The North Otago team that played Victoria at Waitaki Boys High School

Cricket has been an integral part of the North Otago region since the 1800's with one of its affiliated clubs, the Oamaru Cricket Club, being the one of the oldest cricket clubs in New Zealand. The Oamaru Cricket Club was the pioneer of cricket in those early years in North Otago taking part in matches against teams from outside the region and even playing against Australia and England. During a match against opposition from Timaru G McDonald, one of the members of the Oamaru C.C., called for the forming of a cricket Association to regulate and mange cricket in the Ashburton, South Canterbury and North Otago areas. Thanks mainly to his efforts the Waitaki Association was formed in 1892 with its boundaries set to be from the Rakaia to Palmerston in the south, and westwards to the Southern Alps. However the new association was to be short lived as only a year later it was announced to be a complete failure due to the extend radius of the Association area, that there was no way to maintain unity, and that it had been impossible to establish a club competition. The Waitaki Association was dissolved and its funds where divided among the clubs.

Capulet 1902
'The Capulets' at practice on the cricket ground (now Takaro Park), Oamaru. -Otago Witness

After the collapse of the Waitaki Cricket Association there was still strong support within the North Otago cricket communtity to form an association. With this in mind the North Otago Senior Representive team played its first match in 1896, against a cricket association formed after the collapse of the Waitaki Association, South Canterbury. It wasn't for another 3 years in September 1899 that a meeting was held to discuss a new association in North Otago.

The following appeared in the North Otago Times edition of 19 September 1899. It is a report on the meeting that took place three days earier on the 16th of September 1899.

A meeting was held in the Star and Garter Hotel on Saturday evening to consider the formation of a North Otago Cricket Association. There were present - Messrs Holmes, T. Cuthbertson, I. Cuthbertson, Moir, Nelson, Gibb, Ogilvie, White, W. Schluter, R. Thompson, D. Herron, Hewat, Mowbray, Halpin, Monson, Atiken, Macdonald, Crawshaw, Bain, and Ongley, representing the following clubs : Oamaru, Tureka, Capulet, Pukeuri, Hilderthorpe, Maerewhenua, and Ngapra, and the Waitaki club sent in a leter stating that they would fall in with the decision of the meeting.
Mr Holmes was voted to the chair.
After considerable discussion on the formation of an Association, it was decided to do so, an amendment to simplify and arrange matches being negited by 13 to 3.
It was resolved that the clubs above mentioned form the Association, and that for the Association matches each of these clubs enter one team, except the Oamaru club, which will enter two teams.
The business of the Association was vested in a President, Vice-President, Secretary, and one delegate from each team entered in the competition.
The election of officers resulted in the selection of Mr Holmes as President, Mr J. Buckley, vice-President; Mr Ongley, secretary and treasurer. Five was as the quorum for committee meetings.
It was decided that the Chairman shoud have a delibrate vote at all Council meetings, but that the secretary should have none.
The name of the Association is to be that North Otago Cricket Association.
The fee payable by each team entered in the Association was fixed at 10s 6d.
Messrs Hewat, Mowbray, McDonald, and Ongley were appointed a sub-committee to draft rules for the Association, and submit them to next meeting.
The next meeting of the committee will take place at noon on Saturday, the 30th instant.
The match fixtures are to be arranged by the committee.
A vote of thanks to the chair closed the meeting.

The Waitaki club is assumed to be Waitaki Boy's High School. Tureka was to be the winner of the first season of the North Otago Cricket Association Senior Competition, being undefeated during the 1899-1900 season. Of the clubs which were the first members of the NOCA, only one still survives, the Oamaru Cricket Club. The Union Cricket Club can trace its roots back to two of the clubs who took part in the meeting, Tureka and Capulet, who amalgamated in 1909 to form Union. Maerewhenua took part in the first season as part of a combined side with Ngapara and decided to leave the Association after only one season so as to align itself more towards matches against clubs in rural areas of North Otago rather than Oamaru area based teams. It was to be a struggle for the first decade for the NOCA. Reports form the Waitaki Boy's High School magazine lament about the lack of competition as by the middle of the decade only the Oamaru Cricket Club and the School could regularly field teams, which later on resulted in the amalgamation of Tureka and Capulet into Union.  However since the end of the Great War in 1918 North Otago Cricket has never again reached this low state of affairs.

Since the creation of the North Otago Cricket Association many memorable matches have taken place, with North Otago challenging on four occasions for the Hawke Cup, playing Australian State sides, and international teams, with a major highlight being when it took on the might of the West Indies in a match during the 1950's. Many famous players have taken part in its competitions including former New Zealand captain John R. Reid amongst others who have distinguished themselves both on and off the cricket field. Each year the North Otago Cricket Association Senior team takes part in the southern zone of the Hawke Cup elimination series against Otago Country and Southland, while age group teams take part in various tournaments and matches. The North Otago Cricket teams most famous match was when it obtained possesion of the Hawke Cup for the first time, beating Manawatu in March 2010.

Locally the four local Oamaru clubs (Albion, Oamaru, Valley and Union), one team representing the East Otago region (Eastern) and two high schools (Waitaki Boys, St Kevins College) compete for the symbol of North Otago club cricket supremacy, the Borton Cup which since 1920 has been awarded to the winners of the North Otago Senior Competition.

The North Otago Cricket Association in over its 100 years of existence has had a rich and interesting history. With the current strength of cricket in the region and its junior programs it looks to have a long story ahead of it.

(Jan 2014)