Wonga Park Cricket Club – History
In the early 1900’s Wonga Park was a rural farming community and life on the land was pretty hard. To have a break from their long days working in the orchards, a few of the locals organized some social cricket matches in a cleared area that is now occupied by the Wonga Park Tennis Club. After a couple of years of social cricket the Wonga Park Cricket Club (WPCC) was formally established in 1910 and entered the Box Hill Reporter cricket competition at this time.
Local families such as Burch’s, Hartley’s, Kear’s, Knee’s, Read’s, and Smith’s, that were such a key part of the Club’s early years have largely remained heavily involved in the Club throughout the Club’s history. It’s not surprising that the Club is renowned for being a family orientated club and the values of mateship, respect, integrity, honesty and fair play that were such a part of early days are still very much ingrained in WPCC today.
In 1919 WPCC joined the Croydon and District cricket competition and then became a founding member of the Ringwood District Cricket Association in 1920.
Not long after the Club was formed a larger area of land was donated to the club and the ‘top ground’, as we know it today, became the home of the WPCC. In the early days the oval had a gravel cover and a very basic concrete pitch that was covered on game day by a tatty old mat. In 1932 the Club introduced a second senior team. For a long time the cricket gear was also pretty basic with three sets of worn pads and a couple of very well used bats. Cricket continued to provide local families and friends with an opportunity to get together on Saturday afternoons.
Wonga Park became well known for the delicious home cooked afternoon teas, and no matter how hot the day, a fire was always lit to boil the water in an old kerosene tin for the tea.
In the early 50’s the ground was enlarged by removing material from the road side and relocating it to the ‘bottom’ side of the ground, and the surface was improved at the same time.
Post game socializing also began at this time when people would stay after the game to enjoy a few ‘cool drinks’. During this period regular progressive dinners and local dances also provided entertainment during the cricket season.
In the 1960’s the Club continued to evolve both on and off the field. Due to increasing membership, thirds and fourths teams were formed and the Club established its first junior team. Saturday evening socializing became more organised with players and their families gathering at Fred and Hilda Knee’s place, a short distance from the ground, for post match celebrations and BBQ.
During the mid 1970’s the Club entered a golden era for its First 11 by winning the 1974-75 and 1975-76 Chandler 1 Premierships, being well lead by captain coach Ray Bent.
The ‘bottom ground’ was established in the early 1970’s, providing the Club with the enviable position of having two adjacent grounds, and therefore, avoiding the need to travel away from the Club to play home games. The bottom ground was a reclaimed tip and in the early years it wasn’t unusual to actually trip on some piece of largely buried waste. After ongoing improvements to the surface of the ground by Club members, the firsts eventually transferred their games from the top ground to the bottom ground.
Continued improvements to the bottom ground and its surrounds have been such that it is one of the preferred locations to play and view cricket within the RDCA.
The ‘top ground’ still remains, however, the spiritual home of WPCC due its history and its unique bush land setting. Our players simply love playing there.
The clubroom for the bottom ground was constructed in the mid 1970’s and like the ground itself, the rooms have improved dramatically overtime from a basic brick construction to the well equipped rooms as we know them today. Like ongoing ground improvements a high proportion of the improvements to the rooms have been undertaken by Club members which is a common theme throughout the history of WPCC – we pitch in and get it done! There are plans to further extend and improve the rooms to accommodate our growing membership and provide comfort for visiting teams.
After spending a couple of years in A Grade the Club won its way back into Chandler Shield in 1990 under the guidance of captain coach Dale Goldsmith.
Whilst the Club has won many Premierships in the lower grades (we have won the RDCA Club Championship award four times since 2000/01), we have not again tasted success in Chandler 1 since our back to back flags in the mid 70’s. We are confident, however, that with the talent we have in our senior grades, together with a wealth of junior talent coming through, the Club is poised to again feature prominently in senior finals for years to come.
The Club has certainly grown since our humble, but enthusiastic beginnings back in 1910. We now have 7 senior teams, 13 junior teams, over 40 kids in our Milo program, and 3 veterans teams which reflects the growth of the Wonga Parkcommunity, and the Club’s ability to attract and retain, players from far and wide.
Although we are nearly 100 years old we only have 27 Life Members. Needless to say that Life Membership isn’t awarded easily at Wonga Park.
The Club has had many characters over the years, many of whom have passed away, but their contribution to the Club and its culture will never be forgotten.
We now look forward to our Centenary in the season 2010/2011, a significant milestone in the Club’s history. Much planning is now taking place as we prepare to celebrate the anniversary of our great Club. Our Centenary will be a time of much reflection but also inspire us to move confidently into the future. While it’s a very different looking Club now, some things have remained the same throughout our history, family and mates.