If there has been a promising cricketer pass through the Southland ranks in recent years there's a good chance Chris Neylon has played a role in helping him.
The Southland Boys' High School teacher had coached the SBHS first XI for the past nine years before handing the reins to Craig Smith this season.
Neylon isn't done playing a major role in the progression of cricket at Southland Boys' High School. He is still assisting Smith and is now a player/coach for the school's year 9 and 10 team which plays in the Combined Country competition.
The plan is for Neylon to help identify and develop promising year 9 and 10 players and help them progress to the school's top team.
On top of Neylon's cricket commitments at Southland Boys' he has also coached Southland representative teams at under-15, under-17, under-18 and under-19 level. He has won Otago District titles as coach in all those age-groups.
Neylon's been a key figure in helping Southland cricket in the past decade and much of that hard work has gone by without fanfare.
It's been a big time commitment for Neylon but he concedes his coaching role does provide some satisfaction.
"It's good to see them progress through the grades and to get better," he said yesterday.
Like a lot of sports Neylon said cricket was currently struggling to maintain player numbers at a junior level but said at Southland Boys' High they were fortunate they had plenty of knowledge to help with the development of cricketers.
On top of Neylon and Smith they also have current Southland coach Steve Jackson and Geoff Folster, who was a long-serving Southland Hawke Cup player.
"There is quite a bit of experience there which we are lucky to have. [Some] other schools have to bring people in from outside to run their cricket."
He said he was happy with the progress of the school's first XI this season after a difficult 2012/13 season and added much of that was down to the likes of Liam McWilliam, James Ng, Bailey Andrews and Nick McCallum who are a year older and are starting to step up.
He said some of the current first XI players are also part of the school's cricket academy which Neylon helped set up in 2011 and that work is starting to pay off.
Next October the school plans to send their first XI to Melbourne for a tour which Neylon said would be an ideal lead-in to the 2014/15 season.
Neylon linked with cricket as a youngster where he played in two South Island Primary School tournaments and represented Southland through the age-groups.
In his sixth form year at Central Southland College he played his first senior game for the Central-Western club.
He spent the next decade playing for Central Western and in that time won the prestigious Southland senior one-day title twice.
In 2000 the spin-bowler and handy middle-order batsman won Southland senior cricket's top bowler award, an award he also claimed in the 2006/07 season. That season he was also named the best alround club cricketer.
As an 18-year-old, in 1999, Neylon made his Southland debut against Canterbury and for the next three seasons he played Hawke Cup cricket for the province.
His focus switched from Central-Western to playing and coaching at Southland Boys' High School when he become a teacher there but he said he was pleased to be able to look on and see his old club rebuilding again after some difficult times.
The club's senior team folded in 2010 but this season is back playing in the second tier Combined Country competition.
"I've been talking to Malcolm Walker and they have plans to try get a team back in the senior comp in the next couple of years. They've started up a committee again so there's hope for Central-Western coming back."
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