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A focus on developing the next generation of players has helped put North Otago Cricket in a good position.

The North Otago cricket season gets under way tomorrow, with all seven teams from last year back to compete for the Borton Cup.

The two school sides – Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College – had been strong performers last season; St Kevin’s made its first Borton Cup final since 1999, and Waitaki Boys’ finished third.

North Otago chairman Peter Cameron said the two school sides would be strong again this season, but could lose several Year 13 players after Christmas.

“That gives the young guys opportunities but it’s also an opportunity for the clubs to ensure these lads that are leaving school aren’t lost to the game and continue to play. They’ll be the strength of the clubs for years to come,” Cameron said.

Having secondary school players join other clubs for the summer Dick Hunt competition created opportunities once they left school.

“That’s part of the reason for having the holiday competitions.”

There were also opportunities being provided at a representative level this season, following the introduction of an under-19 side. Traditionally, North Otago had under-15 and under-17 representative teams, and then players moved straight to Hawke Cup.

Last season, a development Hawke Cup team was introduced, and both the development team and under-19 would nurture those aspiring to play Hawke Cup, instead of a “massive jump” between grades.

“There will be more opportunities for them to play against teams from outside of North Otago, to give them that pathway.”

Hawke Cup would continue as normal for North Otago, Covid permitting, and new coach Stuart Slack had replaced Pete Cartwright.

North Otago Cricket had employed two new development officers – Jaden Dowling, of Dunedin, and Waitaki Girls’ High School pupil Isabella Martin, who coached Albion juniors.

“[Isabella’s] put a lot in there so it’s good to be able to give her an opportunity with more coaching.”

Ethan Booth, who was employed by Otago Cricket and worked for North Otago Hockey during winter, would also return to North Otago Cricket for the summer, Cameron said.

North Otago Cricket was in a financially sound position heading into the season, recording a $12,000 profit last year, which the committee was “quite happy” about.

“It’s difficult to know from year to year how you’re going to end up, but we try and live within our means so we don’t end up with massive losses and profits.”