The history of Taranaki Cricket 1894 – 2000 by Brian Bellringer QSM (former Secretary/Treasurer and Patron of the Association).
In the Beginning
When the Taranaki Cricket Association was first formed in 1894, Taranaki had already been settled by Europeans for over 50 years. With the great majority of those settlers being English, and more particularly from the West Country (Devon, Cornwall, Somerset), undoubtedly the playing of cricket would be part of the social fabric of the life that came with them.
The Founding Years
On the 24th March 1894, the New Plymouth Cricket team travelled to Hawera by train to play against Hawera. Hawera won the match, scoring 155 to New Plymouth’s 107. Afterwards the Hawera Star reported “at a meeting of cricketers held on Saturday evening [24th March] in the Egmont Hotel, an association to be called the Taranaki Cricket Association was formed, its object being to look after the interests of cricket in the province.
The Lost Years
In the twenty two years the two separate associations centred on Hawera and New Plymouth continued to look after cricket in their areas. Significantly the association based upon Hawera continued to operate as Taranaki and in the Hawera Club’s 50th Jubilee publication the bitterness that the breakaway engendered was still very much apparent.
The Dream Fulfilled
On 27th August 1925 at Stratford a meeting was held between representatives of the North and South Taranaki Associations to consider an amalgamation of the two associations and thus revive the Taranaki Cricket Association. The constitutional proposals placed before that meeting were then favourably considered by the two associations and formally adopted at a subsequent meeting at Stratford on 17th September 1925.
The Transition Years
The years from 1935 to 1950 cover the period from the loss of the Hawke Cup to Manawatu, until the advent of Central Districts, as the fifth PlunketShield team, comprising players from what had been the Wellington Country region. This was very much a time of transition, with the retirement of many of the players from the earlier successful Hawke Cup times and the emergence of players and administrators who were to remain involved in Taranaki cricket until the 1960’s. Cutting across the period was the Second World War which, as in 1914-18, saw the demise of competitive club cricket.
The Hawke Cup Returns
On the 29th December 1970 Taranaki won the Hawke Cup from Southland –on the 12th March 1973 Southland reversed the result. For twelve successive challenges Taranaki held the cup and proved itself to be the most tenacious of defenders, providing its supporters with matches which ranged over the whole gamut of cricketing emotions –tense, exciting, dour, rain-interrupted, one-sided. The team, well balanced between experienced and youthful talent, provided three seasons that must rank as outstanding in the province’s cricketing history.
A Time for Change
Change came in many ways in these eleven years; the retirement of most of the outstanding players from the just ended Hawke cup era, the appearance of new players who were to become stalwarts of Taranaki cricket in the 1990’s,the appointment of a sole selector, Taranaki gaining a major influence in Central Districts affairs, the beginning of coaching at the schools level by employing professional cricketers, a re-laid Pukekura Park pitch, a greatly strengthened financial position albeit with a few hiccups on the way, and, as a last act of this period, the disappearance of the four divisions as administrative units.
As Taranaki entered its centenary year the past decade represented several satisfying aspects of the province’s cricket; twice holder of the U-BixCup (the successor to the Hawke Cup), some outstanding individual performances to complement the team successes, Pukekura Park still a major venue for first class cricket be it domestic or international, the coaching structure which was a model for other associations and with a major local sponsor ensuring its viability, administration moving from the volunteer to professional basis, a new scoreboard for Pukekura Park, and a six-fold increase in the association’s financial equity.
Years of Challenge
If the years of 1973-84 are regarded as a time of change, then the six seasons from the association’s centenary until the beginning of the 21st Century can be described as years of turmoil. From the peak of the 1994-95 season, when the U-Bix Cup was successfully defended in six games, the performances of the representative team slowly fell away. This decline in playing success was, in a large part, due to the retirements of older experienced players and the loss of several talented players to other associations. Furthermore, in these six seasons there were four different convenors of selectors –not conducive to playing stability.