Between the Wars
After the Great War, competition for the Reporter Trophy resumed in 1919-20 with Blackburn fielding one team. The population of the Nunawading Shire at that time was 10,000. The following season a Blackburn B side was fielded finishing runners up to Warrandyte. Two seasons later the 2nd XI were again runners-up, on this occasion to Box Hill.
In 1923-24 Blackburn once again achieved another association first, with being the first Club to field 3 teams. That same season the 1st XI finished runners-up to Canterbury.
The Morton Park Reserve and Hall were placed under a Committee of Management in September 1923 following 35 years of Council management. The Committee included representatives from the Cricket, Football and Tennis Clubs, the Australian Natives Association and the Progress Association together with local ward Councillors (including Cr T. R. B. Morton) and local citizens.
A successful fund raising program was carried out to renovate the Hall and provide bowling and croquet facilities. There has been much conjecture about the status of Morton Park and its tenants - including suggestions that the Park may actually be owned by the Cricket Club! - however, fire destroyed Council records in 1924, which may have provided some greater clarity on these issues.
The seemingly indefatigable Councillor T. R. B. Morton, to whom the Club owes a significant debt of gratitude, died in 1923.
1926-27 brought the Club its first premiership when the 2nd XI defeated Warrandyte to take the B Grade flag. Played over three Saturdays on 9th, 16th and 23rd April 1927 from 2:45pm to 6pm each day, Warrandyte batted first and made 135 with Bill Luff Snr (5/11) and W Welsford (3/21) sharing the bowling honours. At stumps on the first day, Blackburn was struggling at 4 for 44. Matters did not improve the second week with Blackburn being dismissed for 112 to trail by 23 runs on first innings. Only Bill Luff Jnr (34), W Coffin (22) and Bill Luff Snr (16) reached double figures. By the end of the second days play Blackburn had reduced Warrandyte to 3 for 32.
The rot continued the following week for Warrandyte as it capitulated to be all out for for 80. Again, Bill Luff Snr starred with the ball taking a match winning 8/30 (and the staggering match figures of 13/41).
Chasing 103 for victory, the team reeled in the total with three wickets in hand. Bill Luff Jnr was unable to repeat his first innings top score and was dismissed for a duck, however his father, Bill Luff Snr with 31 and W. Coffin with 48, were again the mainstay of the innings. Club Secretary S. Pearce and D. McRobert were at the wicket on 6 and 4 not out respectively when the match was won.
At international level, the 1932-33 cricket season is infamous for the Bodyline series when Douglas Jardine's English team adopted the tactic of its quick bowlers, led by the frightening Harold Larwood, delivering repeated short pitched balls at the batsmen with a ring of fielders on the leg side waiting to catch any deliveries fended off the Australian's bodies. These tactics were developed in an attempt to curb the prodigious scoring abilities of Australia's young superstar Don Bradman.
At local level, the season proved no less momentous for the Blackburn Cricket Club. Having not lost a match during the season in which no opposition side scored more than 80 runs, the 1st XI defeated Mitcham in the Grand Final at Morton Park to win its first A Grade Premiership having previously finished runners up in 1909 and 1924.
Disappointingly, there are few newspaper reports of the match score, nor surviving club records. Nevertheless one of the members of that team, Les Warne, recalls that it was an emphatic victory "by an innings and some 100 odd runs". *
Struggling with player numbers, Blackburn applied to field its 1st XI in B Grade in the 1938-39 season, the only year the Club has not competed in the Competition's "top flight" since its reformation in 1902. The Club may have under-estimated its playing stocks as the 1st XI proceeded to "take out" the B Grade Premiership against Box Hill Hibernians.
Les Warne, who was possibly the youngest member of the side, captained that team. He made his highest score for the Club, 158 not out, against Box Hill Methodists during that premiership season in a score of 4 for 450 c.c.
During the Second World War, Blackburn fielded two sides up to 1941-42, but struggled to get one "on the paddock" for the remainder of the war, using mainly players who were either too old or too young for war service, bolstered by servicemen on leave. Included in the "too young" brigade were three players who were to have a significant influence over the Club in the coming decades - Neville Jacobs, Bernie (Gubby) Allen and Silver Flood.
These intrepid young blokes would front at Morton Park in their shorts every Saturday hoping to get a game as a substitute for a serviceman, who had played the first week, but was unavailable for the second, or vice versa. In order to keep the competition viable, the Association had relaxed the rules so that substitutes were permitted to bat or bowl even though the player they replaced may of had a hit or rolled their arm over the week before.
As with the First World War, the virtual non-existence of the Club's records from this period does not allow us to honour the Blackburn cricketers, who may have lost their lives serving their country during the Second World War. However, the names of the following Blackburn residents, who made the ultimate sacrifice, are recorded on the War Memorial in Morton Park:
W. G. Johnson; C. G. Maxfield; T. G. Mills;
D. H.Stirling; G. S. Wells;
Not all Blackburn cricketers were necessarily Blackburn residents. For example, the club's Reg Tickle was unfortunately killed in action, but is not listed on the Morton Park memorial. We regret any other players who may have been omitted from this list. While not able to honour their memory individually, the Club wishes to express its gratitude to all its members who served during the Second World War.
Lest we forget.
* From recently updated BHRDCA records: For the first time since 1920-21, neither Box Hill, Canterbury or Surrey Hills featured in an A grade grand final. Blackburn won their first A grade flag with recruits H.Wilson from Box Hill (58no and 11-67 for the match) and Harold Britt from Doncaster (89 and 4-17) ensuring a big win by an innings and 79 runs.