The Cricket Express Whanganui Festival of Cricket is once again proving fertile ground to grow girls cricket in the provinces.
The festival kicked off on Wednesday afternoon with the Central Districts Secondary Schools Under-18 Tournamnt featuring teams from Wellington, Nelson, Horowhenua-Kapiti, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Wairarapa and Whanganui with the focus firmly on developing individual and team skills over four days of play.
Cricket Whanganui general manager Dilan Raj with only the very large centres offering girls-only competition, this festival was an ideal vehicle to develop skills.
"The girls play two 30-over matches a day, so by the end of the tournament they will have played the equivilent of a season of cricket and they can learn so much in that time," Raj said.
"It's not so much about winning as it is about developing skills, although of course bragging rights is a strong incentive to come out on top. The same applies for the other tournaments during the festival, including next week's Under-15 national tournament where we will host teams from all New Zealand provinces. Because it's national the bragging rights are probably a bit more attractive.
"The Under-15 teams are also coached or mentored by our first class cricketers, so has an added dimension." Raj said.
Whanganui's own White Fern and CD Hinds allrounder Jess Watkin is mentoring both the homeside age group teams over the next week, while slipping away on occasion to play for the Hinds in the Women's Burger King Super Smash. The Hinds play the Otago Sparks in Dunedin this Sunday and then the Canterbury Magicians the following week.
In the meantime, her Anndion Lodge Whanganui Under-18 players, like those from other CD centres, were vying for a spot in the CD team to be named to compete at the national Under-18 Girls Tournament in Wellington at the end of the month.
"We have several good players this season, including young 14-year-old Jemma Tan who has already beennamed as the non-travelling reserve for the CD Under-15 team to play at the national competition here next week," Watkin aid.
"Jemma is a good allrounder who is so enthusistic about the game, gets involved and is buzzing every game."
Watkin herself is a product of the Whanganui Festival of Cricket as are many other first class women cricketers, inlcuding fellow White Ferm Amelia Kerr.
Raj said the Whanganui District Council remained one of the strongest supporters of the festival and the four Tasman Tanning pitches at Victoria Park were ideal strips to host the festival year after year.
Nelson,Wellington, Taranaki and Wairarapa all had wins on the opening day, while
in the morning session on Day Two on Thursday Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, Manawatu and Nelson had victories.