The Geyser City Cricket Club has taken another big step towards being a long-lasting force in Bay of Plenty cricket.
Last year, the club's unique and innovative approach to creating pathways and growing the game in Rotorua won them Club of the Year at the Bay of Plenty Sports Awards.
For the past two years they have had John Paul College and Western Heights High School old boys teams playing in the Rotorua senior reserve competition. In the upcoming season they will go one better and field a side in the Baywide Premier competition.
They will be the second Rotorua side in the competition, alongside Central Indians, and will still field two teams in the Rotorua competition - a senior reserve team and an academy team aimed at giving up and coming teenagers a taste of senior cricket.
Club president Kane Vanner said the move was "a hugely significant step for the club".
"The club has been around 28 years and it's the first time we've entered that grade so it's a huge achievement. At the same time, it's all part of the master plan to improve the pathways for cricketers in Rotorua.
"We're under no illusion, it's a big challenge and we have to prove ourselves to stay there. We're hugely excited about the opportunity. Essentially we have to show that we compete and they've given us the Baywide Cup to do that."
Vanner said the premier team would be a combination of players from the two old boys teams as well as some new blood.
"We're bringing in an overseas professional from the UK, Sam Kershaw is coming over from the Bootle Club. There are agencies for finding professionals so we just went out to one which was highly regarded.
"We've developed a squad, we've been working on it through winter and we'll go through a full selection process. We want a squad of about 16 so that we can always be putting the strongest team out.
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"The academy side in the Rotorua men's competition is a new initiative and will comprise high school players from Western Heights and John Paul College as well as one or two senior player/coaches.
"We formulated that at the end of last season and built the Geyser Academy aimed purely at getting more high school players into senior men's cricket to start them on their journey."
Vanner said the club was grateful that Bay of Plenty Cricket and the other clubs in the region had been so supportive of the initiative.
Bay of Plenty Cricket development officer Scott Steward said Geyser City's application to enter a team into Baywide Premier cricket for the 2019-2020 season was supported by "strong organisational and governance templates and a robust club player development pathway".
"After a detailed review of the Geyer City Sports application, Bay of Plenty Cricket
has offered the Rotorua club temporary Baywide Premier club status for the 2019
Baywide Cup competition.
"Participation in the current season's Baywide T20 and Williams Cup is dependent upon performance and meeting Bay of Plenty Cricket objectives in the Baywide Cup.
"We welcome Geyser City Sports' step-up to become the second Rotorua side in this
year's Baywide Cup and we receive the bonus of removing the competition bye."
After the Baywide Cup, which starts on October 5, attention turns to the Baywide T20 and the Williams Cup competitions, with a white ball in play instead of the more traditional red ball of the Baywide Cup.
A revamped Twenty20 title race will include two new innovations. For the first time there will be a twilight midweek qualifying round played on Wednesday, January 15. The semifinals and final will be fought out at the Bay Oval at Mount Maunganui on Saturday, January 19 with the title decider played under lights.
The Williams Cup, which is considered the biggest prize in Baywide Premier cricket and dates back to the 1930s, kicks off on February 1 with the final to be played on the last day of the cricket season on Saturday, March 28.
Baywide Cricket key dates 2019
October 5: Round one
December 7: Cup and Plate finals
December 14: Round one and two
January 15: Midweek round
January 19: Semifinals and final under lights at Bay Oval
February 1: Round one
March 28: Final at Bay Oval