Ray Mettrick is lifting the bails on coaching at the conclusion of the annual Riverbend Cricket Camp in Hawke's Bay this month.

Mettrick, who organised and established the inaugural camp in 1979, will mentor the Cornwall Cricket Club Year 4-5 White side who will be among 18 teams starting the 2019 camp from tomorrow to Sunday.

"I've put family life second to the cricket camp for a very long time so I think it's about time I did something different," says the 72-year-old retired schoolteacher from Hastings who has ambitions to revive cricket in Flaxmere considering the suburb yielded some pedigree players through Irongate, Peterhead and Flaxmere schools in the halcyon days.

This year's Hawke's Bay Cricket Association-organised camp has lured a record 141 teams, including 35 from the Bay, 46 from Wellington, 34 from the Northern Districts, 18 from Central Districts and eight from Auckland.

Advertisement

Mettrick says the player to watch in his team will be Jack O'Connor, the younger son of former Black Caps left-arm seamer Shayne O'Connor.

"I think he's 8 but it sounds like he should be called Jack the Giantkiller because I haven't met the boy yet but Shayne's six foot four," he says after the former Napier Boys' High School student, now living in outskirts of Clyde in Central Otago, brought elder son Thomas to the camp in 2014.

The O'Connors arrive today where the team will bond at the Christian camp venue with a little bit of fun before the cricket begins in a grade which includes girls' teams.

"They are good bunch of boys," he says, highlighting several players are Indians "whose parents are very supportive but not pushy so they're great".

Mettrick says while it was an honour to be recognised with a Queen's Service Medal (QSM) for services to the code in June last year, he had always intended to stop his involvement in most parts of cricket this year.

"I had just seen the reactions of others, like [film maker] Gaylene Preston who had won their awards, on TV and she had said she and her daughter had rolled around the floor laughing but I wasn't quite like that but I was a bit stunned," he says with a laugh.

Mettrick reflects on how he started mentoring cricket as teacher at Central School 50 years.

"I started as a softball coach, believe it or not, and someone I coached in softball is now a cricket umpire and we both laugh about it to this day," he says of premier men's club official, Del Whyte, of Napier.

"Del's never been able to get rid of me since."

Whyte was an excellent softballer but, if Mettrick's memory serves him well, he had moved with him to cricket because the teacher admittedly "wasn't the best softball coach".

Mettrick intends to spend more time with his daughter, Karen, 38, who lives with him, and son Stephen, 40, a factory foreman in Sydney, and grandson Jaden, 5.

"The little fellow hasn't shown any signs of cricket just yet," he says with a grin.

In the 22 years of the tournament under Mettrick's leadership, 1350 teams played more than 4500 cricket matches.

The success of the tournament outgrew its Hastings roots and expanded with games staged in Taupo, Dannevirke, Ongaonga and Waipawa.

Since 2001 Mettrick, who had adapted the concept from Leo Parks' Coaching camp in for Central Districts' teams based in Hawera, handed the organisation of the camp to HBCA chief executive Craig Findlay who has co-ordinated all but one year since then.

"Wellington's a big marketplace and Craig will tell you that," he says as Findlay braces for another $5.5 million injection into the Bay economy, maintaining a level acquired in 2016.

The founding member of the Cornwall CC, who has coached five of the club's teams for 14 years, got a pleasant surprise to find out on a radio interview that the latest Black Caps recruit, Wellington test spinner Will Somerville, also is a graduate of the camp.

The HBCA life member since 2011 also received the Hawke's Bay Sports Administrator of the Year in 1980 and Sport Hawke's Bay Service Award in 2002.

Mettrick says the likes of ex-White Fern Sara McGlashan, born in Napier, and incumbent Sophie Devine were "standalone" players in boys' teams but nowadays all-girls' teams are competing here.

"They're very good and are a match for the boys," he says. "They're not as big and strong but they have very good skills."

Other elite cricketers who have passed through the camp include Ross Taylor, Jamie How, Jeetan Patel, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Peter McGlashan, Doug Bracewell, Kane Williamson, Ben Stokes (English international) and Amelia Kerr.

Craig Findlay says the annual Riverbend Cricket Camp is now hosting third generation of players from many families. Photo/file
Craig Findlay says the annual Riverbend Cricket Camp is now hosting third generation of players from many families. Photo/file

He says Findlay has dovetailed the camp and modernised it while "the members are still going through the roof".

Findlay says the impact of the camp goes beyond the representative domains because many elite players tend to reflect on it as their start of the "love of the game".

"We now have third generation of players from many families attending from throughout North Island," he says as the camp lures 1692 players, 282 coaches and managers involving 388 games over 22 days.

The Riverbend Christian Camp in Havelock North is the hub while NBHS hall will cater for the older players.

Findlay says the grade competitions were becoming hard to manage with around 30 teams so he's split them into groups, such as Year 6a and 6b, of 14 and 18 teams, respectively.

"The 'a' teams are stronger than the 'b' ones and they have a choice to enter either based on what the teams' skills are," he says of a camp that fosters learning through fun rather than focusing on results and champions.

The HBCA will mark 40 years of existence with a luncheon at the Rodney Green Events Centre at McLean Park before the Black Caps v India ODI match at 3pm on January 23.

The proceeds from the $130 a person or $1050 corporate table of 10 will go to the CD Cricket and HBCA charitable trusts.