Three Northlanders have been named in the inaugural New Zealand Croatia side that tours the Cook Islands this month.
Brad Bennetto, Matthew Vujcich and Joey Yovich have all made the cut for the side that will play the Cook Islands men's side and Cook Islands Under-19s in an international tri-series at the BCI Stadium in Rarotonga from August 12 to 16.
Yovich - an opening batsman for Northern Districts in the Plunket Shield - is a founding member of the New Zealand Croatia side.
It was special to have three Northlanders in the side, considering the history Croatia has within the region.
"There's a number of us Kiwis with Croatian heritage on the New Zealand first-class scene," Yovich explained.
"The likes of myself and Anton Devcich for Northern Districts and Dusan Hakaraia for the Auckland Aces, and many people may not realise that Croatia itself has a 200-year history in the game - and that New Zealand has a strong linkage with the cricket played in Croatia today."
Yovich added the tour is not only a chance to promote cricket in the Cook Islands, but also bring together players of Croatian heritage.
"It's strengthening those bonds within the game, and at same time we'll be helping develop cricket in the Cook Islands - an ICC affiliate member which itself has strong links to New Zealand and particularly Northern Districts, which assists with coaching and resources in the islands."
The New Zealand Croatia squad to the Cook Islands features four New Zealand-based players who were instrumental to cricket's revival in Croatia through its advance in the ICC European tournaments to the top echelon of Division One in 2011: Current Croatia internationals Paul and John Vujnovich (who is Croatia's captain), Tony Govorko and former international Anton Vujcich.
The week-long tour of Rarotonga will see New Zealand Croatia visit schools and help grass roots development in the Cook Islands, as well as promote the growing women's game in the Cook Islands by playing two exhibition matches against the Edgewater Cook Islands national women's side.
In the official tri-series, New Zealand Croatia will meet the Cook Islands Under-19s in two Twenty20s (August 12 and 13) before taking on the Cook Islands national men's team on August 13 and 16.
Yovich visited Rarotonga two seasons ago with the Northern Knights on a 2011/12 pre-season training camp and was instrumental in forging links for the tour.
Links in sport between New Zealand and Croatia do not stop at cricket. Former All Blacks Frano Botica and Matthew Cooper share Croatian heritage, and donned the red-and-white checkers of Croatia for World Cup qualifiers in the late 1990s.
NZ touring squad
Matthew Adsett (Tauranga), John Arnerich (Auckland), Brad Bennetto (Northland), Tony Govorko (Hamilton), Daniel Marsic (Auckland), James Piskulic (Auckland), Matthew Vujcich (Northland), Anton Vujcich (Auckland), John Vujnovich (Auckland), Paul Vujnovich (Auckland), Joseph Yovich (Northland).Cricket