By Barry Leabourn

After seven years of untiring efforts and hard work, the Katikati Cricket Club is moving to a new grass wicket at Moore Park next season with a well-designed oval becoming part of the Katikati Sports Hub.

The Western Bay District Council and a close working relationship with Katikati Football has allowed the new ground to be established.

The new oval slopes gently away on all sides with excellent drainage and has been designed to accommodate high levels of cricket and football.

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It has sloping banks for viewing on one side and views of the Kaimai Ranges.

Plans in the next three to five years are to have an extensive Community Sport and Recreation Indoor Centre built on the boundary, which includes clubrooms for seven sports and recreation codes, and the essential high balcony overlooking the fields and cricket pitch.

The plans also include an indoor centre.

In 1970, Katikati cricket players and enthusiasts dug out a cricket block on the Katikati College ground with their tractors and back hoes.

The pitch was installed with Ngatea (grey/white) clay from a drain in the Hauraki and carted for free by the ever community-orientated Taylor Brothers Ltd.

This wicket was renowned at the time as one of the best pitches in the Bay of Plenty and a good number of representative matches were played at the ground.

Club members/players of the time Don Grayling, Fred Bowman, John Weedon, Graeme Earl, Tom and Bruce Harray, Ted Schiskca and college groundsman Alan Vince made up many of the volunteers who helped installed it.

Tom Harray was the main curator in the 1970s and the wicket was said to be his pet hobby.

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His son Wayne watered it while he was at school and Tom's brother Bruce used his old 'Trekka' (small Landrover) with a roller on the back.

Rumour has it the aggregate base was around one metre deep.

Players from far and wide turned out for Katikati in this era.

The local team had an A grade and B grade side and in the 1970s and 1980s it was a colourful place to be playing cricket in the Bay.

A number of well-known New Zealand representatives were playing club cricket in the Bay of Plenty and many visited Katikati.

The likes of Geoff Howarth, Richard Collinge, Andy Roberts, Mike Wright, a plethora of Bracewells and the Cairns and Hart families, were all around and about through the 1970s and 1980s with many venturing north to play in Katikati.

The wicket at the College was renovated in 1986/87, with Ken Morton acquiring Patumahoe clay to renovate the block.

Tony Serancke looked after the wicket for a considerable period during the 80s and early 90s.

New nets were built at the back of the college at the same time, which lasted until the early 2000s.

The wicket became obsolete around 1991, as the college buildings encroached on to the fields. This also made scoring of centuries a little too easy.

Katikati was granted permission to play their premier games on a new artificial wicket at Moore Park for a season or so.

This wicket was installed by ex-Auckland first class player John Carson, who put a huge amount of time and effort into Katikati Cricket.

Stories of the time include, around 1977, a young Tauranga Boys College student, Brendon Bracewell, pushing off from the tennis courts to bowl as quickly as he could, which would resonate with locals including local umpire Alan Vince.

Bracewell was employed as the club professional in 1989/90, for two years, attracting some good players from Tauranga to the local team. Matthew and Robert Hart were the last Black Caps to play on the old wicket.

Move on 30 years to the current day and the old wicket block sits under an artificial hockey turf.

The skeleton of the old nets remains at the far end of the grounds and are kept company by a 50-year-old field roller.

The new cricket nets sit grandly in a well-protected corner thanks largely to the efforts of local Englishman Les McGann.

Katikati Cricket Club has been fortunate to receive excellent help and advice in constructing the new wicket block.

Firstly, from Bay Oval Turf manager Jared Carter and secondly Eden Park head curator Blair Christiansen.

The establishment of an all couch outfield on the new oval is another bonus, which should provide a marvellous fielding platform for players to benefit from.

Katikati Cricket Club has the Grassroots Trust to thank for the bulk of the funding for the Patumohoe clay and contracting services being provided.

The fundraising by club members and the endless amount of volunteer hours by committee members cannot be understated.

The real driving force behind the project comes from long-serving club president Ben Warren, who has been working for more than five years on seeing this project eventuate.

Well supported by treasurer Craig Pooley and committee member Ian McConnochie, all of them parents of current cricket-playing kids, will by the time the wicket is finished accumulated a myriad of volunteer time and labour.

As cricket 'tragics' and coaches, both Craig and Ben want to see the juniors benefit as much as possible from this new asset.

The club will look forward to hosting as many visiting teams from around the Bay and further afield as possible.

In the end, it's a great win for local grassroots cricket.