Hamilton Star University of Waikato Cricket Club (HSUOWCC) shifts up a gear in coming weeks as a new season looms and the club hunts a third straight year of premier competition success.
The university-based club is one of the oldest and largest in the city, and heads into the 2020-2021 season as the defending premier one-day cricket champions and one of the most consistent premier teams across all formats in the Hamilton Cricket Association's top grade.
The two consecutive premier one-day cricket titles have seen HSUOWCC defeat long-time rivals Hamilton Old Boys, in a competition which includes teams from the neighbouring Waikato Valley and Counties-Manukau associations.
The team also claimed the Wallace Corporation Waikato University Blues Awards Team of the Year Award last week.
"Our team is built around the skills and experience of a number of guys who've played Minor Association representative cricket as well as some younger players who made an impression last season," says the premier side's captain, Elliot Santner.
"Last season ended pretty abruptly due to Covid-19 and we were denied a chance to play for the Howden Cup, which is the main prize in premier cricket – the three-day final of the two-day competition."
Santner says representative commitments mean some of the club's Senior A players do get opportunities to play at the top club level and find out if they're ready for its rigours.
Club president Ruben Clinton – the club's first active student in the president's role for more than a decade – says among his goals for the club is ensuring Senior A players are ready to step up when needed.
"It's a little bit of a cliché, but to win these premier competitions you need to build a wider squad capable of premier cricket: people must be able to come into the team and be given a chance contribute well."
Clinton says the university club is expected to field six teams this year, with potentially up to three teams playing Senior A, plus teams in the Senior B and Senior C grades. Although primarily students, the club's wider player roster includes former students, fulltime professionals, at least one academic and people with no particular connection to Waikato University other than cricket.
"We've attracted some near-complete teams this season, which means we're one of the biggest cricket clubs in the city now," Clinton says.
"That comes with some logistical challenges around things like training sessions and player selection, but growth is good and we're giving people a chance to play cricket in a proper environment some of them previously haven't had access too."
That cricket environment at HSUOWCC includes the covered nets facility at Waikato University, which the club trains at three times a week and manages on behalf of the facility's stakeholders. Other clubs and schools can use the nets at pre-arranged times via a booking system.
"We're hoping and planning for a full season of cricket," Clinton says. "We lost some training opportunities in the post-season and off-season because of Covid-19, so it is encouraging to see some solid turnouts at our practice sessions.
"There's going to be competition for places in all our club's teams this season and that's a good thing."
Anyone interested in playing for Hamilton Star University Cricket Club this season can email firstname.lastname@example.org or find the club's group on Facebook and ask to join.