The History of Warringah and the Spirit of the MIG
40 years has passed since the formation of Warringah Cricket club and the establishment of one of the most successful Shires Cricket Clubs in Sydney. With the passion of 2 men, a handful of left-over players from Manly-Warringah District Cricket Club, players from the Manly-Warringah Cricket Association and a reclaimed council tip on the southern banks of Greendale Creek, the formation of the club couldn’t have been any more difficult. But it is the very passion and commitment of these people that ensure that Warringah was written into the folklore of the Sydney Cricket Association for years to come.
Birth of the Men in Green
It all started in 1976 when Ryde-Balmain announced that they could no longer compete in the old Metropolitan and Shires Cricket Competition (Now known as the Sydney Shires Competition). This opened the door for a new Cricket Club, in particular from the Northern Beaches. With no facilities and the aforementioned pool of players, it was up to club founders Frank Gray and Bruce Louden to bring these players together. With Frank’s role as secretary of the MWCA and Bruce working to create working relationships between MWDCC and the MWJCA, Warringah couldn’t have had two better-qualified people to help create what would become a successful club. It also helped that these two men opened the batting together in the local A-Grade Competition, helping to create a very special bond between these two men.
But there was one piece missing: A Home Ground. With Brookvale Park converted into a rectangular sporting venue, the search was on for a home for the original MIG’s. This was eventually found at the corner of Stirgess Parade, Curl Curl on the Southern Banks of Greendale Creek. What was originally a council tip had immediately become Weldon Oval, named in honour of Weldon Estate which originally occupied the area, next door to Holloway’s Nursery, a popular garden market. This was the original home of Warringah Cricket Club and continues to be its home to this day.
Growth and Expansion of Warringah Cricket Club
The dedication of Bruce Louden and Frank Gray came almost immediately, with the development of the players resulting in early finals appearances. The increased interest in the club resulted in Warringah expanding to an extra 2 teams in the C and D Grade competitions (now known as 3rd and 4th Grade). To facilitate this expansion, Bruce and Frank began lobbying Warringah Shire Council to create room for a 2nd home oval. As with the formation of the club, their hard work and perseverance paid off when the council granted room on the western side of Weldon Oval. With the area in place, groundsman Harry Fraser and John Ward set out to create a deck that would rival the quality of Weldon Oval. This ground was ready in time for the introduction of the C and D Grade Teams in 1982/83 and was named Frank Gray Oval, in honour of the co-founder who helped to put Warringah Cricket Club on the map. By this time, Frank Gray was already affected by the onset of Multiple Sclerosis but, typical of the great man, showed guts and determination to get out of his wheelchair and played the first ball bowled on the ground that bore his name, bowled by Harry Fraser.
Further opportunities came when, after further lobbying from Frank Gray, a new division with the Sydney Shires Competition was created in the form of a Limited-Overs competition for Under-24’s, to encourage clubs to continue to develop youth within the Sydney Shires Competition. The last major legacy of the great man, this Under-24’s competition was named in his honour as the Frank Gray Shield. It then sparked a fairy-tale year when Warringah not only picked up their 1st premiership (winning the 3rd Grade Competition) they also won the Frank Gray Shield in its inaugural season, a fitting tribute to one of its co-founders who had spent over 10 years bringing Warringah Cricket Club to where it is today.
This then sparked an avalanche of premierships over the next 10 years, with Warringah winning their 1st (and to date, only) 1st Grade Premiership the next season, along with their 1st Club Championship. This was followed up their 1st 4th Grade Premiership in 1990/91 and their second 3rd Grade Premiership the season after that. In fact, during the 90’s, Warringah won 6 Premierships through the 90’s, an amazing achievement. 2nd Grade achieved their first premiership in 1998/99.
Warringah into the 21st Century
Warringah continued their expansion, with the introduction of their first Master’s (Over 40’s) Cricket team in 1999/2000, made up of players from 1st and 2nd Grade from over the years. Showing that the players had lost none of their abilities, Warringah won the competition at their 1st attempt. Warringah then backed up their efforts two years later, winning the Masters Competition again. This year, Warringah continued their expansion and connections with players from yester-year with the introduction of a Classics Team (Over-50’s). The development of these teams ensures that the future stars maintain a connection with Warringah’s rich history and gives the older players an opportunity to re-connect with a club that they say has given them the best years of their lives.
This was only the start for what would be another flurry of premierships, with 2nd Grade managing to win the 2nd Grade competition 4 times in 7 years, including their 1st win in 1998/99. The Club’s depth was also established as the Under-24’s won the Frank Gray Shield in 2004/05, the first time that Warringah had ‘brought Frankie home’ since the inaugural season. This also started a flurry of premierships within the Under-24’s competition as Warringah re-established their ‘youth policy’, resulting in the best record in the Under-24’s competition in the Sydney Shires History.
Establishment of the Pathway Program and continued Success to Today
In 2008/09, the first steps for creating a proper youth policy for cricket on the Northern Beaches was started when Manly-Warringah created a 6th Grade and 7th Grade team, made up of Green Shield Players and current rep players. This started off in the MWCA Competitions. Eventually the demand became so great that the ‘Pathway Program’ between MWDCC, WCC and MWCA was established. The brain-child of David Gainsford, Greg Boyer and with input from Doug McGrath and Mike Pawley, Warringah entered into a long-term partnership with MWDCC to become a pseudo-feeder club, whereby 3rd and 4th Grade would home left-over players from MWDCC, much like what Frank and Bruce did to establish the club. Furthermore, Warringah started entering teams within the Sydney Metropolitan Competition (known by its trophy as the Tim Creer Cup). The first team was entered in 2010/11 and a 2nd team was entered the following year. As before, Warringah was a lighthouse for supporting and competing within the Tim Creer Cup as other shires clubs have now followed Warringah’s lead in establishing 2 teams within the competition, the focus of which is developing the junior players of the clubs to compete at a high level.
This youth policy has paid dividends for the club with Warringah winning 6 Frank Gray Shields in a 10 year span, including an incredible 4 in a row from 2010-11 through to 2013-14, a record unmatched and, quite possibly, will never be beaten. Frank Gray would have been proud.
Warringah’s Pathway Pedigree
One of the major reasons for Warringah’s success has been their commitment to building up the talent pool of young players within the Northern Beaches District. As a result, Warringah has become an important stepping stone for players onto bigger and better things within the cricketing family. Our first big-name player was Shaun Bradstreet, an all-rounder who ended up captaining New South Wales and Manly-Warringah and was named 1998/99 Mercantile Mutual Cup Rookie of the year. Warringah also boasted Louie McMillan who played for NSW Under-17 and Peter Panbury who played for the Under-19 national team alongside Matthew Hayden and Damien Martin.
Along with that, Warringah boasts 17 players that have gone on to play 1st Grade Cricket, with the majority being towards Manly-Warringah but also North Sydney and Campbelltown-Camden, such is the quality of the youth development at Warringah. Some of our most notable players who have gone on to play 1st Grade for Manly-Warringah include Michael Cosentino, Craig Little, Andrew Lindsay, Ritchie Butterworth, Ben King, Danny Reynolds, Luke Edgell and Jack Ritchie.
This list will only continue to grow as the Pathway Program continues in full swing. It has now become a light-house for junior development all over Sydney with numerous clubs now copying Warringah’s model with Manly-Warringah.
Warringah Leading the Way Off The Pitch
Not only has Warringah been achieving major goals on the field, it has also worked to raise awareness and build connections off the field. Boasting one of the most talented committees in the Sydney Cricket Association, Warringah has managed to stamp its authority as the best run club in the Sydney Shires Competition, with repeated financial success and infrastructure and equipment that has become the envy of the Sydney Shires Competition. The recent re-turfing of Frank Gray Oval in 2008 along with the creation of Mike Pawley Oval has ensured that Warringah plays on some of the best grounds in Sydney.
Along with that, Warringah recently undertook a major redevelopment program of Weldon Oval alongside the Warringah Giants AFL Club to upgrade the drainage, turf and clubhouse at Weldon Oval, including updates to the amenities at the top of the building and the changerooms. The clubhouse is now rated one of the best clubhouses in the Sydney Grade and Shires Competition.
As a club built from the hearts of two great man, Warringah has given back to the community that helped to make this club one of the best in Sydney, especially when it comes to Men’s and Women’s Health. For the last 3 years, Warringah have topped the Sydney Cricket Association’s Fundraising campaign for Movember, which raises money for research into Prostate Cancer and Depression. Done in support of former Warringah Coach David Gainsford (a prostate cancer survivor himself), Warringah has shown the way in fundraising, breaking the record this year for most money raised by one club in a year in the Sydney Cricket Association with over $8,000 raised. This also put Warringah 2nd in Australia amongst Cricket Clubs. Along with that, Warringah has also raised $5,000 in two years for the Jane McGrath Foundation through Pink Stumps day, run locally by the captain of our Classic’s Team Simon Lyon (in memory of his late sister who was diagnosed with Breast Cancer).
It has been 40 years since the formation of a club by two men brought together by the love of cricket on a reclaimed rubbish dump. Bruce Louden continues to bat on while Frank Gray sits back and enjoys watching his young charges continue the fight. Frankie would be proud…