In 1842, Brighton had a population of 300 European settlers. Two years earlier, the land was occupied by an unknown number of Aboriginal people. The rapid and astonishing rise of the new township called Brighton was brought to the attention of the outside world by the first cricket match played by the township against Melbourne Cricket Club on 26 November 1842.

Cricket was introduced to Brighton through the foresight and keenness of Henry Dendy and Jonathan B Were. Matches of the day were great social occasions, with those attending partaking in sumptuous entertainment and champagne lunches. Unfortunately, such extravagance now only occurs on special occasions, such as President’s Lunches! The Brighton cricket team performed wonderful feats on the cricket field in the first decade of its existence, constantly defeating its arch rival, the Melbourne Cricket Club, despite the latter club’s much larger membership and resources. All-rounder James Coldman was the star of the team and was regarded by many as the best player in the colony at the time.

The formation of the Brighton Cricket Club in 1842 provides it with the honour of being the second oldest turf-based cricket club in Australia, and one steeped in history. Test players Arthur Coningham and George ‘Joey’ Palmer played at the club at various stages of their careers in the 19th century, whilst another early Australian player, Judge William Moule, was a club president and life member. Wonderful clubmen such as Jimmy Thompson, Harry Dunn, Alf Noall, Albert Yuille, Stan Hammond, Edgar Brown and Jim Grout were key figures in the rise of the club in the decades before World War One.

By 1887 Brighton was based at its present location at the Brighton Beach Oval in South Road. In 1895, the club was admitted to the second grade of the Victorian Cricket Association’s (VCA) pennant competition, but two years later broke away with several other second-grade clubs (including Malvern, Williamstown, Coburg, Port Melbourne and Essendon) to form a new competition known as the League of Victorian Cricketers.

With the announced formation of the elite District competition in 1906, there was a reconciliation between the League and Association clubs, and Brighton and the other League clubs were soon lobbying heavily to be included in the first grade of the new competition. Brighton’s on-field performances in the preceding season (1905-06) had been respectable enough, and the Brighton area was well-known as a breeding ground for good young cricketers.

In order to qualify as a first grade District club, however, the VCA required various other criteria to be met. Firstly, a club had to show an annual income of 100 pounds – a continuing problem at Brighton despite the area’s supposed affluence. Secondly the club needed an “approved ground”, including an arena enclosed by a suitable fence (to allow spectators to be charged an entrance fee). In March 1906, the club held a highly successful garden fete which raised sufficient funds for the construction of a picket fence and other ground improvements. The fence, which was around 10 feet in height and was not removed until the early 1950s, met one of the pre-conditions, but admittance to the first grade of the new District competition was not forthcoming – much to the chagrin of the Brighton committee and local community.

Having been consigned to the District second grade in 1906-07, Brighton and a number of other disgruntled clubs in a similar situation eventually agreed to form part of a VCA conceived Sub-District competition, which, the VCA felt, would better serve their cricketing interests. Thus it was that Brighton became one of the eight foundation members of the Sub-District Association when it formed in 1908, and there it has remained since.

The immediate impact of the new competition on Brighton’s cricketing fortunes was not favourable, however, since in the pre-war years its best young players were continually being poached by District clubs – predominantly St Kilda whose zone included part of the Brighton area. Future Victorian players Norman Brown and Les Ferguson were lost in this way in the early years of the competition. Nonetheless, the post-war era ushered in a golden age for the club when, with the return of Brown from District and State cricket, and the continuing dominance of local stars such as Gordon Robinson, Bob Grieve and brothers Roy and Hector Jewell, the club won four premierships between 1917-18 and 1925-26. The team fielded in the 1924-25 Grand Final is still regarded by many as the best ever in the history of the competition.

Between the wars, Brighton continued to produce young stars who went on to play Test cricket (Lisle Nagel), or at State level (Vern Nagel, Jack Frederick, George Newstead, Jack Daniel, Jack Watmuff and Jack Green). After WWII, the trend continued with the fairy story emergence of Jack Iverson who made his senior debut with Brighton 3rds at the age of 31 in 1946, won a premiership for the first eleven in 1947-48 and was playing match-winning Test cricket against Freddy Brown’s Englishmen just three years later.

After a lean spell in the 1950s, the signing of Lew Carter as captain-coach late in the decade ushered in another successful era in the 1960s. Carter recruited some of his former Victorian team-mates to the club, including Iverson, Dave Kerr and ex-Test player, Colin McDonald, who together with home-grown players such as Len Hayball, Alan Tudor and Bill Gillard formed a formidable unit that won the flag in 1962-63, and was unlucky not to win a couple more in subsequent seasons.

In more recent times, the club’s most noteworthy young recruit was a young blonde leg spinner named Shane Warne who arrived with his school-mates in 1986-87, and spent one season at Brighton en route to cricketing immortality. Since that time the club has enjoyed another revival in its fortunes, with the arrival at the club of Danish County fast bowler Ole Mortensen and, at various times since, former State players David Shepherd, Leigh Baker, Darren Walker and Richard Herman. As in the 1960s, the blending of these proven players with home-grown stars such as Brendan Mutimer, Tony Gilchrist and Kim Teschendorff has proved to be a winning formula, with four premierships won between 1989 and 2001.

Since 1989, a further ten premierships have been won by Brighton’s lower elevens to make the club one of the competition’s most successful in the modern era. It currently has four senior teams and an enormously successful junior program, which this year has 13 teams between Under 12 and Under 16 in the field, is assisting Cricket Australia in its T20 Blast Pilot Program and continues to run the In-2-Cricket program for boys and girls aged 5 – 8. The club is tremendously proud of its long and successful history, and eagerly awaits further success at senior level and the emergence of another young star from within its ranks to follow in the footsteps of the great players of the past..