A number of Northland cricketers will be winging their way to Samoa tomorrow as part of a New Zealand Croatia cricket club tour.
The 13-man touring party, which returns on Tuesday next week, features five current or former Northlanders which ranged from those with Croatian heritage and others with cricket experience.
Northern Districts cricket stalwart Joey Yovich, whose family hailed from Dubrava and Vrgorac in Croatia, would be the captain of the side. Dargaville-born James Banicevich, who now lived in Auckland, has Croatian descent through his great-grandparents who lived on the Croatian island of Korčula.
The pair would be joined by Darron Goodwin and Stacy Hyndman, who both play for City Cricket Club in Whangārei, and Hayden Robinson who recently moved from Northland to Palmerston North.
The tour will begin with a T20 game against a Samoa women invitation XI on Thursday and then two T20s against a club invitation XI and a SICA President's XI. The team will then play a one-dayer against the Samoan men's team on Saturday before two T20s against the same opposition on Monday.
The New Zealand Croatia cricket club was established about nine years ago to connect New Zealand-based Croatian people through cricket, as well as providing opportunities for other players and communities to pursue their cricketing dreams.
Former international players, including Dion Nash and the Marshall brothers (James and Hamish) had featured for NZ Croatia. The club has regular fixtures against a future Auckland Aces side as well as Whangārei's Cobham Cricket Club.
Over its time, the club had played about 50 games across Northland, Auckland and Hamilton with the help of its 40 members. The club last held a tour to Rarotonga about six years ago.
"I'm fizzing for it," Banicevich said.
"I've got Croatian background and roots but I've never really been involved in the culture, so it'll be good for me to learn a lot more about the culture itself."
Banicevich, 22, was raised in Dargaville until he was 13 years old when he moved to Auckland for school. After a stint in Wellington for university, Banicevich now lived in Auckland but will play for City Cricket Club in Whangārei this summer.
Yovich, who played a big part in the NZ Croatia club, said it would be a great chance to help the Samoan community through cricket.
"The whole theme is providing an opportunity for our Croatian guys to come together and experience a tour and to mull over their culture," he said.
"It's also all about giving back, so giving back to our young players, to the game and giving back to the likes of the island communities."