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Name:Hosking, Peter Mowat
Date of Birth:b 30 September 1932
Career:1951/52 - 1969/70
Teams:St Kilda
Matches:233
Batting Style:RHB
Bowling Style:RAFM

 

One of just six to amass 500 or more first XI wickets, Peter "Occa" Hosking rated alongside John Edwards, Nigel Murch and Adrian Jones among the finest fast bowlers in St Kilda's first 150 years.

Few were more competitive or passionate than the Collingwood six-footer, whose playing service stretched 25 years, including 19 in the first XI. He captained the club, played in two premierships, was the first to win three club championships in a row and was a member of the Team of the Century.

Edwars, his long-time opening partner, described Hosking as the best team man he ever played with "anywhere, or at any time". Professionalism and intensity were also part of the Hosking package.

"Normally he was quiet," siad Nigel Murch, "but when he was aroused, he was extraordinarily competitive - and angry. One day against Richmond, we'd both had a couple of altercations. Normally he tried to temper me which was sensible. But this time he said: 'Here's the ball, big fella. Do what you like and behave how you like.'"

Hosking was one of those most responsible for St Kilda's renaissance after years of mediocrity. His leadership was tough and uncompromising. It was Hosking who, in slippery conditions at the Junction Oval, all but refused to allow Murch to bowl in his first game with the club, against University in 1965-66. "I was expecting to take the new cherry but Occa was adamant," said Murch. "He reckoned it was too wet and I wouldn't be able to stand up. I spent the day walking between fine-leg and mid-off. He wasn't the sort of bloke you'd argue with."

When newcomer John Ward took five wickets on debut, filling-in for Hosking in the first game after Christmas in 1965-66, Hosking walked around at practice the following week asking: "Who's this Ward fella?" and proceeded to bowl a furiously fast spell.

"I'd never heard of him," said Hosking, then 32. "We'd been to Merimbula on a caravan holiday and he'd come straight from Beaumaris into the firsts. I thought to myself: 'I'll show this fella.'"

Hosking was to take a career-high 55 wickets for the season, including six for 52 and one for 67 in the premiership play-off with Footscray.

Hosking consistently swerved the ball away from the right-handers and could also make it lift sharply from just short of a good length. His bouncer was invariably aimed straight at the throat. Wicketkeeper Bill Laxton several times stood up to the stumps, but not for long. "It was just his way of saying to me to let them go (faster)," said Hosking.

He was also a lead member of John Edwards' leg-trap, taking some magnificent catches at leg-slip and being a regular winner of the club's fielding trophy.

Originally from Christ Church, South Yarra, he'd won the Public Schools' batting average at Wesley College and hardly bowled at all because of a back injury. "Until I was 16 and had a growth spurt, I was pretty small and one coach advised me to bowl spin as I simply wasn't tall enough for a fast bowler," he said.

Fast-tracked from the fourths to the firsts within 12 months of leaving school - and after starting initially in the fourths at Prahran - he made his first XI debut in 1951-52 against his old club and one of his old school's most famous old boys, Test allrounder Sam Loxton. "I took a wicket in my second over and had Sam dropped at second slip to the very first ball he faced," he said.

Hosking was to take 40 or more wickets on four occasions and had there not been such an array of talented pacemen vying for Sheffield Shield spots, he would have played more than just one state game, in 1957-58 against South Australia in Adelaide when he replaced Ian Meckiff, who was touring South Africa.

Hosking said the Junction Oval after the opening hour was invariably a batting paradise, forcing the bowlers to be patient and develop variety.

"The curator Jack Young was very wary of allowing us to walk anywhere near the centre wicket area," he said. "Woe betide any bowler marking the top of his run-up with his spikes. Jack would hang out of the scoreboard and yell: 'Why didn't you use a bloody pick!'

"Even in the warm-up, you always had to hit the ball out, rather than in towards the pickets. He wasn't having any of his pickets damaged."

Other than his participation in four grand finals in the late '50s and early '60s, Hosking says his most memorable game was against Hawthorn-East Melbourne at Glenferrie Oval when the Combine looked set to run down a score of 268 in a semi-final. "Hawthorn was eight wickets down and rapidly approaching our score with time running out. I cramped while bowling, followed almost immediately by John Edwards who also went down. Bill Smyth or Ron Wright had a go at Darkie (Edwards) claiming he was deliberately wasting time. Bill reckons he'd never seen so many blokes do up their bootlaces. We were on top of the ladder. We'd go through if it was a draw. It got down to the final over, just before 6 o'clock. One boundary hit would win it. They were nine down by then and Les Botham hit John Edwards high towards the long boundary in front of the swimming pool. It seemed it would have to be either for or six, but Ken Pummeroy, running absolutely flat chat around the boundary, stuck out his hand and the ball went clunk. We won the game by three runs."

Of all his 551 first XI and 120 second XI wickets, Hosking says one stands out: international Colin McDonald caught off his hip in a final at the Albert Ground. "Colin was a great player and had been in crackerjack form, but we thought if we could cramp him up on his thigh while the ball was new and had a bit of bounce, he might just hit one in the air. We had Jack Maddox in at a very, very short square leg, he defended it and Jack said thankyou very much. It didn't always work like that, mind you, but that one was sweet. Unfortunately we lost the match. We bowled them out cheap, but then couldn't get the runs.

A hard-hitting, effective batsman whose eye was sharp and hitting clean, one of Hosking's best-remembered batting performances came against Richmond in 1968 when he and Bob Morton added 76 in less than half an hour, setting up a memorable otright win. In the same year he hit North Melbourne's Ross Chapman for a huge 6, one of the biggest ever seen at the Junction.

Hosking captained the second XI for six years until he was 43, when he said "his eyes were going".

"I dropped three catches in a row at mid-off. I hardly ever dropped a catch. I knew it was time."

He was on St Kilda's cricket management committee from 1959-60 to 1978-79, was the club's reserve delegate to the VCA from 1971-72 to 1978-79 and a selector from 1964-65 to 1978-79. He was made a St Kilda life member in 1968.

From "Down At The Junction" by Ken Piesse