MERTON RISE FROM ASHES
SELDOM do clubs rise from the ashes, something Bernie Cummins is well aware of, but the long term president of Merton Cricket Club said if they fall short, it won’t be for lack of trying.
The Merton Cricket Club had their application to the Wangaratta association approved last week, and are now officially on the comeback path.
Merton was part of the Alexandra and Euroa Cricket Association and then the Benalla Cricket Association, winning three premierships and being runner-up half a dozen times.
When the Benalla association folded, Merton joined the Seymour league, while Mansfield joined Wangaratta.
The following year in 2017 Merton took home the B Grade premiership.
“We beat Kilmore which was a big achievement,” said Bernie.
“Kilmore can get players from Broadmeadows if they want to, it’s not that far, so that was a great feat.”
But then all went quiet.
It seemed strange for a club on top of the world with great facilities like Merton to drop off the map.
A closer look revealed the loss of players was a major factor.
“We just couldn’t get a side,” said Bernie. “Some retired on a high, others drifted off to different areas, and we lost a family of three players, so it was hard to recover from that.”
Bernie, who’s spent most of his life in the Bonnie Doon/Merton area, spent many years farming, shearing and fencing before he was taken along to an AGM by club stalwart Rohan Berriman and came away the club’s president.
“I don’t think I did anything the first year, then I got into the swing of it,” recalled Bernie.
“When my boys (Mitchell and Jarrod) started playing I got more involved, as did my wife Eavis.”
Drawing on the passion of locals is something that’s held Merton Cricket Club in good stead in the past.
And with the success of their recent application, it’s a formula they’re looking to replicate with the addition of newcomers to the fold, some who have only moved into the area since they last fielded a side.
Luke Benton moved to Merton three years ago, and he has two boys who will strap on the pads and throw the willow at a few next season.
The Bentons have been frequenting the nets at Merton in recent times, honing their skills.
The facilities at the club, including well-appointed clubrooms and newly laid turf in the nets and on the pitch, was something Luke was surprised but stoked to see in his new home town.
“It’s exciting to see the team coming back and it’ll be great to get a few more players to come aboard and have a crack next season,” said Luke.
Bernie believes they’re positioned favourably in terms of facilities and the club’s organisation, and now they’re looking to bolster their ranks.
“We’ll be starting in C Grade, and we’ve had good indications of people who want to play, but we don’t have a full side yet,” said Bernie.
“I was a bit overwhelmed with the support we’ve been getting since sending out a few text messages about the club coming back, particularly from folks in Mansfield, it’s been fantastic.”
“We had a lot of players from Mansfield in the past, so that’s good to hear.”
The Merton Cricket Club will now work on attracting more players and sponsors, before running the mower and roller over the famous MCG in preparation for their return to the pitch next year.