As the season ended early due to the cancellation of sport in the wake of Covid-19, the Whanganui Chronicle has been looking at Cricket Wanganui's junior representative teams. Junior committee chairman Tim Hocquard discusses the overall state of the local scene.

It could be a tough future junior cricket finds itself in a world that is rapidly changing, but Tim Hocquard wants to acknowledge those who are stepping up to keep the game alive here.

"After the departure of Dilan Raj to neighbouring Manawatu, Cricket Wanganui found themselves at a bit of a loss," Hocquard said.

" It is often only after someone leaves that you recognise their immense contribution and this case was no exception.

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"Fortunately, before Dilan departed he had ensured strength in Whanganui junior representative cricket, bringing on board major sponsors to replace the ones who had dropped children's cricket like a hot stick."

Hocquard is chairman of the junior committee set up by Raj a few years ago, with the goal of having a representative from each local club and school on board to ensure the sport continues to grow for young players.

"Late additions to that committee include Cath Cranstone, who spends hours putting together draws and CricHQ fixtures, Angela Rees who manages communication between all parties, Paul Keenan [Marton], Paul Revell [Hunterville], Mark Lithgow representing St George's, Steve Meredith and Nicole Hobbs [United CC], Andrew Reynolds Rowe [Huntley], and of course Jordan Healy from Cricket Wanganui."

Unfortunately, the committee has not been able to get representation from the Whanganui Intermediate or Collegiate schools.

Hocquard said Saturday cricket playing numbers have grown under the committee's direction, with eight Year 5-6 teams playing hardball cricket, along with six Year 7-8 teams , and a couple more in that grade from Collegiate.

There is also a Friday evening Twenty20 competition.

"Sadly the likes of St John's Hill, Waverley and Westmere have not been able to muster enough interest to field teams, however the main contributor is Huntley School, fortunate to have a fanatic in headmaster Sam Edwards."

Huntley's Jamie Thompson and Meg Speedy at the Girls Central Districts qualifier for the Primary Schools Shield - one of the last events in early March before all cricket was cancelled by Covid-19.
Huntley's Jamie Thompson and Meg Speedy at the Girls Central Districts qualifier for the Primary Schools Shield - one of the last events in early March before all cricket was cancelled by Covid-19.

Huntley's 1st XI have represented Whanganui five years running at the Central Districts Intermediate Cup playoffs, winning four of them, and in 2018 were crowned National Primary School Cup champions at Lincoln University.

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Hocquard said Whanganui continues to rank highly in all the grades of representative cricket, from Year 6 to Under 17's, with the leading sides guided by coach Mark Godfrey.

They have been well represented at Central Districts age grade level by players like Sam Sherriff , Connor O'Leary and Hadleigh O'Leary, not to mention Canadian imports Akash Gill and Akhil Kumar, who came here through the Ontario Cricket Academy exchange.

"Wanganui has also been well represented in the prestigious Willows selections, with both O'Leary's, Sherriff, Harry Godfrey and William Hocquard flying the Whanganui flag."

Collegiate's Joel Clark went from the CD Under 17's to making the NZ Maori Schools XI.

Akash Gill, left, and Connor O'Leary in their Central Districts Under 17 colours.
Akash Gill, left, and Connor O'Leary in their Central Districts Under 17 colours.

This season was also the first time for having a Year 4-5 representative team, which Mark Lithgow invested a lot of time gathering a squad together to coach.

"This team was strong enough to compete at the River End tournament in the Hawke's Bay, winning most of their games, but more importantly bringing a bunch of eager and talented young players together, growing in confidence and a huge lift in skill levels."

Hocquard also singled out Healy, who took over as Raj's temporary replacement.

"Jordan has tirelessly maintained the representative programme, arranged venues and assisted the numerous volunteer coaches and managers whenever requested.

" Cricket Wanganui should be very appreciative of Jordan, thrown in at the deep end."

Also thanked are the sponsors, as LJ Hooker took over the mantle of looking after the representative teams, while Pak 'n Save continued their ongoing support of the Intermediate finals weekend, and McDonald's Wanganui generously supported Friday night's Kiwi Cricket for the young school teams.

Other key supporters are Display Associates, and Wanganui Toyota, who "always supply their bbq truck and tents to keep our kids safe from the sun and well nourished".