Northland's top men's cricket team is set for a change with stalwart Neal Parlane taking over as head coach.

Parlane, also the Northland Cricket competitions manager, was named this month as the replacement for former Northland senior men's first Xl coach, Stephen Cunis, also Northland Cricket's general manager.

More commonly known in the cricket community as 'Flea', Parlane became the youngest player to represent the Northland senior team at just 14 years of age on his debut in October, 1992.

Since then, he has made more than 350 domestic representative appearances which included five first class seasons with Northern Districts, nine with Wellington and one with Auckland.


Parlane, 40, played for the Northland men's team up until the first game of the 2018/2019 against Hamilton in November where he suffered an injury to his Achilles tendon. On track to don the whites for Northland in 2019/2020, Parlane said he was ready to get stuck in.

"I can't wait to start working with some of the players who are keen to do some winter training," he said.

"I'm really excited to work with some of the younger guys and try to make Northland a force, not just in Northern Districts but in New Zealand cricket."

Parlane, who debuted for Northland's senior men's team at age 14, will lead the side into their 2019/2020 season. Photo / John Stone
Parlane, who debuted for Northland's senior men's team at age 14, will lead the side into their 2019/2020 season. Photo / John Stone

Parlane said one of his priorities as coach was to focus on fielding, which was sometimes overlooked at a club and regional level.

"I want us to be the best fielding team in the country, because I was always a guy who, if I was fielding well and catching well, I was probably seeing the ball and hitting the ball well," he said.

"We're not bad fielders but we're probably not doing as much work as we need to at club and at Northland trainings."

While he was determined to put out good performances across the different competitions, Parlane said his true aim was see Northland back as the Northern Districts' top performer.

"It's not just about trophies, it's about bringing on young guys, making older guys earn their spots and making Northland once again the powerhouse of Northern Districts."


Parlane's predecessor, Cunis, held the coaching role for eight seasons, recording outright or first innings wins in 70 per cent of his 80 games.

Under his leadership, Northland won three T20 competition titles and one two-day competition title. Cunis also oversaw five Northland players (Rory Christopherson, Cody Andrews, Henry Cooper, Brett Randell and Tyler Lortan) make their first class debuts for various sides.

Cunis said he had enjoyed his time in the role and believed Parlane was a great choice to succeed him.

"[Parlane] has been the assistant coach in many respects for a number of years now and he's just got some really good values, both on and off the field," he said.

"He's contributed a lot to the side already and I think that will just evolve now as the head coach."

Cunis said he was happy with his record as coach as it showed how Northland punched above their weight. He recalled a game against Counties Manukau at Cobham Oval about four years ago where Northland won against a side with seven first class players including two internationals, Corey Anderson and Brent Arnel.

"We had a lot of injuries and guys away but we just had a good old fashioned team of Northland battlers and we beat [Counties Manukau] in the first innings, I'll remember that for a long time."

Cunis had been involved in Northland cricket just as long as Parlane, debuting when he was also 14. After winding up in Christchurch, Cunis coached the Canterbury women's team and assisted the White Ferns in a 14-year stint away from Northland.

Now 41, Cunis said the game had changed through the advent of T20 cricket which promoted a playing style of freedom and expression as well as playing the game in a better spirit.

"There's a lot less sledging, that aggression is channelled in different ways now and I think that's really good.

"When I was playing, we were encouraged to just get stuck in, in terms of the verbal stuff, so I think that's been the biggest change."

While there had been some incidents of inappropriate behaviour in Northland's senior men's club cricket scene in recent seasons, Cunis felt they were becoming less frequent.

"I think the big thing for club cricket in Northland is that this year, the standards that were expected regarding behaviour were much higher," he said.

"There were some players who didn't meet those expectations and they learnt pretty quickly what type of behaviour is expected."

Northland's senior men's team's first fixture will be against Auckland A on the first Sunday of November before they play their first two day game of the season against Hamilton.