MCC Rekindles 122 Years of Lacrosse History

Lacrosse Victoria Historian, Doug Fox, was on hand last Saturday to witness the birth of MCC’s new junior development venture in Melbourne’s southern seaside suburbs.

Fourteen excited Under 13’s, almost all new to lacrosse, took the field to represent the MCC at Hampton Primary School against a more experienced Camberwell team. There was an air of something special about the game. It was a sunny morning, mod-grass field, sparkling new uniforms and a bunch of parents new to the sport cheering enthusiastically. Their team didn’t win the game but it mattered not. The kids had fun.

MCC Rekindles History

What the participants at Hampton didn’t know was that they were re-kindling a lacrosse presence in the area which goes back 122 years. This was history in the making.

Brighton Lacrosse Club had been one of the early members of the Victorian Lacrosse Association. It commenced in 1895 (one year before MCC commenced) and fielded a team for a few years at Higginbotham’s Paddock in Brighton before going into recess.  New interest was sparked when Richard Garland sent some lacrosse sticks home from a business trip to Canada in 1909.  His young sons and their friends took eagerly to the sticks and the Brighton Wanderers club was formed.   Garland, a Canadian by birth and formerly President of the Toronto Lacrosse Association, had come to Melbourne in 1899 to start up a franchise of the Dunlop Rubber Company.  It was Garland who manufactured the first Dunlop lacrosse balls made in Australia and Garland who later donated (with Andrew McHarg) the fine sterling silver trophy for the inaugural Interstate Carnival played in Melbourne in 1910. 

The Garland-McHarg Trophy now sits permanently on display in the MCC museum at Jolimont and is competed for each year at the men’s National Championships.

Among the young men who formed and played with the Brighton Wanderers was Neville Beech, son of George Beech who is recognized as the first Australian lacrosse player recruited by Lambton Mount when the sport commenced at Albert Park in 1876.  George Beech later initiated lacrosse in New South Wales in 1883 when his employment took him to Sydney for a few years. On return to Melbourne, Beech became a long-serving administrator of the VLA and an ardent promoter of the sport.

Interest in lacrosse grew in the seaside suburbs when a second club, Brighton Presbyterians, was established at Brighton in 1910.  A healthy rivalry grew within the local community who took sides to witness the Wanderers versus the “Pressies” clashes played on the Brighton Grammar School oval.  With the advent of the World War, both clubs were decimated as their young men enrolled for service. Many lost their lives and neither club re-formed after the war but in 1918 the players who were left merged to reform the Brighton Lacrosse Club.  Brighton prospered and became one of the powerhouse clubs of the VLA, playing in the ‘A’ section and beating MCC for the premiership in 1922 and Malvern in 1923.  Dwindling numbers during the latter years of the Great Depression led players to transfer to Caulfield and to the wind-up of the Brighton club in 1937, a great loss for Victorian lacrosse.

And so it is, 122 years since lacrosse was first hosted in the southern seaside locale in Melbourne and 80 years since a resident team last played. For the MCC club, the venture in the Hampton-Beaumaris area, represents an important strategic shift and hopes for a re-vitalization.  The work has been spearheaded by Nick Kiloh, MCC’s Junior Coordinator, and overseen by the club’s local development officer, Garrett Chan with help from other MCC senior players and supporters.

The best wishes of all of the Victorian lacrosse community are with MCC in making their new venture a long-term success.

 

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