Nelson well on way to achieving 20-team goal
When going into bat, a cricket team will have a well thought-out target in mind, but the most important thing is getting runs on the board.
In terms of participation in college cricket, the Nelson Cricket Association (NCA) has set itself a goal of having 20 teams playing in college grades by 2015, and it has opened its account this season like Brendan McCullum in full flight.
Last year, with only a junior college grade to play in, college competition was restricted to just seven teams with the older teams playing in senior third grade competition. But with hard work on the ground from NCA staff and buy-in from colleges those totals have doubled.
A senior grade has been introduced with six teams playing in the competition, and with eight in the junior ranks, 14 teams will play college cricket this summer.
"This is a huge step in the right direction for us, with the goal in two seasons to be at 20 teams," said Jon Routhan, NCA community cricket co-ordinator.
Another big step, Routhan said, was the inclusion of the Nelson women's team in the junior college grade. Made up almost entirely of Waimea College girls, with the addition of some former first-class players, the girls' team has made the step up to afternoon cricket.
The women's side had played in the intermediate grade for the past two seasons, but the step up in competition represents more successful planning. Having women's cricket available from primary through to representative level is a "huge focus" for Nelson cricket, and the on-going achievements of this side were a major barometer.
"The skills and dedication they have puts them in a great spot to succeed going forward," said Routhan.
Most of the Nelson women's team, captained by Year 11 student and opening batswoman Tayla Brown, had been playing together since they were at intermediate school.
Brown said the team was looking forward to a new level of competition.
"We are playing longer games against harder opposition," said Brown.
"Our team finds the better [the] teams we play, we just play that much better, so it is quite exciting."
As the youngest team at the secondary schools Twenty20 competition last year, playing under their Waimea College banner, the side finished third. At this year's tournament in Christchurch next month the side was targeting a spot in the final.
NCA general manager Ed Shuttleworth said the upsurge in numbers was the result of an all-round effort.
"I am delighted to have ladies cricket in the college grade," said Shuttleworth. "[And] with the growth in numbers and teams throughout junior cricket."
Shuttleworth said a large part of the growth was due to the active role colleges in the region were taking to get their students involved in the traditional Kiwi summer sport. He said NCA thanked all colleges for the "tremendous work they are putting in to promote our game".