Perfect chance to make a mark
In 1990 a Shirley Intermediate student from Christchurch put his name in lights in Gore.
The then 13-year-old by the name of Craig McMillan gave everybody a glimpse of his cricketing talents at the South Island Primary School's tournament played in the Eastern Southland town that year.
At 14 teams it is New Zealand's largest cricket event, numbers wise and since its inception in 1963, when Southland's Neville Hoskin dreamed up the idea, 37 players have gone on to represent New Zealand.
That kid who lit up Gore in early January 1990 is one of those 37. He scored 311 runs, at average of 155.5, in Gore, in 1990. That still remains the highest average from any of the tournaments played on grass over the past 50 years.
McMillan's 311 runs included knocks of 152* and 114*.
He went on to play 55 tests and 205 limited-overs games for New Zealand in a career which stretched 1997 through to 2007.
Twenty-four years on from his startling deeds in Gore, McMillan remembers the South Island Primary School tournament fondly, even if some of those memories are a little bit foggy recalling them as a 37-year-old.
"I remember it being a great tournament because you could see just how good kids the same age were from around the South Island, so you could put a peg in the ground as to where you were at compared to them," McMillan said.
"The dynamic as a team changed a bit when you were away as well - it's a bit of an adventure, and so I remember really enjoying the fact you're away in a part of the country you've never seen or been in before."
This week about 168 kids from throughout the South Island will again converge on Gore for the traditional annual tournament with hopes they can emulate what McMillan did 24 years ago.
With each venue hosting the tournament every 12 years it is only the second time it has been back to Gore since McMillan announced his arrival on the scene in 1990.
The now Sky TV cricket commentator said while a lot of the focus is on what happens on the field the tournament was just as much about the experiences off the field.
"It's been a great tournament for a number of years and there's a lot of famous names pass through that have gone on to higher honours. But just for kids that get to go to a different place, that's a great learning experience. Not just a great cricketing experience."
McMillan was recently asked to present the caps to both the Christchurch Red and Christchurch Black teams that will take part in the tournament starting today.
The Southland Times