Greytown Cricket Club started a century and a half ago, and is still going strong. Jake Beleski talks to some of the people who help make the club so special.
Greytown will be inundated with some famous faces over Waitangi weekend as the town’s cricket club celebrates its 150th jubilee.
The club is so old that it pre-dates test cricket, and is thought to be the second-oldest continuous club in the country.
Former Black Caps Michael Mason and Mark Greatbatch, as well as local hero and current Central Districts Stags player Seth Rance, are just a few of the household names that will be in town for the event.
Club president Jason Osborne said there would be a range of different activities and festivities to mark the occasion.
“On Saturday morning we’ve got the juniors playing there and then Saturday afternoon the seniors are playing Lansdowne, then Saturday night we have a mix and mingle for guys coming in for the 150th.
“In the marquee there will be a bar running and everyone will hang around and have a bit of a chat.”
Some of the club’s youngsters will be in for a treat on Sunday morning, as Greatbatch and Rance put them through their paces with some coaching clinics.
Following that, there is an invitational match to be played between former Greytown players and a New Zealand first-class selection, followed by an official dinner.
Special guests include former ICC president Alan Isaac and New Zealand cricket historian Don Neely, while Greatbatch will be the guest speaker.
“We’re expecting 150-175 people at the dinner,” Osborne said.
“We have a band and two-course dinner, and then on the Monday we’re going to have a casual breakfast for anyone that wants to come along for Waitangi Day.”
Having Rance and other local favourites at the event would be a massive boost, he said.
“That should create a bit of interest and a bit of pride in what’s come out of the club.
“Seth is an amazing guy – what he’s done, and he’s pretty humble as well, but he’s done it all from Greytown club.
“He’s been asked to play for different areas but he’s been determined to be local and loyal and he’s a real big asset to the club.
“It’s not just on the field either – he does work off the field even when he’s touring overseas and around the country, he’s still a major part of the club.”
Rance has been plying his trade on the first-class scene for many years now, but never missed an opportunity to pull on the Greytown colours.
He is due to play for Central Districts on the Saturday, but said that wouldn’t stop him getting back to Greytown for the rest of the weekend.
“It’s something that we’ve looked forward to for a long time now,” Rance said.
“I’ve been on the committee for a few years and there’s been a lot of planning and excitement around it.”
Rance has been involved with the club for 24 years, after starting out as an eager 5-year-old.
“It is nice when I get to come back and play,” he said.
“It’s usually four or five games a season, and it’s nice to get back and see everyone playing for the enjoyment rather than as a job.”
During his time with the club there had been plenty of changes, but they were keen to continue to promote the game in the region, he said.
“Numbers are declining – people don’t have as much time these days to play cricket on Saturday and Sunday all day, so that’s been a small change.
“But the core group of people involved with the club are still there and trying to keep it strong.”
Memories of special performances with his Greytown teammates remained some of the fondest of his career to date.
“When I first started playing for the men’s team we were quite strong and won quite a few competitions over that time, and it was a good bunch of guys that got on well off the field.
“Then a few years ago we went to the club championships and came third-equal, and it was nice for such a small club to do that well on a big stage.”
John Gray has been involved with the club since 1980, and has had almost every job at one stage or another.
“I did start off as a club captain and then I took on the presidency, but I’ve also been treasurer and secretary at different stages over the years,” he said.
“I was made a life member in about 1995.”
He had seen the club go through good times and bad, he said.
“At one stage we fielded four senior men’s sides and one women’s team plus all the junior cricketers, and there was very much a social scene.
“Then we built our clubroom in 1989 and it was a really good time to be involved.”
He even played long enough to cross paths with one of New Zealand’s modern greats.
“I played against Ross Taylor a few times – he might have even been at primary school when he first played in the men’s grade.”
Reaching 150 years was definitely an achievement worth celebrating, he said.
“We’re extremely proud of the fact that we are still here.
“We’ve researched our records as best we can and we think we’re the second oldest continuous club.
“There are older clubs than us but a lot have gone into recess or started again with amalgamations, but we’ve been standalone all the way through.”
He was adamant the club would be striving to maintain links to its past.
“We’re still playing on the same ground that our ancestors started off on 150 years ago, which is a pretty neat thing to think about.
“I would say we’d be one of the few clubs around that still prepares its own grass wickets as well, and long may that continue.”
Information for the event can be found at the Greytown Cricket Club 150th Facebook page, or email enquiries can be sent to [email protected].