Club sport loses another leading hand

Club sport throughout New Zealand is struggling as a result of changed work practices, the intrusion of professional winter codes and greater varieties of recreational interests.

So any club that loses a stalwart, like Warwick Larkins has been for Dunedin's Albion Cricket Club, is losing a lot.

The Albion Club is an institution in the Otago game having produced cricketers through the years like: Bert Sutcliffe, Glenn Turner, Andrew Jones, Ken Rutherford, John and Brendon Bracewell and Barry Milburn.

Larkins ended a 25-year stand as president of the club with the recent annual general meeting, a meeting that celebrated Albion's effort of winning last summer's Dunedin senior competition.

"I decided after 17 or 18 years that I was ready to hand it in, and then somebody said, 'You might as well do 20 years' and when I had done that they said, 'You might as well do 25," Larkins said.

"I think it's time now to let someone else have a go.

"I enjoyed the job. Over the years you meet a lot of good people. Our wee lounge at the club has become a bit of a museum and I enjoyed maintaining that," he said.

But work on club committees had become harder because he found people didn't want to make the commitment of time to a club.

"We used to have annual meetings when there was always an election for the committee but the way our society has gone that is not always the case now.

"Employers are demanding a lot more of people and there is not as much free time as there used to be.

"Society has developed an attitude of 'Let someone else do it,'" he said.

One of the features of Larkins' presidency was his production of the club's annual report. It became a model of its type unlike any other produced at club level in New Zealand.

Larkins added a liberal dose of humour in the publication, including many humorous anecdotes, which are now part of the club's folklore.

"I used to tell players in all the grades that if they ever saw anything funny to let me know about it.

"Before I was president, Stu Gillan did things a bit differently with the annual report. I thought I would just continue the type of format he started. I just expanded on it.

"It has become quite popular and in the lead-up to the annual meeting I was always getting enquiries about when the annual report was going to be available. I got a bit of a kick out of doing that," he said.

Larkins still turns out for the club's President's Grade team.

"I'm going to carry on with that. You realise after a while that you've only got one life and you might as well keep on playing as long as you enjoy it. There are still plenty of people in Dunedin playing in their 40s and 50s. Former Otago players Lance Pearson and Peter Semple are still playing regularly," he said.

Larkins has another claim to cricket fame. He accompanied the 1978 New Zealand team on its tour of England as official scorer.

"I hadn't scored at first-class level at all. Our club scorer Helen Simpson has been doing the job for more than 30 years and she's incredibly neat. She showed me a few of the finer points before I went.

"I had been to the United Kingdom in 1972 and stayed with Glenn Turner over there. While I was there I met John Parker and in 1978 he told me he would put in a good word with the tour manager Barry Paterson who, like Parker, was from Hamilton. Glenn also urged me to do the job.

"I had only really filled in as a scorer a few times at club level.

"But it was a great experience and good to be part of that team. I still keep in touch with some of the players and John McIntyre and I still ring each other occasionally.

"New Zealand didn't do that well on the tour. Richard Hadlee hadn't quite come of age and the team dropped too many catches," Larkins recalled.

The last words are his, as recorded in the Law Courts Hotel Albion annual report: "How gratifying it has been to finish on a high note in winning the Senior Competition - the fun and camaraderie of the 125th celebrations was also a significant highlight together with the development of the junior section over the past few years.

"Many wonderful people have supported me over these 25 years when I think of Housie at the Beach Hotel, Working Bees on the pavilion extensions, wicket preparation, pavilion painting, establishment of the lounge and so on."

Warwick Larkins, a true club man. And sadly a dying breed on the New Zealand sports scene.