Cricket is going from strength to strength in Upper Hutt with amazing results in the growth of female cricketers at all levels. However, one of the most exciting advancements has been in the college grades, where in previous years neither Upper Hutt College or Heretaunga College have fielded either a boys, girls or combined schools team in any college cricket grade.
However in only her second year as the Upper Hutt Female Cricket Development Officer, Justine Dunce has worked tirelessly with the local primary, intermediate and college set ups to build up both the trust and relationship between the game at the schools. The result of these efforts was evident when Heretaunga College entered not just one, but two all female teams into the Premier 2 College grade (8 a-side). 2013 the last year that the college fielded a full college side without needing to combine. Heretaunga Sports Coordinator Claire Anderson was full of praise for the advancements that the college had made to reengage cricketers in the school.
“Justine came in to college and sorted through all our gear, threw half of it in the skip and asked how she could best help. We worked out a programme where she came and talked to the girls and ran lunchtime trainings. Our goal was to get one team up and running, but with an expert coach available, we had a great response and had two teams. Justine has acted as coach, manager, scorer, van driver and has brought a much needed enthusiasm for girls cricket. The girls loved the coaching sessions and with a very limited budget we purchased some new pads, borrowed some club kit and got up and running. We’re very much looking forward to next season already”
With two teams and stretched resources, responsibility fell on the students and volunteers to help get themselves organised weekly. However for an enthusiastic group of players keen to play, this proved no trouble as Year 12 student Grace Bird took on a managerial/captain role, helping to organise gear, transport and additional players. Anything that needed to happen, Grace was onto it in a flash, showing fantastic management skills in an efficient and effective manner. Kirsty Fraser and Sue Hanlon as parents of the players helped to score the matches and organise afternoon tea in what quickly became an enjoyable community effort.
Heretaunga started the college season in an inter-college derby, Heretaunga 1 v Heretaunga 2 at Trentham Memorial Park. Ironically, the two completely beginner teams developed from explaining the game rules in match one, to a fully competitive contest in their last match of the season-a match which was the final of the Premier 2 grade in the Hutt Valley division, Heretaunga 2 taking the honours.
It wasn’t always easy sailing for the college as although they have some fantastic outdoor training nets, the artificial cricket wicket located within the college ground is so narrow that the edges of the mat are the same as the wide lines on a normal crease. Justine and the college worked tirelessly every home fixture to find a more suitable and available venue to ensure the girls had an enjoyable experience every match. With continued interest and support, this has been an area highlighted for potential investment in future years.
It is hoped that with the awareness and visibility generated by holding lunchtime training in the college ground, that Heretaunga College will continue to both retain the girls team (at least one), but also start to reengage a boys team, a goal which the college is very much behind.
Heretaunga is the only co-ed school in the Wellington region that facilitates only girls cricket. Between the support of both Upper Hutt Cricket Club (both junior & senior), the Upper Hutt Female Development Officer and that of the college staff and pupils, the school has successfully revived the game and provided an enjoyable experience to those that came along.
Eimear Richardson from Cricket Wellington was adamant of the need for colleges to put equitable resources into the girls game; “The girls player base is building. The interest and talent is well and truly growing and as this filters up into college age groups, the pathway has to be prepared and as administrators we have a responsibility to facilitate it. We get involved in the game because we love it and we want others to experience all it has to offer….neither ability or gender holds any importance or relevance to the overall goal; to share the game of cricket”.
“…..The start to reviving College cricket across the region is convincing administrators of the rewards to encourage colleges to target the same goals….co-ed colleges working and investing to retain and grow their boys teams, while also starting to reengage and develop girls cricket….”
Congratulations to Heretaunga staff and pupils along with Justine Dunce and Upper Hutt United on proving that where there is a will there’s a way – anything can happen, and that great things will happen.