April 30, 2011

Five Australians led by Roy Powell journeyed to NZ on their regular 10-day tour leading up to the NZ North-South weekend in Hamilton.  It began with a fantastic dinner at the Soul restaurant on the waterfront in Auckland.  We lamented the smallness of the team (in spite of the enthusiasm shown at the Lilac Hill Festival) and the poor showing relative to the contribution of NZ teams to Festivals in Australia.

We had time to ponder the purpose of our visit, given that we were too few in number to offer the Brian Morgan Trophy for the challenge.  Perhaps we were checking out the fitness of NZ to be the seventh state, maybe they could help with the refugees (including those from the NSW election) or that NZ was hedging its bets for the upcoming Rugby World Cup by planting a NZ coach with the Wallabies.

Or were we there to build the role of the NZIFCR in the north around Auckland including Warkworth, Cambridge and Hamilton.

A delightful Saturday on Auckland Harbour, lunch and a BBQ in the northern suburbs toughened us up for the following day’s encounter.  At Melville Oval (the Auckland home for women’s cricket) we took on a team comprising some Rotarians and a number from the Auckland Cricket Society – a mixture of players younger than us but including a brace of septuagenarians who could still bat, bowl and wicketkeep!

On the deadest of pitches we were undone 145 to 101.

Dan Healey (Auckland organiser), Jock Hannah (NZIFCR) Roy Powell, Lloyd Dungey, Cole Whiteman and Kevin Scanlan prior to the Auckland match.

We then journeyed north to Warkworth and surrounds.  We played on the regional ground in the village of Kaipara Flats.  This brought together many local Rotarians who had not played together previously.  Our augmented “All Stars” team triumphed 171 to 144, but nor before Dan Milne, a notable local sportsman made an appearance despite advancing Parkinson’s disease, and smote some balls into the outfield. Lloyd Dungey, Bruce Pooley and Jock Hannah all retired on 30.

Next stop Cambridge where our hosts conducted their regular meeting at the Karipiro Rowing centre – the location of the 2010 World Rowing Championships.  A fantastic venue and a club of some 70 members - and thriving.

Our game at the delightful Village Green had to be abandoned due to rain so we played on a hard wicket on the other side of town.  Again, the Rotarians turned out and the All Stars triumphed 159 to 126..

We then decamped the few kms to Hamilton for the weekend of cricket.  Hamilton is one of the fastest growing cities in NZ and we played on the delightful grounds of St Paul’s School.  The Hamilton Gardens are also outstanding.

Our first game against the NZIFCR saw us home narrowly.  Both of our sides were augmented by players from earlier games – the mission was working with more members coming into the IFCR with some participants from Cambridge and Warkworth. 

The game against NZIFCR was won to maintain our authority 146 to 143 with Lloyd Dungey and Kevin Scanlon earning their quota of runs.

The intermission between the games was filled by a delightful dinner at the Hamilton Casino where Arthur Pitcher is the manager.  Well done Arthur!  Lyle Lukey also provided a personal perspective on the earthquake in Christchurch – he had an office in the downtown area but was not in it when the quake occurred!

The final game was between us and the PLANKs (Played Long Ago Now Knackered), a team that plays regularly together in local and international competitions.  Our augmented team was clearly the underdogs relative to this team of regulars who play 15 – 20 times a year.  In the end, we salvaged a tie at 181 each – a great result to end the tour.  We were greatly assisted by Rob Clarke who took 3 wickets and shattered their top order .  Bruce Pooley and Greg Saunders (a PLANK playing for us) scored their quota of runs.

Meanwhile, the North-South game with the border shifting to somewhere near Taupo, resulted in a win for the South.

Jock Hannah, as the new IFCRNZ Secretary, organised the tour and helped us with our meagre numbers – thanks Jock for that work and your great company,  We look forward to doing it all again next year and helping you to spread the IFCR to some more of the untouched corners of New Zealand.