South Coast cricket helping Tonga gear up

TONGA isn’t known for its cricket, but could be soon thanks to Tathra man Peter Moorehead. 

A resident of the Vava’u island group for six months of the year, Moorehead has been working from the “ground up” to help establish cricket throughout the islands. 

A Tongan cricket association has been formed and you can help.

Moorehead is appealing to local cricketers to donate any second hand - but useable - cricket gear at a drive which will coincide with the Bendigo Bank Big Bash on January 10. 

Moorehead, who was previously the president of the Far South Coast Cricket Association, said he was taking steps to contact the ICC and Cricket Australia, but needs help and support from local communities. 

“We’re hoping to gather enough gear to fill a shipping container to send over there,” Moorehead said. 

“It will coincide with the Big Bash so we’re appealing for any useable cricket gear to be donated on the day.”

Moorehead said Cricket Australia had been supporting a takeoff of the sport in Cambodia and he was keen to mimic its success. 

“Around six shipping containers full of stuff has been sent to Cambodia.

“The Australian under 19s coach Brian Friedman has been trying to collect gear for us.”

The Tongan performance coach John Holli has also signed on with the association and the local governor had agreed to allow the gear tax-free into the country.

Moorehead said there are now  more than 40 teams competing across Tonga from villages around the area. 

“They don’t really have grades, it’s all one big open division,” Moorehead said. 

“We are starting from the grass roots.”

Moorehead said the popularity of cricket across the Tonga region was exploding exponentially. 

“Where we are now after just a few months I thought would have taken us a couple of years to reach,” he said. 

Moorehead said villages were often playing on dirt pitches in bare feet with just one pad. 

“We’re often running around in the dirt.”

Moorehead said watching the games would be a culture shock for locals as it often involved four or five teams from a village travelling to play. 

“Four or five teams from two villages play each other and the host village prepares a big feast for the visitors to take with them and share.”

Moorehead recalls one match he watched on his last visit. 

“About 170 people from four teams crossed 15 miles of ocean in two boats to play. 

“The local women get involved too, they danced for hours on end almost like cheerleaders,” he said. 

“Everyone just wants to be involved.”

Moorehead said he and the other coaches were hoping to gain the support of sporting bodies so they could focus on guiding the islanders talented young players. 

“We’re getting in touch with the big cricket bodies, but it’s too much for us to do on our own.

“We really want to coach players who are in, and coming out of, high school between the ages of 14 to about 21.”

Moorehead aims to see a Tongan team facing off in international games in future and is very excited about the progress of cricket. 

To assist the Tongan cricket appeal simply take along any gear you can spare to the Big Bash at George Griffin Oval, Bega on January 10. 

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