The Origins of the Club
The exact origin as to when and where the club began is not certain, noting the former existence of a cricket pitch on the old Wilcox farm in the Bugle Ranges, which was dug and up and removed by Alby Stokes and Reg Wilcox in the 1950s. However, no one recalls playing there such that the existence of that pitch remains a mystery.
What is known is that The Courier Newspaper wrote of Wistow cricketers providing entertainment at a fundraising evening for the “Wistow Club” at Mr Paterson’s farm “Yunkunga” on Hender Road (which was established by Scottish settlers Walter and Helen Paterson in 1839) as early as 12th October 1894. The event was considered a success, raising funds for the club of £3.
The first known match was played a couple of weeks later, on 27th October 1894 against Nairne. Then in early November 1984, the Courier reported that Wistow played a match against the Mt Barker Second XI, with the noteworthy points for Wistow being a “nice innings” of 47 by a H. Maklin and a good catch by Mr Paterson.
The Courier reported on other events involving the Wistow Cricket Club over the next few years, including the Club providing entertainment at a concert on 27th March 1896, at social events on 13th May 1898 and also a social match which was played at “Yunkunga” on 29th September 1899. Officially, 1896 is considered as the year that the club was inaugurated.
A match between Mt Barker and Wistow with results appeared in the Courier on 18th December 1899, which may be the first “official” match in which the club played. At the very least, it appears to be the first match in which full results were recorded and published in the Courier. What is uncertain though, is where did they play? Local knowledge would indicate that play on “the Hill” (of which there have been several) commenced sometime between 1865 and 1912.
It is understood that matches in those early days were played intermittently during the season, “arranged” games played on Sundays, with minor bets between some players.
The Origins of “the Hill”
During this period, the land on which the club now stands, together with the “Morning Star Hotel”, was owned by publican, Mr Edward Yates and later his wife Mrs J. Yates. In 1912 the property was sold to Mr Frederick J. Blight and was passed down through the Blight Family for the next 83 years until, in a gesture of extreme generosity, the last owners, Brian F. and Ian F. Blight (both WCC Life Members) donated “The Hill” cricket ground to the Wistow Cricket Club on 30th January 1995.
The Club will forever be indebted to the Blight family for that act of generosity and as a token of our gratitude, our Club Person of the Year Trophy, which was first awarded in 1990/91, has been renamed the Blight Perpetual Trophy.
Believe it or not, the Hill used to be far more uneven than it is today. During an interview with a Wistow Hall Historical Group in February 2007, late Life Member Brian F. Blight recalled the state of the Oval during the mid-twentieth century:-
“It was just a bare, open paddock. I think my dad used to go around with a single-furrow plough to make the boundary and that was it. It was just a bare, open paddock, and the older ones would remember chasing the ball over the hill on a summer’s day”.
Fellow Life Member, Ken J. Nettle was also interviewed at that time, recalling:-
“Walking across the oval as a schoolboy with just the pitch and the brick surround, bowler surround at each end of the pitch, a malthoid top on it … and a plough furrow mark for a boundary … at that stage there wasn’t a track entrance to it so it was really just a sheep paddock belonging to part of the Blight family property … batting was generally enjoyable because of the very fast nature of the ground, it was good to make runs there. Fielding was not so good because you were on the other end of contending with a bit of sheep dung and fast outfield … Well, it was considerably rounded, the Hill. There was a knob, a distinct knob, on the hill on the Wistow store side and when you were batting the ball would kind of just disappear over the horizon, and if it hit the furrow it would do a little kick and you’d know that it had gone to four. So you couldn’t see even batting, on that midwicket direction, you couldn’t see the boundary. The rest of the oval you could see. But if you were fielding it was a different matter. If you were in the fine leg direction in the church corner you couldn’t see the mid-wicket direction on the western side; you might be able to just see the player from the shoulders and head up and if a ball was hit there you couldn’t see the ball until it was thrown back, and it would come kind of over the horizon. So it was quite a considerable fall from one side to the other of the oval”.
The oval remained unchanged until 1981 when earthworks were undertaken to level the eastern side, including removing the knob at midwicket and building up the boundary, particularly in the church corner. Some further earthworks were undertaken in 1983 on the western side, however that side has of course still retained the distinctive Wistow slope.
Also in 1983, the current concrete pitch was laid by Life Member, Dale N. Liebelt, replacing the then 30 year old malthoid pitch. At this time, a boundary fence was erected for the first time, remaining in place until 1998, when the current fence was erected.
In 1990, sprinklers were installed for the first time by fellow Life Member, Graeme E. Brentson, however, they only watered the infield “circle”. They were replaced in 2016 by the current sprinkler system.
The Club Post World War I
It is known that cricket continued to be played at Wistow until the commencement of Word War I. After a brief recess, cricket returned to the district by 1920, with the Courier reporting on 31st December 1920 of a well attended match which had been played on Christmas Day between two Wistow teams, one captained by Frederick J. Blight and the other by W.E. Davis. Other players known to have participated included E.J. Hender, T. Stokes, B. Bunnett, Bruce Jackson, Max Jackson and Gordon G. Blight (who was one of our inaugural Life Members awarded in 1962).
By 1925, it appears that matches were still only played intermittently as “arranged” matches, with the Courier reporting in February 1925 of a Wistow Club “practising assiduously for a game against the Mount Barker Club, to be played as soon as the Mount men are free. Other matches are being arranged, and altogether the Wistow Club is in for a good time”.
In 1934 “organised” Cricket was established with the formation of the Mt Barker District Cricket Association, with Wistow being a founding club, together with Mt Barker Blue, Mt Barker White and Methodist.
Club colours were revealed soon after our first premiership of 1951/52 when the team was “capped” with maroon “baggies” embroidered with a gold monogram, as well as matching maroon blazers with gold trim.
The Mt Barker & Eastern Hills Cricket Association Era and Club Expansion
In 1960/61, the Mt Barker District Cricket Association, which by that time had expanded from the original four foundation clubs, was comprised of Wistow, 2-3 Mt Barker teams (known as the ‘Whites’, ‘Blues’ & ‘Reds’), Hahndorf, Echunga, Flaxley, Onkaparinga & Hartley (who had replaced a recently withdrawn Macclesfield) and rebranded as the Mt Barker & Eastern Hills Cricket Association with the joinder of teams from the disbanded Eastern Hills Cricket Association – two sides from Nairne, as well as teams from Bremer and Callington. At this time, a ‘B’ Grade competition was also added for the first time.
The late 1950s and 1960’s were a golden era for the club, winning 6 ‘A’ grade premierships from 7 grand finals in 9 seasons and it also was the beginning of changing times. To that point, the club had been a single team of local cricketers (many belonging to former pioneer families of Wistow) with only an odd extra “outsider” on occasion. At around this time, strong common threads of community unity were destined for demise, with the closure of the Wistow Primary School in 1965 and also resident involvement in the dairying and farming industries was in gradual recession. This, as well as the need for extra “outside” players when we fielded a ‘B’ Grade for the first time in 1960/61 upon the commencement of a ‘B’ Grade competition, slowly changed the face of the club.
The Colts competition, which began in 1970/71 with an Under 16 team, has developed young players, benefiting the senior teams since. A further ‘A’ Grade Premiership was won in 1973/74 but marked the end of an era with a number of long-term ‘A’ Grade players retiring soon after.
In 1975, with the original maroon baggies and blazers having largely disappeared, it was decided to again “cap” the side. The Western Australian state team at that time had recently adopted a very “trend-setting” gold cap. A bright departure from the “norm” of dark colours, we copied it by reversing our colours to a gold English style cap with maroon emblem (designed by Keith Miller who played for Wistow during the 1970s and early 1980s).
Despite the retirements which occurred in the early 1970’s, the club rebounded within a few years, expanding to field three senior teams for the first time with the establishment of a ‘C’ Grade for the 1976/77 season and after a trio of ‘A’ Grade grand final heartbreaks to Lenswood Ranges in 1978/79, 1979/80 & 1981/82, would break through for another ‘A’ Grade Premiership in 1982/83 in what would prove to be the final season of the Mt Barker & Eastern Hills Cricket Association as following the season a merger occurred with the Alexandra Cricket Association to form the Alexandra & Eastern Hills Cricket Association in which we participate to this day.
The Alexandra & Eastern Hills Cricket Association Era
Following the establishment of the new Association, the Club continued to experience success, winning two ‘B’ Grade Premierships and an Under 16 Colts’ Premiership during the remainder of the 1980’s, whilst a third ‘B’ Grade Premiership followed in the span of nine seasons with the 1991/92 ‘B’ Grade Premiership.
In ‘A’ Grade another successful era was to start with the Premiership of 1993/94. For the next 14 seasons, Wistow played in nine ‘A’ grade Grand Finals winning five Premierships (1993/94, 1999/00, 2002/03, 2004/05 & 2007/08). This period would also see a fierce rivalry with the “old enemy” Hahndorf emerge as we lost the 2001/02 Grand Final to Hahndorf before triumphing over Hahndorf in each of the 2002/03, 2004/05 and 2007/08 Grand Finals.
Along the way, in the early 2000’s we adopted the mascot “Echnidas” after it was claimed during post-match drinks one evening that an Echnida was seen on the oval.
At present the Alexandra & Eastern Hills Cricket Association is comprised of Wistow together with clubs from Ashbourne, Bremer/Callington, Echunga, Finniss, Hahndorf, Langhorne Creek, Lobethal, Macclesfield, Milang, Mt Barker, Nairne, Strathalbyn and Woodside albeit Milang have been dormant for the last several seasons.
In recent history, various grants have been obtained, including for a tractor in 1990, to construct the mower shed in 1995, to construct the new clubrooms in 2015 and in 2021 for the new training nets, helping with each of those projects. Nothing could compare however with the $100,000 grant in 2015 from Holden Home Ground Advantage, the winning submission entered by Brendan “Barb” Nettle, a stroke of excellence which has propelled the club forward as has never been seen before.