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150 Not Out, Howzat?

“It’s a game of organised loafing,” quips Devonport’s ‘Mr Cricket’ on the eve of the North Shore’s oldest  sports club’s sesquicentennial anniversary. A big word for a big club. And big it is, in its contribution to international-level cricket, its enduring membership, and big in terms of being 150 years old this month. And arguably its biggest man, in stature, cricketing knowledge and local regard, Roger Brittenden, shared his time with Channel’s Heather Vermeer ahead of this unrivalled milestone in local sport.

It was the Trivial Pursuit question to stump even the most knowledgable of ‘cricket tragics’. It went along the lines of, ‘Which New Zealand cricketer, who took up cricket at the age of 40, was called up to play for the Black Caps in one game before disappearing back into obscurity?’
Anyone? Roger knew the answer: It was him.
His fleeting almost-game as 12th man in The Hague in 1986 was Roger’s only sojourn into the world of international cricket. The fact that he had to hurriedly borrow gear from Martin Crowe and shoes from John Wright (they were the only ones big enough to fit) and was the crowd favourite as he regularly ran on and off the field with Charlie Sheffield’s change of boots, makes for a good tale now. It is ‘the highlight of his career’ and one of countless cricket tales that this larger-than-life fellow - and the word ‘fellow’ seems fitting - seems able to deliver, as fluidly as a fast bowler approaching the crease.
Since retiring as a contemporary dancer - seriously, there is a photo pinned to the clubroom bar wall to prove it, complete with leotard and afro wig - Roger has poured his heart into the North Shore Cricket Club. It is the oldest cricket club on the Shore, and some may argue, in New Zealand, but there is stiff competition from other clubs over registration dates, whether they still exist in the same form and other inter-club controversies. Whichever side you’re on, NSCC is up there.
It began, as most community ventures in Devonport did, with naval origins. Military and civil officers brought their love of their game from England, with rival crews pitting their skills against each other, attracting the curiosity of locals who began challenging the crews to matches. North Shore Cricket Club was formed in 1864, primarily by military personnel, and the first inter-club game was recorded in 1867 against ‘Blackstones’, a city team made up of lawyers and legal clerks. When the return game was held at Auckland Domain, the Shore side had to travel across the harbour in rowing boats. After rain stopped play, the sodden team then had to row themselves back across the Waitemata Harbour, having had the
game abandoned. 
In the late 1870s, the owner of the land where the club’s pitch was laid wanted it for hay-making, so the club established a new pitch on the ‘Cheltenham Flat’ - an area popular for sports, to the east of Tainui Road. Local boys were employed for ‘a penny a bucket‘ to water the ground from a nearby well, and games were played there every Saturday during the summer months.
During the 1880s, the land was sold for private housing and in 1890 Devonport Borough Council met with club officials and agreed a new pitch be created on a reclaimed mangrove swamp, if the club could match its pledge of providing 50 pounds to the project. Not one, but two pitches were subsequently laid, both of which remain in use to this day.
The current clubrooms were built on the Devonport Domain site in the 1960s and the building was shared with North Shore United Football Club. By the early 1980s, the football club had found a new home at Dacre Park and the cricket club went it alone to fund a $106,000 renovation project and reclaim the site as its own.
Life member Roger, who comes from ‘a cricketing family’ - his father wrote 17 books on New Zealand cricket - was in reflective mood as his beloved club neared its landmark birthday. For him, it presents an opportunity to appreciate those who have experienced the feeling of leather on willow at the site through the decades.
“I think it has to be a celebration of the history of the club,” he said. “People have said that sport reflects life, and that cricket reflects life more than any other sport. I, for one, believe that - even though I did start out as a rugby player!”
He stressed: “It’s important to know the history of the game; not just all the stats and every player’s name, but that over here (gestures to the field) people have been playing in front of the same wickets, with the same aim to score the same runs for over a hundred years. And I think its important to have an appreciation of that. It’s not just you and your game, its your club and those who have gone before you. And they are probably ‘up there’ watching down.”
So how would Roger sum up the enduring appeal of the game, as his club strides onwards, towards its double century?
“They say the English invented cricket to provide themselves with a definition of eternity,” Roger replied with a wry smile. NSCC 150 not out - a great innings by anyone’s standards, with many good batsmen and women to come. 

A Proud Record
The club is very proud of producing more New Zealand representatives than any other sporting club on the Shore, and wider Auckland, according to Roger. In all, 11 men playing for North Shore Cricket Club went on to represent their country. Seven female members did likewise.
Notable among them is C.C. Dacre, the youngest person to play first class cricket for New Zealand at the tender age of 15. Ces Dacre was raised close to Devonport Domain where he spent much of his youth playing cricket and football with his brother Life. He toured England with the 1927 New Zealand cricket team and later played county cricket for Gloucestershire. He returned to the North Shore to captain the club, leading the team to two championship titles. In later life he became groundsman at the domain, where his ashes were scattered and clubrooms named in his honour.
Other well-known Black Caps to hail from the club include Jack Cowie, the finest pace bowler of his time, and more recently Martin Snedden, now CEO of New Zealand Cricket, Danny Morrison and Richard Reid.

Snedden's 'Spiritual Home'
One of NSCC's most well-known figures is former Black Cap and past CEO of New Zealand Cricket, Martin Snedden. Martin spoke to Channel at the Club's recent annual luncheon where celebrations began for the 150th milestone. He said:  "This place is my spiritual home. I started here at 17 years old, and by the time I had finished playing in my 30s, I had a wife and four children who would come down play on the playground whilst I played.  "I love this club, it's been a big part of my life. It's full of special people who have real appreciation of cricket and the history, and the fun, of cricket. In this day and age where lots of other clubs are struggling, this club has a whole raft of quality people who keep this club healthy and going strong."

Next generation steps up to the crease
The club has maintained healthy membership numbers throughout the decades and with its youth membership continuing to blossom, the old guard can rest assured NSCC is in safe hands.
In late January, the club staged the 21st annual North Shore Junior World Series of Cricket Tournament at its Devonport Domain home. Over 300 keen young cricketers participated in the popular “anybody welcome” three-day tournament, enthusiastically representing their designated cricketing nations.
Finalists in the three divisions included: South Africa and West Indies (Little League division);  Sri Lanka and Australia (Mid League division); New Zealand and South Africa (Senior League division). As an extra bonus for the youngest finalists, the Little League (5-8 year olds) final was played during the dinner break of an Auckland T20 match at
Eden Park.

Sesquicentennial Celebrations March 21st – 23rd 2014
Friday 21st March

The Underarm Game – 2:30pm-4:30pm Devonport Bowling Club.
All Current and past members and supporters will enjoy a “roll-up” start
to our celebrations. Bowls & finger food provided.
1st Innings Mix & Mingle – 5pm till late – At the Club
Official opening of our 150th celebrations. Finger food provided. Tickets $30

Saturday 22nd March

Junior Teams Show Their Stuff – 8:30am – 10am . Devonport Domain
Games, entertainment, activities, prizes and giveaways.
Senior Games – 11am – 6.30pm. Devonport Domain
Three home games including the Premiers and Presidents teams.
NSCC 150th Anniversary Dinner. 7:00Pm – 11pm. Guest Speaker: Murray Deaker.
Includes announcement of NSCC All time XI. Includes 3 course meal, drink on arrival, wine on tables.

Sunday 23rd March 
Pulling Of The Stumps – 11am – 4pm Devonport Domain
T20 Games. Patrons XI v President’s XI. Chairman’s XI v Premier XI. Your last chance to see old friends and reminisce about 150 years of cricket on the Devonport Peninsula.
BBQ & bar throughout the afternoon.
Visit www.northshorecricket.co.nz or email events@northshorecricket.co.nz

by Heather Vermeer

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