Work and play pays off big for Hunters

By Jared Smith,

When a sports reporter hears from a cricket captain his team spent an evening trying to drink a tavern dry during a tournament, his reaction is to hold the front page for the latest scandal.

But in a tournament where the umpires go shirtless to work on their tans and a beverage is a prerequisite before you bat, such a story is all part of the charm.

The eight-team T20 cricket competition wrapped up at Victoria Park yesterday for the New Zealand Masters Games.

South Taranaki's Auroa Fossil Hunters added another title to their resume by winning the final by about 30-40 runs, as Feilding's Village Greenies were all out well short in the final.

Earlier in the day, Auroa had beaten Country Districts while the Greenies disposed of Station United in the semifinals.

At their second Games, Greenies captain Blair Shortall was expecting a close contest in the final.

"We lost our first one, but that's three in a row [victories]."

Their team had been a club side in their previous incarnation.

"It's just everyone getting back together that's what it's all about.

"None of us are playing any more so it's great to get back together and have a yarn."

Despite having three Masters Games behind them, Hunters skipper John McCarty knew his boys were feeling it heading into the final match, knowing Greenies took the game off them during the round robin.

"We've had a few injury scares in the field.

"Groins and calves - you know what old fellas do.

"They've probably got five years [younger] on the average.

"We're starting to slow down, we were fitter in our early 40s - in our late 40s, it's starting to hurt."

However, with a Hawera premier cricketer like Alex Goodin in the line-up, plus a host of former premier guys only four or five years out of club cricket, the Hunters had the big-game experience.

So it proved, as the openers laid the solid platform with 46-0 off the first five overs.

It is noticeable in Masters cricket that the MCC handbook for batting has long been discarded with the urge to swing full and lusty the way to go.

And why not given a skied hit still has to be caught by a charging fielder who just isn't as quick as he was 15 years ago.

The wickets fell steadily through Hunters' innings but the runs accumulated at the same time - 141-7 after a long day of cricket certainly a foreboding total.

Then Greenies lost a wicket in their first over and they were never able to get back into the game.

Perhaps part of the Hunters' continued success was not the influx of three new players, or the combination of the core team from Auroa being joined by others from Pihama.

Instead, it could be their traditional big night at the Kai Iwi hotel - the team's sponsors - where they make a base for the Games.

On Wednesdays, the team forgoes the festivities at Springvale Park to stay at the tavern to dry and drain the beer taps.

"We've got the record for the highest turnover on a Wednesday night," said McCarty.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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