Blog: Haggo in NZ
Scotland bowler Samantha Haggo is spending the winter in Auckland, New Zealand. She has written a blog for cricketscotland.com sharing some of her experiences on and off the park.
At approximately 7am on January 16th (a special birthday for my mum - sorry mother!), I arrived in a sunny Auckland set for a season as Auckland University Cricket Club prem women's overseas player. I don't sleep well, if at all, on planes and so could maybe be forgiven for fancying a day-long nap. Two hours later I was kitted out in my new team gears ready to start warming up to open the bowling for a one-day game at our wonderful home ground - Colin Maiden Park. Needless to say, I don't remember much about the game other than that we lost to a formidable Cornwall opposition. Nevertheless, it was one way to get the ball rolling and good to get to meet the girls and guys at the club.
I feel extremely lucky having the opportunity to play for 'Uni'. It is a thriving club with a great history and over 1,000 members all whilst retaining a sense of community. I have been made to feel so welcome by everyone, and so 2 months into my trip I have settled in well. My weekly routine consists of training, coaching and gym sessions. Whilst my often incessant social media posts may make it look like one big holiday, I have come here to develop my cricket skills and am very much embracing the opportunity to train outside in the sunshine. The girls team trains once a week, and to supplement this I've been having batting 1-2-1's with my coach, as well as training with the men's prems/reserve teams twice-weekly. It is a terrific standard, often out-with my comfort zone, but it is an exciting challenge and having my team mate Katie (Gurrey - ND opening batsman) there, in addition to a great bunch of lads, makes it less daunting. We have Anthony Ireland and Tom Wells, former and current Leicestershire players, and a couple of Auckland A and NZ u19 players there, so it's good to see how they train and feed off of that.
As ever, it's important to keep up with the squad back home and so I've been battling through our S&C programme in the gym. Fitness is an increasingly important part of our Wildcats set-up and something which I'm conscious of working at in time for the UK season. In addition to training and gym sessions, I'm doing a fair bit of coaching and 1-2-1 sessions with the kids here. AUCC has around 700 juniors and so there is always something going on. There is a huge coaching network and it is a stark contrast to back home where teams often struggle for numbers. It's a great experience for myself to learn more about coaching and the game, and something which I'm finding hugely rewarding (even if the kids often find my accent funny/Irish/incomprehensible).
Playing-wise, I have been pleasantly surprised by the standard of cricket here...the league contains many Auckland and New Zealand players and it's great to play with and alongside them, trying to feed off them and observe how they go about their game. We have played 7 games and won 5 since I have been here. I have found it really beneficial getting to bowl 10 overs most weekends, and it's been nice to be in with the wickets. This game time during the UK off-season is invaluable, and a good platform to practice executing the skills I've been working on during training hours. Having said that, I am missing the squad sessions at the National cricket academy with the girls in Edinburgh, and of course the banter that comes with it (although there can't be much flying around without me there...in fact it's probably gotten a whole lot better).
Out-with cricket, it would be silly not to embrace being in New Zealand. When not involved with cricket or sampling the flat whites of Auckland, I have been trying to enjoy all that the North Island has to offer. The magnitude and scale of its beauty is something I will never get used to. Auckland itself is an awesome, vibrant city. It's got a cool city centre, great nightlife, stunning beaches and generally fab weather. Terrible traffic, but you can't win them all. I managed to head across the water to Waiheke to sample the liquid produce from the famous Stonyridge vineyard, as well as go on a road trip to the Coromandel, Mt Maunganui, Lake Taupo and Rotorua, where i was welcomed with geysers and that famous ripe, sulphurous scent. A highlight of that trip was getting to catch up with Kasper when she was playing against Australia. I miss having my little mate around but I am made up for her...she is doing us all proud. It was also good to catch the Blackcaps in their recent ODI series in Auckland and Hamilton against Pakistan and the Aussies. I love watching cricket here...it is a huge part of NZ sporting culture and the fans all become so invested in it. It's always a top atmosphere and the weather definitely helps. Next on the agenda is a trip to Wellington followed by Christchurch to catch up with friends from my season out there last year. Then it is on to the incredible spot that is Queenstown for some fun, before a week in Melbourne to see family en route home.
All in all, it has been a great trip thus far, and I'm really excited to get back to Scotland to get fired into the season there. With a few other Wildcats overseas, and others at home putting in the hard yards, it will be good to get back with the girls and really show off what we can do. With the disappointment of failing to qualify for WT20 behind us, we will be wanting to come back this season all guns blazing, and that is something to be excited about.
Over and out,