New Zealand Cricket is pleased to announce, in association with the Māori Sports Awards, the inauguration of a Māori Cricket Scholarship / Kirikiti Aotearoa Karahipi o Te Tohu Taakaro o Aotearoa Scholarship — a high performance scholarship to assist New Zealand’s most promising Māori players reach their potential.
The 2015 recipient is Zak Gibson, a promising 18-year-old fast bowler from Te Awamutu.
New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White congratulated Gibson on being the first recipient of a new initiative that he hopes will help dispel the notion that cricket is not popular among Māori.
“The reality is that Māori have a long and distinguished history in cricket, but it is simply not that widely known,” said Mr White.
“Recent Māori high achievers in international cricket have included Shane Bond, Trent Boult, Kyle Mills, Suzie Bates, Sara McGlashan, Ben Wheeler, Doug Bracewell, Lea Tahuhu and umpire Kathy Cross — and there are many more names we can reel off from decades past.
“Even when the New Zealand WHITE FERNS played their first ever Test match in 1935, the team included two Māori Test players — the late Agnes Ell and Hilda Buck, of Ngāti Mutunga descent.”
Gibson, who represents Waikato Valley at District Association level, has been a member of development teams in the Northern Districts High Performance programme since he was at primary school, and has represented Northern Districts at National Under-19 level.
The 18-year-old has also stepped up for Northern Districts A this month, is a member of Northern Districts’ groundbreaking Northern Māori team and is in contention to make the New Zealand Under-19s squad heading to the ICC Under-19 World Cup, to be held in January and February 2016 in Bangladesh.
Of Ngāti Raukawa descent, Gibson grew up playing club cricket and rugby from a young age in Te Awamutu and was a member of the Chiefs Rugby under-18s last year, until he broke his collarbone after being tackled by Super Rugby prop Taniela “the Tongan Thor” Tupou.
“Up until then I was juggling cricket and rugby, and the injury made the choice clearer for me this year,” said Gibson.
“I’m very grateful for this scholarship, my parents are stoked and it’s good to see Māori cricket being recognised.
“Being singled out for this has given me a lot of confidence already. I just want to get stronger and faster, and work on the tactical side of my game.
He is not the only cricketing high achiever in his family, his cousin Jake Gibson having just made the Northern Districts Under-19s squad.
Records reveal that Māori have played cricket in New Zealand since the early 19th Century — as early as 1832, but White said New Zealand Cricket is committed to improving its pathways for Māori, as part of its new Strategic Plan to build participation in the wake of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.
It’s the first time in the 25-year history of the Māori Sports Awards that a cricket scholarship has been presented, and Mr Dick Garratt, CEO of Te Tohu Taakaro o Aotearoa Charitable Trust that runs the annual awards, said that he was delighted by the initiative.
“No matter what code, the key is that we encourage as many young Māori as possible into the positive and healthy pathways that sport provides,” said Garratt.
Gibson's scholarship package has been customised to assist his continued development as a pace bowler, in conjunction with New Zealand Cricket’s High Performance Centre and Northern Districts Cricket’s High Performance programme, under whose guidance Gibson has gone from strength to strength.
Gibson's 2015 New Zealand Maori Cricket Scholarship includes:
• One-on-one mentoring with former BLACKCAPS bowling coach Shane Bond
• A Les Mills gym membership to assist with strength and conditioning
• Kookaburra New Zealand cricket kit, equipment, and bicolour training balls to assist with seam release practice
• Oakley sports eyewear
• Podiatry services and customised footwear — essential to fast bowlers
• A grant to assist Gibson in travelling from his home base in Te Awamutu to further his training and development in Hamilton, Northern Districts, New Zealand Cricket’s High Performance Centre in Christchurch and beyond
• Personal and professional development support
The scholarship was presented as part of the 25th annual Māori Sports Awards, held at Turangawaewae Marae on Saturday evening. The Awards also saw three of New Zealand's international cricketers acknowledged with WHITE FERNS captain Suzie Bates (Ngāi Tahu) a finalist for Māori Sportswoman of the Year, the BLACKCAPS' Trent Boult (Ngāti Porou and Te Arawa) a finalist for Māori Sportsman of the Year and former BLACKCAPS bowling coach Shane Bond (Ngāi Tahu) a finalist in the Māori Sports Coach of the Year category.