The Sixties: Halcyon Days
The Sixties were undeniably the Club's most successful decade with the 1st XI winning A Grade Premierships in 1959-60, 1961-62, 1962-63 and 1964-65 and finishing Runners-Up in 1963-64 to narrowly miss making it "four in a row". 1961-62 also yielded the Club's greatest achievement with a triple premiership.
With Silver Flood assuming the Presidency from Dick Lack, the club fielded four senior XI's for the first time. In this respect, the Club's growth mirrored that of the district, whose population had ballooned from 15,336 in 1951 to 44,000 by 1961.
The under 16s narrowly lost the Grand Final to Box Hill High School. The School side won on first innings by 15 runs. Blackburn's Graham Sleeth returned the remarkable figures of 10 for 48 in the School's first innings of 170.
In its inaugural season, the 4th XI were defeated by eventual premiers St Luke's in the race for the D Grade flag - not a bad result for the fledging team's first outing.
More significantly, the 1st XI defeated Doncaster Footballers in the Grand Final to break the Club's 27 year Premiership drought in A Grade thus completing the pattern with the Thirds having won the 1958 Premiership, the Seconds 1959's and now the First's at the beginning of the new decade.
Eight Clubs competed for the A Grade flag in 1960-61 and the season comprised 10 home and away rounds of two day matches. The 1st XI fell well short of Nunawading in the Semi-Final's this season, which left a great desire for redemption.
Around this time, the Nunawading Council resurfaced the Morton Park ovals compelling the Senior XIs to play at the Salvation Army Boys home ground in Elgar Road, Box Hill. Life Member "Gubby" Allen recalls that the "ground was so small the wicketkeeper threw the ball to fine leg fieldsman to throw it back to the bowler!"
The serious issue of whether or not to allow the players to enjoy half a dozen bottles of beer in the rooms after the day's play confronted the Committee during Silver Flood's Presidency! Up to that point, play had finished at 5:45pm and, if Blackburn were batting, one of the dismissed players was dispatched to the Blackburn Hotel to line the pots up on the bar so the players could dash to the pub after the match to participate in the infamous "six o'clock swill".
With the vote tied, Silver was placed in the invidious position of having to make the casting vote. The anti-drinking contingent of the Committee had argued passionately that an affirmative vote would jeopardise the Club's tenancy at Morton Park. Silver was swayed by this argument and voted in the negative.
This summer represented the Club's most successful season bringing a triple premiership.
In the A Grade final, Blackburn batted first and struggled to a relative meagre 145. Had not the "the tail wagged", that score could of been considerably worse. At the end of its first innings, East Burwood had established a lead of 76 and Blackburn's premiership hopes had looked grim. Never a team to "lie down", Blackburn knocked up a rapid 237 in its second innings before declaring with three wickets in hand.
Captain Don "Stellar" Meehan led the assault with 67. Other contributors were Jim Robertson with 46 not out, Peter Grant 29 and George Stone 25. Jim's unbeaten knock was a fine performance as he had played the majority of his cricket in the Seconds and, while he had played some First's cricket, he had been unable to cement permanent place in the team and was promoted for the Finals on the basis of his experience. Stellar had timed the Blackburn declaration to perfection for, with a lead of 161 runs, Blackburn dismissed East Burwood for 157, to win the Premiership by a mere 4 runs.
The 3rd XI defeated Templestowe to seize the C Grade flag by 20 runs. Chasing 300, the team amassed 320 on the back of skipper Ray Maxwell's 79. In the D Grade success, the 4th XI made 292 to defeat East Burwood, who compiled 186 and 188.
In a rain-affected A Grade semi-final at Vermont, Bulleen won the toss and invited Blackburn to bat. That decision appeared vindicated as Blackburn slumped to 8 for 75; however, a ninth wicket partnership of 80 runs between Keith Sturgeon (43 not out) and Neville Jacobs (40) saw the team through to a defendable 156. In reply, Bulleen could only manage 103. This season's A Grade Grand Final was also played at Vermont. Nunawading won the toss and elected to bat. Wickets tumbled at regular intervals and the powerful Nunawading line up was routed for 75. In reply, Blackburn wracked up 189 to seize the flag on first innings by 114 runs.
By contrast to the success of the 1961-62 season, 1963-64 finished in disappointment with all three Senior XIs falling at the last hurdle in the Grand Final - the Firsts to Bulleen, the Seconds to Templestowe and the Thirds to Forest Hill.
The following season, however, the 1st XI bounced back with a vengeance to claim its fourth flag in six seasons. A rampant Ivan Meehan demolished East Burwood capturing 6/18 to restrict its first innings to 100 runs. Captain Don Meehan top-scored for Blackburn with 65 and was more than ably supported by Terry Dynes with 63 bringing Blackburn's total to 199. In its second innings, East Burwood succumbed for 90 to lose outright by an innings and 9 runs. Keith Blackley was the chief destroyer in East Burwood's second innings seizing 5/36.
Unfortunately, no photograph was taken of the victorious team - an oversight that suggest the Club may have become somewhat blase about its Premiership success during this golden era.
The 3rd XI finished Runners-Up for the second consecutive year in its pursuit of the C Grade flag. On this occasion, it was defeated by the Meadows' 1st XI, a Club that would be re-named Blackburn North for the following season.
Demolition of the Morton Park Hall
With the muncipalties' rising population, the Council of the City of Nunawading announced in 1963 that, as soon as funds became available, it would construct a municipal library. The preferred site was that of the old Morton Park Hall on the edge of the recreation reserve, which had hosted so many of the Club's social occasions over the years. The decision to demolish the hall aroused some wrath, with the proprietor distressed as he had just invested 3,000 pounds installing a new cinema projector. The new library was opened on 21 November 1966 and proved a immediate success with one-ninth of the Nunawading residents enrolling in its first six days of operation and 12,000 of its 20,000 books borrowed. A reader left with a book every 15 seconds forcing over-taxed Library staff to restrict borrowers to one book. The loss of the old Hall would in turn create an impetus for the Morton Park pavilion to be upgraded as a social facility for the Cricket and Football Clubs.
For the 1966-67 season, the Club appointed its first professional coach, John Jury. The First's, Second's and Third's all were knocked out in the semi-finals. The 4ths just missed finals by percentage but the U16s took out their third consecutive Grand Final under the captaincy of Stephen Maxwell. Tom Cullen, who won the Under 16s Most Serviceable Award, was selected in the Victorian and Australian Schoolboys' team.
At the end of season 1967-68, Secretary Terry Dynes reported:
"The highlight of the year were the efforts of our second eleven and U16 sides in winning Premierships. ...
"The second eleven has been the glamour side of the year and proved their worth with a tremendous win against Mitcham in a very tense Grand Final. "The Premiership was areal team effort with each member giving his best under the able leadership of Don Dobson.
"The Under 16 side proved themselves a tremendous team, with a crushing win in the Grand Final, to take out their fourth consecutive premiership.
"Throughout the year the team was very capably lead by Tom Cullen ( Batting Average: 58.5; Bowling: 48 wickets at 6.9 runs apiece), who really excelled in the Grand Final, with a magnificent score of 341 (including 44 boundaries) in a mammoth total of 619. In reply Doncaster Footballers were dismissed for 106 with Bruce Utting, 5/24, and Tom Cullen, 5/55, taking bowling honours.
Our U14 side also made the four but was unluckily beaten in the semi-final.
The 1st XI did not reach the finals in 67-68 and, in fact, avoided relegation on percentage.
Both the 2nd XI and Under 16s repeated their premiership success. Terry Dynes reported;
"The Second's led by Don Dobson, proved their worth in fighting wins against St Davids in the semi-final and Templestowe in the Grand Final. Special mention should be made of the batting of Peter Cullen ( 88 in the semi-final and 46 in the Grand Final), Henry Plucinski ( 48 in the semi and 58 in the Grand Final)."
"The effort of the U.16 side in winning their fifth consecutive premiership was really magnificent and was achieved with a mixture of great team work and tremendous will to win. Everybody contributed something in the premiership win."
This was a particular satisfying result, as captain Tom Cullen was not permitted to play after the second game, following a disputed ruling with the association.
Commenting on the "Cullen controversy" in the BHRDCA History 1884-1994 100 Years Not Out, Michael Dwyer observed "the Association brought in a rule banning Tom from playing junior cricket in the Reporter because he was playing for Fitzroy District Cricket Club in the afternoon, making him one of the very few sportsmen (to) have been complimented with a rule change to curb their ability or keep them out of the game.
In his last junior game, Tom made 103 against Blackburn North. Fortunately for the Club, this was not to be Tom's last game, nor his last century for the Club; although, eighteen years would elapse before Tom would again don the red and black cap as Senior Coach for the Burners.