Never mind the results or the honours board, Thomas O'Connor was always going to be a winner.

The son of ex-New Zealand international cricketer Shayne O'Connor is one of the farthest travelled youngsters to compete at the annual Riverbend Cricket Camp in Hawke's Bay this year.

The 9-year-old came with his father, a former Napier Boys' High School pupil, a fortnight ago from Central Otago to be part of a Ray Mettrick-coached Cornwall year 5-6 team.

It was a nostalgic trip for the senior O'Connor who competed in two camps when he was living in Hawke's Bay with parents Kevin and Lesley O'Connor who were then livestock farmers at Pukehamoamoa.


His parents are now farming at a property along the highway north of Napier.

"Apart from the cricket, it's a bit of a blur," the 40-year-old ex-Black Caps left-arm bowler says.

What he does recall vividly is losing his confidence during one of the camps. But Mettrick, who also was his coach, picked him, regardless, to play and helped O'Connor pull himself out of his mind swamp.

"I thought I was a bowler who could bat then but I couldn't tell you what the others all felt about it," he says with a laugh.

The medium-fast merchant says Mettrick isn't moving as quickly as he used to but there's no doubting his passion for the game.

"It's phenomenal to be standing beside Ray and catching up with him. I still can't believe it happened."

Some of his fondest memories were outside of cricket.

"There were hordes and hordes of other kids and we would swim and play in the creek [on the flying fox].


"The camp has grown but the atmosphere hasn't changed," he says, delighted to note there are children coming from as far as Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington.

His son didn't get to experience the live-in camp facilities but he did enjoy his stay with former All Black captain and Otago representative Taine Randell and his family.

Randell, a former Cornwall CC premier player, played against O'Connor.

"Taine was just a slogger and he just bowled off his running foot," says a jovial O'Connor whose NBHS First XI team were in the premier men's club division in his heyday.

"It was great catching up with Taine and [wife] Jo and how life has been and what our kids do," he says, noting familiar faces in HBCA president Harry Findlay and ex-CD cricketer Mike Pawson.

Thomas was the second youngest player in his grade and it was his first game with a hard ball.

Randell's son, Lanson, was Thomas' teammate at the camp a fortnight ago.

"He [Thomas] didn't disgrace himself and looks like a cricketer who can bat and bowl."

O'Connor says it was a great opportunity for Thomas, a left-arm bowler and right-hand batsman, to gauge himself against other talented youngsters from other parts of the country.

With the Central Otago summer somewhat patchy this year, the O'Connors relished the Bay climes.

He lived with his aunt Dianne and uncle Paul O'Connor, of Havelock North.

He and wife Camille have three other children - Hannah, 7, Jack 5 and Alysha, 2.

"The girls will be netballers."

They live on the outskirts of Clyde where he has been running his business, Trail Journeys, on a disused railway line which is part of the Central Otago Rail Trail.

The couple have lived in the Deep South for 19 years where Camille now owns a gym.

Shayne is on the Otago Country Cricket board and also helps coach children.

On returning from the Bay, he has got the coaching juices of his counterparts flowing in Central Otago.

"I've certainly come back very positive about kids' cricket."

The incumbent Black Caps' composition excites him, especially the plethora of myriad bowlers.

"They're not all as quick as Adam Milne and Shane Bond but they're up there doing their own unique things."

He believes it's healthy to see Corey Anderson, at 24, putting the pressure on some senior players in the team.

The Kiwis, now facing India touring here, also have a tidy fielding game, he said.

"It's like when [former New Zealand coach] Steve Rixon used to have fielding so it's good to see we're pushing those standards."

So are the O'Connors coming back next summer?

"It's been mooted. We have a lifestyle block here so I'm cutting some broom and trying to save for next year already."

Mettrick is finished with the camp and will be the junior club captain at Cornwall club. He has also coached Randell and his son.

Mettrick says ex-Black Cap Heath Davis has the record as one of the farthest travelled player to ever play at the camp.

"I remember we couldn't find a bunk to fit him so we had to drag in a mattress from somewhere for him to sleep on the floor. He was a big boy."