McLean Park’s Drainage Problems Need Plugging

Don't let the sun go down on cricket at McLean Park! (except when it's a gorgeous sunset like this one...)

Don’t let the sun go down on cricket at McLean Park! (except when it’s a gorgeous sunset like this one…)

As a life-long cricket fan and player it breaks my heart to think that McLean Park may be struck off the international schedule after the recent farcical game abandonment.

As a sporting venue there are few more picturesque grounds in the world – Phoenix and Norfolk Pines surround with Hawke Bay sparkling in the background and Cape Kidnappers reaching out to the distance of any wide shot of the park.

It is a place of many fond cricket memories – From Danny Morrison’s hat-trick against India in 1994 to England and New Zealand scoring a combined total of 680 runs in an epic, TIED ODI in 2008, or even Scott Styris and Mitchell Johnson butting head and helmet in 2010 proves McLean Park’s pitch, at least, can deliver the goods.

kp

The cricketing deities may smile upon the clay block out in the park’s middle, but when the skies (and ticket-buying fans) weep, it can be another story.

Drainage at McLean Park has long been an issue and while it may not affect the “mainly rugby” aspect of the ground, cricket’s red and white leather balls don’t take to moisture quite as well as their oval, synthetic rugby cousins.

In an interview for a pre-Cricket World Cup venue tour in 2014 former player and cricket ambassador Gavin Larsen noted before the World Cup “some maintenance work will occur, including drainage improvements on the outfield” (Bay Park in Cricket Spotlight March 26 2014).

The ground underwent improvements around that time with, I believe, a re-turf of the field and drainage improvements made.

Just before Napier’s World Cup games began it was declared the “Pitch is Cricket-perfect” (Napier Mail 4 March 2015). A groundsman was even quoted as saying:

“We have very good drainage out here on the park and we plan to keep it that way. Across the park we have drainage lines about 1.5meters apart, so it drains very quickly into the sump”

McLean Park’s World Cup games all went ahead without outfield issues (even when it rained the morning of the final game between West Indies and UAE).

Volunteering at McLean Park's Cricket World Cup games.  Photo c/o Steve Dykes

Volunteering at McLean Park’s Cricket World Cup games.
Photo c/o Steve Dykes

But since then things haven’t been so flash.

Last year’s Pakistan game being abandoned has been mentioned, but is quite different from the NZ Australia game in that about 40mm of rain fell the day before the Pakistan match with another 10mm on match day.

In other words “it hosed down”.

I doubt many venues would have been playable after such a deluge.

It similarly poured down when the All Blacks finally returned to McLean Park to play Argentina in 2014, but the game went ahead with great ticket sales and the city thrived with all the visitors.

IMAG2110

Yet, for whatever reason, one of the greenest pieces of grass in an otherwise bleached-dry region was “too wet” to play on.

That’s not good enough.

It’s even worse when you consider ratepayer money went into getting the game here.

I had naively thought New Zealand Cricket dispensed matches out in an egalitarian manner – West Indies will play here, India there etc., but this is not entirely the case.

Hosting venues (or rather the local councils behind them) “bid” to host bigger games like NZ v Australia.

Not only is there an expected, ratepayer-funded cost in the logistics of hosting of these games, but there’s also an added financial sweetener to attract them here?

So to have a big game like this Chappell-Hadlee match canned in such a ham-fisted manner with players, international media and worst of all the rate and ticket-paying public left in the lurch harms not only McLean Park’s reputation and reliability, but also Napier’s finances.

We want to see Hawke’s Bay promoted on the world sporting stage. We want people to visit and enjoy our wonderful region. We want to see international sports played here and as Napier and Hastings’ combined population is around 130,500 – the 5th largest population base in New Zealand (Hamilton = 150,000 and Tauranga = 128,200) we are in the box seat for hosting such events.

The March 1st ODI against cricketing greats South Africa has now been lost to Hamilton and Napier City Council have revealed that field and drainage upgrades at McLean Park had been put off prior these recent events that will now be done this year, but all too late for this cricket season, criticism and credibility.

There are two One Day Internationals against England and Pakistan scheduled to play in 2017/18. For the sake of one of New Zealand’s most popular international sporting grounds let’s hope things are sorted by then.

Mclean Park’s drainage problems need plugging.

Napier sporting events deserve better!

Good Riddance, 2016 (Time of your Life, 2017)

cyoa

“2016 is the year I shall fart rainbows and poop unicorns!”

That was the first line of the first entry in my diary for last year.

As it turned out there were a few rainbows, the odd, rare unicorn and a fair bit of poop.

Speaking of equines and poop, 2016 started with HB Ratepayers being asked to look their Gift Horse (of the Year) in the mouth, while mucking out the event’s financial stables.

"Where are we going, Wilbur?"

“Where are we going, Wilbur?”

In February I was feeling a little unloved and unappreciated as, even before #StuffMe merger hype and propaganda was ramping up, at least one of the proposed partners was proving they couldn’t even credit the right person when taking the mickey out of another media organisation’s portmanteau.

However, the power of social media showed that far more important people were listening to me when the Office of The Auditor General replied to I tweet I sent them over Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s on-going Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme fiasco.

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Everything was plodding along happily until March came along and tried to wipe me off the face of the planet.

A month in Hawke’s Bay and Wellington hospitals changed perspectives and gave me a lot of spare time to write what has been some of my best stuff.

BizWire

Recovery and getting back into normal life meant not much time for writing posts.

The recent upheavals could have been the reason for some retrospective maudlin in June and lack of self confidence and loss of direction in August.

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

But Mediaworks scrapping what I still consider one of the finest and longest-running television shows EVER could not go unchastised in June.

Health issues and uncertain immediate future scuppered any plans I may have had to run for Napier City Council this term.

But there were other, more concerning democratic issues clouding those hopes too.

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My concerns actually made the local paper just before the election and did effect some change. Though the biggest concern I had – the “gagging” Code of Conduct still remains.

In September, after months of what I and many others considered Napier’s 60+ year old skating club getting some unfair treatment from Napier City Council, I wrote another piece that proved very popular and once again featured in the local paper.

Skating Fish

Ultimately, though, the skate club’s facility is long since demolished. The club has not been reimbursed and the errors it had put upon it are unresolved.

Those posts and their other printed pieces received a lot of attention, however, which was very welcome. Because it showed that local people STILL care very deeply about local news and issues – Something media networks and #StuffMe proponents still seem utterly oblivious to.

Those local concerns, this time over Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillors’ behaviour and the debt the organisation was set to burden all its ratepayers with for the benefit of a few in the Ruataniwha area, did at least see some positive local government change, with the balance of power tipping from pro-dam to anti-dam in this year’s elections.

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I finally got my cool cyborg parts in October and we closed out the year with our traditional “Twelve Days of Christmas Deliciousness” menu review.

I would love to say I helped democracy and righted wrongs this year, but that wasn’t the case. I helped shed light on what I considered were problems and wrongdoings, but those issues STILL exist.

That’s a real disappointment.

Though, given the interruption my life had in March-May, I guess it wasn’t a bad run for the rest of the year.

And, as I’ve written many times this year already: “There’s always someone out there worse off than you”.

There is still 2017 (and hopefully many more years) to come to get some good achieved and points on the board.

Now, does anyone know of a good unicorn dealer in Hawke’s Bay?

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H.O.Y. A Gift Horse, or Trojan Horse?

"Where are we going, Wilbur?"

“Where are we going, Wilbur?”

The digital ink (?) on my previous post about volunteers being worth far more than they weren’t paid had barely dried over the Christmas break when I read that Hawke’s Bay’s multi-million dollar equine extravaganza – “Horse of the Year” was looking for around 400 volunteers to assist with the 2016 edition of the event.

Nothing too unusual there – as previously stated such big events rely on volunteers to make them successful – although it pushes the limits of credibility to claim anything requiring dozens or even hundreds of people working for free as a “success” – from a financial perspective at least.

BUT…

400 sounded a rather excessive amount of people working for free – the Rugby and Cricket World Cup games Napier hosted in 2011 and 2015 respectively required only around 150-200 by comparison.

And the last time I had read something about Horse of the Year they were asking local councils for money – LOTS of money:

Last year chairwoman of Horse of the Year’s board of directors and HDC Deputy Mayor, Cynthia Bowers, went around local councils asking the event’s hosts, Hastings District Council – to increase their funding of the event to $150,000 – more than quadrupling the $35,000 they put forward last year, and $100,000 from the Napier City Council – TEN TIMES last year’s amount of $10,000!

In 2012 Councillor Bowers was appointed by Hastings District Council to a board investigating the formation of what would become “Horse of the Year (Hawke’s Bay) Limited” – she was quoted as saying:

“The working capital expected from the council was not likely to be more than $100,000 and the money would be repaid from projected profits from the 2013 show, which would be the first event run under the new company.”

These requests for more funding may be looking a bit shaky as they come not long after the event posted equally big losses in recent years:

In February last year, the month before its 2015 event, Horse of the Year reported a $297,000 half-year loss:

“The accounts show the company received income of $554,000 during the six months to the end of November, $297,000 below the $851,000 it budgeted for and $62,000 below what it received during the same period a year earlier.

However, in a report to the committee, the council’s acting chief financial officer, Bruce Allan, said: “Given the nature of this organisation and the event that it runs, the first half of the year financials provide limited insight into the potential full-year result.”

The show sends out invoices for deposits for booked trade sites during the half-year covered by the report, with the bulk of its income generated in the following six months.
The company said trade site sales for this year’s show had been strong “and indications are that virtually all sites will be sold”.

In October 2014 Horse of the Year had recorded a $108,000 full-year loss.

Horse of the Year were reported as expecting 2015’s event to be a “no growth” show in an attempt to make up for previous losses.

Hastings District Council said the lost revenue in 2014 was “due to problems with security fencing which allowed non-payers into the show.”

But it’s a bit hard to believe such significant losses were due to people sneaking in for free, considering even if tickets were $50 each, that would mean over 2,000 attendees got away without paying.

A more likely cause was the “Further development of relationships with Chinese equestrians, who were funded to attend last year’s (2014) show, had been “put on hold until 2016”.”

In other words “An international equestrian group were PAID to attend two years ago, but didn’t turn up and it doesn’t look like anyone asked for the money back.”

So what was the extra $205,000 Horse of the Year was requesting supposed to be going to?

Certainly not paying up to 400 workers…

Perhaps is going towards debt consolidation?

Perhaps they are paying for even more international equestrians to not attend?

Or perhaps they are looking at diversifying – Just how much are Pegacorns these days?

Horse of the Year is a great event for Hawke’s Bay that brings in hundreds of visitors and millions of dollars – and not just from the Range Rover / Multimillion dollar horse float crowd – Because for every futuristic horse-float-come-campervan there are dozens of regular horse loving attendees who stay in tents and motels, scrimping and saving where they can.

Investments and outcomes need to match up.

This is certainly one gift horse Hawke’s Bay cannot afford to look in the mouth!

Pegacorn

Volunteers are Worth More!

uncle

Four years ago New Zealand was the hosts of what would become a legendary Rugby World Cup.

I volunteered as a “Flash Quote Reporter” at McLean Park’s two games and got to meet and interview All Black legends John Kirwan, Kieran Crowley and current international players.

Hundreds of others volunteered too.

In return for our participation we got trained, clothed and fed. Being volunteers, naturally, we didn’t get paid, but we had fun experiencing something we usually didn’t get to do in our normal daily lives, which kind of made up for it.

This year New Zealand co-hosted and equally epic Cricket World Cup and once again I and hundreds of others, the majority of whom were the same ones who had taken part in 2011, took days off our regular jobs and lives.

Once again, got clothed, fed and for a few long days in March volunteered to help showcase McLean Park and Hawke’s Bay to the world.

But this time something felt a bit different.

Our shifts were much longer this time – often up to twelve hours at a time – so got quite arduous on occasions. But as cricket players and fans we got to watch some of the world’s best players in action which sped the time up a bit.

Maybe it was the longer shifts, or financial conditions being a bit tighter than four years ago, but some of the volunteers seemed less keen or able to be as involved as they would have liked, too.

Maybe it was because we had gotten past the “experience” buzz of doing the same sort of thing for the Rugby World Cup that took the shine off of volunteering in such roles for long “days off.”

Or maybe it was because the experience gained working at the 2011 World Cup meant we felt like there was more value to our taking part than doing it for free.

You see, the problem with volunteering is it doesn’t pay the bills.

I’m no stranger to volunteering. To date I have:

• Volunteered for the HB Cancer Society working as a Smokefree ambassador from 1996-1998.
• Been a volunteer radio announcer on Radio Kidnappers.
• Helped Stage Challenge really establish a foot-hold in Hawke’s Bay in 1998.
• Played for, managed teams and been secretary for Napier Old Boys’ Marist Cricket Club for almost a decade.
Dressed up as a Duck for the Georgie Pie #SuperSmash at McLean Park last year.
Written this blog – 127 posts of inspiring, (mainly) though and debate-provoking writing. Asking questions and shedding light on local issues.
• Promoting as many local events, ideas, products and thoughts as I can on social media.

But volunteering has worn a bit thin on me recently.

While most people will happily volunteer to do something for a charity, community group or the like for a few hours or days every once and a while, the feel-good factor of helping out can only last so long before the cold, hard realities of a modern, money-driven life creep back in.

There are bills to pay, mouths to feed and mortgages / rents to keep up with.

Working for free won’t help cover those realities.

Does thinking that make me a bad person? I don’t think so – I like to think it means I put the needs of my family above my own interests or those of others.

Recently I’ve become more and more concerned at how the good work of people volunteering seems to be getting taken for granted, taken advantage of, or even used so others can make a profit, while the volunteers are often left unrecognised, out of pocket for their work, or even worse.

Hawke’s Bay seems to have become a bit of a target for this type of thing.

There was an article in the newspaper just after Napier’s last Cricket World Cup match that stated the obvious – That while a small minority of the organisers and managers got paid for their roles

“The Cricket World Cup in Napier would have been impossible without the volunteers”

The article went on to outline the concept one of the event’s (surely not a voluntary position) coordinators had – a “Volunteer Army” to help run and attract such big events to Hawke’s Bay in the future.

I thought there were local government agencies that got paid to do that?

Two months later another article appeared in the paper. This time a Massey University professor (another non-voluntary role, we must assume) espousing his “educated” belief that:

“An ageing population is an opportunity if Hawke’s Bay can take advantage of its retirees’ wealth and skills.”

Translation: “Use retirees living on the pension as volunteer (i.e. “FREE“) labour to do tasks that younger generations would / could be paid to do, further deepening Hawke’s Bay’s economic and employment doldrums”.

Reading genius stuff like that really makes me glad I never went to university

Now volunteering is, well, a voluntary choice – you have to choose to do it and having worked, earned their money and paid their taxes for most of their lives HB’s elder generations are entitled to their retirement – to take it easier and to do what they want.

But merely using them as free labour? That’s just not right – especially when it also takes the opportunity for paid work away from others, like the younger generations struggling to get a foothold in our region’s depressed job market.

It’s not just the retired that are being taken advantage of when it comes to working for free.

Those in the final stages of tertiary education often face the increasing prospect of applying for the job they set out studying for, only to be told while they have the right qualification, their lack of real-world experience means they aren’t successful in getting the position.

Fortunately for a select well-heeled, or well-connected few, the chance of an unpaid internship during the university breaks mean they can get that much needed experience, but as the name suggests, it comes VERY cheaply for their “employer”.

Unless it is included as part of their curriculum, students aren’t eligible for the study / living allowance while on internships, so unless they or their parents are well-off enough to cover the living costs during this time many miss out on the opportunity.

Worse still are companies that get in multiple inters to “fight it out”, as it were, for one paid position. The “winning” intern being the one who puts in the longest hours, does the most work or makes the biggest profit for the company – all for FREE.

That is just not right.

Surely, if you’re good enough to do the job, you’re good enough to be PAID to do the job!

Even those already in work – particularly creative and design roles are expected to work for free for new clients – it’s called doing stuff “On Spec”.

Hours, days or weeks of time, effort and creativity to try and get a prospective client on board, only for them to say no, or just get ignored.

That’s gratitude for you.

It’s like going into a new café and asking the barista, having never had their coffee before, to make you a free sample in case you like it and come back again. See how far that gets you in real life.

And that’s not all!

Thanks to grey areas in perception and New Zealand laws, your rights and safety while volunteering often aren’t guaranteed, either!

When I put my earn-as-you-learn submission to the Napier City Council – trying to encourage Hawke’s Bay youth to stay in the region and be paid to learn, rather than working for free, or even worse, incurring crippling debt, one councillor chose to point out the number of local voluntary community groups in our community.

The irony of such a statement would have put any Alanis Morissette song to shame.

These VOLUNTARY groups get out in the community and do good stuff, while city councillors are PAID to sit around a table and gas-bag!

I believe the expression is “All Hui and no Do-ey!”

New Zealand NEEDS volunteers.

The likes of St John’s Ambulance, the Cancer Society and other life-saving and changing organisations couldn’t do the brilliant work they do without them.

But we must be careful not to abuse the good faith of volunteers – They need to be respected, recognised and often times they don’t actually need to be volunteers – they deserve to be paid, because working for free can do more economic harm than good.

Volunteers deserve better – They are more than worth it!

But what would I know – I only write voluntarily! 😉

Into the NCC Lions’ Den – Making My Submission!

THE WAR ROOM CONFERENCE DR. STRANGELOVE: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964)

Below is the speech I gave as part of my submission presentation to the Napier City Council’s Ten Year Plan yesterday (Monday 8 June 2015)

Napier’s youth are its biggest export, but also its biggest asset.

We spend so much money, focus and publicity attracting tourists to Napier for a single day or two each year, why don’t we try to use that same level of funding and focus keeping our young people here and making it worth their while?

Each year around 750 year 12 and 13 students finish / leave Napier high schools: 170 from Napier Boys’ High School, around 150 from Taradale High and 135 from Napier Girls’ High School, with lower but similar numbers from Tamatea and Colenso High Schools – 600+ of those go off to university.

That’s over 1000 Hawke’s Bay youth leaving the region each year!

Most never to return.

When they do it’s three years later and at least $30,000 in debt. All too often with a qualification that has no relevance to attaining their ideal job.

Despite the message that Hawke’s Bay has an ageing population, Statistics NZ shows the percentage of 10-20 year olds in HB outnumbers the 40-50 or 50-60 age bracket!

So what do we have for them?

The Youth Council of Napier, NCC’s “Youth Policy” and “Youth Services Plans” are outdated and need serious attention – The policy and Plan were last updated in 2010 and 2011/12 respectively.

YCON appears to be a token gesture at best – it does not cater to all Napier schools and youth and is hardly ever heard from or in the public eye.

I have spoken to past YCON members who joined with the best of intentions to make a difference but ended up feeling irrelevant and ignored by the council and councillors.

The YCON website is a joke, having only just been updated last year for the first time in three years. The “latest” YCON meeting minutes are dated September 2011

The “What’s on” section of the page somehow completely ignored last Friday’s Stage Challenge, in which 10 schools from around HB took part in a dancing, musical extravaganza – something YCON and local media should have been all over , but did recommend alcoholic FAWC events and a “Moving on after breast cancer recovery programme” – hardly appropriate or relevant.

NCC had a “Youth Coordinator” position years ago, but it was dis-established and the money put into developing skate-bowls. Not all youth are skaters and if the current resurfacing of Anderson Park’s bowl is expected to take up to 6 weeks, plans to do the same to the former Marineland site are made with similar surfaces; repairs could see it out of action for months.

We have people and organisations in Napier prepared to help local youth, but they are bypassed for out of town, Christian-based organisations. Why does the council not use those who know Napier best?

Again we hear so very little from these “youth groups” – It appears the Zeal of youth and Atomic power appear to give way to Greed of collecting funding and Sloth of doing as little as possible, while retaining that funding.

With Napier’s diversifying to now include Muslim, Hindu and LGBT communities– the belief structures behind these organisations aren’t always appropriate or as egalitarian as they should be.

Napier’s youth need and want a place to a place to congregate, relax, learn and have done so for years.

Former Napier City Councillor John Harrison called the last attempt at a youth facility in the late 90’s early 2000’s a “Den of iniquity”.

We can do better than that on a facility and councillor level.

We can do better for those who choose not to go to university too.

We need more local programmes like Youth Futures – (NCC CEO Wayne Jack is a trustee, but the website leads you to believe it is) supported solely by HDC it appears – where youth can “learn as they earn” – internships, apprenticeships with local businesses.

On this council alone we have accountants, community workers, event and hospitality managers, who could surely help facilitate the implementation of such programmes with their own local business connections.

If NCC can spend 5{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} (or $3.75mill) of their $75mill operating budget attracting tourists to Napier, imagine the wonders even one third of that could amount could do to Napier’s economy, demographics and vibrancy.

Napier and its youth deserve better!

There was a question time from councillors afterwards and responses were mixed to muted.

Councillor Richard McGrath noted there were hundreds of volunteer groups around the city doing stuff with youth.

I replied that’s great – get them all around a table and get a plan going, because I can guarantee that most of them don’t know the others even exist!

Councillor Tony Jeffery referred to my written submission’s comment about NCC looking after “Baby-boomers” and that almost half the current council, for the first time in decades, was far younger and newer than it had usually been.

I again agreed, stating it was a great opportunity to make a difference and that’s why I had made my submission now and not three years ago.

Councillor Michelle Pyke, once a champion of a section of Napier youth with her venue “The State of it” (now the kitchenware section of Farmers department store) appeared to take offence to any and all my criticisms of NCC youth doings.

She even asked me “What have you done for the youth of Napier?”

In hindsight I could have mentioned:
• The two years I volunteered for the HB Cancer Society working as a Smokefree ambassador.
• Helping Stage Challenge really establish a foot-hold in Hawke’s Bay in 1998, again voluntarily.
• Playing for organising and being secretary for Napier Old Boys’ Marist Cricket Club
• Writing this blog – 105 and counting posts of inspiring, (mainly) though and debate-provoking writing. Asking questions and shedding light on local issues.
• Promoting as many local events, ideas, products and thoughts as I can on social media.

But rather than “unleashing the beast” (cathartic, but we’re asking for assistance here) I just mentioned my time on the Napier City Council Youth Forum, but admitted that looking after my family had been my first and foremost priority in recent years and it was only in the last few months that I have had time to put real focus on other things.

But it was a typically lazy, political criticism from Michelle.

Because, unlike her, I haven’t been a member of the Napier City Council for the past five years.

I don’t have access to a $75mill operating budget, easy links and access to facilities, organisations and my council’s own Youth Council.

I DO, however, have great people supporting me, a world and world-wide-web of potential in front of me and at my finger-tips and the determination to actually make a difference in not just the next five years, but a great and potential-filled future!

Will my submission make a difference?

Who knows…

All I DO know is Napier and its youth deserve far better than they have gotten in past years.

It’s an Interesting Life – My 100th Post!

happy-100th-blog-post

A few weeks ago when I was getting my hair cut the barber said “I’ve seen you in the paper a fair bit recently. Do they give you a call whenever they are getting low on news to fill up space?”

My first reaction was to think – “Gee, what a douche-bag! Looks like I’ll be getting my hair done elsewhere from now on…”

My second reaction was to actually say “No. I just have an interesting life that occasionally involves situations that deserve publication!”

And, as this is my 100th “Napier in Frame” post, I think that’s true!

Over the past two-and-a-bit years I’ve:

Been fortunate to end up in some unique situations,

IMAG2110

To do stuff I love,

Merv

To meet wonderful, interesting people,

The team gathers before the game...

The team gathers before the game…

To share trials, triumphs and tragedy,

Double Grandad

Have some fun,

"Where are we going, Wilbur?"

“Where are we going, Wilbur?”

Generate debate and discussion,

beggar

And, more often than not, to have a bloody good vent!

g

I have also been very fortunate to have you, my readers, get involved, give support and feedback and, well, read my posts! It makes the whole exercise worthwhile.

angel

So, thank you!

Here’s to another 100+ posts and, who knows. maybe even something professional may come of it! (I’ll write for food and / or money!) 😉

Pulling Stumps on a Great Season

Volunteering at McLean Park's Cricket World Cup games.  Photo c/o Steve Dykes

Volunteering at McLean Park’s Cricket World Cup games.
Photo c/o Steve Dykes

As the nights get longer, rain finally begins falling in Hawke’s Bay and soccer, rugby and netball become the weekend sports du jour, it finally gives me a chance to catch up on all the tasks around Casa Del NapierinFrame that have been ignored over summer and look back on what has been quite a wonderful six months of cricket.

As I’ve written before, I love cricket.

It’s the most endearing, frustrating, thrilling, tiring, exciting sport I have ever played. This season has been exceptional, though.

Along with playing club cricket EVERY weekend (for the second year in a row, there was not one single rained-out game), I was fortunate enough to take part in a whole lot of other cricket-related goodness.

For the first time in my ten year cricketing career I took up the mantle of captain of my team, the “Napier Old Boys Marist Hobblers”, for the season. To make things even more interesting, we had an almost entirely new squad from last season. But we gelled quickly, dismissing one team for a mere 44 runs and causing a few upsets during a run of good form.

I personally had a purple patch on the pitch, taking four catches in as many games and closing in on my elusive “double-figures for the season” target on several occasions – even hitting the winning runs in one game, but leaving me stranded on 9 not out.

In December I got to dress up in a duck costume, play epic air guitar and usher scoreless players off the pitch at the McLean Park edition of the “Georgie Pie Super Smash T20” competition.

In January, I was “bowled over” (the newspaper’s line, not mine) to be selected as the Central Districts winner of Specsavers’ “Favourite Local Cricket Umpire” competition for my years as a player-umpire in HB cricket – for which I won $500, two pairs of glasses and a Black Caps playing jersey!

In February, I and seven of my 4th Grade Hobblers teammates found ourselves in a unique position – playing Premiere-grade cricket!

Our regular Prems team was down in Palmerston North competing in the Central Districts Club Knockout Champs, so couldn’t play on the usual game day. Neither Hawke’s Bay Cricket or their opposition, Taradale Cricket Club would let them defer the game to a later date and HB Cricket told us if the team defaulted they would try to disqualify us from the CD competition, so a replacement had to be found.

Cometh “The Hobbler Prems”.

The welfare of my team is always forefront in my mind and going up three grades to play Premiere-level with some VERY fast bowlers and heavy hitters, my main concern was the safety of my teammates, so extra helmets and protective equipment was brought in.

With three Prem players, who elected to stay back and help us in the game and travel to Palmerston North afterwards, opening the batting and putting on 150, the rest of us were able to add an extra 97 runs (and more importantly no injuries), leaving our regular-Prem opposition a reasonable total of 248 to win.

But they didn’t!

In one long, gloriously cricketing afternoon, the Hobblers’ mouse roared. Our bowling and fielding effort was outstanding and we won by 22 runs! Quite possibly the most memorable NOBMCC game in recent history.

After the match I sent a text to our Prems coach that said “We’ve done our part, now you do yours!” They happily obliged – winning the CD Knockout Champs and going on to represent Central Districts in the National Club Knockout Champs over Easter.

Ironically, the prems game was the last one we won for the rest of the season and the Hobblers were out of contention for the finals, but it was a wonderful season.

Then, of course, we had the Cricket World Cup and New Zealand’s epic performance in the competition.

We may not have won the final, but were certainly the moral victors of the tournament.

McLean Park hosted three games (Pakistan v United Arab Emirates, New Zealand v Afghanistan and United Arab Emirates v West Indies) and I was one of the hundreds who volunteered. My job was as “Media Assistant” and I ended up looking after the reporters and photographers throughout the three games.

It was a great experience and I got to meet some of my cricketing idols – NZ’s Ian Smith, South Africa’s Shaun Pollock, England’s Sir Ian Botham and someone as tall as me – West Indies’ Curtly Ambrose.

During Napier’s games, I also helped Kent Baddeley in making a delectable degustation for some of my club-mates at Ten24.

To use the culinary term – it was the cherry on top of a glorious season!

Fun and Yum with Cricketing Cuisine

The team gathers before the game...

The team gathers before the game…

I am fortunate to have some wonderful friends.

I’ve been playing cricket for Napier Old Boys’ Marist for ten years now and have been club secretary for five of those years. Working and playing with the same people over such a long time forms some tight bonds and I do consider a lot of my club-mates as family.

Hawke’s Bay’s social media community – especially the local Twitterers are also one of the, literally, most social groups of people I know and we have formed some very strong friendships with people we have met via the interweb.

So when the two combine, something special can happen.

I had the pleasure of being involved in just such an occasion this month.

Culinary genius and all-round good bugger, Kent Baddeley of Ten 24, had taken to Facebook to get input on ideas for dinner events over the coming months. I chipped in with a cricket-themed dinner concept to celebrate the Cricket World Cup games being held in Napier. I and a couple other Facebook friends brainstormed dish titles like “Silly Mid Off”, “Bowl a Maiden Over”, “The Ashes” and the like.

Kent liked the idea and set me the task of coming up with a menu, pricing etc. and getting a crowd along. If I could do it, Mrs NapierinFrame and I could dine for free – now there was an offer I couldn’t refuse!

Some creative thinking and Googling lots of food ideas resulted in a five course dinner menu, based around a One Day International match format:

Ten24 Dinner 1

Now, to get a crowd…
Hmmm…
Where could I find a couple dozen people who like cricket and food…?
I know – My cricket club!!

So early this month a diverse group of my fellow club and team-mates gathered in “Pakowhaishire” for what would be a truly glorious dinner.

Kent had kept the course names, but came up with his own wonderful dishes (as I’d hoped he would) and all the guests, many of whom had never been to Ten24 before but will surely be back, were gob-smacked.

Pictures were taken, tweets were sent and statuses were updated, and the whole occasion bounced around the world on social media and by word of mouth for days afterwards.

The more people heard about it, the more wished they were there.

It looks like this may even become an annual event, with even more attendees and I hope it does because, as I said, I am fortunate to have some wonderful friends!

Ten24Dinner

Just Not Cricket

"What, Ho?" HELL NO!

“What, Ho?” HELL NO!

Sometimes an advertisement or press release comes along that shows just what can be done by someone who has almost no idea about what they’re doing.

I found just such a piece last week when I read an advertising blurb for “The Legends of Cricket Art Deco Match”

With the Cricket World Cup coming to Napier in March, local events revolving around the tournament and cricket in general are a great way to get people involved.

It’s just such a shame that whoever came up with this concept dropped the ball.

An “Art Deco” themed (of course! There is nothing else to Napier after all, is there?) celebrity cricket match is to be played at Hastings’ exclusive Clifton County Cricket Club in late February, a week before Napier’s matches start.

“The Legends of Cricket Art Deco Cricket Match will be a Twenty-Twenty game of gentle spectator cricket.

We’re taking cricket back to basics; to before it became all flashy. The legends of Cricket Match is about good, honest cricket.”

Um, no.

“Twenty-Twenty”, more commonly known as“T20” (it gets its name from each team’s batting innings lasting a maximum of twenty overs) is a “flashy” as cricket gets.

It’s quick, it can be a bit crass to purists, who call it “Hit and Giggle” and it’s BIG money in India, where the Indian Premiere League has made T20 one of the richest (and some would say the dodgiest) parts of the game.

So the event’s promoter gets a “golden duck” on their first delivery.

Onto the next ball: I have been playing club cricket in Hawke’s Bay virtually every summer Saturday for around ten years now and while I have heard of Clifton County Cricket Club, I have never seen them play, or played against them. This is because the club appears to be the only one in Hawke’s Bay to play only who they want, when they want.

I don’t consider that to be a fair representation of Hawke’s Bay’s cricketing community to be portrayed to visiting international cricket fans and media.

Just as the Cricket World Cup is a global event with teams from all over the world, club cricket in Hawke’s Bay is just as diverse. In my grade alone I’ve played with and against people from all walks of life – 12 year olds to pensioners, men and women – We have New Zealanders, Australians, English, Indians, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Welsh, Canadians and Cook Islanders. The other week we even faced a guy from Thailand – somewhere I was unaware even knew of the game!

Every week we get our draw from Hawke’s Bay Cricket and that weekend we all represent our clubs and teams against whomever our opponent is that game. There is no picking and choosing.

Off stump is uprooted – two wickets from two deliveries. Our bowler goes back to their mark and begins their run-up for the hat-trick:

“This is a piece of lush Hawke’s Bay turf surrounded by undulating hillside and with views out to the glistening South Pacific, this is the stuff cricket lovers can only dream of.”

One of the reasons the grounds are so “lush” is because:

“All proceeds will go to the New Zealand Department of Conservation initiatives within Clifton County Cricket Club, aimed at creating habitat and eco-systems to reintroduce native flora and fauna.”

So rather than raising money for helping develop young Hawke’s Bay cricketers, or improving grounds, pitches and nets for Hawke’s Bay cricketers in general, you’re helping raise money for landscaping CCCC’s own grounds. How nice.

They have even had help form an unusual source – Napier City Council.

Napier mayor Bill Dalton and the Napier City Council have been very supportive of the Clifton club recently – despite it being located firmly in Hastings District Council territory (whatever you do, don’t mention Amalgamation!). Council staff assisting CCCC in preparing their pitch and outfield and Mayor Bill penned a letter of support.

The only council-based correspondence Napier cricket clubs with junior and senior competitions, development and community involvement get, by comparison, is their annual, ever-increasing ground fees bill.

When Napier City Council put forward their plan to redevelop their Park Island Sports Grounds a few years ago, our cricket club which is located at the park, made suggestions including having our own clay pitch within the club grounds. We even offered to maintain it ourselves. We’re still waiting for a reply.

Middle stump topples, the bails go flying – A hat-trick! Three wickets from three consecutive balls!

Double standards and snobbish overtones abound in this proposed event.

It’s. Just. Not. Cricket!

So here’s my counter-proposal:

Have a PUBLIC GAME. Host it somewhere central – Napier’s Nelson Park, or Hastings’ Cornwall Park – or even have one game at each ground over the fortnight the Cricket World Cup is being hosted in Hawke’s Bay.

The game will be Napier vs Hastings – the mayors of each city on opposing teams (as usual) with local club players, identities, maybe even some kiwi “celebs”, international sports stars and visiting World Cup players to make up the ranks.

Have interchangeable players / fielders with those on the side-lines (mostly the keen kids) able to “tag-in” to play for a few overs.

Bring the family, bring a picnic!

Gold coin entry / donations go to developing Hawke’s Bay Cricket initiatives for all clubs, or another local charity like the Cancer Society.

THAT is what a charity cricket match in Hawke’s Bay should be!

The ball sails over the fielders, over the boundary and out of the grounds – a massive six – What a shot! The crowd goes wild!

Hawke’s Bay and Cricket deserves better!

Way to go, Mo!

The evolution of my 2014 Mo

The evolution of my 2014 Mo

As I wrote back at the start of last month, I once again took part in “Movember” this year.

For four weeks my upper lip and jowls became an adoptive home to a huge, hairy caterpillar, a façade of facial fungus.

And while my mo mutated, I did my best to raise a bit of mo-ney for the Movember Foundation.

While it was a bit of a slow start, I finished with a furry flourish of florins and this year I managed to raise a total of $311 – smashing my previous record of $234 in 2012!

Mo Evo

So I have a few people to thank:

Peter and Mary Nixon from my cricket club who donated $10

My old schoolmate Karrie Stephens form Black and White who donated $10

My Christchurch cousin Leisa Thomas who donated a whopping $100

Our wonderful mortgage broker (and carrot cake baker) Judy Steiner from Mortgagelink Hawke’s Bay for her $20

The staff at NOW’s head office who did a quick whip-around and raised $16

Lyn Bailey form the HB Project for her $20 to put me over the $300 mark

And finally, my workmates, who donated a massive $135 in a whip-around on the last working day of Movember.

Thank you all for your support and donations in making this my most moneyed Movember!