Sport

Shield glory in Blue’s blood

by
March 16, 2018

Fred Brown played in Nurmurkah's only Haisman Shield title in 1973-74. His grand son Josh, 16, will play for the Blues in this weekend's grand final, looking to help break the drought.

Numurkah captain Norm Ryan received the Haisman Shield from former Australian fast bowler Alan Connelly in March 1974 in the Blues’ only A-grade win as part of the Cricket Shepparton competition.

1973-74 final scorecard: Numurkah 237 defeated St Brendan’s 234.

Some quiet celebrations will occur at the Shamrock Hotel in Numurkah if the Blues prevail in this weekend’s Haisman Shield grand final.

Owner Fred Brown featured in Numurkah’s only Haisman Shield win in the 1973-74 season.

Brown’s grandson Josh O’Dwyer is in the A-grade side and wants to help break the drought this weekend.

While the Blues enjoyed a golden period in the 1970s, no more titles have come to fruition, despite some close encounters in the past.

In the 1999-2000 season, the title was ripped from Numurkah’s grasp when Central Park-St Brendan’s clinched a famous premiership by just four runs.

Brown’s son Mark Brown, son-in-law Chris O’Dwyer (Josh’s father) and Blues captain Liam Gledhill all played in that heart-breaking loss.

Chris remained not out at the crease when the final wicket of Rod McLeod fell, with just five runs needed off the final three balls.

That marked the most recent grand final Numurkah has played in, which bears similarities to the 1973-74 decider, although Numurkah was on the winning side in that encounter.

The Blues lined up against St Brendan’s at Deakin Reserve, with the Saints resuming play at 5-134 in pursuit of 237.

But the Saints, as they were known before merging with Central Park, fell for 234.

Brian Durston compared the two sides in the News before the match.

Comparing batting strengths St Brendan’s is definitely stronger with Peter Curtis, Ray McFadyen, Gary O’Brien, Barry Tippett, Shane Sexton and Peter Morley.

Even their tail-end has batting ability with Graham Curtis and Mick O’Brien both proven bats.

The Numurkah side tends to rely on more than a few batsmen to do their work.

Batsmen with the ability of Fred Brown, Stephen Graham, Alan Connors and Peter Cowan are all potential match-winners.

Curtis scored 61 for St Brendan’s, while Brown notched up a half-century in the second innings.

With a copy of the original newspaper report in front of him, Brown’s memories of the match were triggered.

‘‘It was very tense, we batted first — I think it was 237 and they made 234,’’ Brown, 69, said.

‘‘It was a tight game like all finals, they’re all tense just like (the weekend’s preliminary final in which Numurkah defeated Central Park-St Brendan’s).

‘‘I didn’t see it all, I had to come back to work so I didn’t see the end, but they looked home and hosed when I left.’’

The Blues withstood a late charge from Tiger Josh Larkin to secure a grand final birth this year.

The 1973-74 win may have been the side’s first Shepparton Cricket Association win, but it certainly was not its first taste of success.

‘‘We’d won four premierships straight in the Murray league and then we moved over,’’ Brown said.

‘‘There was another Numurkah side playing in the Shepp comp, so we played one year separate and then amalgamated the next year and won it the year after that.’’

Brown said captain Connors was one of the premier players in the competition, with Ken Trimby handy with the ball.

The side had lost the 1972-73 grand final and although being a damaging side, the group did not stay together for much longer.

‘‘A couple of blokes (including Connors) went to Western Australia, blokes were in banks in those days and they left and there were school teachers (like Steve Graham, who went to teach in Kyabram),’’ Brown said.

‘‘Just looking at a few names, there’s probably five that didn’t play the next year.’’

Brown has fond memories of taking on the Saints on their home ground at the back of the school.

‘‘They used to play on a little ground at the back of St Brendan’s, we used to play A-grade cricket there and you’d snick them for six,’’ he said.

‘‘They had a big wire mesh in front of all the windows to stop balls going through them, it was a good scoring ground and good to bat on.

‘‘It gives you a false sense because you think you can hit them over the top all the time and then you get in trouble because at least out here (at Numurkah) you’ve got to hit them hard.’’

The Central Park-St Brendan’s home ground of Deakin Reserve was not particularly to Brown’s liking, instead he enjoyed taking to the crease at Tallygaroopna and Mooroopna.

But Deakin is where O’Dwyer and his crew will need to put in their best performance of the season in order to break the drought and bring home the club’s second Haisman Shield title.

The 44 years between wins is difficult to comprehend for O’Dwyer, 16.

‘‘I’ve only seen the (premiership) pictures handing up on the wall, it’s weird to think it was 40-odd years or so ago, it’s a long time,’’ he said.

‘‘You’d expect even Dad or my uncle to win one, but it’s a whole 44 years, it’s hard to fathom.’’

But Brown is not putting the weight of the town’s expectations on his grandson.

‘‘We don’t put much pressure on, just don’t come home if you don’t win,’’ he said with a laugh.

‘‘You don’t get fed if you don’t win,’’ Josh added with a smile.

Brown will do his best to be at Deakin for the match, but that is unless publican duties at the Shamrock Hotel require his attention.

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