Chat with Pat - ND's cross-code XI

11 April 2019
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Few people have given as much to, and filled as many roles with, Northern Districts Cricket as Pat Malcon.

Having dedicated more than 20 years to the Association, Pat's time has seen him don several hats including selector, coach and working in the development space of players, coaches , some of which he still wears today. Pat is a selector, has coached  involving grassroots, player and coaching development, selection, coaching and development of ND Maori programmes.

Pat also played five seasons for ND U23's before turning out for Wellington in first-class and List A cricket.

Over the coming months we'll be sitting down with Pat to discover those untold stories from around ND, bringing forward some interesting tales and examining what makes ND the Association it is in our regular 'Chat with Pat'.


Pat Malcon receiving the Bert Sutcliffe Medal for Outstanding Services to Cricket at the 2018 NZ Cricket Awards (photo credit: Photosport).

Our focus for this week is ND representatives who have succeeded in another sport.

Before we dove head-first into naming the ND cross-code XI, Pat had one point he was keen to illustrate: children who excel at both cricket and another sport should play both as long as possible; certainly until the end of secondary school. Pat cites plenty of international research that supports the idea of avoiding early specialisation, including:

  • it ensures they make the best decision as to what sport they should pursue
  • variety lessens the chance of 'burn out'
  • playing multiple sports develops advanced skills that cross-over to their specialist sport
  • beyond sport, delaying specialisation provides social benefits as well - mixing with a wider group of people.

Following this thread, the question was to put to Pat about the possibility of there being another athlete to play both cricket and rugby for New Zealand, given Jeff Wilson was the last in the 1990's/early 2000's.

Pat doesn't think this is likely to happen again.

"Since then sports have gone professional, which means longer pre-season preparations and overlapping winter and summer seasons," Pat said.

"Even Jeff Wilson was an anomaly in that he debuted for the BLACKCAPS, then concentrated on rugby, before returning to the BLACKCAPS when his rugby career was over."

Pat highlighted how since the early 90's it has been almost impossible for players to play both rugby and cricket at first-class level; identifying ND-reps Jason Spice and Jono Hickey as rarities, and noting that even they were forced to eventually choose a sport.

"For earlier generations it was quite different."

"Myself; I played 10 seasons of senior rugby as well as cricket. In Wellington and Auckland I could be playing club rugby against All Blacks (yes, they played club rugby in those days!) and then a few weeks later be playing club cricket against them," continued Pat.

"Current All Blacks of the time were often good senior cricketers. Allan Hewson and Stu Wilson in Wellington and Graham Thorne and Ron Rangi in Auckland are ones I remember, and I also recall opening the batting against Counties Manukau in a DA-rep game with the great All Black centre Bruce Robertson opening the bowling for them."

So, this all lead to the question - what is Pat Malcon's ND cross-code XI (plus a 12th man)?

1. Ross McPherson - ND 1959/60 - 1970/71, left-hand opening batsman. Also went to the 1968 and 1972 Olympics as a goalkeeper with the NZ hockey side.

2. Terry Shaw - ND 1956/57 - 1963/64, opening batsman. Regular fullback for Thames Valley Rugby in the early 1960s. Famously kicked the winning drop goal when Thames Valley best Australia 16-14 in 1962.

3. John Warrington - ND 1975/76, left-hand top-order batsman. Played professional football in England and was a star player for Gisborne City in the National League.

4. Hec Schuster - ND 1965/66 - 1971/72, middle-order batsman. Played 22 games of rugby for Waikato as a five-eighth. As an ex-ND captain, Schuster would lead this team.

5. Doug Clarke - ND 1957/58 - 1962/63, middle-order batsman. Played 43 rugby games for Waikato as a five-eighth.

6. Trevor Blake - ND 1964/65, middle-order batsman. Another NZ Hockey Olympian who played for NZ between 1958 and 1964.

7. Jason Spice - ND 1993/94 - 1996/97, slow left-arm orthodox. Needed a spinner! Played over 300 first-class games of rugby in NZ and the UK at halfback, including 66 games for the Wellington Hurricanes.

8. Gary Kemble - Couldn't find a full ND-rep to keep wicket, so went for an ND U23-rep who was one of NZ Rugby League's greatest fullbacks. Played 19 tests for the Kiwis and was a star for Hull (195 games) in the UK.

9. Don Clarke - ND 1956/57 - 1962/63, right-arm medium-fast bowler, best figures 8/37. A rugby superstar - All Blacks fullback from 1956 to 1964 and one of their greatest goal-kickers, scoring 781 points for NZ in 89 matches. A big man, in some All Black games was bigger than any of the forwards!

10. Ken Hough - ND 1956/57, right-arm medium-fast bowler. Australian born-and-bred, but played Test cricket for NZ (two Tests against England). Also played football for both Australia (four matches) and NZ (five matches) as a goalkeeper. Another big man, as a primary school boy I saw him play in Gisborne and he kicked the leather ball well over halfway and dominated the goalmouth.

11. Don Beard - ND 1961/62 - 1964/65, right-arm medium. Played four Tests for NZ as well as playing basketball for NZ and captaining Wanganui at rugby (also played for the North Island).

12 Alex Tait - ND 1994/95 - 2001/02, right-arm medium. A NZ one-day-rep, Tait was also Northland's number one golfer at inter-provincial tournaments. Competed as a professional golfer after his cricket career.

Honourable mentions: Jono Hickey (ND and Auckland rugby), Gary Murphy ( ND list A and multiple-winner of NZ table tennis titles).

Next time, we revisit this theme, but it is a case of what might have been, as we look at ND age-group players who chose to pursue other sports. The list contains some interesting names, including three current, high-profile rugby coaches.

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