NZ Club Champs
GONE UP a driveway to a farmstead in Central Hawke's Bay lately?
An air of freshness and honesty greets you even if no one answers the door knock.
That's the sort of demeanour Ruahine Motors Central Hawke's Bay will take to Palmerston North this weekend in a bid to qualify for the New Zealand Club Championship to be played in Auckland later this summer.
The Colin Schaw-coached CHB premier men's team are the one-day cricket champions from Hawke's Bay this season.
They play New Plymouth Marist United today and, should they win, will lock horns with the winners of Nelson qualifiers (Waimea Toi Toi CC) and Horowhenua-Kapiti counterparts (Levin Old Boys) tomorrow to decide who graduates to the Big Smoke.
"It's huge because we're not just representing CHB but the whole of Hawke's Bay," Schaw says from the lounge of his Tikokino farmstead, mindful if they progress after this weekend they will be shouldering the pride of the Central Districts region, too, in Auckland.
It's CHB's maiden voyage up the qualifying path of the national premier men's limited-overs club champs, which losing Bay finalists Complete Flooring Napier Technical Old Boys have won once.
The belief is there for CHB to go all the way, but captain Scott Schaw, Colin's son, impresses his troops will have to be firing from all cylinders to realise that dream of becoming the country's best premier club team.
"We have only been performing at 75 per cent. We've either batted well or bowled well but we haven't put in a complete performance," the 21-year-old says.
Runners-up in the English style (60-over) competition this summer to NTOB, CHB have earned the respect of the other five premier club sides here.
"We have received great support from the other clubs to do well," the senior Schaw says of CHB who were runners up in the Twenty/20 competition this summer to Heretaunga Building Society Cornwall to kick off the season in early October.
He champions the new format from this summer that picks the winners in a play-off, as opposed to the traditional criterion of the previous season's winners representing the region the next summer.
CHB, boasting several Bay rep and two CD players, comprehensively and predictably beat Lansdowne Cricket Club, of Masterton, at Nelson Park, Napier, to get to this weekend's play-offs.
Schaw, who has another son, Angus, 18, in the team, is at pains to emphasise that this preview not dwell on his family.
Self-effacingly, the 42-year-old livestock farmer points out the summer of plenty comes on the foundation of honing the skills of other youngsters such as his sons, Hamish Lewis, Sam McConville and Toby Richardson, who are from CHB and have risen through the ranks of a robust age-group development programme.
"We've been rebuilding for the past three years because CHB isn't an easy area to play for because of the lack of numbers."
No doubt the input of veterans, such as James Mackie and Digby Phillips, to name a few, is crucial in beginning training indoors at NTOB's indoor facilities at Whitmore Park, Napier, from last winter.
Club chairman Mike Lewis, a general dog's body on match days, symbolises the passion for the game in the region.
Colin Schaw says former CD and Bay rep Daniel Drepaul has done immeasurable coaching work with youngsters in the region.
Equally significant is the pre-season commitment sought from premier players to not just train religiously but to make themselves available. "I reckon I've got the respect of the guys and we've all bought into that concept.
"Some dumb people still marry in summer, but the players give us at least three weeks of notice that they can't play," Schaw says with a laugh.
CD wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk is in the line-up, subject to coach Alan Hunt releasing him after the Stags' match against Auckland today.
The other CD squad member and wicketkeeper, Ben Smith, is in the equation.
Last winter, Scott Schaw played at Chuddleigh Cricket Club in Devon, southwest of England, while Angus Schaw and Hamish Lewis played for Birkhamstead, Hartfordshire, where father Colin Schaw played for a couple of Northern Hemisphere summers in his heyday.
Englishman Paul Hindmarch has become an asset for CHB in his debut season here.
"He came out as a bowler but he is one of the top runs scorers for the team," Scott says of Hindmarch, whose brother Stephen Hindmarch plays for the Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United soccer team in the ASB Premiership.
Coach Colin Schaw played his first Hawke Cup game as a 16-year-old for the defunct Southern Hawke's Bay, ending in more than a decade with the side.
CHB once boasted five teams of Country Districts, Waipukurau CC, Central CC, Takapau CC and Old Boys' Eparama (Wanstead), which HB Cricket Association president and life member Harry Findlay represented.
Regrettably some teams started falling away, so Country Districts and Waipukurau amalgamated to form CHB in 1995.
Two summers ago, CHB lured Dannevirke CC to unite, but that alliance was short lived.
Colin Schaw's brothers, Dennis, David and Douglas, all played for CHB, but the farmers hung their spikes when their "bones became too brittle".
Former CD legspinner Robbie Schaw, who went to Australia as a New Zealand under-19 representative to hone his skills with Shane Warne's former coach, the late Terry Jenner, is the son of David.
Robbie went to Wellington but has returned to CHB where he is farming, too.
Scott Schaw said he and Angus were cricket followers from the time they could walk.
"We didn't have much time to think about it.
"We were hanging around CHB players in the changing rooms, coffins and chilly bins," Scott says.
Another son, Hugo Schaw, is a pupil at Lindisfarne College and, while he plays cricket, his main passion is to make the barefoot skiing World Championship in Perth next year.
Colin Schaw lauds wife Jenny for her input.
"She's been the biggest motivator, taking me and the kids around and helping out on game days with lunches.
"She's always followed the boys all the way, so we're very lucky to have someone like her."
The Schaw clan engages in a Christmas Day ritual where every family member plays a game.
"That's when Gus gets his runs," says the father with a grin.
The coach says youngsters are blessed in the Bay with superb weather and great wickets.
"We have so much knowledge in cricket here with your Greatbatches, Doulls and Hamiltons."
He feels CHB have encouraged their players to aspire to the top level with the Schaw brothers, Henry Hunter, Mackie and McConville representing the Lincoln Doull-coached Pay Excellence senior men's Bay team.
Colin Schaw believes CHB's commitment isn't prevalent in other clubs.
"That's why we haven't got the Hawke Cup. Players just haven't got that commitment to strive to get there," he says of the Bay team, whose loss to Manawatu last month ended their campaign with the last round ending in a dead rubber against Taranaki.
CHB don't recruit players from outside their region, but Hunter and fellow Napier player Driaan Lubbe have gravitated to the team.
Central Hawke's Bay: Scott Schaw (c), Henry Hunter, Sam McConville, James Mackie, Paul Hindmarch, Ben Smith, Angus Schaw, Hamish Lewis, Driaan Lubbe, Digby Phillips, Jake Chambers, Paul Lyttle.
Coach: Colin Schaw.
New Plymouth Marist United: Dean Robinson, Jason Meuli, Matt Sim, Ryan Fleming (c), Leith Johnston, Jarred Cunningham, Matthew Hawkes, Ryan Watson, Ryan Bridgeman (wk), Josh Barrett, Sam Wells, Kurt Leuthart, Sam
Coach: None but Russell Dempster helps.