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CCC Vale - John Birch

Former Camberwell Cricket Club player, John Birch passed away on Wednesday, 1 March, 2023 aged 96.

The club will wear Black armbands Saturday against Frankston as a mark of respect. A Service to celebrate the life of John Birch will be held in the Le Pine Chapel, 339 Warrigal Road, Burwood on Wednesday, 8 March at 2-30 pm.

John Birch (1946-77) was one of the greats of CCC, and words simply cannot describe his invaluable contribution to the Wells during his lifetime.

He played 390 games for the Club, and 277 of them in the First XI, as a high quality opening fast bowler and handy opening or lower order batsman.

Bowling – 1020 wickets for 13725 runs at average 13.5 for the Club, and of those 787 wickets for 10625 runs at average 13.5 for the First XI – best bowling performances 9/18 vs. Brunswick (remaining batsman run out) and 8/32 vs. Elsternwick – Tom Jenkinson (541 wickets) and Rad Grace (540 wickets) are the next highest wicket-takers for the Club – so 'Birchie' is 479 wickets ahead of the rest.Batting – 6454 runs at average 17.4 for the Club, and of those 4456 runs at average 16.8 for the First XI – a total of 2 centuries for the Club, one in the First XI, 131 vs. Hawthorn-East Melbourne. He was a member of the CCC First XI (VSDCA) 1961-62 premiership squad - (beat Ormond in the Semi-Final and Oakleigh in the Final) - Ken Munro (c), Ron Armstrong, Graham Arthur, Robin Balfour, Alan Bassett, John Birch, Ian Boldiston, Neil Dickinson, Bill Goodenough, Phil Hay, Graeme F. Moss, Laurie Muir and John Ryan. His 7/76 vs. Oakleigh in the Final was a key factor in the victory - and a member of the Camberwell CC 1946-47 Third XI ESCA premiership side – also playing in a couple of CCC First XI runners-up teams in the 1950’s.

John played with some of the great Camberwell CC sides of the 1950’s alongside the likes of Ken Munro, Robin Balfour, Laurie Curwood, Graeme Moss Snr., Lawrie Muir, Harold Sargeant, Harry Schneider and Jack Seelenmeyer (to name but a few). He opened the bowling with David Jenkin in 1959-60 and claimed 58/532 at average 9.2 while David captured 52/490 at average 9.4, Camberwell eventually losing a semi-final to Port Melbourne. 'Birchie' became captain from 1964-66, and took 5/8 (including hat trick) vs. Sunshine in the 1965-66 season, his three victims being Ian Kelly (bowled), Frank Simpson (caught by wicketkeeper Winkelman), and John Wildsmith (caught by Balfour at slip) enabling Camberwell to beat Sunshine (the eventual runner-up) outright. He was happy to play on and captain the Camberwell CC Second XI when his First XI career had seemingly ended, but was recalled to the First XI and performed well in his last full season 1973-74, during which Camberwell won the semi-final over Ringwood but lost the group final to Malvern.

John was a magnificent servant to the Club, VSDCA, and the game of cricket. He spent hours assisting the curator, rolling the wicket and assisting with ground maintenance, was active in administration, as CCC Treasurer for many years, and was honoured with Life-Membership in 1960, and the Vernon Wilcox Trophy (for outstanding service) in 1965. 'Birchie' and great friend Alan Barr looked after Camberwell's interests as delegates to the VSDCA for a number of years, before he became VSDCA Treasurer. Overall, John served the sub-association as delegate from (1962-96) and as Treasurer for 25 years (1971-96). In acknowledgement of his outstanding service, he was named in the VSDCA Hall of Fame, before being elevated to Legend status and honoured with VSDCA Life-Membership in 2018.

Away from cricket, 'Birchie' served in the RAAF during World War II, lived at Burwood with wife Jean (who pre-deceased him), and worked in administration for the Melbourne Metropolitan Tramways Board. He was a keen golfer, and in latter years became a very fine lawn bowler at Burwood Bowling Club, where he was also a Life-Member. Such was his love for the game, John would travel around Victoria to play in bowling tournaments whenever able.

J.C. Birch was a champion cricketer and administrator, much respected by teammates and opponents alike, and will be much-missed by his many friends.

We extend our sincere condolences to children Margaret, Jim, and the extended Birch family.

The John Birch Trophy is awarded to the player crowned as the club champion with the highest aggregate of points across the whole club each season today for the Camberwell Magpies. Vale - John Birch.

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