Volunteer spotlight: Wayne Aberhart and Waikato Valley

Published on 04 Jul 2019

Cricket has always been Wayne Aberhart's first love, but pursuing a career in the police service has dictated where and when the Waikato Valley Cricket Association Chairman has been able to give back to the game he loves.

Born in Motueka, Wayne grew-up on a 100-acre, 9,000 tree apple orchard.

With 3,000 bales of hay, countless apples at hand and two older brothers, fort building led to apple throwing, and this is where Wayne's arm developed.

Playing cricket at the orchard was the norm in the summer, and as the youngest of three brothers, Wayne naturally had the ball in-hand at all times.

Wayne played his fair share of age-grade cricket for Nelson and captained the Motueka High School First XI while also coaching a local primary school team; his first foray in volunteerism.

Wayne's graduation into senior cricket saw him play as a member of a Nelson side which held the Hawke Cup for a remarkable 14 defences, before a career decision took him to Wellington.

"I had been working with my father in the orchard for seven years when I decided to pursue a career in the police," said Wayne of this career change.

"I had an uncle who had been a police officer for 30 years in Motueka and he was the main reason I decided to join the police service."

By 1984 Wayne was a police officer now living, and playing cricket, in Wellington.

"I played the 1984 season for Midlands St Pats, which was a great experience as our home ground was the Basin Reserve," said Wayne.

"The hardest thing about bowling downwind at the Basin was walking back to your run-up!"

Wayne then moved to a player-coach role with Karori and made appearances for the Wellington B side, but found it difficult juggling his career in the police with his cricket.

"I remember playing in Wellington a few times when I had been on the night shift, so I would just sleep in the showers at the ground because I would finish at 7am and had to be at the ground at 9am," Wayne said of some of his challenges with this.

"I remember one time sleeping on a canvas stretcher in the showers when one of my teammates kindly woke me up by turning the shower on!"

Wayne's job then took him to Wainuiomata; an interesting experience where Wayne was solely responsible for 20,000 people.

A player-coach role with Wainui followed where Wayne nurtured a lot of the boys who were in their last year at secondary school into the Wainui senior side.

Cricket would have an unanticipated advantage for Wayne and his policing.

"It could be a bit unnerving working by yourself when you're responsible for 20,000 people. Luckily, if there was any sort of disturbance, there was always someone there I either played, cricket, darts or rugby with, so I always had extra hands."

The flip-side to this are the missed opportunities that come with the role. Wayne was once due to line-up against the All Blacks when they were training in Wainuiomata, but five minutes before gearing-up had to leave to lock-up three shoplifters.

After a short stint with the Ewen Chatfield-coached Hutt Valley, Wayne then moved to the Chatham Islands where he was the sole charge police officer, meaning he was in charge of over 2% of the Earth's surface as the search and rescue coordinator and was both father and registrar on his first child's birth certificate.

Wayne's next move would be three-and-a-half years in Waverley before he finally made his way to the ND region when he moved to Morrinsville in 1999.

It has been easier for Wayne to balance work with his commitment to cricket in the Waikato due to a cricket-mad boss who appreciated Wayne's efforts in the game.

One of Wayne's early roles involved a trip to the ND Under-17 tournament in Gisborne. Wayne's boss looked favourably on this as Wayne was a Youth Aid Officer at the time, so it was a natural fit.

With previous administration experience due to serving 12 years on the New Zealand Police Association board, one of the biggest boards in New Zealand, Wayne then took the step of joining the Waikato Valley Cricket Association board as chair.

"It took a few years to get the ship moving in the right direction but I think we're doing well now. For the first time in the last five years we ended the year with some money in the bank, which is pleasing and will go back into the game.

"We've been making some great gains across the region and we're seeing a real resurrection of cricket in the Thames Valley, Paeroa, Hauraki and Coromandel Peninsula," said Wayne on the growth of the game in the region.

"We've got to get into all the schools but it's hard because a lot of the teachers aren't involved in sport like they used to be.

"This is where it becomes key to provide the parents with the ability to coach. Kids have a lot more things vying for their attention, but those that want to be involved, you've got to get the joy of cricket into them early and they'll probably end up staying in the game. My aim is to get most of the boys I coach to play into adulthood.

"At St Johns, still have 9 of the original 12 left in their 3rd seasoin so we're doing something right. If a kid's in a team, he's got to be able to take part, you can't be a non-bowler and bat last. Everyone gets a shot at something. If you're not a bowler then you're a top-order batsman in my view. The kids seem to be happy with that."

When asked for what advice he would give to people looking to volunteer in cricket, Wayne's message was simple.

"Go with your kids, get involved, learn how to score, learn how to be fair to all kids, enjoy the game and let your kids enjoy the game. We're here to help; we'll teach you how to coach; we'll teach you how to teach people to love the game."