For those cricket fans wanting to get into the spirit of the fast approaching ICC World Cup a free Twenty20 match with an international flavour is on offer at Cobham Oval this Sunday.
The match between the Cobham Club and New Zealand Croatia features a sweep of Northland cricket legends, including first-class representatives in Joseph Yovich and Dusan Hakaraia - and several Kiwis who have represented Croatia at international ICC level such as Croatia captain John Vujnovich, Tony Govorko and coach Anton Vujcich.
The New Zealand Croatia team also includes Auckland rising stars Ben and Victor Lister. Ben, a young left-arm seamer, has been performing well for Waitakere in Auckland premier cricket, while his younger brother Victor has been scoring big with the bat for Liston College in Auckland schoolboy cricket.
New Zealand Croatia captain Yovich says both teams are deeply committed to helping younger players build their game and confidence by mixing with hardened, seasoned cricketers.
"You can't underestimate what it means to an 18-year-old, to be testing himself against good players.
"We can all remember back to the days when we learned what it was really like at their level - your eyes are wide open and you learned so much even just from watching the way the top players went about their preparations, their thoughts and the way they conducted themselves in battle."
The game will also be a fun, free spectacle for the Northland public, bringing together for the first time two sides that have "strong lineages and very deep pride in the north".
Yovich said it was important to play a competitive standard of cricket.
"We know that Cobham are very tough, and seldom lose. With the calibre of players on each side it's going to be a good fight and a great experience for the up-and-comers in both teams."
Sponsored by Northland success story Busck, New Zealand Croatia are in the middle of a series of games. They began with a tough loss last Sunday in Auckland to the New Zealand Cricket Players Association Masters team.
They narrowly lost against a team stacked with former first-class players and Black Caps. In three short years, the club has built an enviable calendar of regular national and international fixtures, which includes mentoring the Cook Islands national sides in Rarotonga in the off-season.
Yovich wants to hear from more Kiwi players of Croatian descent to add to the club's burgeoning roster. The Cobham Club is well known for fostering the local game around Northland since the 1970s. Members share their know-how with the grass roots of cricket and raise funds to send two Northland-based players on UK cricketing development scholarships each year.
Yovich and his teammates will be keeping a close eye on the weather after the corresponding fixture last year was called off due to a storm.
New Zealand Croatia: Joseph Yovich (c), Craig Borich, Dusan Hakaraia, Temapare Hodson, Anthony Govorko (w), Ben Lister, Victor Lister, Daniel Marsic, James Piskulic, Dane Watson, Matthew Vujcich, John Vujnovich.
Cobham Club: Tim Anderson (c), Henry Cooper, Darron Goodwin, Brett Hood, Richard Johnson, Bradley Kneebone, Richie MacPherson, Kieran Nelson, Ian Page, Brett Robinson, Craig Russell.
What: New Zealand Croatia v The Cobham Club, Twenty20 Northland Festival.
Where: Cobham Oval, Whangarei
When: Sunday, 1pm