CD Community Cricket Legend To Pull Stumps
Central Districts Cricket won’t be the same without Nigel Brooke. The CD Community Cricket Manager is one of CD’s longest serving staff — and will leave enormous shoes to fill as he heads toward retirement.
Born in Manawatū and now based in Levin, “Brooky” has a vast and intrinsic knowledge of Central Districts Cricket and the eight Districts Associations that make up our cricketing catchment.
Brooke was a handy player himself in his younger years, in both cricket and rugby. He represented CD Under 23 in 1980 and played in the tournament held in Christchurch that year alongside peers that included future New Zealand reps Ian Smith, Andrew Jones, Gary Robertson and future Central Stags captain and longtime CDCA colleague, Scott Briasco.
He toured Australia with the CD U23 side in 1979 and again in 1981 (as captain) — a certain Whanganui Collegiate old boy named David Kirk was his vice-captain and the team also included future New Zealand rep Tony Blain. Another good memory was when he made it onto the field as 12th man for the Central Stags in a Plunket Shield match.
Over the years that he worked as a stock agent living in a number of rural CD towns, he played for Manawatū, Horowhenua Kāpiti, Rangitikei, and Southern Hawke’s Bay in the Hawke Cup competition.
A serious knee injury on the rugby field when he was 25 would throw a spanner in the works, but never stopped him from continuing to play cricket and be involved in other sports that he loved.
Brooky’s full-time role at CDCA started in 2000 when he began working alongside then CEO Blair Furlong and Gary Pond as a small team responsible for the huge area of the Association.
His first role was to oversee and deliver the Milo junior cricket programme in the CD area, the equivalent of today’s Smash Play.
“I was in Australia coaching the Horowhenua College First XV on a rugby trip when Blair rang and offered me the job”.
“[Former CD rep] Alec Astle had set up this national development programme for New Zealand Cricket, they had provided funding to implement it in each of the Major Associations, so now they needed people to oversee and deliver the programmes regionally.
“We also had coaches in our Districts working part-time in the programme, helping with awareness and promotion, coach development and so on — and many of those people are still involved in our sport today.”
Brooke said it was now time to move on and put energy into other parts of his life.
“There has been a lot of change in the game and in our DA’s, so it’s an exciting time for a new person to come in and get stuck in”.
Some of the biggest changes Brooke has witnessed in almost a quarter of a century with CD Cricket have been the societal changes that have put pressure on the game, the career development space and the growth of the women’s game.
“There are a lot of people in the game now who are being paid, with potential to grow their career in sport, in roles that were formally filled by volunteers. The change from a totally amateur set-up with maybe part-time coaches, to a clear career pathway where the DA’s have full-time staff in several roles, has been quite significant.
“DA’s are like small businesses now and the skill sets required to run them are quite advanced. My role has changed a lot as well over the years as resources and funding have increased.”
A real highlight for Brooke has been his close association with Vanuatu Cricket. The relationship started back in 2011 through a partnership with the ICC and the East Asia Pacific regional development programme. The association still continues today with the friendships he made. He was very fortunate to tour with the Men's national team to ICC tournaments, in countries including Samoa, Botswana, and Jersey.
“I have such good memories from my time with Vanuatu Cricket and was very fortunate to be involved in their Community development programmes, and also to share time with the players. I’m sure there are still lots of children and players running around with CD tops on!
"They are such lovely people, play with real passion and enthusiasm, and I have made some very good friends. My association with Vanuatu certainly had a real bearing on my attitude and way of thinking around the game”.
In 2015, Brooke also stepped in to perform the role of Central Hinds’ Head Coach for two seasons, after former coach Mike Shrimpton had so sadly passed away.
“I really enjoyed my time with the Hinds. They were a fantastic bunch of ladies with some experienced players and a few of the younger ones coming through. They showed a real desire to learn and develop, and the team performed well.”
A qualified Level 3 Coach, he’d previously combined his day-to-day CD job as District Services Manager with selection and coaching duties which started with the CD Boys’ Under-14, then progressed with Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19 teams for many years.
It was experience that Brooky later put to excellent use. He has been pivotal in leading CD’s Coach Development programmes and courses over many years — helping to develop promising and aspiring coaches from throughout the Central Districts catchment and increasing the number of qualified male and female coaches right across our sport.
“One of the things I’ve really enjoyed in this role is having the opportunity to have some influence and be able to support and help form the pathway for people - many of whom have gone on to professional careers in cricket not only in CD, but other Major Associations and overseas. It is great to see where CD people continue to make a big impact,” he says.
“I’ve just simply loved dealing with people in the Community game in our Districts. It literally is a community, and they are the unsung heroes.
“It’s probably the one area of our game that never gets ‘complete’ — the work always continues. When one door closes, another one opens so to speak, and there are always issues and challenges to deal with that confront development personnel.
“I’ll miss it. I’ll miss the camaraderie, but I’m also confident I’m leaving our Community game in a good space, at the right time.”
Central Districts CEO Lance Hamilton said everyone in the CD community would miss Brooke’s affable and genuine nature, his contributions to countless cricket tournaments, forums, camps, courses and his impact on individual players, coaches, officials, parents and volunteers.
“Brooky has had a direct positive impact on literally thousands of cricketers in the CD region over the course of his career.
“He is incredibly passionate about our DA’s and is their biggest advocate. Over the years he has filled so many roles for CD, always with such a positive, can-do approach to everything.
“He knows cricket in our region inside out and will leave a massive hole for both CDCA and our District Associations.”