure, against which no man is proof.”
October 29, 1897.
In bad times, the support was also provided with good humour.
“The Gisborne score shows a good proportion of ‘eggs’. If this state of things continues, it would be wise for the committee to purchase an incubator.”
January 28, 1898.
Though at times, the support by the local newspaper was stretched, as the Club, like many others then and now, often failed to provide the match reports.
“TO SPORTING CLUBS -… If particulars of cricket matches, or other sporting events, played say on Saturday, are not furnished to us by the following Tuesday, we cannot guarantee insertion.”
November 26, 1897.
Did you know that…?
1. Rev G Pennicott was elected captain of Gisborne for the 1896-97 season.
2. The local pitch during the late 1800s used matting, not turf, like pitches today.
“The new matting was used for the first time, and gave every satisfaction.”
The Gisborne Gazette – October 22, 1897.
3. Back then, cricketers also knew how to enjoy themselves off the field.
“In the evening the Brunswick team were entertained at Bird's Telegraph Hotel, where a pleasant time was spent until about 9:30, when the visitors departed for home amidst cheers and well pleased with their day's outing.”
The Gisborne Gazette – January 26, 1897.
“The clubs which took part in the cricket match, Gisborne v Brighton, divided their custom, the former having dinner at Mrs Morand's Gaythorne Hotel, and the latter dined at Mr Barry's Victorian Hotel.”
The Gisborne Gazette – December 30, 1898.
Unusual Oppositions or Matches
As there was no organised competition, ladder or premiership trophy or cup, Gisborne faced some unusual opposition – teams no longer seen today:
· Cherry & Sons factory employees. Gisborne regularly played the workers of the internationally renowned local butter-churn manufacturer in matches early in the season. Though not described as such, it is easy to see these matches as ‘pre-season’ hit-outs.
· Gisborne often arranged an intra-club match between Smokers and Non Smokers. A match held on October 13, 1894 found the Smokers to be victorious – not a good result for today’s smoking-conscious society.
“…the idea that smoking is injurious to both the sight and the nerves appears to have been completely exploded.” Gisborne Gazette – 19/10/1894.
Another match saw the Non-Smokers seek their revenge.
“…a very close game was the result, the ‘lovers of the weed’ being defeated by only 23 runs.” Gisborne Gazette – October 16, 1896.
· Due to a team’s unavailability, Gisborne played a scratch match of Married versus Single players.
“…owing to the inability of Rosenberg to fulfil their engagement a scratch match between married and single will be played by the local club.” Gisborne Gazette – 15/12/1893.
· If the Club wasn’t split between smokers and non-smokers, or married versus single, the Club would also arrange matches between the Gisborne XI and the next available 18 players – known as the ‘2nd XVIII’.
· Rosenberg, a team based out of Riddell’s Creek.
· Gisborne hosted a match against Middle Park on Christmas Day, 1893.
· Gisborne played Melton at Gisborne on February 24, 1894, however Melton's first innings lasted only 12 overs.
· Sunbury has several clubs such as Sunbury Juniors, Sunbury Seniors, Sunbury Asylum.
· Though difficult to comprehend today, New Gisborne formed a club in 1897 and played for many seasons.
· Likewise, as small as the region of Comadai is, they too managed to get a team together and played against Gisborne.
· Gisborne hosted a match against Footscray on Christmas Eve, 1894 and a match on Christmas Day against 18 Gisborne Non-Players.
· Gisborne hosted Brunswick annually, with the visitors always enjoying their stay.
“In the evening the Brunswick team were entertained at Bird's Telegraph Hotel, where a pleasant time was spent until about 9:30, when the visitors departed for home amidst cheers and well pleased with their day's outing.” Gisborne Gazette – January 26, 1897.
· Gisborne hosted Mt Erica CC on Prince of Wales' Birthday, November 9, 1897.
“(Mt Erica CC) visitors hail from Hawksburn, and intend to cycle to Gisborne the previous evening.” Gisborne Gazette – November 5, 1897.
· Gisborne played St Andrew's at Gisborne on Boxing, 1897.
· Northcote ventured to Gisborne late in the season on April 11, 1898.
· Gisborne hosted the Boundary Road CC (Brighton) at Gisborne on Saturday, December 10, 1898.
“The clubs which took part in the cricket match, Gisborne v Brighton, divided their custom, the former having dinner at Mrs Morand's Gaythorne Hotel, and the latter dined at Mr Barry's Victorian Hotel.” Gisborne Gazette – 30/12/1898
· “CRICKET - The Old Gisborne Invincibles will try conclusions with the New Gisborne Eleven on the ground of the former, on Saturday next.” Gisborne Gazette – 03/03/1899
· Toolern played against Gisborne and again we wondered how they managed to find eleven players for the match
· An interesting opposition in the Melbourne Telegraph Office CC visited Gisborne on March 25, 1899.
· With Gisborne having been founded nearly 50 years, the Club arranged a Gisborne Natives to play All Others at Gisborne on October 7, 1899.
“A match, 14 a-side, was played on the ‘Island’ on Saturday last between Gisborne natives and those born elsewhere, and resulted in a win for the natives by 47 runs.” Gisborne Gazette – October 13, 1899.
· Coburg Wesleys ventured to Gisborne to celebrate the first day of the Australian Federation, New Years Day, 1900.
Following a review of the 1896-97 season, a review appeared in the Gisborne Gazette describing the performances of the club.
“On the whole the season has been more successful than the previous one… However, comparing the former half of the season with the latter, there is a marked difference… In bowling, our averages were not so good, being poorer than... the last seven years.” September 17, 1897.
Then an editorial was written before the start of the next season, discussing the poor number of memberships with the club and the importance of cricket to good health.
As important as cricket was then, and is now, a match scheduled in 1897 between Gisborne and New Gisborne was cancelled due to Dixon & Sons' sales in Gisborne.
Arthur Oakley has been chosen from the many players who represented Gisborne during the 1890s because of his outstanding efforts with both bat and ball.
He was consistently the best player during this period scoring over 3500 runs in 136 matches at an average of just under 25.
Oakley scored two unbeaten centuries (125 and 104) and 21 other scores over 50 including three in the 90s.
These batting feats are more appreciated when you consider that team scores during this period were usually only around 100 runs.
He won the club’s batting average six seasons in a row between the 1894-95 and 1899-00 seasons and did so consistently with a large margin between him and the next batsman.
During the 1894-95 season, he scored 575 runs in 22 innings for an average just over 27 runs. His season included a 125 not out against New Gisborne.
Oakley was again the best of the bats for Gisborne during the 1895-96 season. In 20 innings he scored 544 runs at an average over 30 and scored his second ton, 104 not out against Melton. That season, Oakley also came second in the bowling with an average of 9.89, which included 57 wickets for 564 runs off 209 overs.
The following season, Oakley continued to dominate the Gisborne scorebooks with 454 runs in 20 innings with an average of over 25.
As Captain, he won a batting trophy for his efforts during the 1897-98 season. Oakley hit a career-high 660 runs at an average of 30 during the season of 1898-99, but missed out on a ton, hitting 94 against Sunbury late in the season.
The final cricket season of the 19th century, saw Oakley rattle-up 585 runs at over 34 but again dropped short of a ton with his highest score being a 90 against Macedon.
During this decade, Oakley’s bowling returned 425 wickets at the miserly average of just under 6 runs.
Interestingly though, his method of deliver depicts a very different era:
“The bowling of M Walsh and A Oakley was very destructive, the latter's underarm leg breaks being a complete puzzle for the non players.” The Gisborne Gazette, January 10, 1896.
Oakley was presented with a bat in 1894 from Club President, Mr Watt, for the best bowling average from the previous season.
After captaining Gisborne during the 1897-98 season, he declined re-appointment the following season, instead nominating Charles Turner and accepting the position of vice-captain.
He played against many different clubs, including: Bacchus Marsh, Brunswick, Coimadai, Fitzroy Trades, Lancefield, Macedon, Melton, Murrumbeena, New Gisborne, Northcote, Riddell's Creek, Romsey, Rosenberg from Riddell's Creek, St Andrew's from Prahran, Sunbury, Sunbury Asylum, Sunbury Juniors, The Erskine from Carlton, Toolern and Woodend.
Oakley’s cricket continued well into the 1920s but that period has yet to be researched and analysed.
His brother, Frank, spent time as Gisborne Mayor and club Secretary and his great-nephew, Ian Bennett was a long-time teacher at the Gisborne Secondary College, involved in the local CFA and spent time as a Gisborne Shire councillor.
Arthur Oakley was undoubtedly the most talented cricketer of the time and would be deserved of any future Gisborne Cricket Club ‘hall of fame’.
Written by Steven Docherty, 2004.