Saturday, July 9, 2011

Early Thames Sports: Cricket

This ongoing series will continue to look at early sports in Thames. What was played and where? Who was involved and is the sport still being played in Thames?

In October 1868 there was discussion underway regarding the formation of a cricket club in Thames. It was reported in the Daily Southern Cross Newspaper (3/11/1868) that a meeting had been held in the Shortland Hotel, where the following resolution was passed :”That a Cricket Club be formed at this place, to be called the Thames Cricket Club.” Mr MACKAY was asked to be President of the Club.. First office-holders and members were: Mr SANDES (Sec), Mr POWER (Treasurer), Mr LLOYD (Vice-Pres), MR R H BARTLETT (Chiarman), Messrs C HESKETH, TILLOTSON, STONEY, H FENTON, A GLOVER, R GLOVER, LACON, J STEVENSON, A STUBBING, LAWSON, ALPE, R C JORDAN, W LYELL, W WOOD, D TOOKEY, E SCOTTER, W BUSH, F SIMPSON, OTWAY, GEORGE HULME and H NEWSTEAD.

In the first years there are mentions of training and games being played at Tararu, Shortland Flat, Waiokaraka Flat and Parawai at Spencer’s Gardens. The Tararu Sports grounds being near the present Retirement Complex (old District Homes), Waiokarka Flat being near the old Waiokaraka (Central School). The exact location in Shortland varies, but there was a lot of vacant land near the present South School in Grey Street. Mr Spencer of Spencer’s Gardens in 1875, gladly gave permission for the development of a cricket pitch in one of his paddocks that were south of the present day Barrets Road. (towards the Parawai School  in Lowe Street).

The prospect of cricket in Thames was an attractive proposition for many and they appear to have relished matches amongst themselves and more importantly with other districts. Matches were held in areas such as Coromandel and in Auckland. Plus with grounds established they regularly asked teams to come and play. A letter to the Editor of the Thames Star 19/7/1875, urged as many men as possible to turn up at Spencer’s paddock and prepare a pitch. They needed good conditions in order to improve and be competitive.

(Thames Star 19/7/1875)


This 1947 photo taken by V C Browne (part), shows clearly the paddocks to the left of the racecourse, that were part of Spencer's Gardens and the area that would have been used by the Thames Cricket Club

In subsequent years cricket was played at Flett’s paddock near the Rob Roy Hotel, then Dodd’s Paddock at Parawai. In later years, housing development in Thames again caused problems as to where cricket could be played. In 1913 (Thames Star 5/9/1913) it was necessary for Mr W R GLEESON (Secretary of the Thames Cricket Association) to write to an Auckland team expressing that their 1914 match would have to be cancelled due to problems finding a suitable ground. It was noted that Thames was sorely in need of a Sports ground.


Over the years there are many clubs mentioned, also noting that it was normal for people to gather and form a team and carry out a match on a Saturday afternoon. For instance in October 1880 a match was played between married and single. The teams were to be selected from the following players:

Married: STEEDMAN, GRAY, LAWLESS, HARRISON, LOUGH, WEST, YOUNG, MUNRO, HAWLEY, NODDER, SMITH, ANDREWS, MAINGAY, MURPHY.
Single: CRUMP, FRATER, LAW, TREGONNING, COLHOUN, MCLEAN, STRONGMAN, FERGUSON, JEFFERY, HUDSON, WESTON, BURGESS, GELLION, BAXTER, POULGRAIN, PARSENS, MILL, CLEARY, HARRISON, WEBBER, AITKEN, WEYMTH

 Names of clubs included: Tradesman, Miners, United, City, City South, Foundry, Shortland, Grahamstown, Tararu, Waiokaraka, Rovers St Alban's and various volunteer militia groups. In 1891 The Thames Cricket Association was formed, amongst the pressing matters over the following years were general rules applying to membership and the game. (Thames Star 29/8/1892). In 1892 there were four affiliated clubs: The Thames, Rovers, Tararu and United.

There appear many references to encouraging cricket as a social event, suitable for all the family to come and watch. On 12 November 1892 a senior (United V Thames) and junior match (Rovers V High School) was to be played at Flett’s Paddock Parawai commencing at 3 o’clock. Admission: Gentleman 3d, Ladies free. (Thames Star 11/11/1892) Local businesses provided the necessary sporting gear and accessories. M WHITEHEAD, Bookmaker of Pollen Street advertised a good selection of cricket shoes and spikes (Thames Star 31/10/1884), already for the new season. Children were not left out and Mrs Purnell’s toy shop in Mary Street, Thames had a wide selection of cricket balls and bats from 1d to 1s. (Thames Star 31/12/1907)
With teams coming to play in Thames, matches were also played away. An 1878 report outlined an unsuccessful but enjoyable trip to Coromandel via the ps. Ruby. The result was: Coromandel 1st Innings 97, Thames 1st Innings 20, 2nd Innings 58. Coromandel won by 19 runs, not required to bat their 2nd innings! Cricket continued but obviously on a much smaller scale, adjustments required as the boom population levels receded. A summary on 1900 cricket is found in the Cyclopaedia of New Zealand.

As early as 1881 changes in Thames were having a flow on effect in areas such as sport. A concerned writer noted (Thames Star 12/3/1881) that “Some years ago it was the boast of the Thames that we had the best eleven in the North Island, but we are sadly aware of the fact that we are almost worse represented in the cricket field than any community north of the Cook’s Straits.” This sad demise in sporting ability was traced to “the departure of many men invaluable in the cricket field.” Mining was in decline and scores of young men departed the area, in search of riches and employment in other parts of New Zealand and overseas. 

Today cricket continues - played principally on the grounds at the back of the Rhodes Park Grandstand. No doubt Thames faces many of the same problems as those experienceds during the post mining years; as students leave High School and Thames for employment and educational opportunites - the numbers wanting to play cricket are reduced.

The postcard below, looks along Augustus Street (now Parawai Road) and the fields of Parawai are to the left of the Kauaeranga River. (in the distance)


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