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History_The 1940's - Canterbury on Turf

Season 1938-39 was a novel one at the cricket club, not only was the club playing on a strange surface, but for the first time in almost 20 years the first XI failed to make the final four. The situation improved the following year with both firsts and seconds reaching the semi-finals. However season 1940-41 was a Canterbury triumph with both firsts and seconds winning premierships.

Consistency in batting (Canterbury made over 300 three times and topped 200 four more times) and the ability to bowl sides out for less than 150 led to Canterbury's success. Canterbury finished the season with 20 points (3 points gained for a first innings win and 4 for an outright win). Canterbury had a solid win in the semi final against Surrey Hills, Guiver making 93 and Silvers 104 in a total of 247, and then dismissing Surrey Hills for 140 with Len Larkin taking 7 for 76.

The grand final against North Balwyn was tight; Canterbury struggled in its first innings and with Guiver and Ingram top scoring Canterbury made only 126. Consistent bowling from Shores, Guiver and Larkin saw North Balwyn dismissed for 106. At stumps on the end of the second day Canterbury were again in trouble at 3 - 15. Stout opposition the following week from new player Noel Thackeray and veteran Tommy Alway helped Canterbury to 166, and then led by fast bowler Cameron Canterbury dismissed North Balwyn for 69, Tommy Alway claiming the last wicket.

During the 1940's Canterbury shared success with other clubs, principally Deepdene and Mont Albert. Mont Albert had many fine players; Garnet Armstrong was a dogged opening batsman, and is regarded by Canterbury players of this era as the hardest man in the association to dismiss. The fact that he made 234 in a grand final against Canterbury may have something to do with this. Ron Hodge bowled leg spin and Geoff Mair was a clever off spinner. Deepdene had the Britt brothers, Harold, Leo and others, and Harold, despite Len Larkin's treatment of him in one game, is regarded as being the most dangerous bowler of this period. Harold was once bowling against Canterbury during the war years wearing a red, short sleeved jumper (coloured jumpers could be worn at this time because of a shortage of wool). He was causing a considerable amount of havoc when Charlie Sinclair a large and tough policeman playing with Canterbury asked Britt to remove his jumper as he was having trouble picking up the flight of the ball. Harold refused. Charlie quite deliberately placed his bat on the ground, walked the length of the pitch, looked Harold in the eye, and said, pointing first at Harold and then his three brothers, "I'll have you first, then your brothers. Or I'll take all of you at once."

Somewhat disturbed by this extraordinary statement, Harold removed his jumper and the game re-started. Unfortunately for Charlie and Canterbury it had little effect, Harold claiming 8/14 and Canterbury being dismissed for 23.

The side of the early 40's was strengthened by new players such as Charlie Sinclair, a fast bowler and useful hitter, Geoff Matthews a stylish left hand bat and a brilliant fielder and Frank Gion, a strong right arm medium fast bowler with wonderful control who often went through the top order (Frank captured 91 wickets in 1942-43).

Cricket continued through the war years, although the association had to amend its rules governing eligibility of players - if a player was not available for the second week of a game he could be replaced by another player. Many Canterbury players served in different capacities during the war, one of them, Sid Savoury, an opening batsman, being killed in New Guinea.

Season 1945-46 was notable for a number of reasons. Canterbury shared the premiership with Deepdene (rain on all three Saturdays making any play in the grand final impossible), Councillor Roy Dimmick, who had played such a major role in turf coming to Canterbury, resigned as club president after 10 years in the position, and two of Canterbury's greats, Keith Silvers and Clyde Ingram played their last game for the club.

There were however new stars emerging, a class all-rounder Gerard ("Joe") Goodear who arrived from Macedon in 1946-47, Keith Neilsen, a consistent right hand bat, and Leo Maguire, Joe's brother-in-law, a fast bowler and noted centre half back in a Richmond premiership side.

Leo teamed with Les Baker to form what is arguably the most potent opening attack ever seen at Canterbury. These and other players carried all before them, and in 1947-48 the young enthusiastic Canterbury side bolstered by veterans Larkin and Shores won yet another premiership.

Deepdene, once again met Canterbury in the grand final, perhaps somewhat tentatively as only a couple of weeks beforehand Len Larkin had demolished Deepdene's main strike bowler Harold Britt.

Canterbury batted first on a perfect wicket, and as in the previous game Larkin flayed the opening attack. Although Canterbury had a middle order slump to the spin of Nicholls and Les Britt, Keith Neilsen (100) and Geoff Matthews (51) put on over 100 for the seventh wicket and Canterbury finished with 288. Deepdene batted on the second day and never really got on top of a tight Canterbury attack led by Leo Maguire. Leo, combining great accuracy with movement in the air, took 8 for 79 as Deepdene were dismissed for 226. In its second innings Canterbury struggled and it was only through Keith Neilsen (42) that Canterbury reached 117, Harold Britt finding form and taking 4 for 39. Deepdene needing 179 in quick time to win were dismissed for 144 with Athol Gracie being the best of the Canterbury bowlers with 3 for 45.

In an even bowling display Canterbury ran out premiers by 35 runs.

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Don Hegarty
Ralph Hubbert

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