The Seventies: A Bleak Decade
The success the Club enjoyed in the Sixties showed no signs of abating in the first season of the Seventies. Under new coach John Walters, five of the six teams made the finals - the First and Second XIs won the flag; the Fourth XI finished the home and away season atop the ladder and were narrowly defeated in the Semi-Final; the Under 16s were beaten by a slender margin in the Grand Final and the Under 14s lost their Semi-Final.
The First XI played their Grand Final against Nunawading at Mitchams Walker Park. Blackburn won the toss and elected to bat, piling on 253 runs. Nunawading in reply pushed Blackburn all the way but came up short with a total of 218.
Along with the flag, one of the Coach John Walters' fondest memories of the Club was taking a gamble in making Bob Croft the team's main spin bowler that season. Bob had a fine season and was rewarded with the Association A Grade bowling averages.
Some indication of the strength of this First Eleven's bowling attack is given by the fact that Ivan Meehan and John himself finished second and third respectively to Bob in the competition averages: that is, each of them took more than thirty wickets for the season.
The coach also praised Neil Paterson and his Fourth XI for "the way they fought out (the Semi Final) to finish and nearly pull the game out of the fire after appearing to be in a desperate position after the first day's play. The C2 side went down by 20 runs.
After defeating East Burwood by a comfortable 93 runs in the Semi-Final, the Under 16s, like the senior two Elevens, faced Nunawading in the Grand Final. In a tense match Nunawading scrapped home by 10 runs, thus ending the Blackburn u16s run of 5 consecutive flags.
If the Seventies signalled the end of the Age of Aquarius, they also marked a significant reversal in the fortunes of the Blackburn Cricket Club. After the halcyon days of the Sixties, the next nine seasons would yield this proud Club only one senior Premiership.
The solitary flag came in 1973-74 when future life member Brian Eddison led the Second XI to a crushing victory over Templestowe in A2 Grade. The following report Brian prepared for the Annual Report captures some of the excitement this Premiership generated:
"A2 reached the ultimate goal this year through winning a premiership for Blackburn. It was a great thrill for every member of the side as the competition throughout the year was very close and keen.
"There were a number of outstanding performance throughout the year and I feel a few need praise.
"Karl Taylor was outstanding throughout the season with the new ball (64 wickets at 7.2 with 5 "5" fors). He continually broke through the opening batsmen defences and immediately put our side in a commanding position. Peter Johnston from the other end 'improved' every match (47 wickets at 9.7)
To a Club grown accustomed to Premiership success, its absence through the Seventies was a source of pain and bewilderment. The disappointment and anguish of teams making finals, but not winning pennants, or worse still in some seasons (1970-71, 1971-72, 1972-73), not having any teams participate in the finals reflected in successive Presidents' exhortations to the players to show greater commitment "so that our teams can again occupy their rightful places as representatives of a top Club".
After the lean years of the early Seventies, this souls searching appeared to yield some dividends in 1976-77 when three senior and three junior teams made the finals.
It had been seven years since the First XI's previous finals appearance and was the first McIntosh Shield finals campaign - the highest grade in the competition having been "re-badged" in 1973-74 in recognition of the long and outstanding contribution of Ray McIntosh to the Box Hill Reporter District Cricket Association. After defeating Doncaster in the Semi-Final, it seemed appropriate that Blackburn would contest its first Shield Final against traditional rivals and previous Grand Final combatants, Nunawading at Walker Park. Unfortunately Blackburn were rolled for 125, and Nunawading finally mercifully declared their innings at 6 for 558 at tea on the 3rd day.
The Second XI played off against Nunawading in the Semi-Final. Ian "Roughy" Cullen recalls the extraordinary conclusion of that match:
".....we were in deep strife. They had two wickets in hand and needed four runs to win. In desperation, I handed the ball to (Ken Dashwood). Dasher always champing at the bit, raced in, stopped and promptly Mankaded their number nine - what could I do, they had been cheating and we had them "nine for". Their number 11 came out swinging wildly and Ivan Meehan bowled him first ball."
Again unfortunately the 2nd XI were defeated by Doncaster in the Grand Final.
The frustration of a bleak decade for the Club is evident in President John Cotter's final report for the decade:
"It is becoming monotonous and somewhat embarrassing to report yet again that the Club has failed to achieve any premierships. We can take solace from the fact that we continue to be one of the strongest Clubs and that we had three senior (including the 1st XI) and two junior sides (Under 12A and 14A) in the finals - however we can not be satisfied with our performances in the recent years. I believe the administration and the off-field support has been adequate to ensure the achievement of premierships goals, but on the day our playing performance, in both mind and body, have not been equal to the challenge required. ...
"Hope springs eternal and we must have a positive attitude to the next season - lets hope we can plan accordingly and achieve what we have so narrowly missed too frequently in the past."