Region attracts more cricket teams

By Anendra Singh

All right, so the Black Caps are having a shocker in South Africa. But not everything is lost in New Zealand cricket.

The annual Riverbend Cricket camp in Hawke's Bay, arguably the cradle of cricketing civilisation in a good part of North Island, begins today with children's age-group teams converging for a fortnight's competition.

"It might not be going to script at the top with the Black Caps but we have 94 teams coming to play here," camp co-ordinator Craig Findlay said yesterday.

The camp has broken down barriers to lure Aucklanders back into the fold with 10 teams this summer, when three years ago not a single side were competing.

"The nucleus of the teams are coming up from Wellington but we've pushed into Auckland and the Central Districts area," the Hawke's Bay Cricket Association chief executive said after Taranaki and Wairarapa teams were also in the mix this season.

Findlay said the two CD areas tended to go to the Wanganui Cricket Festival but it appeared the Bay had more to offer.

"Hawke's Bay has a better climate and other attractions, whereas Wanganui are more limited in what they can do."

Parents bringing their children for four days of cricket matches often added a few more days to visit wineries, the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier and Splash Planet in Hastings.

"The mothers take a few days off while the kids are playing to go shopping, so it brings money into Hawke's Bay," Findlay said.

Several sports icons, such as golf professional Phil Tataurangi (Taupo) and former Black Caps Chris Pringle (Tauranga) and Richard Petrie (Wellington), are bringing teams because their children are playing.

"It's a great time for coaches, also, to have a few refreshments in the evening and have a chat with other coaches."

Another drawcard is that children are exposed at an early age to grass wickets at Nelson Park, Cornwall Park, Frimley and Hereworth School, although teams will also play on artificial pitches at venues such as Marewa Park, Windsor Park and schools.

Findlay said they were struggling for girls' teams, with only four in their section - one each from the Bay, Auckland, Wairarapa and, for the first time, Christchurch.

"We do have about 20 girls scattered in boys' teams. Players like [White Fern] Sophie Devine also played in boys' teams."

The camp has an emphasis on enjoyment and participation but is in large part based on coaching and development. It was established in 1979 with Hastings stalwart Ray Mettrick at the helm, before ending his 22-year service in 2001.

HBCA took over when Mettrick stepped down, with Findlay co-ordinating all but one of those years.

Current and former international and first-class cricketers such as Ross Taylor, Jamie How, Jeetan Patel, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Peter McGlashan, Kane Williamson, Sara McGlashan and Devine, to name a few, are graduates of the camp.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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