The earliest known records of cricket in Wharehine were in a settler’s diary for 1865 and 1866. Considering the first Albertlanders only arrived in 1862, and were busy carving out their first homes, it was surprising how quickly they formed a cricket club.
The diary states that on February 25, 1865, Wharehine cricketers played a match (probably the first) against Port Albert and won, no doubt much to their satisfaction. On Good Friday, April 14, they played the return match and won again. The team spent that spring preparing for their second season, even putting in two days’ practice during Christmas week. Despite their efforts, they were defeated by Port Albert on New Year’s Day 1866.
A sketch of an early cricket match in Wharehine.
Records place the first Port Albert cricket and recreation ground at the present crossroads, near the site of the original Temperance Hall. In Wharehine, the men played on a reasonably level piece of what is now Shegadeen Road, past Minniesdale Chapel, the pitch being spread over Brookes and Armitage land.
When these settlers fenced their boundaries, a new site had to be found and in the late 1860s this was on the neighbouring Opou Block, at the junction of the Woodcock and Marsh properties. A causeway was formed across Takapau Creek’s mangroves, from the pier below Minniesdale House, and a track led through Woodcock’s land to the new cricket ground.
There was widespread interest in these matches, with a large contingent from Port Albert and other settlements coming to watch. Local Maori also looked on and enthusiastically joined in applause for any brilliant play. Shouts of “Kapai te One eye” greeted the efforts of Sam White, the home team’s wicket keeper, who had lost his right eye in a shooting accident. In those early days Wharehine could raise a very good cricket team, including the Marcroft brothers as reliable batsmen and Hovey Brookes as a champion fast bowler. Meanwhile, Sam White excelled as wicket keeper.
Sometimes on match days there would be a tent erected on the ground and, on one occasion, Mr Woodcock’s cows visited the scene, amusing themselves by chewing the tent to ribbons then starting on the cricketers’ clothing, including caps. After the matches, players and other settlers adjourned to a neighbour’s house, usually the Brookes’, finishing the day with a social evening.
Before the end of the 1870s, several prominent cricketers left the district. The next generation were far too young to play, so the cricket club ceased to exist. Apart from a certain amount of single wicket practice at school, cricket was not revived in the district for nearly 20 years – a whole new story.
Lyn Johnston, Albertland Museum