`Astonishing effort’ praised

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Former North Otago captain Brian Papps knows a thing or two about our summer game, and likes what he saw from the province’s top cricketers this season.
Papps, a right-hand batsman and occasional wicketkeeper, earned 39 caps for North Otago between 1958 and 1972.
He said the 2015-16 Hawke Cup-winning season was the finest in the province’s long history.
“I think it would have to be the most successful season that North Otago has ever had. To win all their games bar the one against Hawkes Bay was an astonishing effort. We never came close to that in my time.” Like this season’s Hawke Cup team, he played in a cup match against Hawkes Bay, a team which featured former New Zealand representative Mike Shrimpton and six Central Districts players, in 1968.
The road to get there was not easy _ North Otago had to play a Southland side stacked with Otago players including test player Jack Alabaster and his brother Gren, a long-serving first-class player.
“They were a powerful team. That was one of our highlights.”The only difference between this season’s Hawke Cup clash and the one in 1968 was that, 48 years ago, the opposition held the prestigious cup.
Papps said two players, in particular, stood out for him this season.
“Obviously [Francois] Mostert, and this young boy [Nathan] Smith is a fine player in the making, if he isn’t already. He’s certainly performing on a regular basis. It will be interesting to see if he can make the step up to first-class cricket.”Seeing North Otago dominate its opposition this season brought back fond memories of playing for the province, Papps said.
One was his 136 not out against Fiji at the Waitaki Boys’ High School back fields in 1968.
“They came here quite regularly and they played all the first-class sides. They were a pretty good side back then and had some big-hitting batsmen.
“There was a fielder standing at short leg, and twice when I was on 99, I hit it really hard straight to him, so he stopped me on 99.
“I remember being stuck on 99 for quite some time and then hitting six successive balls to the boundary to go to 123 in the space of one over.”Another highlight was playing with and against test great Bert Sutcliffe, whom he described as being “incredibly light on his feet” and a joy to watch.
Papps went on to manage the Otago under-20 team and was a New Zealand under-20 selector. He also gained an advanced coaching qualification and received the highest overall marks recorded in New Zealand up to that time.
When his cricket career came to an end at the age of 36, Mr Papps took up bowls and played at both the Meadowbank and Awamoa clubs. He won more than 30 North Otago titles and trialled for the New Zealand team in 1986. He also umpired at two Asia-Pacific championships in 1995 and 2207 and at the World Bowls tournament in Christchurch in 2008. While he now longer plays due to lower back problems, he is still involved in the organisation of representative games and centre championships with Bowls North Otago.

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