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John Cain: A man for all women

From the Members Monday DEC 30

By Anne Cahill Lambert

I’m watching the Boxing Day test not from the comfort of My Club – the MCC – but in my holiday bungalow in scorching North East Victoria.  And pondering the enormous contribution of John Cain who died just before Christmas.

The ground looks a picture from my vantage point.  The Australian cricketers are relentless. Occasionally I browse through my social media accounts to see photos of cousins and other relatives who are at the ‘G for this traditional game.  John Cain has made an enormous contribution to this ground and My Club.  Indeed, it is due to his sense of fairness and equity that I can now refer to the MCC as My Club.

As an aside, I’m sorry I’m not actually at the ‘G.  After a few hours, my smart (Alec) television wants me to confirm that I really want to keep it on!

1982 was a momentous year for both Victoria and me.  John Cain led Labor to victory after being in the wilderness for some 27 years. The excitement for me was that I met my future husband about two months after John Cain took control of Victoria. We became engaged (husband, not Mr Cain) early in 1987, the same week that my MCC medallion arrived.  I still have the medallion and the husband, but the engagement ring was stolen on a trip to Tonga in 2012.

The story goes that soon after his election in 1982, Mr and Mrs Cain attended an event at the ‘G.  Mrs Cain was about to be ushered into an adjoining room as women weren’t allowed in the Committee Room. For those too young to remember, women were not allowed to be members either.  For women to gain admission to the members’ reserve, they needed a “Ladies Ticket”.  These were tickets given to (male) members so that they could have their wives accompany them. Members were able to purchase additional ladies’ tickets.

Back to Mr and Mrs Cain at the event: Mr Cain asked why Mrs Cain couldn’t accompany him and had some difficulty in accepting such an arrangement. I hear that he contacted the Club fairly soon after the event to say that as the ground was on Crown Land, he expected arrangements to be made to allow women to be members. The Committee accepted this and in 1983 women were admitted to the Pavilion, a previously hallowed place available only to males. 

I understand Mr Cain was unhappy with the rate of progress in admitting women to full membership. The Club explained that it had opened up membership to women and there were quite a few on the waiting list. Unfortunately, that waiting list was quite long – perhaps in the order of 15 to 20 years. Mr Cain persevered and insisted that a way be found to admit women immediately.  I became a beneficiary of his insistence: existing members were able to relinquish their ladies’ tickets in favour of women on the waiting list. 

George Collopy was an old family friend and he generously found a willing member who agreed to relinquish his ladies’ ticket in my favour. George’s brothers, John and Kevin, were also members and we had happy times with them and their many children watching the efforts of our common team – the Hawks. All three Collopys have died, but there are still numerous Collopys who are members as their children and grand-children became members too. I must record that George’s wife, Joan, died this week – a day or two after John Cain. Vale Joan.

It’s worth looking at the MCC’s counterpart and namesake, the Marylebone Cricket Club and its progress towards admitting women. The proposal to admit women was put to a vote of members – not enough members voted to support the change and a second vote was required a few months after the first poll in 1998.  Women were able to be nominated for membership, but it was only in 2018 that women were admitted to Lord’s. They were placed on the end of the waiting list and had to wait their turn – twenty years!

Interestingly, My Club’s arrangements to fast-track women into membership was challenged in 2005 by a member who wanted to relinquish his ladies’ ticket in favour of his brother who was on the waiting list. His challenge was upheld by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on the basis that the entrenched discrimination that the fast tracking aimed to address was no longer an issue. Accordingly, the MCC abolished this provision in 2006.

John Cain’s contribution to the ‘G is not restricted to admitting women as full members, although I would rate this as his major legacy!  He worked tirelessly to secure the VFL/AFL grand final at the MCG.  The “threat” at the time was VFL Park at Glen Waverley.  Now, of course, the “threat” is non-Victorian clubs when they make it to the grannie.

I have been a member of the MCC for as long as I have been married.  I held my Diamond Birthday celebrations in the Long Room some years ago! 

Thank you, John Cain.



John Cain (Photo by AAP - Julian Smith)



Anne Cahill Lambert, AM, was one of the first females to be admitted to membership of the MCC.  She is an enthusiastic supporter of, in order, the women’s game  (and Adelaide AFLW in particular), women in sport, Hawthorn, the Wallabies and the Brumbies. 


Anne with her son Tom