Scrutiny of Christian Leopard's sporting pathway, even as far back as his childhood days, reveal footprints of finesse frozen in time.
As Leopard embarks on another cricketing journey he will, akin to a brazen burglar, intend to leave behind more footprints on wet concrete in the hope he will be caught in the act of success during the Central Districts one-day knockout finals in Palmerston North this weekend.
"We have two really important games this weekend for us," says the 21-year-old allrounder of the country's best premier men's club team, Innovative Electrical Napier Technical Old Boys CC (NTOB), before they face New Plymouth Old Boys CC (Taranaki qualifiers) at Fitzherbert Park this morning.
If the Texans prevail, they will face the winners Stoke Nayland CC (Nelson) and Palmerston North Marist CC at the same venue tomorrow to see who has earned the right to fly the CD flag in the week-long New Zealand Club Championship at Cornwall Cricket Club in Auckland in April.
Leopard says NTOB are mindful New Plymouth OB pack a few Taranaki senior men's representative cricketers but it simply boils down to what the Napier team do rather than focus on what the opposition are likely to bring to the crease.
The former New Zealand Under-19 World Cup representative's haul for the national defending champions just this year — 275 runs from 245 deliveries at a strike rate of 112 with just one dismissal in four games — speaks volumes:
■ 53no off 37 balls v Ruahine Motors Central Hawke's Bay
■ 70no off 50 v Red Star (Wairarapa)
■ 75no off 45 v Heretaunga Building Society Cornwall CC (Hastings)
■ 77 off 113 v Reynard Health Supplies Havelock North CC
So what is the secret to such robust form for the No 2 opening batsman?
"I just think I've had a lot of support from other players around me batting wise so it helps take the pressure off me," says Leopard modestly, after having secured his maiden domestic cricket contract with CD this summer but also moonlights for Hustler Equipment who make farming implements and allow him to come and go around his hectic training schedules in Napier.
He heaps plaudits on fellow NTOB opener and wicketkeeper Matt Edmondson for providing the ideal platform for a batting line-up with immense depth to build on during their innings.
The club rewrote a 140-year-old history in April last year in becoming the first side in the province's top grade to eclipse the five-on-the-trot feat that United Cricket Club (Napier) established from 1894-95 to 1898-99. The Hastings Cricket Club had also matched United's record at the start of the World War I in 1914-15 to 1918-19, since the competition began in 1882-83, although records were kept only since 1883-84.
The Liam Rukuwai-captained NTOB beat Onslow in a rain-affected 23-over affair, with a ball to spare, in the bowling blitz.
Leopard was outstanding, claiming 3-8 from five overs, including a maiden.
After shrugging off a few intermittent injuries, he is back in the attack for NTOB as a first-change bowler.
"It's great to be back bowling some overs when they are needed," says the Stag, who is part of the four-day Plunket Shield campaign of the CD men's team who are at the cusp of defending their title again.
The significance of not only representing NTOB and CD but regaining their national crown isn't lost on him or his teammates.
"A lot of people don't get a chance to play for their club in Auckland so to be there is pretty special but to win it is pretty awesome feeling for us," says Leopard, who has played 10 one-day Ford Trophy matches for the Heinrich Malan-coached Stags but only managed to run the drinks out a couple of times for them during the Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 campaign approaching the business end this weekend.
However, he believes it's imperative to momentarily park the emotional rollercoaster from last year to scramble on board the new vehicle of success as it makes two more stops along the way in Palmerston North to Auckland.
"I think we need to start again ... and just be prepared to back ourselves and our skills as well as the guys around us so if we can do that to play to the best of our ability I'm sure we'll do well again."
Leopard says it's good to have the input of former Black Cap Jesse Ryder at the helm as coach.
"He's got this awesome talent and he brings a lot of experience which he shares around the team when it's needed," he says of Ryder who also plays, after losing his domestic cricket contract with the Stags in June last year.
Leopard says NTOB have a daunting mix of players with Pay Excellence Hawke's Bay senior men's representatives, former elite players and some who, on their day, are good enough to push for first-class honours.
"We're a very handy side so they give us a lot of options to play around with which is a bonus," he says as some of the Texans left yesterday for Palmy North in the team bus while others, especially due to work commitments, were expected to leave in cars this morning.
■ NTOB: Liam Rukuwai (c), Matt Edmondson (wk), Christian Leopard, Izaiah Lange, Jesse Ryder, Bronson Meehan, Kieran Noema-Barnett, Kurtis Weeks, Todd Watson, Morten Freer, Jayden Lennox, John Drake, Angus Philpott.
Manager: David Caldwell.