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Suburbs New Lynn Cricket Club scoops diversity award

Embracing diverse communities has netted a national award for Suburbs New Lynn Cricket Club.

The New Lynn organisation has taken the Community Cricket Leadership in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion award, presented by New Zealand Cricket. This national accolade recognises associations, clubs, and schools which engage under-represented communities and provide significant cricket experiences on or off the field.

Club General Manager Kate Hillier-Cook says members were proud and somewhat surprised to receive the trophy as “this is our business as usual. The fact that New Zealand Cricket felt we were leaders was great, but also a little disappointing as all clubs should be inclusive all the time,” she says.

During the past few seasons, Suburbs New Lynn has adapted to ensure it is a place for everyone to enjoy cricket.

A women and girls’ programme has been bolstered by the launch of a new women and girls’ strategy and the appointment of a Women’s Cricket Development Manager.

Suburbs New Lynn has drawn female players from a neighbouring Islamic school, IQRA. Newcomers to cricket, the students relished the chance to join the new Girls Smash programme, led by Premier Women players from the club. This initiative, designed to give young women a fun introduction to cricket, directly translated to the success of the women’s programme and playing numbers, Kate says. “This season represents the first in club history that a Premier Women’s team could be fielded.” The team went on to finish third at Auckland Cricket Association’s T20 competition.

While working closely with IQRA, club members were stunned to learn there was no grass at the school, she says. All school sporting activities were staged indoors, on the playground, or at other locations which had to be reached by bus. This revelation prompted the club to share the use of its home grounds in Ken Maunder Park. “I would get a call from the sports teacher, check out my office window, and encourage them to come along,” she says.

A walking school bus was formed so the students could also join after-school events at the club.

A changing membership has spurred Suburbs New Lynn to evolve as well, she says. “Cricket is no longer considered a middle-class white person’s game. Over 60 per cent of our members are from Southeast Asia and it was important to make sure we responded to their needs.”

Now, halal and vegetarian food is always served at the club and a dedicated prayer area has been founded. The club monitors the membership of its committees to ensure different groups are being represented.

Kate says she hopes this inclusiveness makes people feel comfortable about being part of the club, “knowing we understand, respect and do our best to meet their cultural needs. During Ramadan, for example, we try to secure pitches with shade to provide more comfort. Throughout this month of fasting, Muslims cannot eat or drink until after the sun sets, so if playing cricket on a hot, dusty field, many of them struggle physically."

Suburbs New Lynn has also partnered with Ellerslie Cricket Club to run CricStars, an adaptive cricket programme for tamariki and rangatahi with physical or intellectual disabilities. “The kids love it- ‘best day ever’ has been quoted to me,” she says.

An initial six-week programme has gone so well that the club aims to fundraise to continue CricStars in winter.

The programme’s final session was staged at Ken Maunder Park on the same day as prizegiving, she says, so that all children playing cricket were interacting together. “This is “where I think the inclusion component of the award is so special,” Kate says. “There is no point running separate programmes. We want to break down those barriers as much as we are able."