The extremely popular “From The Spartan Archives” series is now into its eighth instalment, and today we are looking at a defining season in Spartan history.

Specifically, the season of 1969/1970, an historic year for the Club as we claimed our first Premiership at the top level since 1926! At this stage the Spartan Cricket Club had two teams, but had lacked premiership success for many years.

We had actually been relegated in the late forties, a mere few years since the Club and the association was re-established following World War Two, and things were looking dire until 1957, when we claimed the Second Grade title, and were promoted back to the First Grade, where we have been ever since.

We surprised even the most avid of the club’s supporters the following season, when back in the First Grade, we reached the Grand Final. Unfortunately though we were ultimately comprehensively defeated by our pre-war rivals South Fremantle, by far the strongest side in the Fremantle & Districts Mercantile Cricket Association (the governing body for the competition in which we competed in at the time).

Things slowly progressed for the next decade, with the development of many younger players through the newly established second team, but for all our hard work, a premiership we were still lacking.

Having not won a flag in First Grade since before the war the Spartans were desperate for Premiership Glory – and 1970 was to be the year we again etched our name at the top of the competition!

By the late sixties, there were many familiar faces at the Club, which was one of the first instances of this occurring at the Spartans in the post-war years. 

Many familiar names that we so fondly admire and speak of even today, with the likes of Lew Read, Bevan James, George Pluske, Brian Waterer and Harold Bell to name but a few, were the reasons to our success, and this season, they were deservedly rewarded for their efforts.

This really was to be a sensational premiership victory, much like our famous 1992 win. Both were our first in decades, and both had a profound effect on the Club in the years that followed.

It can certainly be said that the 1969/70 Premiership put the Spartans back on the map, and despite having come twenty five years since our re-establishment, it can be credited with kickstarting the Club in the post-war world.

This edition of our From The Archives series marks the eighth in total since its inception back in 2017. The series looks at the many interesting periods in the more than one-hundred years of Leeming Spartan history. With thousands of moments to look back on we are never going to be short of topics, but we also wanted to provide an in-depth account meaning we have heavily researched each topic. So whilst we aren’t always able to get the articles out as quickly or as often as we’d like, you can rest assured it is a case of quality over quantity as we do our best to re-tell the many incredible pieces of history from the Leeming Spartan Cricket Club!

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Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to come across any photos from the 1969/70 Premiership, although this Club photo above, from 1972/73 features all those who played in that famous victory.

The Lead In:

The 1968/69 season started in disastrous fashion as several Spartan First Grade stalwarts in Joe Rayner, Les Reynolds, Sam Hume, Tony Morley (who was also a South Fremantle and state footballer) and Wayne Murray all left to join the newly formed Medina Club, as all resided in that district, leaving hopes of a short-term First Grade Premiership in tatters.

Morley and Murray were highly talented juniors and were just on the verge of outstanding First Grade careers. To further add to the Spartan Cricket Club’s woes, Denis Bell and Frank Ellis retired from cricket to take up other outstanding sporting careers – golf and harness racing respectively.

President Jack Knox-Peden could be forgiven for feeling a little frustrated, particularly as we had won the Minor Premiership in the top grade the previous season and were believed to be on the verge of securing he ultimate glory.

Nevertheless, the 1968/69 season defied all expectations, and turned out to be a highly successful one as our First Grade came runners-up to Hilton Park in the Grand Final.

Despite the loss of several first grade stalwarts, the Club defied the expectations of many in 1968 when we reached the Grand Final! Although we were not successful on this occasion, it set the way for future glory.

There were nevertheless a number of First Grade highlights this 1968/69 season from the predominantly new playing eleven, including stalwart George Pluske’s demolition of the Tallies Club with a burst of 7 for 27, and Bevan James’ one man assault on East Fremantle, as he claimed 6 for 15.

Future opening batsman of our Team of the Century, Harold Bell, also had a marvellous season, amassing 561 runs at an average of 37 with the willow. His total included 118 against Scots and other scores of 72, 63 and 60.

In our second grade, up and comer John Spencer made a fine 136 against Park, an innings which included a third wicket partnership of 168 with Alan Reynolds, while a rising star in the form of left hand fast-medium bowler Barry Maher took 29 wickets for the season.

So, despite the early season troubles, our eventual on field performances all boded well for a successful campaign the following summer.

The Premiership Season:

The 1969/70 season became one that will live long in the memories of all Spartans, and is a story that will no doubt be continued to be passed through the generations, as it really was our most significant season to date – after some 51 years at this point.

At the time the Spartan Cricket Club had only the two sides, and were desperate for a first grade premiership as the cupboard had been bare for almost fifty years.

The First Grade side performed terrifically all season under the inspirational leadership of Spartan legend Lew Read – who would later go on to form part of our Team of the Century. Lew lead the side perfectly all season and banded the group together and was crucial in bringing out the best of his players each week, and it was this determination that helped us reign supreme in the second summer of 1969.

During the season it was the likes of Harold Bell and John Spencer who performed exceptionally for the Spartans. Harold had another great season with the bat as he totalled 409 runs which included 125 against South Fremantle and 101 against East Fremantle. John Spencer meanwhile kept wickets brilliantly taking 17 catches and making 8 stumpings, and his big hitting in the lower order was of great value. Both these men would also go on to feature in our Team of the Century.

When the Grand Final came around we were pitted against the reigning champions in Hilton Park, and we were quick to put last year’s heartbreak behind us as we won convincingly.

Playing the reigning Premiers Hilton Park, who had defeated us in the Grand Final the year before was not going to be an easy task. The Spartans were valiant and decisive – putting the pain behind them and smashing the opposition to win convincingly.

The scoreline read as follows – Spartan Cricket Club 136 and 0/5 defeated Hilton Park 74 and 66 all out.

It was to be Club Legend Bevan James who gave us the victory, with Wacka claiming 5/28 in the first innings to bamboozle and spin out the Hilton Park batsmen – allowing us to roll them for 74 and take a crucial 62-run lead on first innings.

In these days 136 was a fiercely competitive score but not one that would instantly mean you’re going to win – and it was Bevan’s brilliance that helped us claim a massive first innings lead and set the game up perfectly for a Spartan victory.

The side in batting order was Harold Bell, Lew Read, Brian Waterer, Ron Caporn, Pat Miller, Alan Reynolds, John Spencer, George Pluske, Colin Hyde, Bevan James, and Barry Maher.

The second grade was also terrific and were unfortunate to lose their own semi-final to CBC. There were however a number of highlights from the season, including Colin Hyde – who demolished the opposition team called Scots with the remarkable figures of 7 for 9 and 5 for 7 in the second innings, which made an incredible 12 for 16 for the match!

The focus though, as it had to be, was on the First Grade – who had triumphed and won the Premiership for the first time since 1925/26.

The Spartan Cricket Club were once again Premiers – winning their third premiership at the top level and the first for 44 years. We had overcome the greatest adversity – the Second World War – survived the hardship and years that followed and deservedly claimed the greatest victory.

To think what it must have been for all concerned would be difficult to fathom. Never since has the Spartans had to struggle and fight so hard for recognition – overcoming World War Two on its own is an incredible accomplishment as many sides folded once the Great War took over. 

The Spartans did not, and it was the likes of Albert West and Jack Knox-Peden – Spartan legends without any doubt – who ensured the Club would return and begin a new era in the post-war world.

The fifties and early sixties were very much about re-establishing everything, as it was for much of Australia as a whole, and although immediate on-field success was not evident the Club was once again flowing strong and becoming a force once more. 

The 1969/70 premiership is a testament to all the fine individuals who were at the heart of the Spartan Cricket Club following its resurrection in 1945, and this victory was truly deserved.

The Spartans had won, they now had the Premiership and were at the top of the association – once again leading the way and providing an open and welcoming environment for all of our players. There is no surprise that the names listed above, from the Bells to the Waterers to the Reads, the Pluske, the James’ to name but a few – are all synonymous with the Spartans even to this day. Their era was one of the most crucial in our history and their efforts on and off the field are still felt to this very day.

The 1969/70 Premiership was the just reward for everyone’s hard work and commitment, and it certainly ranks as one of the – if not the – greatest in our history.

The Aftermath:

An interesting note worth mentioning from the following season was that the Spartans – the reigning champions – were defeated by South Fremantle in the Semi-Final. Incredibly though, South Fremantle then caused a sensation in the Fremantle & Districts Mercantile Cricket Association when they forfeited the Grand Final to Hilton Park. Most of their players were league footballers and their club would not release them on the weekends of the game as the season for Australian rules football began to ramp up.

The Spartans would however go on to win the 1972/73 Premiership in the First Grade –despite a desperate struggle to make the finals in the first place. Once they did though, the whole side lifted to great heights to win their semi-final and then defeat CBC in the Grand Final. The win was based on fine teamwork rather than individual brilliance with the turning point being the run-out of CBC’s Graeme Wood for 99. Wood went on to a distinguished First Class and Test career. 

For the Spartans meanwhile, legendary left hand medium-pacer Barry Maher took 60 wickets for the season which included six separate hauls of five wickets or more in an innings.

The 1970 Spartan Windup:

Seen below are some photos from the end-of-year function held by the Spartans in 1970 following that memorable Premiership. Lew Read was inducted as a Life Member of the Spartans this year. This windup was held at the Jandakot Hall.

In Conclusion:

This is the eighth edition of the Leeming Spartan Cricket Club’s “From The Archives” series, which looks at the history of the Spartans in-depth. We hope to bring you regular instalments this off-season for your perusal and encourage anyone to submit stories worth sharing.

Additionally, you may also wish to immortalise some of the memorabilia you may have at your disposal inside our incredible trophy cabinet at our clubhouse, with special thank you to those who have already donated priceless pieces! Should anyone wish to aid with the development of the series, please feel free to Email me!

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