Land was available cheaply; Canterbury had a major subdivision, which resulted in the area off Canterbury Road being opened and the streets being named after English counties. Further progress was marked with the provision of kerosene street lamps in Union Road, and with the completion of the palatial Malone's Hotel near Canterbury Station.
Despite the fact that men generally worked 6 days a week and that sport on Sundays was unthinkable, cricket had been played on and off in Camberwell since the early 1860's. The Camberwell Union Cricket Club was founded in 1863, but regular games were not possible because there was no recognised ground.
By the end of the 1880's with the Shire population at 6000 (an increase from 1400 in the last decade) there was a flurry of cricket with games being played between a number of newly formed clubs. Canterbury was one of these and the only one still surviving. It was formed by members of the Swan and Fowler families along with others and a Mr. O'Keefe was the first secretary.
The club's first season was 1887-88. It played 21 matches, winning 11 and losing 10. The Captain was E. Fowler who as well as winning the batting averages kept wickets. His son, T. Fowler, won the bowling averages with an average of 4.7.
These first matches were played on a patch of ground between Scott and Bryson Streets. There was no organised competition, matches were one-day affairs and arranged by the Secretary with neighbouring sides such as Norwood (now known as Ashburton), Grace Park, Boroondara, Widford, Normanby, Elgin and Seymour Park.
Games continued to be played on this "adhoc" basis for the next 2 seasons. In season 1889-90 the club played 31 games, winning 19 and the season stretched from early October to the end of April. The Fowler family dominated. The brothers O & T Fowler took over 240 wickets between them. T. Fowler made 779 runs, while his father made 376 runs. By this stage the club was playing on land behind Malone's Hotel, using a shaved piece of grass with matting laid on top as a pitch.
In 1890-91, competition for the Box Hill Reporter Trophy commenced. Foundation clubs were Canterbury, Blackburn, Box Hill, Mitcham and Ringwood. Games were to be played over two Saturdays, and sides would compete for points - 4 for an outright win. 3 for a first innings, 1 for losing on the first innings. 2 for a draw and 4 for a bye.
Season 1890 was also Tom Mackie's first year at the club. He is one of Canterbury's great players, and was to play for the club for the next 25 years.
The inaugural trophy was won by Box Hill, with Canterbury finishing 5th out of seven. New names appear as average winners. Dave Sutherland winning the batting and Dave Hadlam the bowling, with Tom Mackie gaining the first of his many all rounder trophies. The all conquering Fowler family had gone, perhaps forced to move on by the depression of the 1890's.
The following year (1891) the club obtained permission to build a new concrete wicket. An improved batting surface obviously helped Dave Sutherland, who topped the averages with 560 runs. Dave Hadlam, perhaps appreciating the extra bounce won the bowling averages with 60 wickets. Throughout the 1890's, the club remained strong, with players such as Mackie, Swan, Dodd and Watsford dominating. A pavilion was build in 1896, although the major social events such as men only smoke nights and mixed concert evenings continued to be held in Malone's Hotel.
For the early part of the 1900's there are virtually no records available. It seems that, at various times, the club played in three different competitions - the Victorian Junior Cricket Association, the Reporter and the Boroondara Electorate. It was also during this period that a formidable young cricketer commenced his senior career with Canterbury. This was Tom Mackie's son Sid. Sid won his first batting average with the club in 1906-7, and along with Harry Swan spearheaded Canterbury to its Grand Final win in 1908-1909.
The scores of this game, which lasted 5 days, are worth recording:
Canterbury won by 61 runs.
It was also during this period that the club moved to what is still its current ground - the Canterbury Sports Ground in Guildford Road. Plans for this recreation area had begun in 1885 when the Boroondara Shire Council applied to the government for a grant of 400 Pounds to purchase an area for recreation purposes. Despite jealousies between rival factions in Canterbury and Surrey Hills, which initially resulted in the ground being called the East Boroondara Reserve, the reserve was officially opened in 1895, with the singing of the national anthem and the planting of the reserve's first trees. (The elms at the top, east end of the ground date from this period).
The club finally negotiated a move here in 1905, in time for the new season. The club had a three-year lease from the Council, for the use of the ground and the pavilion, all for the princely sum of 2 pounds per annum (roughly $80.00 in today's currency). Cricket has been played on this ground ever since.
One of the features of junior cricket at this time was the proliferation of competitions - mention has already been made of the Reporter, the V.J.C.A. and the Boroondara Electorate competitions. In 1912-13 Canterbury's first XI played in a new, short-lived competition, the Southern Cross, while its second XI played in the Eastern Suburbs competition. Many clubs chose not to be part of an organized competition and continued to play club cricket. Ashburton was one of these, the club preferring simply to have its games organized by the secretary and playing against all comers.
In an effort perhaps to rationalize junior cricket and provide a better training ground for the higher clubs, the Victorian Cricket Association tried to introduce a junior cricket union that would be directly linked to district clubs. This proposal was given a very hostile reception, no club wanting their competition to be subordinated to the interests of a higher competition.
In 1913-14 Canterbury rejoined the Reporter Competition, which in response to Victorian Cricket Association threats of incorporation had just re-written its competition rules. An indication of the siege mentality of the junior competitions to attempted takeover by the V.C.A. is the ruling that all players in the Reporter competition must reside in the areas covered by the competition. Playing hours were formalized; games were to start at 3.00 pm and to finish at 6.30 pm.
Points were not only to be allocated for a win, but actually deducted for a loss.' So in season 1913-14 Canterbury finished the season with 5 wins and 5 losses and managed the grand total of 2 points, a little better than the unfortunate Canterbury Methodists who finished bottom, totalling minus 28 points.
Cricket in those days seemed to have been played at a rather more hectic pace that it is today. Outright wins were common, fast scoring was matched by quick over rates. For example in November 1913 Canterbury played and defeated Doncaster outright. Canterbury batted first and off 33.2 overs (200 balls) made 158, Doncaster replied with 80 off 39.2 overs (236 balls). In its second innings Canterbury belted up 165 (Billy Lachlan getting 101 n.o.) off a mere 25 overs (150 balls). Doncaster going for the outright was dismissed for 113 off 19.4 overs (118 balls). This means that in 7 hours of playing time a total of 516 runs were scored (this does not include time lost for change of innings) off 117 overs. This is a scoring rate of 75 runs per hour, at an average of 4.5 runs per over. Overs were bowled at an average of 3 1/2 minutes. From the score sheets available this seems to have been a typical pace. This, of course is still the period of the six ball over, the eight ball over not being introduced until 1916-17.
Under the long-standing presidency of Mr Tom Gittus and with players such as the Mackies, Harry Swan and an aggressive left-hander, Billy Lachlan the club continued to prosper. Then the war years came and although Canterbury still managed to field a side, the Reporter competition dropped to 6 teams. Newspaper reports often mention sides being short of players.
Men of military age, who were not in uniform, were looked at with suspicion. Nunawading council refused permission for any club to use a ground if it had players of military age who were unable to produce military exemption or rejection certificates. Four Canterbury players were killed on active service, Arthur Swan (brother of Harry), Kolman, Gow and Merret.
However 1916-17 brought a premiership to Canterbury, Billy Lachlan, Tom Mackie and Harry Swan being the stars in a win over Box Hill. Money was scarce and clubs were complaining about the rising costs of equipment; the highly regarded Gunn and Moore bats were being sold for 25/-, or the top grade for 30/-; cricket balls, Melbourne Sports Depot Best Match were 7/6. The average wage at this time was around 4 Pounds per week.
The end of the war saw a decline in Canterbury's success; Sid Mackie and Harry Swan were at Camberwell, the club was having trouble finding sufficient players, and in 1919-20 and 1920-21 the club finished second last.