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Brief History of the St Albans Cricket Club

Detailed history of the St Albans Cricket Club:
(first published in the centennial book, Feb 2005)
Canterbury Cricket Association
First Grade Winners, 1909/10

St Albans Senior Cricket Team 1909

Back Row - CW Allard, GD Mulgan, BB Wood, AE Ackroyd. Middle Row - GT Weston, HC Wilson, HA Bishop (captain), EE Crawshaw, TW Reese. Front Row - BA Miles, DM Sandman.

The St Albans Cricket Club was formed at a General Meeting held in the Wesleyan School Room on Rugby Street, Christchurch on Thursday, August 31, 1905. Tom Reese chaired the meeting which was attended by 35 gentlemen. The meeting was told that the new club would be named the St Albans Cricket Club and would need to use Hagley Park as their home ground in the first season at a cost of 35 pounds, but it was hoped to have another more permanent ground for future seasons.

More than a century later the club is firmly rooted in the same position and is happy to be so. We have much to thank the foundation members for positioning our pavilion on the corner of Hagley Oval that they did. It is without doubt the best-positioned pavilion for shelter, warmth, ease of access, parking and profile in the city. Hagley Oval, the clubís main oval, is surely one of the most picturesque and pleasant sporting settings in New Zealand. The clubís other grounds all connect and radiate around the main oval and give the club about 12 grass wickets.

The General Meeting came about after the Canterbury Cricket Association - which was formed in 1877 to administer cricket in the city and province - decided that it needed a more meaningful and structured club competition. This meant that clubs like Albion, Midland and United lost their identities as the CCA chose to introduce a district scheme. From the old grouping only Linwood and Sydenham remained and they were joined by four new clubs, namely West Christchurch, East Christchurch, Riccarton and, of course, St Albans. All clubs were based on a geographic area of the city. A new six-team competition was the forerunner to what we have today, albeit with many significant changes and some club amalgamations, but in essence those six (with other more recent clubs) are still running as metropolitan cricket clubs.

Throughout its history the St Albans Cricket Club has earned a proud record on the playing field. Fourteen men and 24 women have worn the New Zealand jersey in Tests, One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 International matches. A further 63 men and 79 women have also represented Canterbury (or other provinces) at domestic level.

To single out any particular person as more outstanding than others would be unkind. However, at the clubís centennial in 2005 two balanced teams (menís and womenís) with 12th men were selected by a 30-strong selection panel from the local news media, cricketing luminaries and long-serving and distinguished club members. The two teams which these selectors came up with more than highlight the great players that our club has had amongst its ranks. Many well-performed players, particularly in the menís section of the club, were unlucky to miss out on selection; such was the strength of the top 25 players identified as contenders.

For the record the two teams were:

Men: Tom Burtt, Cyril Crawford, Ken Ferries, Simpson Guillen, Zin Harris, Ted Mulcock, Frank O'Brien, Matt Poore, Mark Priest, Don Sandman, Frank Woods with Chris Harris as 12th man.

Since this team was picked Chris Martin has performed sterling deeds as a New Zealand Test opening bowler and would seriously challenge for a spot in the clubís all-time top 11.

Women: Phyl Blackler, Vicki Burtt, Catherine Campbell, Kirsty Bond, Kay Gilray, Brigit Legg, Sarah Illingworth, Ann McKenna, Nicola Payne, Justine Russell, Janice Stead with Helen Steere as the teamís 12th player.

Two players from the club have captained New Zealand teams. Namely, M. L. (Curly) Page, who led during the 1931/32 home series against South Africa, and Sarah Illingworth, who had a long run as captain of the national womenís team between 1993 and 1996, including one World Cup. One other milestone of importance was a score of 204 made by Kirsty Bond (then Flavell) for New Zealand against England at Scarborough in 1996, which was for several years the highest Test score ever made by a female cricketer.

Naturally a club as large and established as St Albans has also had a huge number of second XI, development, colts and underage menís and womenís players don the Canterbury colours. These players come out of some very strong club sides, which has been the thread that has kept the club to the forefront of grade honours.

To date St Albans has achieved more menís and womenís grade wins than any other club in the history of club cricket in the city of Christchurch as we know it from 1905. Specifically, 21 Premier two-day, eight one-day, two Twenty20 and three knock-out titles for the men plus 32 main competition and seven minor titles for the Premier women make impressive reading. Add to this a further 79 titles for lower grade menís sides and 42 titles from the various womenís and girlsí lower grade sides and it becomes clear how strong the St Albans club has been over the decades.

The Petersen Shield, a symbol of the strongest club in the city across all grades, has also been awarded to the club on 24 occasions. Six of these have come during the eighties and four each through the nineties and the first decade of the new century.

Aaron Johnstone (262 and counting) and Ann McKenna (330) hold the Premier menís and womenís records for most appearances while Frank O'Brien (9515) and Phyl Blackler (14,158) have scored the most runs in Premier menís and womenís cricket. On the bowling side Tom Burtt (754) and Phyl Blackler (1172) have taken the most wickets. Frank Woods (234 in 1923-24) and Phyl Blackler (213 not out in 1956/57), hold the top score in menís and womenís Premier matches for the club. Brett Harrison (9-12 in 1986/87) and Justine Russell (8-31 in 1994/95) hold the top bowling figures in an innings. Aaron Johnstone, over the period 2001 to present, holds the wicket-keeping record of 528 dismissals in menís Premier cricket while Marg Francis, over the period 1962 to 1992, holds the womenís record with 171 career dismissals.

The club regularly enters teams in most grades, with a current number of eight menís and three womenís teams having played in the 2014/15 season as well as a number of junior girls Saturday morning teams. Over the years the club has been down to as low as three adult menís teams and for some years over the two great world wars teams were amalgamated with sides from other clubs. Our club, like most others, lost several prominent players on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific. We acknowledge their contribution, not only to the St Albans Cricket Club but to the war effort.

During the memorable and celebrated history of the club many milestones and significant events have occurred. Amongst these were the amalgamation of the formerly ďstand aloneĒ St Albans Womenís Cricket Club with the menís club in 1977. The celebrations of the 25th, 50th, 75th and 100th years of the clubís existence were all fantastic and well-attended events. The centennial in particular was a great long weekend of reminiscences, storytelling and renewing of old acquaintances. The club invited former Australian cricketers Michael Slater and Geoff Lawson to be the celebrity guests and speakers for the occasion. Over 400 attended the gala centennial dinner and many had travelled from great distances to be at the club for these historic events.

Other milestones, occurrences and initiatives have included: The introduction of professional player/coaches, spasmodically until it became the norm from the 1991/92 season; Participation in five end-of-season National Club Championships in Auckland, being a beaten finalist in 2004/05, 2011/12 and 2014/15; The purchase of the Addington tennis club pavilion in 1956 for 175 pounds and the positioning of it on top of the existing building (to give the club the first two-storied cricket pavilion in the city) and the subsequent extensions in 1965 and 1977; Funding issues and the introduction of charitable trust poker machine grants and their meaningful application to club areas; Finally, after many years of being ground and turf managers and responsible for the funding and running of our own groundsman and staff, we succumbed to the financial pressures and sold out to the Christchurch City Council. They now prepare our "home" wickets at Hagley Oval and surrounding cricket areas on South Hagley Park.

However, without doubt the great pavilion fire on April 26, 2008 - in which an arsonist torched the pavilion, gutting it beyond a simple restoration - has been one of the single most catastrophic and powerful events in the clubís history. That the club was able to rise out of the ashes to have a completely new pavilion and with it nine title successes in the year of the rebuild was testament to the club spirit, camaraderie and determination - initially by a few, then a tsunami of many that the club has been regenerated to an even higher level of professionalism, profile and standing. Not to even mention expectation.

The club would not be what it is without the hard work and commitment of so many administrators throughout the many decades. Without these men and women the club would not be where it is today. The club has only had 18 Presidents. Alan Jamieson (with 35 years unbroken), C. S. Thompson (16 years), F. C. Raphael (14 years) and C. G. Crawford (10 years) have been the longest serving Presidents. Lindsay Serra (31 years) has comfortably been the longest serving treasurer. Next is T. R. Pope with nine seasons. Eleanor Horne (13 years) has been the longest serving Secretary while R. H. (Bob) North (22 years) and Sue Chamberlain (7 years) have been the menís and womenís club captains who have held their respective posts the longest. Selwyn Cox and Graham Curgenven warrant a mention here. Both gentlemen have put in a tremendous amount of time and effort over two decades on the committee. Both have had important and varied duties in the club and have been solid loyal administrators and players. The club has had others like these two gentlemen, which has made us the envy of many clubs within the city.

Over the years many dedicated men and women have held significant positions on more than one occasion, many also holding two positions at once. The club has a long list of 21 life members, of which 12 are now deceased.

As has been well reported and recorded around the world, the devastating and life-changing shallow earthquakes that hit Christchurch in September 2010 (7.1 magnitude) and February 2011 (6.3) - the latter claiming more than 180 lives - had a profound effect on the club. Although those two major shakes - and the more than 12,000 aftershocks that have rattled the city since - changed the face and setup of many cricket clubs in the city, we were extremely lucky that both pavilion and grounds escaped any significant damage. However, we were not immune to the effects that it did cause many of our club members. As a result of these personal circumstances we lost four adult men's and women's teams, including our Premier women's side, for the 2011/12 season. Thankfully, with a lot of hard work and vigorous recruitment and some outside-the-square thinking, we were able to re-enter the four teams the following year. Competitions were once again won plus the Premier men had another trip to Auckland to contest the New Zealand Club Championship, where they finished runners-up.

The club has also suffered a level of upheaval in the last few years in the wake of Canterbury Cricket's need for a new home ground during the post-earthquake city rebuild. Eventually it was decided that Hagley Oval, our home for 110 years, should become the new provincial and international playing venue for cricket in the city. The ground transformed from four outer club pitches to a single central wicket block plus a sweeping embankment and brand new pavilion. It successfully hosted three games - including the tournament opener between New Zealand and Sri Lanka - during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup. Though we are still based in our Hagley pavilion for after-matches, on the playing front this change has meant we have become somewhat nomadic in the last couple of seasons and will remain so for a little while yet until new home pitches can be found.

The St Albans Cricket Club has survived many difficult times: the great depression, war years, ground issues, relegation threats, social concerns, local body and government legislation, lack of numbers and financial setbacks just to name a few, but we have weathered these adversities to now become one of New Zealandís top 10 cricket clubs.

The challenge ahead is to keep the club at the forefront of cricket clubs in New Zealand. We will need to embrace new competition formats, the changing social climate, the ever-decreasing time and working scenarios people find themselves in and, finally, the funding and cost of playing the game. We are positioned well to meet these challenges head on.

This is just a brief history of the St Albans Cricket Club which has just completed its 110th season.

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