Taradale Cricket Club has lost its greatest cricketer.
Those were the opening words from Kirk Doyle who was one of the many club faithful to gather on Sunday at the Napier War Memorial Centre to join the family and friends of Richard Atkins, affectionately known as "The Guru".
Atkins was a life member of the Hawke's Bay Cricket Association, and a patron and life member of the Taradale Cricket Club.
He passed away peacefully on April 6, aged 86.
Doyle said Atkins had three great loves in his life.
"The first was his wonderful wife Dorothy (Dot). His second great love was his children and wider family.
"Lastly, his great love was cricket – especially anything to do with the Taradale Cricket Club."
The Guru played his first game at Taradale Park in 1948.
"I was blown away by this, and he didn't seem to think it was anything really; he was just a kid of 12 or 13 filling in for a men's team,'' Doyle said.
Doyle said it was impossible to do justice to everything at Atkins had done for the club.
''As a young man joining the cricket club, I was always in awe of him for his sheer determination and work ethic.
"Richard was at the hub of all that is good about the Taradale Cricket Club.
"He was on the Taradale Sports Association steering committee when the little old clubhouse ended its days by our TSA clubrooms standing proudly in the corner of Taradale Park.
"In 2015, Richard was honoured when the Black Caps turned up, and ANZ recarpeted the clubrooms. The crowning jewel was the full-length trophy cabinet which now contains all Richard's prized memorabilia that generations of cricketers can enjoy in the future.
"To have hundreds of youngsters turn up to witness the momentous day gladdened his heart no end."
Atkins combined with his brother Ian to drive the creation of Hawkes Bay's first junior cricket club at Taradale.
"Richard and Ian gave all their spare time to coach hundreds of youngsters at Taradale Park after school each day. Alongside Ian, Richard worked tirelessly to develop skills and a love of the game youngsters will never forget.''
Doyle said Atkins was humble, and deflected praise and attention.
"Whenever he spoke of his playing days, he never talked about himself at all.
Instead, he would tell tales about others' deeds, including happenings off the field, which always led to plenty of laughs.
"There have been great players like Martin Crowe who passed through our ranks, but to Richard, Martin wasn't any more special than a little eight-year-old from Guppy Road, turning up for their first practice with a hard ball.
"He wanted everyone to play cricket and enjoy being part of something bigger and better."