Well, it may come across as the yin and yang of cricket to some but there's no confusion surrounding one thing — Hawke's Bay reigns supreme in New Zealand.

Only a month after the province produced the best premier men's club cricket team in the country through Innovative Electrical Napier Technical Old Boys for the second consecutive year, it can also now boast yielding the best backyard "boys" in cricket in the summer code.

The OG'z (pronounced o-geez) team, comprising players predominantly from the Bay and some living outside the province, won the annual Crewcut Backyard Bash staged at the Ellerslie Racecourse in Auckland two Saturdays ago.

No doubt, the backyard version bragging rights doesn't register on the cricketing Richter scale as the NZCT National Club Championship does, but that doesn't detract from the seriousness and pride with which the former rate their accomplishment.


Take the team culture and banter, though, as you would a beer or two ... or three ... at a barbecue at the height of summer amid the din of the next door neighbour's lawnmower drowning out the music.

"Some of the [team] members are taking it to a different level, which is just bloody beautiful," says OG'z captain Tamati Kemp, after they beat the Fitzroy Falcons, of Taranaki, in the final.

"It's a lot of fun but we take it pretty seriously," says Kemp.

The 37-year-old insurance adviser, who now lives in Warkworth, says it took 11 years of backyard experience to achieve that status.

"It's all those years of holding down liquor and playing good cricket so it's the pinnacle and all the roads have led to this."

Kemp explains he and Blake Lambert had tried to start the OG'z — which stands for "Original Gangsters" in the very loose sense — after he drove all the way to be part of the team in its early days in Auckland.

"That's because he's Mr Backyard Cricket," he says. "Yes, he'll fly anywhere and walk on broken glass to play."

However, the team concept was formed at a humble shed along Kennedy Rd, Napier, the home of OG'z player Shane Lui, after a couple of competitions in 2007.


"One of those members has taken it to a different level to create something very special," says Kemp of Logan Strange, of Auckland, who dreamed of turning the backyard format into a regional competition.

"We came together to represent those little ideas and then ended up winning the whole thing so it's just bloody brilliant."

The OG'z didn't have it all their way on the road to glory. Moon'z Goons, the North Harbour representatives, beat them in pool play — just before succumbing in the semifinals — as did The Proteas, of Manawatu.

They beat Chateau ver de Flor, of Waikato, Flat Bat Warriors, of Auckland, and Fitzroy Falcons in the other pool outings.

"The two we lost is probably because we slowed down a little on the drinks there but when we won the semi we had, basically, won the final," says Kemp with a chuckle.

However, the champions posted 30 runs in the semifinal against Moon'z Goons with Kemp top scoring with 12 from five deliveries. They then skittled the opposition for 24 with James Calder taking 2-4 although Kemp's one-hand, one-bounce catch dismissal signalled the end.

Tamati Kemp (centre) takes a match-defining one-handed, one-bounce catch against Moon's Goons in the semifinal as James Calder (left) and Shane Lui approve. Photo/Victoria Ecclestone
Tamati Kemp (centre) takes a match-defining one-handed, one-bounce catch against Moon's Goons in the semifinal as James Calder (left) and Shane Lui approve. Photo/Victoria Ecclestone

In the final, following the tune of God Defend New Zealand, the Fitzroy Falcons amassed 26 runs with Calder, Blake Lambert and Lui claiming a scalp each. In reply the OG'z eclipsed the target with an over to spare and travelling reserve Simon McFarland hit the winning runs although Calder top scored with 22.

For the record, all the OG'z players have been ordained with nicknames, which are forever mutating:

Kemp: Peter Pan because Lui "reckons he never grows up".

Lambert: The Weeping Ninja, a tear in the eye during the anthem and almost did the haka because he wears his heart on his sleeve.

Calder: Aka Cadla-MVP because he stood out in the final with some lusty batting after some disappointment in pool play.

McFarland: Cowboy, which Kemp says is because he likes to wear a hat. He feels Iceman is more appropriate because he runs an ice-making business in Napier and is cool, calm and collected at crunch times.

Whyte: Daisy ("a little soft" but new age man on a short leash) aka
The Rock in winning the Bay championship crown but grassed a catch when he chose "the birth of his baby over the team".

Lui: China "because no one knows who Shane Lui is". Kemp says he was born in Canton but stowed away in a ship to Napier with an uncle.

Strange: None required — "Strange by name, strange by nature" so that's why he's the organiser.

OG'z cricketer Shane Lui fields during the Backyard Bash at Ellerslie, Auckland. Photo/Victoria Ecclestone
OG'z cricketer Shane Lui fields during the Backyard Bash at Ellerslie, Auckland. Photo/Victoria Ecclestone

Kemp says Whyte "absolutely regrets dogging the boys" but, mercifully, McFarland had answered the SOS, taking leave of absence on Saturday morning, with a be-back-or-else deadline from his wife, on the proviso he was going to catch the first flight back to Napier on Sunday.

"He had to hop on to the plane at 7 the next morning so he did that [but it made sense anyway because] he hadn't slept [after the final win]," he explains of McFarland, who took leave on account of creating more quality time for his family, although there's debate about what use he would have been in his sleepless state that Sunday.

The OG'z had partied "hard" into the wee hours of the morning with the predominantly Bay commentators — Jeremy "JB the Cowboy" Bateman, Brad Ellison aka the Tubes and Gerrie "Gazza from the Razza" Monahan — at "undisclosed locations".

Lui and Calder have been named in the New Zealand Champions Tournament so they are on track to feature in the "Blackyards" team tour of Australia in November.

"We're pushing that the New Zealand team should be the team that won the nationals but that'll be pending on Logan Strange, I guess," says Kemp.

Most of the OG'z team members used to play rugby but found cricket was "easier on the body".

The team won $5000 and coolers with wickets which they gifted to other teams and fans.

"We gave Daisy his share for nappies and spent half of it celebrating," says Lui. "The rest we gave to the WAGs [wives and girlfriends] for supporting us while they looked after the next generation of OG'z and also to let us do it again next year, to be honest."