The Early Years

Taken from the book  “Keon Park Cricket Club - The First 50 Years”  by Casey Radcliffe.

Formation

In 1951, the railway tracks did not extend beyond Reservoir Station and Cheddar Road was not divided and still many years from being sealed. Horse water troughs stood outside the Commonwealth Bank on the corner of High Street and Broadway.

Anything past Reservoir could only be reached by foot or car for the very few that owned such a luxury. Apart from a few scattered houses, most of the area north of Reservoir up to Keon Park consisted of very little other than cow paddocks.

Although few in number, several Keon Park residents, as part of the local Progress Association, got together and formed the cricket club. Most of the initial players were already playing at other clubs throughout Jika and many clearance permits were required.

The first office bearers were: Bob Morgan - President (ex Reservoir), Alan Marsden - Secretary, Des Jervis - Treasurer (ex Handley - Richmond Industrial League) and Bill Gee - Club Captain (ex Ivanhoe and Preston) with the majority of club meetings being held in the Jervis family dining room.

Alan Marsden was a physical education instructor with the Australian Air Force and was also responsible for the formation of the Saint Gabriel's Junior Football Club, now known as the Keon Park Stars Junior Football Club.

Other local residents, playing in Jika soon followed to enable Keon Park to complete in its first season of Jika Cricket. These foundation members included: Clarrie Baker (ex Mayston), Norm and Neville Ayre (ex Camrea), Max McCrostie (ex Preston Baseballers), Andy Purden (ex Reservoir Districts), Bill McCracken (ex South Northcote) and Bob Radcliffe (ex Reservoir Districts). Bob Radcliffe was a premiership player with Reservoir Districts (B Grade Jika 1948-49) and also won the Jika fielding award in their premiership year.

These experienced players were soon joined by other locals, Jim Cleland (ex Collingwood Church of Christ), Don Wade, Geoff Osborne, Herb Manly, Kevin Burns Snr, Bruce Lukey, Alf Delacorn, Don Greenwood, Max Hopkins, Len Cother, Reg Whelan, Frank Tilley (ex Cameron) and youngsters, Bob Murphy (ex South Northcote), Bill McFarlane Jnr, Kevin Burns Jnr and Neville Cairns, enabling Keon Park to field 2 senior teams in Jika and an under 16 team in the Melbourne Boys League.

When Keon Park first entered Jika in 1951-52 the competition consisted of 4 grades (A,B,C,& D) made up of a combined 44 sides. Prestonite were the A Grade premiers with their star batsman, Jim Henry making 122 in the semi and 127 in the Grand Final. Jack Quick (Reservoir) won the competition A Grade batting average (65.7) and the premiers were: Prestonite (A), Fairfield Diggers (B), Sumner Colts (C), and Leader (D).

First Premiership

The 1954-55 season saw Keon Park with two teams entered in Jika in Grades C and D. The first XI team was dominated by Bill Green who scored the Club's first ever century (103 no vs Reservoir Districts) and completed the Jika double by winning the C Grade batting average (36.4) and bowling average (7.5). Clarrie Baker won the Jika fielding award.

The Second XI entered the Grand Final after beating Palmer Opportunity in the semi and then taking the flag over Reservoir Socials with the premiership's vice captain, Bruce Lukey, winning Jika's D Grade batting average.

First Premiership Team
D Grade Premiers 1954-55
Second XI

Kevin Burns Snr - Captain
Bruce Lukey - Vice Captain
Herb Manley
Bob Morgan
Reg Whelan
Max Hopkins
Bob Radcliffe
Len Cother
Phil Russell
Alf Delacorn
Jim Cleland
Bill McFarlane Jnr

Keon Park were elevated to B Grade the following season (1955-56) and played in the semi final, ultimately going down to Sumner Colts.

The highlight of season 1956-57 was the selection of Bill McFarlane Jnr and Bob Murphy in the Jika representative team that played inter competition games against the Heidelberg Cricket Association, Preston Churches Cricket Association and the Coburg District Cricket Association.

Season 1957-58 once again saw Keon Park reach the semi final of B Grade, this time going down to Northcote ANA. Bill McCracken was Keon Park's standout player completing 2 centuries during the season: 104 vs Batman United and 107 vs Reservoir Districts.

The following three seasons saw no finals representation for Keon Park but some fine individual performances were recorded:
Mason Henry 8/14 vs Reservoir Colts,
Bill McFarlane Jnr 6/23 including a hat trick vs Reservoir Socials,
Bob Murphy 8/34 vs Renown,
Bill McFarlane Jnr 108 not out vs Northern Socials.

1961-62:  Where it all Began

Just 10 years after the Club's formation, a 22 year old Bill McFarlane Jnr led Keon Park to its inaugural First XI premiership.

Playing in the Grand Final against Preston Baseballers at Oulton Park, the experienced opposition side got off to a steady start compiling 196 runs in its first innings (Bob Murphy 5/71). Keon Park responded with a very modest 124 runs (Bob Lynch 43), leaving it 72 runs in arrears and seemingly headed for defeat.

Batting a second time, Baseballers were dismissed for 139 runs (Bill McFarlane Jnr 4/30), leaving Keon Park 212 runs to win the game outright. Most thought this beyond the reach of a young and inexperienced club but if it were to succeed, then a huge performance would be required from the captain and star player, Bill McFarlane Jnr.

Their confidence was soon shaken however when the side collapsed to be 4/8 and nothing short of a miracle seemed the only way the premiership could be claimed.

Enter the captain to play one of the innings of his career. Still in big trouble at 8/112, Bill was joined at the crease by Kevin “Dadda” Burns and the pair put on an unbeaten 100 run partnership to guide the team to 8/212 and the premiership. Bill finished with 93 no and Dadda 53 no.

Inaugural First XI Premiership Team
B Grade Premiers 1961-62

Bill McFarlane Jnr - Captain
Clarrie Baker - Vice Captain
Bob Murphy
Bob Lynch
Neville Cairns
Kevin Burns Jnr
Barry Lyons
Don Greenwood
Alby Duncombe
Ron Partridge
Bruce Lukey
Bob Kannegeisser

1962-63:  “A”  Grade

Following on from the 1961-62  “B” Grade premiership, Keon Park was elevated to “A” Grade in the Jika Cricket Association for the first time after only 10 years in existence. This was considered an outstanding achievement for such a young club.

Most clubs coming up from the “B” Grade competition usually struggled to be competitive and were often relegated the next season. Not so Keon Park.

In its very first season in “A” Grade, Keon Park reached the Grand Final to ultimately succumb to Prestonite Cricket Club, clearly the most successful club (19 “A” Grade premierships) in Jika history up to that stage. Whilst the defeat was hard to take it proved to be a launching pad for greater things to come - 23 consecutive seasons of “A” Grade finals participation and 54 consecutive seasons in NMCA's premier Grade, now known as the Jika Shield.

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