Southland’s Hawke Cup-winning cricketers are utilising the Mike Piper Training Centre as they look to retain the coveted trophy this summer.
The Hawke Cup – cricket’s version of the Ranfurly Shield – is contested on a challenge basis between New Zealand’s minor associations and is part of Southland sporting folk lore.
Southland was the first team to hold the Cup when it was put up in 1911 and had held it six times over its history, but last summer’s dominant win over Counties-Manukau saw the Hawke Cup return ‘home’ for the first time in 26 years.
And while cricketers and gym work are not always associated together – especially amateur cricketers – the Southland Cricket Association has identified strength and conditioning as a key factor in ensuring the Hawke Cup remains in Invercargill.
SCA general manager Jason Domigan, who has also captained Southland through a two-year unbeaten streak and last summer’s successful Hawke Cup challenge against Counties-Manukau, believes the focus on conditioning will play dividends.
“We’ve got more cricket on, especially longer form cricket, than we’ve ever had, so we need to make sure that our guys are physically fit enough to back up over what is going to be a really busy schedule from December through to March.”
Southland cricket coach Steve Jackson also has a strong strength and conditioning background across different codes, including working with the New Zealand cricket team and Southern Sting netball sides.
“It’s a good chance for Jacko to utilise his skills with the group. He’s got specific programmes depending on the roles the guys are doing and there’s some good stuff for the guys to get into,” Domigan said.
Unlike the semi-professional Southern Steel and Southland Stags teams who also use Academy Southland’s Mike Piper Training Centre in the SIT Velodrome, the Southland Hawke Cup cricket team are entirely amateur and balance their training around work and family commitments.
“It’s not like we can just set a time and everyone can turn up every session. We’ve got to be flexible around that and understand that there are other commitments,” Domigan said.
“However, the guys are pretty committed to trying to defend the Cup this season and are keen to put in the extra hours to make that happen.”
The Southland team will hold a preseason camp based in Alexandra, where they will also be supporting the Southland under 17 team, this weekend to map out their strategy for the next three seasons.
A similar camp held three years ago helped to set the tone for a sustained period of success under the leadership of Jackson and Domigan.
“We’ll do a full player and team evaluation on last year and start setting the direction for the next three years. We’ll go back and try and find what we can improve on to try and be as professional as we can about our approach to the season,” Domigan said.