Long way to the top amid rain and a freak hat-trick

November 09, 2017

The 1976/77 Mathoura premiership team. They now celebrate their 40th anniversary.

WINNING is tough.

Everything has to go right for your team to claim the premiership, no matter the sport.

So when it’s A grade cricket, you will always remember, reaching the summit.

Forty years ago, Mathoura climbed that mountain.

Arthur ‘Joe’ Murphy, who captained the side, remembers the match vividly, recalling details of every session.

And what he can’t recall of the season, he maintains in a scrapbook.

It’s made up of clippings from the Riv from the 1976/77 season.

Mathoura — the club itself has long since ended its innings, though the name lives on — were not expected to be premiers.

It’s a classic story in sport — the underdog side (despite losing just two games) coming up against the much fancied star team of the competition.

On this day, that side was Echuca East.

Mathoura advanced to the grand final, but dealt with the cricketer’s greatest enemy — mother nature — as day one was washed out.

A fiery wicket on the second day awaited them.

‘‘We got out there the next day and decided to send East in, despite some objections,’’ Murphy said.

Those objections came from Jack Lord, then sports journalist for the Riv, who helped Murphy put together the scrapbook of the season.

‘‘Jack rang me on the Sunday morning and said ‘I’ve had a look at the pitch, if you win the toss, bat.’’

Fortunately for Mathoura, not taking Jack’s advice didn’t come back to haunt them.

‘‘We ended up bowling them out for 97,’’ Murphy said.

With about an hour of play remaining in the day, Murphy did what a wily veteran captain always should.

He argued with the umpires about the light, attempting to end the day’s play before a wicket could fall.

‘‘We lost the argument, they said it was safe to play, but when they brought on their fast bowler 10 minutes later, they took us off,’’ he said.

‘‘So we sat in the club rooms ready to go home, when the umpires came in after 20 minutes and said it had improved and we had to go out again!’’

Mathoura closed out the day on 17 without dropping a wicket, and ended the innings having made 120.

East chose to go hard and work for an outright victory, batting strongly to set up a target of around 120 to bowl at.

The problems then came for Mathoura when its top order collapsed.

‘‘No one could get runs, except for one fellow,’’ Murphy said.

‘‘He made about 60-odd, and we ended up getting home for the win.’’

It’s the kind of thing a young cricketer never truly forgets, but Arthur has gone one better, still learning things about the game.

And a 1988 incident involving Merv Hughes helped him to discover something else.

‘‘We had a young bloke, in his 20s, who took six for about 20 in the first innings,’’ Murphy tells.

‘‘He takes two off the first two balls of the second innings. He’d taken the last wicket of the first innings. None of us had realised this until now, but he’d taken a Merv Hughes hat-trick across the two innings.’’

The 12 who played in the triumph will all return to take part in the reunion.

And the octogenarian Murphy is very honest — they may struggle to get to their 50th.

‘‘We’ve had two guys from the club pass away, but the 12 from the match are still here and we have to be honest, we may never get another chance, so we need to take it now.’’

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