A Brief History of the Club
The University of Western Australia commenced courses in 1913 and the UCC was established in the same year, entering the WACA competition in the 1913-14 season. With the University buildings in Irwin Street, Perth, the club had no home ground but shared the WACA ground with the East Perth and West Perth clubs. The first captain was Philip Le Couteur, a Victorian Rhodes Scholar and Oxford Blue who was the first lecturer in philosophy at the University.
The club participated in the First Grade competition in the 1913-14, 1914-15 and 1916-17 seasons, relying heavily on the all-round abilities of Le Couteur who took 83 wickets in the first season, a club record which still stands, as does his 14 wickets in a single match. But because many students had to leave to go to the First World War, it became increasingly difficult to field a complete team and the club dropped out of the WACA competition for a number of years, playing matches only against schools and the Teachers Training College.
UWA´s move to the Crawley campus at the end of 1930 helped to rejuvenate the club, which now had its own ground, then known as Crawley or University Oval and later James Oval. After having a Second Grade side in 1929-30, the First Grade competition was re-entered in 1930-31. The club´s first intervarsity match was played in Adelaide in 1932.
In 1936-37 every match was lost heavily and there was a further gap of ten years in which UCC did not have a First Grade side. For three seasons during the Second World War (1942 to 1944) the club virtually ceased to exist. It was re-formed with a Second Grade side in 1945-46 and re-entered the First Grade competition in 1946-47, and has fielded four grade sides in every season since 1947-48.
The club´s most successful period was during the 1950s and 1960s, with the first three of its eight First Grade premierships coming within four seasons (1951-52, 1953-54 and 1954-55). These sides were captained by Robin Gray, the inaugural lecturer in physical education and experienced Sydney grade cricketer who was nearly twice the age of many of the other players but had outstanding leadership qualities. Amongst the prominent players in these teams were a number of club "legends", such as openers John Rutherford and Laurie Sawle, middle-order batsmen John Forsaith and Eric Strauss, pace bowlers Ray Strauss and Geoff Forsaith and wicketkeeper Geoff Fernie. Ray Strauss took 697 First Grade wickets for UCC during his long career, a record that is unlikely to be surpassed, and like Rutherford and Sawle played regularly for WA during the 1950s. Rutherford later became the first WA player to represent Australia in a Test match.
A fourth First Grade premiership was won in 1960-61 and during this season Keith Punch set a club bowling record with 9 for 22 in an innings, as well as taking a hat-trick for Australian Universities against the West Indies touring team in Canberra.
Around this time the strength of UCC was demonstrated by the number of premierships which were also won by lower grade sides. As University did not have any under-age teams, scholarship students from Perth Modern School were allowed to play for the club until with the expansion of student numbers the pool of undergraduate players became sufficiently great. The club also sponsored the Perth Modern School team in the WACA under-age competition.
Further First Grade premierships were won in 1963-64, 1965-66, 1967-68 and 1974-75, all with John Inverarity in the team, in the latter three as captain. During this period Inverarity, Jock Irvine, Tony Mann and Rod Marsh were regular WA players, with Inverarity also a successful WA captain and Australian Test representative.
After such a period of unparalleled success the club started to struggle as the WACA tightened its rules so that although undergraduates were bound to play for University, graduates could only represent the club if granted a clearance from their district club. There were also some concerted attempts in the early 1980s to remove UCC altogether from the WACA competition. The club was forced into litigation to uphold its constitutional right to exist (which was successful), and also had to withstand an attempt to amalgamate it with the Nedlands club.
Qualification rules were later changed again so that undergraduates were no longer bound to the club and although students from the other public universities in Perth could represent UCC, the club missed out on a number of good players who have chosen to remain with their district club. The First Grade side qualified for the finals a few times but never seriously challenged for a premiership since its last one in 1974-75 until 2017-18, and there were only a few lower grade flags in the same period. Nevertheless the club has continued to produce players from time to time who have been good enough to represent WA either at the senior or second eleven levels.
Nine Australian Test players have appeared for UCC at some stage of their careers: John Rutherford, Laurie Mayne, John Inverarity, Tony Mann, Rod Marsh, Wally Edwards, Graeme Wood, Chris Rogers and Ashton Agar. Ken MacLeay has been an Australian one-day representative, while Jock Irvine was in an Australian touring team to South Africa.
The first English professional to play for UCC was Chris Tavare in 1977-78, and a series of overseas players have represented the club since then (although not in every season). They have included several who have played Test cricket for England, including Tavare, Mark Ramprakash, Mark Ealham, Ed Smith, Owais Shah, Ian Bell and Nick Compton.
A team of the 20th century was selected to coincide with the launch of the UCC Foundation in 2001, and consisted of the following players: John Rutherford, Rick Charlesworth, John Inverarity (captain), Graeme Wood, Jock Irvine, Rod Marsh, Ken MacLeay, Tony Mann, Keith Punch, Ray Strauss and Geoff Forsaith. Laurie Sawle was named as 12th man and Robin Gray as the coach.
The club entered a female team in the WACA B Grade competition in 2013-14 with immediate success, winning both the T20 and 40 over finals. Further success in the next few seasons brought pressure to form an A Grade team, but this was short-lived as the WACA decided to reduce the number of teams in the competition for 2019-20 and University’s teams were dissolved.
After many seasons without success, the club has shown signs of rejuvenation in recent years, again with qualification rules being further relaxed to permit players without any university association to play for University. After a gap of 43 years, the First Grade side reached the grand final in 2017-18, only to lose to Claremont-Nedlands. It qualified for the finals again during the unfinished 2019-20 season, and were beaten finalists in the T20 competition. During the past decade Ashton Agar, Will Bosisto and David Moody have been regular first-class players.
While many First Grade players have had notable cricket careers, there are plenty of First Grade as well as lower grade UCC cricketers who have become just as prominent in professional and civic circles. Perhaps the best known of these is Bob Hawke, Australia’s Prime Minister from 1983 to 1991. The fact that most club members are of a similar age contributes to its particular character; and as the club is for the most part run by the players themselves, it has always provided great opportunities for them to take on responsibility and learn management skills at a young age.
In its centenary year of 2013 the club was proud to boast that the national chairmen of both the Cricket Australia Board (Wally Edwards) and the AFL Commission (Mike Fitzpatrick) were ex-UCC cricketers, while John Inverarity and Rod Marsh were on Cricket Australia’s national selection panel. Several years later the chairman of the WACA Board, Lachlan Henderson, was also a former player with University. The club is proud to say that ex-player, ex-coach and current committee member Christian Bauer is currently on the WACA board and is also the Chairman of the Western Australian District Cricket Council (WADCC).