History 1970 – 1975
The season of 1970/71 was one which saw a fair amount of change around the Club, with hard working businessman Alan Blumfield taking over as President from Eddie Benson, who was moving up to Brisbane in search of more lucrative business ventures. John Sanders was appointed as Captain of the 'A' Grade team after Don Haw had stepped down from the job to take over as Captain of the Second Eleven in 'B' Grade. The Bentleigh CYMS team disbanded this year and two of its players, Kevin Owens and Robert Connolly, crossed over to ANA to play. Owens' arrival was a strange one indeed as he simply strolled into Bailey Park in his whites hoping to get a game of cricket with anyone who would have him. At this time Alan Blumfield was going through his frantic start of season ritual of attempting to organise the players and fill all of the teams. Upon being approached by Owens, it was a rather relieved Blumfield who advised him that the Club was in fact short and that Kevin's presence would be more than welcomed. Next thing Kevin knew he was batting for the First's, providing heart failure for his partner at the other end, Rex Sheppard, who was fast running out of batting partners in a crucial game. It was to be Owens' only game at the 'A' Grade level. Mick Stanton made over 360 runs with the bat while also performing well with the ball, but the real success story of the year was the dramatic improvement of another all-rounder, Neil Bach, who scored two centuries and amassed almost 450 runs for the season. The 'A' Grade team performed reasonably well once again, but after losing the last game of the year to top side East Bentleigh, narrowly missed out on the finals, finishing fifth.
Even after a rather inconsistent season the 'B' Grade team still managed to sneak into fourth position. Coming up against top team Bentleigh Methodists in the Semi-final the ANA team suddenly hit their straps and bundled the Meths out for a meagre 113 runs. Throughout the innings opening bowler John Garrett was the chief destroyer, taking 4/40, but he received excellent support from the stocky framed Ian Smyth, who captured 3/18 to completely demoralise the Meths. ANA struggled throughout the run chase, and at 7 for 93 appeared to be in a spot of bother. Again it was Garrett with 23 who allowed the ANA tail to wag sufficiently and this, combined with Jimmy March's score of 34, was enough to see ANA safely through to an overall total of 131 in their first innings. The Meths were determined not to give in without a fight and slogged up an aggressive 5 for 131, with Garrett continuing a fairytale match, taking 3/41 before the declaration was made. Opening batsman Brian Grandin contributed a fine 43 not out as ANA then batted steadily to knock up 2 for 118 and earn a place in the Grand Final. Now confident after their Semi-final victory, the ANA Second Eleven clashed with the Hampton Methodists in the Grand Final, and on paper the teams appeared evenly matched. Rising to the occasion, the ANA bowlers were once again on target and at one stage had Hampton reeling at 7 for 89 and then 9 for 149. But the Hampton tail continued to 'wag' and the score eventually reached 176 before the last wicket fell. Once again the chief destroyer was John Garrett with 4/51, but newcomer Robert Connolly's 4/64 was also well worthy of a mention.
ANA's first innings was always going to end up short of Hampton's mediocre target and they were finally dismissed for 145, with skipper Don Haw top scoring with 26. John Garrett with 5/36 and Ian Smyth with 3/40 then toiled hard, but when Hampton's second innings was finally wrapped up with the score at 219, ANA's task appeared to be a grim one indeed. In a last ditched effort, David Hanna sparked hopes of a middle order fightback, and at 5 for 128, ANA had clawed its way back to be in with a slight chance. But with his dismissal for a well made 41 the end was near, and ANA succumbed to be all out for 165, giving the Hampton Methodists the 'B' Grade Premiership. The 'Under 14' Grade team was led by David Crozier and finished the year on top of the ladder. After defeating the East Sandringham Boys Club in the Semi-final they were confronted by Moorabbin in the Grand Final. Starting the game excellently, the ANA bowlers dismissed Moorabbin for 105 runs in their first innings. The young Crozier then chose the perfect moment to score his first century for the Club, ending up unconquered on 106 not out as ANA swept to a total of 6 for 208, taking out the flag comfortably and giving a good indication of the tremendous amount of ability that this team had.
Sadly, the year was to end on a less fortunate note when one of ANA's junior team managers and excellent clubman, Graeme Mactaggart, died suddenly from a heart attack. As a tribute to the work that Graeme had put in over the years, not just with ANA but also with various local junior football teams in the area, the Club named the award for the Outstanding Junior after him, an award which is widely accepted as the most prestigious at the Junior level of the Club.
Due mainly to the influx of Juniors into the Senior grades, the Bentleigh ANA Cricket Club was rapidly growing in the early 70's and this was reflected in the 1971/72 season. ANA fielded five senior teams for the first time in its history. Taking into account its three junior teams, ANA had become one of the largest and most powerful clubs in the CMCA. Popular clubman Greg James often provided team-mates with a few laughs throughout his career but occasionally his adventurous exploits managed to get him into trouble. Such was the case when, after years of returning to the 'shed' and unsuccessfully buying tickets in the infamous ANA Saturday night 'chook' raffle, James finally won the first prize which consisted of three chooks. Feeling that this was his lucky night, and very much in the mood for celebration, Greg then consumed more than his usual amount of the amber fluid and by the end of the night he was in no state to remember to take home his prize. The hot summer days following showed no mercy on the old ANA 'shed' and after three days the environment inside must have resembled an old Changhi prison hut. By the time the ANA players arrived for their mid-week training session, Greg's chooks were a little bit worse for wear, to say the least. A rather amused James soon lost his sense of humour when the other players forced him into the 'shed', which had now developed an odour that bared no resemblance to Chanel No. 5, to clean up what was left of his raffle prize . . . maggots and all!
John Sanders again led the First Eleven in 'A' Grade and the team started off the season magnificently, winning six of its first seven games, and looked to be a real threat for the premiership. However, they lost the next few games and appeared to have lost any chance of making the finals. But, as if the tables had been turned completely, ANA then won both of its last two games outright and after 10 years in the cricketing wilderness the 'A' Grade team catapulted into fourth position by a meagre 2 points. After their fine finish to the season ANA went into the Semifinal against West Bentleigh with a fair amount of confidence. Neil Bach had been sensational throughout the year, aggregating in excess of 570 runs, while Mick Stanton with 350, Barry Sheppard with 340 and John Levvy with 290 runs for the season, formed the backbone of a very impressive batting line-up indeed. Rex Sheppard had been back to his best form with 47 wickets for the year, while left-arm speedsters Neil Bach with 30 wickets and Gary Dennis with 28 wickets had led a fairly formidable bowling attack. The ANA team was weakened for the Semi-final with the loss of the hard hitting all-rounder Mick Stanton, whose football commitments with VFA team Oakleigh took precedence ahead of the Semi-final confrontation with top team West Bentleigh. This aspect didn't assist the ANA cause and the team went down to the strong West Bentleigh line-up. The ANA 'B' Grade team was once again led by veteran Don Haw and also had to win their last game to make the finals, finishing in third position. They came up against a strong Bentleigh Methodist combination in the Semi-final and only through the efforts of Kevin Nicholson with 30, managed to crawl to a fairly ordinary total of 103. However, the Methodists had not counted on the ability of the burly framed Alan Hollings as he destroyed their first innings by taking 6/27 off 14 overs. One by one the hapless Methodists batsmen were bundled out for a miserable total of 81 runs. This had happened after opposing opening batsman Colin Lilley had held up the game for several minutes, sitting in the middle of the pitch hotly disputing Gary Wicks' claims to a controversial slips catch. Opening batsman Alan Sanders with 38 and skipper Don Haw with 31, batted steadily to see ANA hit up 146 in their second innings but, after the last ANA wicket had fallen, the Methodists still had 30 overs to hit up the required 169 runs for victory. However, it was only Don Haw's nephew Ross Haw who threatened the ANA target by making half of the Methodist's score as they got to within 40 runs of their goal, before the last wicket fell. Alan Hollings had taken 4/61 and Robert Connolly 4/58 as ANA stuck to their task and entered a second successive 'B' Grade Grand Final.
The ANA Second Eleven came up against top team West Bentleigh in the Final. Batting first, ANA offered little resistance to West's pace barrage and capitulated to be all out for a meagre 91 runs. John Garrett then led the hard toiling ANA attack by taking 3/43, but the formidable West Bentleigh batting line-up hit up an impressive total of 232 in their first innings. In reply, Russell Mactaggart made 35 and hard hitting wicketkeeper John Peterson ended up with 30 as ANA fared little better in the second innings making only 133, giving West Bentleigh a comfortable outright victory. The Fifth Eleven, in 'E' Grade, was led by relative newcomer to the Club, Ron Cunningham. Throughout the year ANA had dominated the competition and finished on top of the ladder. After a comfortable Semi-final victory they went into the Final as favourites against the Bentleigh Methodists, and within no time at all had placed their assertion on the game as the Meths had plummeted to be 6 for 72. However, ANA then dropped several costly catches, and somehow the Bentleigh Meths ended up with a total of 303. Popular ANA character, Ken 'Deafy' James, fought hard for the Green and Gold and his innings of 83 was one of determination and defiance. Unfortunately his role was a lone one and ANA were bundled out for 174 in a tragic Grand Final loss. Similarly, the 'Under 16C' Grade team was led by Neil Vorbach throughout the season and finished on top of the ladder prior to the finals. Going into the Semi as red hot favourites, the side collapsed disastrously to go down to the fourth placed McKinnon team in a major boilover. Their year had been highlighted by the performances of David Crozier who managed to win both the batting and bowling averages for the competition. Not bad considering he was in his first year at the 'Under 16' level.
The Club was forced to move its home games to the ground at the Kingston Sanitarium and Old Peoples home in Heatherton Road, due to the major redevelopment of the King George reserve in season 1972/73. The demolition of the 'shed' was a sad sight indeed, resulting in the Club moving to Bailey Park for its post match refreshments. This season also saw the appointment of technically stylish all-rounder Barry Nye from McKinnon, in the VJCA, as Captain/Coach of Bentleigh ANA. This, along with the return of Ken Lonie from District Club South Melbourne, should have seen the 'A' Grade team with an even stronger combination than that of the previous year, and be a serious Premiership threat. However, with excellent opening batsman Mick Stanton leaving the Club and going to Perth, the batting line-up suddenly appeared very brittle, with only Barry Sheppard scoring over 400 runs for the year in a disappointing season for the Club. Gary Dennis excelled with his ability to cut the ball back sharply off the wicket and snared 35 wickets for the year, but disastrously, the ANA First Eleven could only manage three wins for the season and finished second last on the ladder.
The Third Eleven was led by tattooed bowler Richard Wyly in 'D' Grade and just managed to sneak into the final four. They came up against the up and coming Moorabbin Youth Centre team in the Semi-final and had a rather unexpected win. They then came up against East Bentleigh in the Grand Final, and batting first, ANA hit up a massive 307 runs to put a stranglehold on the Premiership. Robert McDonald led the onslaught with a determined hand of 63 and he received fine support from Gary Wicks with 49, Russell Mactaggart 43, Ken Norton 39 and Jimmy March with 35. The ANA bowlers then bowled superbly to bundle the East batsmen out for 90 and 118 respectively in their two innings, with leg spinner Greg James capturing 6/38 in the second innings to lead ANA to a Premiership from fourth position.
The Fourth Eleven in 'E' Grade was led by Geoff Scott throughout the season and also performed creditably, finishing in fourth position prior to the finals. They defeated West Bentleigh in the Semi-final and were then confronted by the newly introduced Ceylonese team, the Cavaliers, in a fiery encounter. ANA batted first in the Grand Final, but were only able to knock up a modest total of 153 in their first innings. The ANA bowlers then fought back handsomely but the Cavaliers were just able to crawl past the ANA total, by making 167 in reply. Needing a good score to try to steal an outright victory, ANA plummeted disastrously to be all out for a meagre 70 in their second innings, and try as they might, the ANA bowlers could only manage to capture five of the Cavaliers' wickets before they hit up the 56 runs required for victory.
The 'Under 16B' Grade team was led by David Crozier throughout the year and had a formidable line-up indeed. They went through the season undefeated, due mainly to the efforts of their skipper, Crozier, who had a remarkable year. Prior to the finals, Crozier had scored no less than 500 runs, only being dismissed once and therefore having the incredible average of 500. He had also performed excellently with the ball but was pipped by a meagre .07 in the bowling averages by Maurice James, who had taken 43 wickets for the season, to win the Association's bowling averages with an average of 7.02. The ANA 'Under 16' team came up against Highett in the Semi-final and, batting first, made an impressive 226. This was due mainly to the efforts of Mick Allinson who hit up a fine 66 to follow on from opener John Adamson's 33. David Crozier, who cheekily came in at number 10, also blasted a quick 33 not out as he and Phillip Bibby, who made 28, put on a devastating 64 runs for the last wicket. Graham Baxter then captured 4/16 to destroy any hopes that Highett had of victory. This ensured the ANA team of a Grand Final berth and Highett were dismissed for a paltry 71 runs. ANA then came up against Mackie in the Final and soon set about asserting their authority on the game. Opener John Adamson was unluckily run out for 93 and David Crozier hit up a tremendous 98 as the ANA bats dominated the game. Barry Fisher with 30 and Geoff 'Jockey' Moore with 32, continued the onslaught as the ANA Under 16's hit up an almighty total of 312 in the first innings. So confident was President Alan Blumfield of an ANA victory he organised the Premiership photo to be taken, at the ground, prior to Mackie commencing their innings. This aside, and with the awesome target in front of them, Mackie began the run chase but were never in the race. Off-Spinner Phil Bibby took 4/43 as ANA dismissed Mackie for 145, to take out the much expected Premiership, in a year which had seen the team, managed by Paddy Crozier, dominate the CMCA.
After the very disappointing previous year the Club seemed to be further depleted in season 1973/74. Barry Nye returned to his more familiar turf wickets at McKinnon and with him went all-rounder Ken Lonie. Left-arm speedster Gary Dennis gave cricket away, heading up north to the Gulf of Carpentaria to become a fisherman, while the irreplaceable Rex Sheppard finally announced his retirement. Sheppard had played with the Club for 21 years and put together over 220 games in a remarkable career. Amazingly, ANA's most successful bowler had made over 2600 runs and taken more than 650 wickets in the Firsts, which was nearly twice as many wickets as any other ANA bowler.
John Sanders regained the Captaincy of the 'A' Grade team and he led a side mixed with both experience and youthful potential. Experienced campaigners Jimmy March and Barry Sheppard fronted up yet again, while no other member of the team was any older than 25. The youngest of these were David Crozier, Neil Vorbach and Maurice James, all of whom were only recently out of the Under 16's. The first game of the year saw ANA annihilate the Hampton Methodists in a remarkable performance. Chasing Meth's score of 6 for 237, 16-year-old David Crozier cracked his maiden 'A' Grade century, while the 34-year-old 'evergreen', Barry Sheppard, left fellow team mates at the Kingston Centre ground with a vintage display with the bat, amassing a monstrous 190 before being caught only feet from the boundary, and six runs short of Max Papley's Club record. Together, the pair had amassed an opening partnership of 238 runs, which is still unmatched today at the top level for the Club. However, the remainder of the season was fairly disappointing, but the hapless Hampton Methodist's bowlers again struck the wrath of the ANA batsmen in the last game when John Sanders and Russell Mactaggart both scored centuries against them. Generally though, the Club had a very poor year and for the first time in ten seasons failed to have a team in the finals.
The following winter months saw some behind the scenes negotiating, which resulted, arguably, in the most effective piece of recruiting in the Club's history. Mainly due to the efforts of both the loyal and legendary team manager, Paddy Crozier, and Club President Alan Blumfield, the ex-Ceylonese international player Fitzroy Crozier was signed up as playing coach for season 1974/75. The left-arm orthodox spin bowler and right-handed batsman spared no time in instilling both discipline and dedication into a Club, which was possibly lacking in these, but no doubt loaded with potential. Immediately, results throughout the whole Club were outstanding, with 5 out of the 7 teams reaching the finals, making this the most successful season in the Club's history to date.
Sadly, the season also marked the end of an era with the retirement of Barry Sheppard, who hung up his whites after the first game of the season. After 16 seasons at the Club a 'duck' was hardly a fitting finish to the career of the man who's immaculately straight bat had elegantly stroked nearly 6000 runs at the First Eleven level. Sheppard developed his straight batted technique in his early years by continually practising the art of swinging his cricket bat through two upright stumps. This he combined with enormous levels of concentration, which he attributes to something he learned off Cyril Parke. Parke once told him not to bat to make centuries, but to bat to make 20 runs, start again at 20 to make another 20, and so on, until those three figures were met. With almost twelve thousand runs between them who would argue with this theory?
The 'A' Grade team, once again under the Captaincy of John Sanders, finished third prior to the finals. The bowling attack of Neil Bach, Maurice James, Alan Hollings and Crozier himself, allowed only two teams to score more than 190 runs against them all season. They faced the Virginia Park team in the Semi-final and set about their first step towards the flag with confidence. Russell Mactaggart led the charge making a fine 83, and he was well supported by Fitzroy Crozier with 69. The 'evergreen' Jimmy March then smashed up a whirlwind 43, as ANA amassed a mighty 335 runs. Virginia Park set off after the total with aggression, but a steady attack, led by Maurice James with three wickets, saw the team from the cigarette factory dismissed 100 runs short of their target. This brought ANA up against the mighty East Bentleigh team, which had won four of the last six Premierships. During the season East had beaten ANA quite comfortably and, even though they had finished in fourth position, went into the game as favourites. ANA batted first in the match but disaster soon struck when opening batsman, Fitzroy Crozier, was dismissed for that now infamous 'duck'. After having scored over 650 runs for the season ANA's key batsman was gone, and the chances looked grim indeed. However, it was the Sanders brothers who fought determinedly to steer the match ANA's way.
Skipper John Sanders polished off his 400 run aggregate for the season with an inspirational innings of 73 while Alan Sanders finished with 52 not out, as ANA clawed their way to a total of 257. Alan's outstanding effort was a far cry from the young kid who, in his early days, amused himself from his fielding position at fine-leg, by mischievously throwing stones at the unknowing Barry Sheppard in the slips cordon.
Prior to taking to the field, and attempting to bowl ANA to a Premiership, Coach Fitzroy Crozier addressed the players. Referring to his rare indiscretion with the bat, he boldly stated that 'Somebody must pay for this' . . . and pay they did. Nobody who witnessed that speech and the following repercussions at the Mackie Reserve, could ever forget the devastation that Crozier bestowed upon the strong East Bentleigh batting line-up. In passing the 50 wicket mark for the year, Crozier bowled ANA towards victory and when Maurice James held on to a one handed 'blinder' on the boundary line, ANA had won its eighth 'A' Grade Premiership, and its first for fourteen years. Crozier ended up with the remarkable figures of 8/47, in one of the greatest Final's bowling performances ever seen in the CMCA.
The Second Eleven, in 'C' Grade, was led by the experienced veteran, Don Haw. They also had a fine year, finishing on top of the ladder prior to the finals. They came up against the strong Cheltenham Church of Christ team in the Semi-final and controlled the game from the outset. Opening bowler Gary Pickersgill took 4/20 while Robert Connolly and John Hale captured 3 wickets each, as Cheltenham were pole-axed for a lowly 117. Hale especially had capped off an outstanding season in which he had captured over 60 wickets, highlighted by an impressive haul of 9/36 against West Bentleigh. Don Haw then led from the front with a defiant 65 as ANA put the game beyond doubt. He received excellent support from Harry Vantwest with 45 and Vice Captain Richard Wyly, who chipped in with a brisk 35 runs, to see ANA take a first innings lead of over 130 runs. Robert Connolly then capped off a magnificent match performance taking 7/77 in the second innings, to ensure a Grand Final berth against the strong Highett West team, which boasted possibly the competition's quickest bowler in Earl Peck.
Batting first, the ANA wickets began to fall rapidly, with only the determined bat of Harry Vantwest offering any effective defiance. Vantwest ended up with a fine 65 as ANA struggled to a modest total of 167 runs. Not to be denied, however, the ANA bowlers struck back solidly to dismiss Highett West for only 78, with allrounder Robert Connolly again being the destroyer, capturing 6/38. By making a magnificent 132 in the second innings, Rod Blumfield ensured that the ANA First and Second Elevens both took out Premierships. This was the first time in over thirty years, and only the second time in the Club's history, that this had happened. T
he Third Eleven, in 'D' Grade, was led by bowler Geoff Scott throughout the season and finished fourth prior to the finals, but was beaten by Brighton Union in their Semi-final. At the end of the season, the Fourth Eleven, in 'G' Grade, had finished in third position, due mainly to the efforts of Skipper Kevin Owens and promising junior, Cedric Jansz. ANA came up against McKinnon in the Semi-final and batted first, collapsing to be all out for a miserable 120 runs. The 13-year-old Cedric Jansz being the one ANA batsman to keep the McKinnon attack at bay on his way to an unconquered 64. Medium pacer Kevin Thomas took 3/22 and off-spinner Dennis Williams captured 3/8, as ANA then bowled tightly to restrict McKinnon to a moderate total of only 158 in their first innings. At 7 for 73 in the second innings, ANA's cause looked to be a lost one, but fighting innings' from John Grace, with 54 not out, and Chris Milne, with 44 not out, carried the score to 7 for 173, before the declaration was made. The McKinnon bats then defied ANA's belated attempts for a Grand Final berth, to hang on for a comfortable first innings win. Justice had not been done in the eyes of the Captain, Kevin Owens. The burly, hard-hitting Owens had finished with no less than 716 runs for the season, setting a new Club record.
Cedric Jansz's final's series continued, however, as he led his 'Under 14A' Grade team into the finals. Alas, the road to success had not been an entirely smooth one and this was typified in the last game of the season. Needing four runs for victory to guarantee finishing in top position prior to the finals, ANA's Andrew Higgins belted a ball high into the outfield at Hurlingham Park, for what appeared to be a six off the last ball of the day. Brighton Union Captain and up and coming champion, Con Gorozidis, claimed that he had caught the ball inside the boundary. Nothing short of pandemonium broke out for the next ten minutes.
In an unprecedented step, team manager Rod Blumfield convinced Brighton Union to replay the last ball, and upon doing so, saw Higgins get a top edge over slips for four and give ANA a controversial victory. ANA easily disposed of Moorabbin in the Semi-final to set up a rematch with Brighton Union in the final. Batting first ANA collapsed miserably to the Gorozidis pace barrage, eventually being bundled out for a meagre 72 runs, with Cedric Jansz making 31 and offering the only resistance. In an incredible game, however, ANA's pace attack of Gary March, Andrew Higgins and Geoff Fontaine then fought back sensationally, to dismiss Union for an even more unbelievable total of only 48, virtually stealing the Premiership from the grasps of the Union team. March took 5/17 and Fontaine 4/14 as ANA pulled off a miraculous victory.
The young 'Under 14C' Grade team, led by Ronald Crossley, also performed admirably finishing fourth prior to the finals. They came up against the strong Bentleigh Church of Christ team in their Semi-final game at Cheltenham Park. Struggling from the outset, as Church of Christ hit up an impressive 5 for 160, before ANA capitulated for a miserable total of 67, with some hard hitting from Roger Godfrey being the only highlight. In its most successful year to date, the Bentleigh ANA Cricket Club had missed out on winning the newly formed CMCA Club Championship Trophy by a meagre 1 point. It was a fine reward to the hard working efforts of President, Alan Blumfield, and Coach, Fitzroy Crozier, as they had lifted the Club from 'rock bottom' to supremacy in just one year. But whether this success had come too quickly, for the Club to be able to handle, would only be seen in the years to come.
History 1975 – 1980
The season of 1975/76 saw the Club return to the King George Reserve, which had now been redeveloped to a form fairly similar in appearance to that seen today. The three overlapping grounds of the past had been replaced by two larger ovals, much to the satisfaction of the many perilously situated boundary fielders who had been endangered over the years. ANA shared the grounds and pavilion with the East Bentleigh Cricket Club and had established a true home base with which it could securely remain for years to come. Fitzroy Crozier was keenly sought after by many clubs, including District club Prahran, and eventually accepted the coaching position at the Heatherton Cricket Club, in the VJCA. His cousin, David Crozier, left to try his luck with Prahran, while speedster, Maurice James, went to VJCA club McKinnon. Neil Bach played little more cricket with the Club as his theological studies now took up more of his time, and the strong bowler and hard hitting batsman, Alan Hollings, quit cricket and headed off to the United States of America to live. Effectively undermanned, the 'A' Grade team struggled throughout the year, with Rod Blumfield's season aggregate of 445 runs being the only bright light in a year which saw the team win a meagre four games. This lack of success filtered throughout the Club, with only the 'Under 14A' Grade team, led by Geoff Fontaine, being successful in making the finals, finishing in third position. The team struggled against Moorabbin in the Semi-final, making only 83 in a fairly ordinary performance. Fontaine then led a spirited fightback which saw the second placed Moorabbin team pole-axed for a meagre 68 runs, with Fontaine spearheading ANA's 15 run victory by taking 5/27. However, ANA were no match for top team Highett in the Final, being defeated by over 100 runs in a one-sided match.
The 1976/77 season saw promising teenager and Premiership player, Neil Vorbach, leave ANA to try his luck at District club South Melbourne, while another Premiership player, Tony Caddy, decided to take up the supposedly less frustrating game of tennis. This meant that only four of the ANA 'A' Grade Premiership team of two seasons ago, still remained at the Club. John Sanders again led an inexperienced side and the introduction of 15-year-old Cedric Jansz, was the only bright spot in an otherwise dull year, which still remains to be the only season that the Bentleigh ANA 'A' Grade team did not win a game. The season also marked the end of an era with the retirement of stalwart, Jimmy March. In a career at Bentleigh ANA which had spanned over 25 years, Jimmy had played over 260 games with the Club, which included playing in five First Eleven Premiership sides. This still being a Club record today. Once again it was left to the juniors to represent ANA in the finals. The 'Under 16A' Grade team, led by Cedric Jansz, had gone through the entire season undefeated and came up against McKinnon in the Semi-final. Rain delayed play on the first week of the game but this would have had little effect on the result anyhow. Promising youngster David Shipp batted superbly over the two days to end up with 87, as ANA steadily amassed a total of 177. This was well out of the reach of McKinnon and resulted in them conceding the match without ANA having to bowl a single ball to them. The Grand Final saw ANA confronted by Hakoah Ajax, this being the first time for the season that the two undefeated sides played each other. Cedric Jansz, chasing that elusive maiden century, was caught on the boundary after making a magnificent 99 runs, in ANA's total of 221. He received strong assistance from the determined John Bacon who batted the entire day for a nuggety 30. This was followed up by some hard hitting from Andrew Higgins, who ended unbeaten on 50. Ajax, however, appeared to be cruising at 0 for 54 before part time off-spinner David Shipp was called on to begin the ball rolling by taking two wickets in two balls. Ajax gave the ANA spectators some cause for concern as their score steadily increased but they were finally dismissed for 199, with Gary March rallying to the ANA cause to take 5/54. This Under 16 team thus became the only ANA team to win Premierships in both the 'Under 14A' Grade and 'Under 16A' Grade, and based on their performances, could arguably be recognised as the best junior combination to represent the Bentleigh ANA Cricket Club. A fine reward for Captain Jansz and Team Manager Rod Blumfield. The 'Under 14C' Grade team, led by the 11-year-old Darren Haw, contained many players still having a further two years to play in the 'Under 14' age group. They performed remarkably to sneak into fourth position prior to the finals. Coming up against the undefeated Channon Park team in the Semi-final, they performed splendidly to dismiss the flag favourites for only 102 runs. Up and coming leg-spinner Trevlyn Crozier took 5/26, while Darren Haw bowled his off-spinners accurately to finish with 4/32. ANA then had little trouble overhauling the total and finished with 170, with all-rounder Paul March making a match winning 49 not out and Crozier completing a fine game with 36. The match was also significant in seeing Craig Fuller make a courageous comeback, after his life and career had both been threatened by a bicycle accident during the season. This typified his courage and enthusiasm which had resulted in him making a century earlier in the season. ANA then faced the might of Hampton United in the Grand Final. After sending Hampton in, ANA struggled throughout the first innings, seeing their opposition hit up a score of 201, with Captain Darren Haw preferring to bowl quick in the Final and finish with the superb figures of 8/56. Try as hard as they might, the young ANA team proved to be no match for Hampton United and could only manage a score of 97, having to be content with a Runners-up pennant. At least for this season anyway.
Having to face the prospect of playing in 'B' Grade for season 1977/78, ANA embarked on a youth policy for its First Eleven. Russell Mactaggart led a team which contained only four players who were over the age of 20. The move resulted in instant success when 16-year-old Andrew Higgins made a century on debut. The drop in grading had obviously enabled the team to perform with greater success, as 16-year-old Cedric Jansz made almost 600 runs for the season while John Sanders had ended up with almost 450 runs. These two obviously had a large bearing on seeing the team win all but two games for the season and finish on top of the ladder.The team was weakened close to the finals, however, when opening batsman Rod Blumfield was cracked a sickening blow to the head while batting. Although the injury resulted in permanent deafness in one ear, the courageous Blumfield returned to the team for the finals, with the aid of a motorcycle helmet to try to build his confidence. But sadly his promising career had been dealt an unkind blow. ANA came up against Virginia Park in the Semi-final but the bowlers struggled, which eventuated in the Park making 9 for 224 declared. Skipper Russell Mactaggart was the only bowler of note, capturing 4/34 with his medium paced off-cutters. ANA then fought back bravely in the Semi as Cedric Jansz scored a brilliant 114, while John Sanders knocked up 43 runs, to see the team through to a total of 6 for 210 at stumps, thus drawing the game and winning a berth in the 'B' Grade Final. Other than these two scores, the next highest innings was only 13, leaving doubts in many minds as to the actual chances of an ANA Premiership. ANA then went into the Grand Final against the relatively new club, Southmoor, after making a controversial move at the selection table during the week. The 15-year-old youngster, Geoff Fontaine, was omitted from the Grand Final team after having played in the First Eleven all season, but not having taken a wicket in the previous four matches. Sticking with his ploy of bowling first, Mactaggart invited Southmoor to bat in the Grand Final. Things were looking good for ANA when they had Southmoor struggling at 6 for 96, but then they proceeded to club the ANA bowlers all over Bailey Reserve, eventually declaring at 9 for 285. Only the long-haired Bob Wilson made any impression with the ball, taking 4/57. Needing to bat out the last day of the match for victory, ANA looked to have a strong chance at the Tea interval, with Cedric Jansz on 22 and John Sanders on 41. However, both were dismissed soon after and the team was quickly dismissed for a miserable 114 runs. But in reaching the Grand Final, ANA had been successful in winning its way back into the 'A' Grade for the following season. The Third Eleven, in 'E' Grade, was also successful in making the finals this season under the leadership of Ian Smyth. In a season which saw this team comprised of a mixture of promising juniors and experienced campaigners their form throughout the season had been up and down, to the say the least. ANA played the third placed Mackie team in the Semi-final and the Green and Gold performed sensationally. Medium paced left-arm bowler Kevin Thomas mesmerised the Mackie batsman by taking 5/28 off 16 overs, while Harry Vantwest took 5/25 with his variety of off- and top-spinners. The hapless Mackie team could only manage 122 runs. ANA then ensured itself of a place in the Grand Final by crushing the Mackie attack. In a fine team performance, tall opening batsman Tom Raftery led the charge with an elegantly stroked 55 and received fine support from the experienced Vantwest with 39, Kevin Owens with 33 not out and the youthful hard-hitting Simon Link, who compiled a quick 30 not out, as ANA stormed to 5 for 207 at stumps. Filled with confidence, the ANA 'E' Grade team then confronted Virginia Park in the Final, with rather disastrous results. The Park batted first and smashed up a massive 349, with only skipper Ian Smyth's haul of 3/106 and Harry Vantwest's 3/79, offering any resistance to the run onslaught. Try as they might, ANA surrendered rather meekly in their forlorn attempt to overtake the enormous target, making only 136, with Simon Link being the major contributor, with a typically hard hit 43. The only glowing performance in the junior grades was in the 'Under 16's', where Captain Geoff Fontaine had performed remarkably. He had won the CMCA trophy for the aggregate runs with a total of 436, including two centuries, while taking 33 wickets to also win the bowling averages. Amazingly, this did not see him rewarded with the CMCA Outstanding Junior trophy. In future years Fontaine continued to fulfil his enormous potential and, after leaving the Club, went on to eventually play for South Melbourne, in the District Competition, and ultimately gained selection to represent Victoria.
After successfully leading the Club back into the CMCA 'A' Grade, Alan Blumfield stood down as President prior to the 1978/79 season, making way for his deputy and long time player, Don Haw. Alan's eight year reign had seen the Club rise, fall, and rise again, as his business-like approach to the job yearned for success. Also, he had emphasised the importance of ANA's commitment to Junior cricket, and it was only now that some of this work was beginning to bare fruit. The new President wasted no time in moving the Committee into action. With the realisation that the 'A' Grade team showed promise, but still lacked experience, a major recruiting campaign was undertaken. Fiery opening bowler, Brian McCallum, from Sandringham in the VJCA, was appointed as Coach for the season but Russell Mactaggart would remain as Captain. McCallum was arguably the quickest bowler the Club had seen for many years but whether he could come to terms with the mahl bowling run-ups, as opposed to his more familiar turf surroundings, was yet to be seen. However, this pick up and the recruiting of promising Brighton Union bowler, Mick Egan, appeared to have solved the bowler shortage that the Club had faced in recent years. The Club was also successful in recruiting the best wicketkeeper in the Association in Colin Lilley, from Bentleigh Uniting. Lilley, a former 'A' Grade Premiership player, had gained his reputation over the years by keeping up at the stumps to one of the CMCA's greatest fast bowlers, his brother John. On paper this team appeared capable of anything, but at the Christmas break ANA had won only one game from its six played, and was in a state of disarray. The ANA Committee took a dim view of the events leading up to this and took the dramatic action of replacing Russell Mactaggart with Brian McCallum as Captain for the last five games. Things didn't get any better, however, and the team failed to win another game for the season. The only highlight being the season's aggregate of 350 runs made by the 17-year-old Cedric Jansz. This disastrous year resulted in an immediate return to the 'B' Grade for the next season. Overall, the only bright spot for the Club this season was the performances of the 'Under 14A' Grade team led by Darren Haw and team managed by Geoff Fontaine. They had performed excellently throughout the season, losing only one game prior to the finals and finishing on top of the ladder. They came up against rivals West Bentleigh in the Semi-final and West elected to bat after winning the toss. ANA then went about destroying the West Bentleigh line-up with Graham Wilson proving to be too quick and too accurate by taking 5/8 off 9 overs, as West Bentleigh were dismissed for a miserable 53 runs. If this wasn't enough, however, ANA then went berserk with the bat, largely due to the efforts of Andrew McKittrick. McKittrick came in at number seven and, in only 51 minutes, blasted a whirlwind 83, which included 13 fours, as he and wicketkeeper Darren Louttit added 112 runs for the sixth wicket. Louttit finished with an unbeaten 43 as ANA amassed an impressive 222 runs for the innings. The win resulted in a Grand Final confrontation with the newly introduced St.Kilda City team. This being the first of three successive years that these two teams would meet in a finals game. Alas, this game proved to be no contest, as ANA crashed to be all out for only 66. St.Kilda then batted and amassed an enormous total of 254 runs, with off-spinner Stewart Kreltszheim taking 3/20.
The 1979/80 season was a milestone for the Bentleigh ANA Cricket Club, as it saw the Club compete in its 50th consecutive season with the CMCA, or the BDCA as it was formerly known. The Club celebrated this with a reunion, at which no less than 21 of the 26 existing life members attended. A glowing tribute to those who had fought so hard to make the Club a continuing success. Many social functions resulted throughout the year, and as was the usual practice, ANA held its annual Melbourne Cup Eve 'games' night - this one being at the home of John Thomas. Wicketkeeper Colin Lilley planned out his evening carefully to accommodate a formal function at the Bentleigh Club, as well as the ANA event. The hour was late when he arrived at the Thomas', splendidly attired in trousers and matching dinner jacket. By this stage, most of his team-mates were fairly well 'primed', to say the least, and were most obliging when asked by Lilley for directions to the 'make-shift' toilet. As was usually the case, the 'loo' had been dug behind a rather well concealed shed in the back yard and the earlier guidance, provided by the hurricane lamp, was now well and truly gone. This made the journey to the end of the path a rather perilous one indeed. Somehow, during the giving of directions to Col, confusion arose as to the actual positioning of the now reasonably full 'pit' (an earlier downpour made sure of that), and it wasn't long before poor old Col came to grief, discovering that his sought after destination had not been dug as far along the path as he had been rather dubiously informed resulting in a rather sticky situation indeed. Sadly though, the Club's First Eleven would have to compete in 'B' Grade for only the third time in its 50 year history. This move also contributed towards seeing former junior champion, David Crozier, heading to West Bentleigh rather than returning to ANA from District and VJCA cricket. Brian McCallum left the Club and returned to Sandringham/Black Rock, but the year was significant in seeing the return of champion spin bowler, Fitzroy Crozier. He led the team as Captain/Coach in a season which also saw the return of former 'A' grade Premiership players, Neil Vorbach, Maurice James and Tony Caddy. The ANA First Eleven showed patches of brilliance. Cedric Jansz amassed almost 450 runs for the season while Crozier took 56 wickets, but the team also showed a lot of inconsistency, as it finished third prior to the finals. Fitzroy Crozier took the unusual step of opening the bowling with his left-arm orthodox spinners in the Semi-final against Mackie. The Mackie line-up appeared to have no answer to the attack of Crozier and Maurice James, and at 4 for 27, it was only dropped catches that were allowing Mackie to have any say in the outcome of the match. Alas, how important those catches proved to be, as Mackie clawed its way out of the mire and ended up with a total of 157 in the first innings. It was Bob Wilson, with his medium paced variety of both swing and cut, who took the bowling honours with 4/41, just ahead of James with 3/49. Crozier had 2/38 off 21 overs when he attempted to take a return catch, succeeding only in splitting the webbing on his hand, requiring ten stitches and a plaster cast. Even without Crozier at the helm the ANA batting line-up were expecting to comfortably polish off the 158 needed for victory. But in keeping with the old adage of how important runs on the board are, particularly in a final, Mackie fought back strongly. ANA made a real mess of the task, with Cedric Jansz making 35 and 15-year-old Phil Daly getting 25, as they plummeted to be all out for a miserable 94 runs, resulting in the Firsts spending another year in the doldrums of 'B' Grade in the CMCA. The Fourth Eleven in 'H' Grade, bore a strong resemblance to Mal Hotton's 'Social Eleven' of the late fifties. Steve McCallum was the Captain and he received fine support from the now more mellow, but still strongly competitive Bob Arnfield, who had come out of retirement last season - much to the annoyance of many an opposition team. Arnfield now had a more distinguished crop of 'Snowy' hair than in his halcyon days of the late fifties, and carried a couple of extra pounds around the midriff, but still showed plenty of that hard hitting ability and shrewd wizardry with the ball which had made him a legend around the Bentleigh area at his peak. The 'H' Grade team had dominated the competition throughout the season and easily accounted for Highett in the Semi-final. This brought them up against the strong Government Aircraft Factory team in the Final. GAF batted first and took control of the game scoring 243. ANA continued to struggle and could only manage a total of 155 in reply with promising 14-year-old Trevlyn Crozier making an impressive 46. The Junior teams also showed plenty of potential this season, with two of the three teams finishing in the finals. The 'Under 16A' Grade team was led by Brett Arnfield, who was the eldest son of Bob. This team contained only three players who did not have another year in the 'Under 16' grade. As young as the team was it performed remarkably throughout the season, losing only one game prior to the finals and finishing on top of the ladder. Lady luck then smiled kindly on ANA in the Semi-final. The fourth placed South Caulfield team were sitting pretty on 3 for 161 overnight when the second day's play was washed out, allowing ANA a free passage through to the Grand Final. ANA were then confronted by the strong St.Kilda City team in the Final and struggled from the outset. Speedster Darren Haw was the best of the bowlers snaring 4/67 while off-spinner Stewart Kreltszheim captured 3/54, as City amassed a potentially match winning total of 254, which coincidentally was exactly the same amount as they had made in the previous year's final. After getting off to a reasonable start, with Trevlyn Crozier offering staunch resistance for a fine 35, ANA began to falter and when skipper Arnfield, who had amassed over 350 runs for the season, was dismissed for a first ball 'duck', it was obvious that the intent was now on saving the match, rather than winning it. ANA struggled bravely to see out the one and three quarter days to save the match, although it was left to the two all-rounders, Darren Haw and Graham Wilson, who had both been very much out of form with the bat, to see the team through. At 8 for 116, and with 17 overs remaining, Wilson joined Haw and the pair defiantly batted out the remaining nail biting overs to win the flag. Wilson remained unbeaten on 20 while Haw had batted stubbornly for two and a half hours, as ANA had amazingly batted for 99 overs for its 8 for 139, to avoid the defeat in dramatic fashion. The Premiership was a fine tribute to Captain Arnfield and Manager Russell Mactaggart, both having worked so hard throughout the season. The 'Under 12B' grade team was led by Mark Crawford throughout the season and performed excellently to finish second prior to the finals. They were also washed out against Washington in their Semi-final and confronted Hampton United in the Grand Final, but were soundly beaten and had to be content with the Runners-Up pennant for the season.