Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By MITCH RODD

MERBEIN South Cricket Club stalwart Melville Lyons, PICTURED, can raise his bat during this weekend’s game, whether he makes runs or not.

The 54-year-old will celebrate club game number 300 for the Saints when he runs out with the Third Division XI against Irymple tomorrow.

The club Hall of Fame member is a five-time First Division premiership player, a former captain and superb opening batsman.

Lyons made his senior club debut in 1978/79, playing Thirds and Fourths, and was a staple of the Saints top level sides until retiring in 2002. After a sabbatical that covered more than a dozen years, Lyons returned to the club he loves to help out off-field, work in development and play some Third Grade cricket as well.

Lyons is currently the treasurer of the club, as well as the history keeper. Lyons has in fact been working diligently to try and digitise the history of the club and individual players for the newly created Merbein District Cricket Museum. The museum is set to handle the biographies and statistics (where available) for all Merbein cricketers dating back to 1900.

“It’s a great honour to bring up 300 games,” the man of the moment said.

“When I finished playing in the early 2000’s I had lost that love of the game, but about a dozen years later I was drawn back again to help out on and off the field.

“I’m now playing with some of the sons of guys I played with when I was a few years younger.

“When I left there was no white ball cricket, no coloured clothes, no J1 and J2 competition and no women’s competition. It’s changed a lot since then, and definitely for the better. It’s fantastic to see so many ladies and juniors playing cricket.

“Electronic scoring and the use of MyCricket for logging results has also been a brilliant initiative.”

Lyons first began playing seniors in 1978/79 under Peter Foreman in Fourths and Doug White in the Thirds. He would make his First XI debut in 1980/81 under Gavin Hogg.

His biggest influence and supporter, however, was the late Peter Danson, who also opened the batting, as well as playing the role of skipper for a number of years.

“We all loved Peter,” Lyons said. “He and I opened the batting together for about seven seasons and it was a fantastic time.”

Lyons would carve out an enviable career, scoring over 7000 runs across all grades, winning the club championship in 1987/88, becoming First XI captain in 1988/89, and winning First Division premierships in 1985/86, ‘86/87, 1991/92, ‘96/97 and ‘97/98.

The left-hander would score his maiden First XI century against Red Cliffs in ‘85/86, making 123, and top scored with 73 in the grand final against Mildura Settlers.

“I managed to score a couple more hundreds in the early ‘90s and two very frustrating 99’s,” Lyons said.

It was representative cricket, however, where Lyons believes he had some of his best performances.

He spent three seasons representing Mallee in the Victorian Under 21 Championship, including 1986 when he captained the side to the title over Gippsland.

Lyons played at three Melbourne Country Week carnivals, in which he said the highlight was scoring a hundred at the famous Arden Street ground, home of the North Melbourne Football Club.

He was also a member of the all-conquering Sunraysia team that won three titles in four years in the Victorian Country Cricket League (VCCL) State One Day competition.

Another highlight for Lyons was being selected to join teammate, Wayne Carmichael, in a representative XXXX Game in 1986 against Horsham in Mildura. Some of the names involved in the match included Simon O’Donnell, Merv Hughes, Tony Dodemaide, Michael Dimattina, Dav Whatmore, Jamie Siddons and Sri Lanka’s Aravinda Da Silva.

“We played so much ‘rep’ cricket back then, and a lot of relationships grew with players from other clubs during those trips,” he said.

“It’s a lot of time to spend on a bus with so many guys, and they were always entertaining trips, to say the least!

“We used to have a lot more rep cricket so the veterans competitions some of us are playing now are almost a new form of that. Vets competitions I think have helped keep guys playing and being part of their clubs on and off the field.”