Cricket a lifelong passion for godfather'

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor


IT'S NOT often Harry Findlay finds himself stumped when engaging in the journalistic ritual of questions and answers.

"It's a difficult one," says the godfather of Hawke's Bay cricket when asked what a Queen's Service Medal (QSM) in the New Year's Honours List means to him for his services to the country's No1 summer sport.

Like an opening batsman shuffling on the crease with a seaming new ball, the retired school principal makes a few false starts before revealing it's a great honour to receive the award although he was quite surprised when he found out during the process someone had nominated him and he would like nothing more than to identify that person.

"It's given in recognition of the effort in cricket so I must say I've enjoyed doing it," says Findlay, acknowledging people receive them for their selfless input in other codes such as rugby and hockey so championing cricket is a bonus.

It doesn't take long for him to embrace fellow Bay cricket godfathers Ray Mettrick (Cornwall Cricket Club) and Richard Atkinson (Taradale CC).

"I suppose I'm receiving the award on their behalf as well because they have done as much for cricket as me," says the 70-year-old, who still assumes the mantle of Hawke's Bay Cricket Association president and serves on its board.

What fuels him is the burning desire to boost the number of children playing, but accepts "cricket has its ups and downs".

"We've seen the New Zealand squad with its share of turmoil over [Ross] Taylor," he says of the upheaval that saw Black Caps coach Mike Hesson and the New Zealand Cricket board oust the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags batsman as captain and appoint Brendon McCullum in his place amid widespread condemnation of NZ Cricket's handling of the matter at a time when the sport is desperately trying to build a rapport with disillusioned fans.

With New Zealand's victory in the second Twenty20 match of a series they lost 2-1 in South Africa last week, Findlay says it was a "win some, lose some" scenario.

Overall he finds a sense of comfort in the belief that New Zealand is a small country batting well above its weight against heavyweights such as South Africa, India, Australia and England.

The young talent coming through pleases him, although he is mindful the numbers are well shy of the bumper crop two decades ago.

With the annual Riverbend Camp for children starting this week, Findlay notes the attitude of his 10-and-under team among 15 others is great and parents' enthusiasm equally encouraging.

Nevertheless, it concerns him the number of volunteers has dropped and work done at schools to nurture cricketers has lost its intensity.

"We are the three of the older helpers, and that's awesome, but we need more volunteers."

Conversely, he appreciates in the yesteryear the schools had a choice primarily between rugby and cricket but now children can have a smorgasbord of choices.

"There are more options in sport so people don't put as much time in with 15 or 16 sports but good luck to them," he says, believing exposing the young to myriad codes has advantages, too.

Findlay, who turned 70 on October 26, celebrated his birthday in Rarotonga with his three sons, Graeme, Craig and Scott, and their families.

From the time he started teaching in Invercargill in 1964 as a graduate teacher, cricket was on the top of the list of his extra curricular activities.

"Because you love the game you make sure people remember it."

It saddens him the Central Hawke's Bay and Southern Hawke's Bay age-group competition no longer exists.

"In the 1970s we had 14 teams playing that region but now we just have two club teams and a college team that cover the whole region."

He suspects fewer people on farms is an affirmation of how much rural New Zealand is changing.

Findlay left an indelible mark on the Ruapehu Cricket Association, as well as the CHB and Southern HB district associations, while living in Wallingford.

On the flip side, he lauds the diligence and toil of CHB stalwarts such as Colin Schaw, Mike Lewis and Daniel Drepaul in kindling the cricketing fire. Findlay is a regular Saturday morning under-10 coach and Monday night's Give A Go programme for the Napier Technical Old Boys' Club.

"It keeps me busy. When I retired Judith saw me through and we went on two lovely trips [overseas] but, sadly, I lost her but I can still give more time to cricket," he says of his wife, who died in 2009.

"She was a sports girl and we have three sons who were competitive sports boys," he says of Graeme (hockey) and Craig and Scott, who played top level cricket.

Craig is the new HBCA CEO and also the organiser of the Riverbend Camp since Mettrick stepped down in 2003 after 23 years of running it since its inception in 1980.

Graeme's son, Sean, 11, Craig's son, Toby, 9, and Scott's son, Connor, 8, all play cricket as do Graeme's twin 8-year-old daughters, Hannah and Emma.

Craig's daughter, Maia, 7, didn't warm up to the summer sport but Findlay is equally proud of a granddaughter who is blossoming as a runner.

In 2009, Harry Findlay received the ICC Centenary Medal in Palmerston North for his lifelong dedication to nurturing and supporting the summer code as a volunteer.

Born and educated in Dunedin, he relished playing the game for about 55 years before putting his bat and pads away in 2004 in his last game for the veterans' Hawke's Bay Hobblers team from Napier Old Boys' Marist.

He has served as the Bay senior men's selector, chairman of the junior cricket board and CD president.

For two decades he organised the Napier Primary Schools' Sports Association.

He also served as manager of the NZ Under-17 cricket tourney for six seasons.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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